I’ve noticed a pattern about myself.
While in the elevator, I’m waiting to get to the parking lot though I’m in no hurry. While commuting, I ride my bike quickly to reach my destination though I know I’ll be early. While walking from my car to the supermarket, I speed-walk across the parking lot despite having ample time at hand.
Most people feel this dis-ease while waiting. The urgency to maximize the use of time and stay productive forces us to do things quickly, answer emails, respond to IMs, click photos and think of witty captions to post on Instagram, listen to music, or read motivational articles.
In truth, we’ve become afraid of these moments when we’re alone. Of the voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough, of thoughts about what we want to do but haven’t mustered the courage to start. That’s why we cram our waiting time with actions from our never-ending to-do lists.
But in doing so, we deprive our senses of the ability to absorb what’s happening around us (and inside us).
We fail to notice the anger and anxiety building within us because of daily events.
We keep walking on visible pathways without considering whether we want to be on that path.
We stop thinking for ourselves and instead, outsource the task to others — social and mainstream media — without truly understanding whether the narrative they impose on us is authentic or fake.
We feel like hamsters on a wheel, always running but never moving forward, until we burn out.
“Pause” — A Better Option
I ran a Google search for the difference between wait and pause and the best result I got was: “difference between wait and pause on iPhone.”
Okay. If Google won’t tell you the real-life difference, I will.
Waiting is a delay between the current moment and the next. It’s when we’re anticipating the next moment.
Pausing means surrendering to the present moment, immersing ourselves in it and giving it the attention of all our senses.
In grammar, punctuation adds more meaning to a sentence. It conveys the essence of what’s said. It highlights content AND context. The same applies to life.
A pause helps you understand the essence of life, not just what you’re experiencing but also why, and how you can enhance it.
Learning to pause is one of the best things I’ve done for myself.
Pausing has rekindled something I used to do a lot as a child — think. I can put things in perspective and gauge whether I’m moving towards my goals or away from them. I’ve learned to declutter my life rather than adding things to stay busy.
Pausing in the face of adversity has taught me to examine my beliefs. It has made me respond better and make lesser knee-jerk reactions. It has helped me feel gratitude during good moments and fill my memory bank with positive thoughts. The result is not just visible in my actions, but also in my mindset. I’m calmer, thoughtful, and more resilient.
A pause proves tremendously beneficial in conversations as well. It helps me listen to others, ask better questions, and truly comprehend what my counterpart wants to say.
Pauses are Frightening
At first, they are. All those negative thoughts, all that guilt because you feel like a slacker, the building anxiety because of pending tasks.
But slowly, you stop running away from yourself. You learn to back your natural instincts. You become capable of holding your thoughts and beliefs fluidly and examining them from a distance. And you embrace your childlike intelligence and openness to witness life through a better (and less cynical) lens.
All this makes you a better friend of yourself.
A person who is a friend to themselves is an aid to mankind. – Seneca
Do you feel healthy? I’m assuming the answer is “yes.” Yet, you eat healthy food to avoid ailments instead of curing them.
Think of a pause as healthy food for your mind, something that enhances your energy and well-being, that prevents dis-ease instead of making you work towards curing it.
Each day, life gives us plenty of opportunities to pause — while standing in lines, while commuting, while waiting for friends at a restaurant, or for an email revert from a colleague.
The next time you’re in such a place, pause. Take a break from the phone. Push away thoughts about the next moment. Instead, deliberately focus all your senses on the moment and on yourself.
Maybe you’ll find a simple yet effective solution to a problem you were grappling with. Maybe you’ll become aware of your anxiety and calm yourself with rational thoughts and deep breaths.
Maybe you’ll find someone who could use your help. Maybe you’ll strike a conversation with the person beside you, and walk away happier.
Life is not about running. It’s about the present moment in which you’re safe, you’re okay. Remind yourself of this thought and witness how your body responds and relaxes.