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Pema Chodron has a graceful piece over at Shambhala Sun exploring what she calls pause practice. I've read it four times in the last two days. It's quietly beautiful, and beyond useful in a very base, pragmatic, day-changing kind of way.

She writes,
I know from personal experience how strong the habitual mind is. The discursive mind, the busy, worried, caught-up, spaced-out mind, is powerful. That’s all the more reason to do the most important thing — to realize what a strong opportunity every day is, and how easy it is to waste it. If you don’t allow your mind to open and to connect with where you are, with the immediacy of your experience, you could easily become completely submerged. You could be completely caught up and distracted by the details of your life, from the moment you get up in the morning until you fall asleep at night.

You get so caught up in the content of your life, the minutiae that make up a day, so self-absorbed in the big project you have to do, that the blessings, the magic, the stillness, and the vastness escape you. You never emerge from your cocoon, except for when there’s a noise that’s so loud you can’t help but notice it, or something shocks you, or captures your eye. Then for a moment you stick your head out and realize, Wow! Look at that sky! Look at that squirrel! Look at that person!
That said, she encourages us to
Pause, connect with the immediacy of your experience, connect with the blessings; liberate yourself from the cocoon of self-involvement, talking to yourself all of the time, completely obsessing. Allow a gap, gap, gap. Just do it over and over and over; allow yourself the space to realize where you are. Realize how big your mind is; realize how big the space is, that it has never gone away, but that you have been ignoring it.
I continue to be a sucker for this notion of "practice," whether we're talking about practicing a musical instrument, practicing yoga, practicing being patient, or practicing eating more greens. Or practicing not yelling at the TV when Donald Trump comes on. And I like the way that Chodron brings the sometimes-intimidating aspects of mindfulness meditation into an easy-to-grasp sense of down-to-earth daily practice.

Chrodron writes about listening, about stilling the busy mind, about drawing out of "the gathering storm of our habitual tendencies" by "creating a gap" via the practice of pausing: "We can stop and take three conscious breaths, and the world has a chance to open up to us in that gap. We can allow space into our state of mind."

Three conscious breaths. That's really all she's saying. To stop in your tracks, in the midst of your rushing thoughts as you brush your teeth or walk down the street or run to work, take three conscious breaths, and be right where you are, and listen, and see, and feel the ground under your feet, and know that the past or the future or anything that is not right here, right now, is irrelevant, not useful, can be put aside in service to this practice of pausing and being right where we are.

The more I learn about mindfulness practice and Buddhist meditation, the harder time I have with endless chatter. I was never one for long girly telephone calls, even as a teenager, but as I get older and learn to sit with this rich practice of just being present, the yoga of listening, the stillness and sacredness of quiet observation, the less patience I have for the kind of company that involves having to chat-chat-chat about little irrelevant details. We wind ourselves up so much, so often, that, as "the great fourteenth-century Tibetan teacher Longchenpa talked about," we get lost in "our useless and meaningless focus on the details, getting so caught up we don’t see what is in front of our nose," such that "this useless focus extends moment by moment into a continuum, and days, months, and even whole lives go by."

It's all about that reset, that tuned-in perspective. A slowing-down, a drawing-in, a realization that your whirring mind doesn't have to be a factor in creating your day. That you can get just as much, or more, done, without being a crazed monkey-minded creature swinging from mental branch to mental branch. You can see an easy grace in the people who embody this ability. They have a calm that most chattery types are missing. And there's a certain peace to being in their presence.

It's something to strive for, something to practice. Those three little breaths. Until your life is just one big continuum of three little breaths, and a helluva lot of peace.
"These gaps, these punctuations, are like poking holes in the clouds, poking holes in the cocoon. And these gaps can extend so that they can permeate your entire life, so that the continuity is no longer the continuity of discursive thought but rather one continual gap."
Waking Up To Your World (Shambhala Sun)

Comments

Catherine Davis said…
3 breaths... i can do that! THANKS
Zoe (Bite This) said…
Love love love this article, thank's for directing me to it...

Got me thinking the other night about how to get moments like that into our lives. Cooking and baking tends to allow me to stop and just concentrate on one thing without getting overly distracted. I was making risotto for the first time the other night, and came to the realization that it's a perfect meal to cook and 'meditate'. You can't multitask or you'll ruin it. You have to stand there and 'just stir' for 30 minutes.

It was quite the experience. Makes me realize how such simple things in life can make a big impact. (thanks risotto)!

Z

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