Wednesday, September 18, 2013


An intelligent and thoughtful friend said that the best book she had read recently was Pema Chodron's "Taking the Leap."  I am usually up for a good book and this former elementary school teacher/grandmother turned Buddhist nun almost always has good ideas on how to live well couched in good, useable and memorable language.  

What has my attention, so far, is Chodron's discussion of the value of a pause.  I love the fact that in our multilingual, global world, we are developing a sign for "PAUSE".  It is the two short vertical marks in a circle pictured above.  The two strokes don't have to be in a circle.  On many devices, there is simply a sign of two short parallel vertical marks and they mean click here to make the video pause.  

Pema Chodron advises making good use of a pause in our lives:

Pausing is very helpful in this process. It creates a momentary contrast between being completely self-absorbed and being awake and present. You just stop for a few seconds, breathe deeply, and move on. You don't want to make it into a project. Chögyam Trungpa used to refer to this as the gap. You pause and allow there to be a gap in whatever you're doing. The Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this as a mindfulness practice. At his monastery and retreat centers, at intervals someone rings a bell, and at the sound everyone stops briefly to breathe deeply and mindfully. In the middle of just living, which is usually a pretty caught-up experience characterized by a lot of internal discussion with yourself, you just pause. Throughout the day, you could choose to do this. It may be hard to remember at first, but once you start doing it, pausing becomes something that nurtures you; you begin to prefer it to being all caught up. People who have found this helpful create ways of interjecting pausing into their busy lives. For instance, they'll put a sign on their computer. It could be a word, or a face, an image, a symbol—anything that reminds them. Or they'll decide, "Every time the phone rings, I'm going to pause." Or "When I go to open my computer, I'm going to pause." Or "When I open the refrigerator, or wait in line, or brush my teeth. . . ." You can come up with anything that happens often during your day. You'll just be doing whatever you're doing, and then, for a few seconds, you pause and take three conscious breaths.

Chodron, Pema (2010-09-14). Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears (pp. 7-8). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

She continues:

In highly charged situations, or anytime at all, we could shake up our ancient fear-based habits by simply pausing. When we do that, we allow some space to contact the natural openness of our mind and let our natural intelligence emerge. Natural intelligence knows intuitively what will soothe and what will get us more churned up; this can be lifesaving information. When we pause, we also give ourselves the chance to touch in to our natural warmth. When the heart qualities are awakened, they cut through our negativity in a way that nothing else can.

Chodron, Pema (2010-09-14). Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears (pp. 9-10). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

What I've noticed about the people whom I consider to be awake is this: They're fully conscious of whatever is happening. Their minds don't go off anywhere. They just stay right here with chaos, with silence, with a carnival, in an emergency room, on a mountainside: they're completely receptive and open to what's happening. It's at the same time the simplest and the most profound thing—rather like one continual pause.

Chodron, Pema (2010-09-14). Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears (p. 14). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

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