Fall is here, with the beauty of changing leaves and cooler breezes. Life has slowed from the frenzy of summer to the wind-down of autumn. And it will be gone in the blink of an eye. Halloween has come and gone, leaving us on the slide through the end of the year.
But before we move into the quickened pace of the holidays, I invite you to pause. Take a moment in time and just be. An empty space in time can be a treasure, but if you’re like me, I tend to fill it with “stuff.” To-do lists? Never ending. Plans for tomorrow? Such far-reaching consequences. Stuck on a hamster wheel of activity? Constant. Results? Feeling tired yet restless, consumed by waves of overwhelm. Cranky and irritable. Self-imposed deadlines demanding short nights of sleep. And that doesn’t work.
We recommend to friends and clients they need a break. Do we take our own good advice? Seldom. We forget the healing benefits of the pause. We forget that without this breathing space, life is like a car rolling down the street without any brakes. We leach the joy out of life, pursuing whatever we think will satisfy that longing, not realizing the answer is inside ourselves all along. And just what is this magical space? It’s the slowed place in life to savor where we are at any given time and place.
“Okay, Joan,” you’re saying. “That’s all well and good. Give me some ways I can sample these morsels of joy.” These are some that do it for me:
- Spend some time playing. The choice is up to you. I like to knit. Or read a good book. Or walk. Or play with The Duff. Or dance in my living room. (Bet you have an outlandish picture in your mind now!)
- Adopt a noticing practice. Stop and smell the roses. That’s a metaphor for noticing the beauty around you. A sunrise. A child’s laughter. The sound of a silent forest. The feel of clean sheets at night. The satisfaction of a long walk. The pleasure of friends.
- Before a routine activity, take a moment to become fully present. Give this a try throughout the day. Prior to a meal. Before starting the car. Brushing your teeth. Answering the phone. Relaxation and slowed breathing will be your reward.
- Take a little longer to respond in conversations. When I pause before answering, I have time to breathe. I think about what the other person said and how I feel about it. And your friend feels heard. My responses are kinder and even humorous if needed. It seems to me we all need that quality these days.
- Let yourself “not act.” Sometimes, we are so caught up in never-ending doing that it becomes a habit. Remember the permission slip from grade school? Give yourself the green light to slow down. To just be.
A few times a day, stop for a few seconds. Tune in to what’s going on for you, particularly beneath the surface. Like airing out a long-closed house, use this pause to make space for yourself. Fill your own cup. Live unstuck.