The Holy Pause

October 10th, 2017 / Jake White

I remember in one instance walking up onto a stage in order to speak in front of a group of people. Before speaking, I felt nervous but also had confidence that I had not needed to prepare for my speech. I thought to myself, “I will just start talking and see how things unfold.” When I got on stage and saw this massive crowd waiting for me to give a presentation on my travel soccer team, I completely froze in that moment. Nothing would come out of my mouth and I stood there shaking and mumbling. This moment of being completely overwhelmed, lost, and confused is not the pause that I will be going over in this article. The pause that you and I will be exploring is the pause that comes after an event like this. The Holy Pause is a practice of consistent connection and a reminder that no matter what happens, we will be there for ourselves completely.  Developing a healthy pause is important in the moments when the river of emotions becomes turbulent and hard to manage. Pausing develops a different relationship with your emotions in which you are consistently present for them no matter what the experience. What I have seen is that developing a healthy pause for myself is a reminder that no matter how big or out of control I feel, my self-awareness is the only way to fully experience the power of my emotions. In this article I will go over how to pause, why to pause, and what to do when we forget to pause.


If I could only have one spiritual practice, it would be pausing throughout my day. I would let go of meditation, journaling, mindfulness, walking in the woods, and yoga. Of course I love these practices and they are extremely valuable; however, pausing develops a consistency that nothing else can create. I have used a pause in the moments when I have been elated, like watching an eagle fly over my head, taking in a moment where I truly appreciate someone expressing their talents, or watching my nephews play in the river. These are instances of pure joy when I pause in order to connect with myself. On so many occasions no one can see that I have placed my hand on my chest and I am looking inward at my feelings and experience; that I have decided to be silent in my mind and open to my senses, to everything around me. I have used a pause during instances like my initial example, when I froze during a speech and had to focus on the overwhelming feeling of embarrassment. I had so much that I would have liked to say about my travel soccer team, but the only words that flowed out of my nervousness were, “My team was great, they learned how to lose well.” What I wish I had articulated was that, “I had a wonderful group of boys who played hard and improved so much over the course of the season. They did not win every game, but when we did lose there was always improvement in the team.”  Honestly as I look back at this situation, I would not change what happened because I was able to practice my pause. I think that when we embark on a spiritual path, stability and self-awareness are continually built and tested. I remember after my speech walking around with the feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, and regret for a couple of weeks, but also constantly practicing connecting to my self-awareness, self-connection, and giving myself the space to feel. I learned a valuable lesson from this situation that challenged my view on self-confidence. Up until this point I thought that my self-confidence would develop based on how I performed; after this event I learned that confidence came from how present I could be in a moment in which I could barely stand in the turbulence of my overwhelming emotions. This is what your pause is; it is a commitment to stay connected with yourself no matter what your experience may be.  


The first step to pausing is to relax the movement of your mind.  The second step is to take a moment to focus your awareness on your body, feel your experience: it can be helpful to place your hand on your chest or, if you are experiencing overwhelming tension in a specific place in your body, place your hand on that feeling. The third step is to open up to listening to yourself. Listening with your whole body means opening up all of your senses and hearing, feeling, looking, smelling, and connecting with everything that is occurring in the moment. Practicing a pause can be an amazing tool in moments when you feel reactive to another person. This is the optimal time because in these moments, we have begun to close down our energy. Connect with the emotions that are present whether it is anger, frustration, hurt, or sadness. Rather than using your emotions to try and control the other person or situation, use your pause to connect with yourself. Allow yourself to feel the anger in your body and give it space. This pause gives control back to your responses and takes away the need to change someone else’s behavior in order to feel secure. Your pause becomes a source of stability and is a reminder that your commitment to yourself is primary. What you will find as you practice is that every moment of struggle and turmoil within a relationship brings you back to your pause. Every challenge becomes an opportunity for a healthier relationship with your own emotions.


Why do you pause? There is one primary thing that you and I are looking for from other people: presence. Presence can come in many specific forms such wanting another person to listen, stay with me, be nice to me, make me feel better, share experiences with me, show me affection, appreciate me, or care about me. When I feel angry with another person, it is usually because they have not fulfilled this most basic need of presence in the specific ways that I’m looking for it. However it is the quality of my own presence that I lose when I start to look for another person to fulfill this most basic need. This is why our relationship with ourselves is the first and most important relationship; when we do not stay present with our own emotions we start to demand it from other people. I will give you an example of a moment I used a pause in a relationship with another person and how it brought me back to my own sense of security and safety. I was talking with a loved one they expressed their concern about my forgetfulness. I had lost my car keys and was searching everywhere for them. This person expressed their fear of not being able to trust me. In that moment, I felt myself react with anger and I could feel fear rise in me. I wanted to quickly run down through all of the ways that I was responsible and all of the things I do that makes me trustworthy. But instead, I relaxed my mind and I connected with my feelings of insecurity. I took a moment to pause and I put my hand on my chest. I saw in that moment that I had a desire for this person to be present for me in the way that I wanted. I wanted them to be nice to me, to notice all of the things that I do for them, and I wanted them to appreciate me. My pause brought me away from them and back to myself. I felt myself relax and become open to what they were expressing to me. In that moment I avoided the need for control and reestablished a healthy relationship with my reactivity. In that moment I was fulfilling my most basic need, for my own presence.


What do you do when you forget to pause? I think “forgetting” is a wonderful way to describe this inability to pause because this is exactly what I do: I forget that my presence is my most important relationship that I have and I lose myself in the momentum of my defensive and automatic response to the situation. I put the quality of someone else’s presence before my own. When this happens, I always try to remember that it is a practice. It does not have to be perfect and relationships can be messy. In the moments we forget and come out of the storm of our reaction, it is important to be easy on yourself. It is okay to forget and it is okay to stumble in your attempt to be clear in your relationships. What I always try to do is look back at myself and see why I reacted in the way I did. I ask myself what I wanted from the other person. In my previous example, I wanted appreciation and acknowledgement. If I failed to acknowledge myself and I demanded it from the other person, than I can use my pause to acknowledge what I was searching for. No matter how many times you fail in your attempt to pause, there will always be another opportunity to reestablish a moment of connection. Other people will show up in many different ways for us, but we can always show up for ourselves one hundred percent of the time no matter what we are going through.


Pausing keeps our energy clean and clear and helps us to stay centered. It helps us create a loving relationship within ourselves and stay in a non-reactive space. Our primary relationship should always be with ourselves and all of our other relationships should be an extension of this most primary connection. When we don’t pause, we look for others to fill the void of this most basic connection. Remember to always practice this pause on a consistent basis because though it is a simple practice, over time it can make the difference of a life of love or a life of constant reactivity. Peace is always available and it begins with practicing your pause, remembering why you pause and what happens when you don’t, and always coming back to it when you forget to practice. Enjoy establishing your Holy Pause!