If someone had told us at the start of the year that, only a few months later, we’d be shut in at home, fearful of an invisible enemy, we would have laughed…or cried! An early April Fool’s day joke perhaps or the words of an apocalyptic doom mongerer. But, we are all getting used to our strange new reality.
I’m getting used to ‘seeing’ my regular yogis via zoom and learning to navigate family life around on line teaching (my mother phoning to order her veg box in the middle of a live stream was a real live moment!)
I feel my emotions are much closer to the surface and I’m likely to weep or laugh at any given moment. In such turbulent times, we need as many tools in our tool kit to help us get through this and, I thought I’d round up a few of my favourites. Perhaps one or two may just prove to be of use.
A number of us may feel that these times are actually incredibly frantic, with new and insistent demands being made on you all the time, so how do you pause with all that is going on?
Be gentle. You can start small. A pause of even a moment or two, or a breath or two creates an opening and a deepening. It leavens and lightens your time. It can also have a lasting effect. I began meditation with a minute a day, over twenty years ago. Now, it is part of my life.
Your body is your friend, so use it to create a pause. Take a few breaths, dwelling on the pause between breathing in and out. Or, sit still and feel your feet on the ground and the position and posture of your body. Get curious about where you hold tension, seek it out, and then let it go – relax your jaw, drop your shoulders, whatever it is. You can do that in just a few seconds – in the middle of something else.
On waking, or before you fall asleep, take a few moments to scan your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Make that first (or last) moment into one of noticing the body that is you.
Thresholds As Triggers.
Use thresholds and transitions as triggers. So pause for a moment (and count to 1!) before you enter a room or the house. Or when you leave, or when you turn the car keys in the ignition or see the ‘Join Meeting’ screen on Zoom…. Use those triggers to take a breath or two, or feel your body on the chair, or to simply be with yourself for a few seconds.
Choose a song that means something to you. One you love. And listen to it. From beginning to end. Use headphones. Ignore any potential interruptions. Let yourself be in the music, let it wash over you and soak into you. Do this as a routine, or whenever you feel like it.
The quiet that surrounds us in lockdown makes this a beautiful one to try now. Open up your ears to hear everything you can, first what’s around you –the tapping of the keyboard, the washing machine, then go further out…. can you hear voices from the next room, birdsong outside, footsteps in the street, a single car passing by…. see how far you can go. Sink into listening. You could easily make this into a game with small kids if you like, giving you a moment of pause even whilst you are with them.
Cup Of Coffee (tea).
Pay proper attention to a cup of coffee (or tea). Feel the heat of the cup in your hand, the smell before you sip, the taste, the aftertaste. Sit with it. Don’t do anything else. If people ask you for something, tell them you will give them your attention when the coffee is finished.
Stop Trying To Do Everything Perfectly.
You can’t do everything perfectly. If only because that will make you stressed, which isn’t perfect. So let that go. Really. Once and for all. Nobody’s perfect. Don’t ask yourself to do something which is impossible.
Stop Trying To Do Everything Full Stop.
So you are homeschooling, learning how to work from home, doing all the domestics and trying to stay sane. That’s enough. More than enough in fact. Let go of any daft ideas you have that you should also be using this time to write a novel, learn to code, or clear out the basement.
Let Something Slide.
Go further and choose to let one thing slide. On purpose. Make toast instead of a meal. Dress sloppy. Fail to deliver on a work thing that doesn’t matter any more. Don’t feel you have to talk to your friends every day. Skip the bedtime story. Choose a different thing each day and take that time back for yourself. That will probably feel taboo, but it’s ok. Really, it is.
Brush Like A Zen Master.
You brush your teeth several times a day. Take that time as a conscious pause and allow yourself to just brush your teeth. Don’t use it to think about other things or make plans, or process worries. Just. Brush.
Action, not activity.
Improvisers distinguish between activity – which is stuff happening and action – which are the few things that make a difference. Look at your day and work out which are which. Focus on actions, let activity go. There’s more on this in the book (‘DO Pause’).
The night before, or at the beginning of the day, make a realistic list of things to do for the day. Not pie in the sky, but what would be a good day’s effort. Once you have written it you are not allowed to add to this list. And when it’s done, you are done. It is then time for you.
Give Yourself Permission.
This is the big one. Do you give yourself permission to pause? And if not, why not? That is a big question, but if you can create small pauses, you might be able to start to get some perspective on that and grow the sense of space and the feeling of agency you have over your own life.
If it helps, I can give you permission…. Print this off and stick it somewhere visible.