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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Pause Into the Present Moment

Jun 30, 2022 08:00PM ● By Barb Ryan

©W. Heiber Fotostudio

"To live in the present moment is a miracle." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Many spiritual teachers, like the late Thich Nhat Hanh quoted above, herald the power of living in the present moment as a key aspect to overall well-being. Yet the path to this level of mindfulness takes time and is a considerable shift from the typical and chaotic rhythms of daily life. Few achieve worthy results without support and instruction. Mindfulness practices bring on a deluge of feelings, thoughts, memories, aspirations and demands of everyday living. Learning to practice the power of pause is a great way to get started in a small way with high yield results.

Merriam-Webster defines the verb pause: (1) to stop temporarily; and (2) to linger for a time. Common wisdom advises people, especially when angry, to “count to 10” before responding. This practice is also recommended as an antidote to rising anxiety. Counting to 10 is a way to pause which creates space, mental distraction and comfort when under stress. It is just one of many ways to invoke this potent tool to increase mindfulness. Pausing increases mindfulness and presence in daily life which enhances self-care and enriches relationships. Below are other ways to bring this practice into our daily life.

The Deep Breath
Take a single deep breath filling the torso fully—from pelvic bowl to upper chest. It may take a few tries to achieve the feeling of a true torso-filled breath, and with practice will come easier. Pausing with a deep breath shifts the focus from mind to body, reducing mental churn or arising anxiety, calming anger and increasing the feelings of spaciousness. Ultimately, strive to inhale through the nose, hold for five seconds, then exhale slowly through the nose. Repeat as needed. The rules are not rigid. Play with the practice and note how different ways of inhaling, lengths of holding and means of exhaling shift the physiology and presence in the moment. For example, if feeling exasperated, exhale loudly through the mouth and feel the release of energy and pleasure in the shift. Use the deep breath to gather self into this moment. Extend the mindfulness arising from this practice by attending to the inhalation and exhalation at its normal rate for a few minutes which will extend the calm, buy time, cultivate creativity, and allow care and compassion to arise.

Cultivate Marvel
Synonyms for marvel include surprise, astonishment, splendor, wonder and amazed curiosity—a rich collection of states of being most rarely encountered unless pursued. Rather than grabbing the phone when waiting or spinning up tunes when passing time, put those marveling words into action. Tune into the pulse driven by that amazing heart in the body beating 100,000 times a day, moving 2,000 gallons of blood through the body. Take time to consider the sun which shines upon us every single day, even when it’s cloudy and cannot be seen. Wonder in the amazement of the roadways and how so many follow the collective rules of the road which make car travel smooth and efficient. Dream about those ancient and huge redwood trees in northern California that are believed to be more than 1,000 years old. Imagine all that is amazing and surprising and watch what catches the eyes, ears, nose and mind. Reflect upon the shifts that may have occurred even while reading this. Artists are likely oriented in this way more naturally, while the rest will need more intention to get there.

Speak Inspiration
This practice can take a host of forms including the use of affirmations, mantras or even poetry. Keep inspiring words top-of-mind. Use alarms on the computer or mobile phone as a reminder. Posting inspiring words in the home, office or on a bedside table will guarantee an encounter and ensures we will be nudged in the direction of inspired thought on a regular basis. Short poems are also quite inspiring.

Succeed by Starting in Times of Joy
Mindfulness practices are often presented as an antidote to stress or discord. Happy, satisfied people rarely seek help, so this context makes sense. No matter the reason, we will reap richer benefits when we begin the pause practice during enjoyable and happy times. With COVID-19 quarantines and constraints rescinding, people are gathering again, and it feels amazing to see our loved ones and colleagues in person again. Take a pause in these reunions to soak up the joy, celebration and connection occurring therein. Deepen feelings of pleasure, love and appreciation. Allow the good feelings to absorb into our being as the endorphins and oxytocin flow upon us and those we care about. Apply this felt sense with greater ease in more difficult times such as a tense conflict with a work colleague, while disciplining a child, facing tough financial conditions or soul searching for new ways of being.

While not an exhaustive list, these tips will get us started in the practice of pausing. Give the body, mind and being a break to allow more response options to flow in. In the space created, a wise inner voice is heard as the churn of problem-solving, including all the fuss and worry, hits the sidelines for a break. When we pause, wisdom flows. Give it a try.

 Barb Ryan, CMT, CSD, is a certified spiritual director and myofascial release bodyworker practicing at the Bhakti Wellness Center, in Edina. She works with the mysteries of the body and being through hands-on bodywork, spiritual guidance and wisdom listening. For more information, visit


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