The Sacred Pause – Tara Brach


I was moved by a NPR story this week that
I wanted to share with you. It was about some trauma workers, a team at
the University of Virginia emergency room, and they described having, over time, been
with so many people that died, that there was a kind of numbing going on. And recently, after one of the patients died,
one of the nurses just stayed for some moments. She took a pause, and she just offered her
prayers. And then the next time it happened, the whole
team stayed with her, and they all paused for a few moments. And each one reported feeling really touched,
like that that allowed them to sense the wholeness of that being — that this was not just a…
an object that was, you know, checking off the list, this was like, a Being. And they sensed a kind of sacredness to the
process by taking those few moments to pause. And then, after that, teams through the hospital
picked it up, and now it’s kind of spreading around the country, which is so wise and beautiful. And we can sense it in our bodies, that we
need to be able to pause when we encounter, whether it’s death or birth or stress or
beauty or moments with each other in a certain way, that it is in the moments of pausing
that we really… the pause actually creates a space that light comes through, that we
actually touch into kind of a natural luminosity, presence, intelligence, creativity. I have often quoted Martha Postlewaite, the
poet who writes that line: “Create a clearing in the dense forest of your life.” And it’s… What an amazing line! We all can feel it. So, pausing is really a way of reconnecting
with what I sometimes call being-states — the very essence-states that express who we are. At one point, the well-known pianist Arthur
Rubenstein was asked: “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?” And I loved his response. It was really immediate and passionate. He said: “I handle the notes no better than
many others. But the pauses, aaaah, that’s where the
art resides.” So you understand, right? That… We will actually have the pausing and learning
to pause as the theme of our reflection together, and we will emphasize really pausing when
we are caught in reactivity and stress. That’s when we most need to pause. But really, it’s pausing as a part of the
healthy rhythm of our lives. In another poem, Judy Brown… this is called
“Fire” says: “What makes a fire burn
is the space between the logs, a breathing space. Too much of a good thing,
too many logs packed in too tight
can douse the flames almost as surely
as a pail of water would. So building fires
requires attention to the spaces between… …A fire
grows simply because the space is there,
with openings in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn can find its way.” So we know that if we build fires. And we know that as a wisdom that can guide
us in our life that if it is too packed with activity, if there is no pausing, there is
not space for that more universal flow of wisdom and love and creativity to move through
us. There are two related reasons – I mean,
there’s probably many – but two main reasons why it is really, really hard to pause. And one of them is that we are just completely
habituated to activity. We are on automatic, and it is just our program. We are kind of in a doing-trance, you know,
they talk about human doings versus human beings. We are in this doing-trance. And so, much of the time, we are just on automatic. It is just our habit to do. And the second reason, totally related, is
that much of that doing is driven by our primitive brain that is saying “something is wrong”,
“I need to do something so I am ready for what’s around the corner”, “something
is missing, I need to do stuff so I can make sure I get it”, you know, we are driven
by the more primitive parts of our brain, and so it is very difficult to pause because
those primitive doing… driven doings at least give us a sense of controlling things. We manage threats and we go for advantages
by doing. Illustrative story: An elderly Italian man lived alone. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden. But it was difficult work because the ground
was hard. So his only son Vincent, who had helped him
in past years, was in prison. And the man wrote a letter to his son and
described the predicament. He said: “Dear Vincent, I am feeling pretty
sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. And it has given me so much pleasure. I am just getting too old to be digging up
a garden plot. I know if you were here, my troubles would
be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot
for me like in the old days. Love, Papa.” Okay, so a few days later, he gets a letter
back: “Dear Pop, Don’t dig up the garden! That’s where the bodies are buried! Love, Vinny.” Okay, 4AM the next morning, the FBI agents
and local police arrive, they dig up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologize to the old man and leave. Same day, he receives another letter from
his son: “Dear Pop, go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.” Okay, so the reality is: There are threats
to avoid and advantages to take advantage of and to go after and we need to respond
and to be active in our life. And the problem is this: that we get hooked
on that. We get hooked on thinking that there is always
something that’s missing that we need and there is always something that we are fearing
or that’s threatening. And so we get locked into incessant doing,
and there is none of that breathing space that we can intuit — just the way a fire
to burn brightly — for our lives to burn brightly we need some spaces. I mean, we know it. We need to sleep in order to physically have
our full health and our vitality. Well, we need to mentally pause, we need to
stop the incessant narrative, the stories going on in our mind, to have a space where
a deeper kind of wisdom can move through us. So, there is a training that is involved and
it starts with this intention to, okay, let’s see if we can pause more, both through meditation
and through the day. And, one of my friends who is into publishing,
who is an editor with a publishing company, was working on this after reading the chapter
on the sacred pause in “Radical Acceptance.” And he described, he would go to work and
he would sit at his desk and his first… you know, he had it certain times he was going
to pause, he was going to pause before he was starting work and then when he… after
he finished an email, he wanted to pause and… Few different times… but he just completely
would forget. So he put up a sign. And he described, when he even remembered
to look at the sign – because a part of him was not like looking at the sign either
– he described it that every time he would pause he would feel this enormous push in
him, this kind of anxiety, this sense that by sitting there he was going to miss out
on something, that something was going to go wrong, that he wouldn’t be ready for
something. Now we are talking about a twenty second pause. Okay? But mostly what he said was he was it felt
intolerable, because he said that, in those moments, he felt like he wasn’t in control. And this is… this gets to the heart of it,
that the challenge in pausing is that when we pause, when we really just – and when I
say pause I mean stop goal-oriented activity, okay – when we just stop — that, while that
creates a space for the light to move through, first it creates a space for us to feel the
vulnerability that’s there. We have to be willing to feel the kind of
hum of vigilance and anxiety that’s really part of our organism and kind of make peace
with that, and then we find the space that… that life can live through. So don’t take my word for that. Just… I am hoping that you’ll deepen, after this
reflection, deepen your commitment to pausing. Experiment and notice, when you just stop
in the middle of things, the incredible push there is to just regroup and get back into
action. There is an anxiety or restlessness in us. So, instead of pausing when we are stressed,
we do the exact opposite, which is the primitive brain drives us into activity to defend ourselves
or to grasp. And we end up, instead of pausing, being engaged
with doings that cause harm and lock us in a doing-self. They lock us in a feeling of a self that’s
in trouble, it’s deficient, that’s separate, that needs to keep doing. Before class tonight, I was meeting a wonderful
group of a mix of teachers and students from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. And we were talking about what this pressure
is to keep doing so much and… And… and touching into that belief that
so many of us have that, when we are not working hard, in some way we are falling short. In some way it reflects badly on who we are
. . . deep in the culture. And of course, when we are with each other
and there is a sense of feeling threatened, rather than pausing, one of the big ways that
we react is aggressively. And how many times have we regretted we didn’t
pause instead of making that hurtful comment? We were hijacked by our limbic system and,
because we didn’t pause, we did something that created more distance with someone. How many times we regret pushing the send-button
before pausing? I could do a hand raise, we all know it, you
know. How many times we have regretted, you know,
hurtful gossip? We just kind of get caught into the swing
of it, and we feel kind of slimed by it, do you know what I mean? So we get caught in behaviors that, because
we didn’t pause and come back to what I think of as our more evolved sense of our
being, we behave in ways we regret. And of course the addictive behaviors we get
caught in. Again, because we don’t pause, the urge
moves right into the grasping, whether it’s, you know, for more food, or, you know, the
third bowl of Ben and Jerrys, or whether its addict… gambling or whether it’s sexual
addiction, whatever it is. I often quote a twelve step sponsor who said
that learning the art of the sacred pause is more valuable than a year of meetings. And of course that’s not an either or, we
need… we need all of it, you know. But it’s incredibly powerful to be able
to stop. And I see it in spiritual life, how we bring
in our fear of not getting where we want to get and our… and our wanting to have certain
states and, rather than pausing and arriving right here, there is a kind of leaning forward
and grasping or a judging. One Zen story: A new student comes to the
monastery and says, you know, to the Abbot: “I want to join and how long is it going
to take me to be enlightened?” And, you know, the Abbot… and you can feel
the energy of it, this is not a pausing, stepping back into things… Abbot says: “Ten years.” And so the student goes: “Well, what if
I work twice as hard?” And the abbot says: “Twenty years.” You know. “Well, wait a minute! You just said ten years!” “For you, 30 years.” You know. We can sense it. We can sense the energy of it. I remember seeing a cartoon of a bunch of
monks at the… National Mall and one has got a megaphone
and he is saying: “What do we want? Mindfulness. When do we want it? Now!” You know… was perfect. So, again, I am describing what happens when
we get kind of hijacked by the limbic system and don’t pause. We just get carried into the behaviors. And one of the places that it causes the most
trouble is that, rather than pausing, we have lifestyle habits that keep us distracted and
immersed in mental preoccupation and working so hard, that we are not really able to pause
and be with each other, because, just as we don’t want to pause and feel the anxiety
of the moment internally, when we pause and really are in presence with each other, it
opens us to the fear of: Well, am I going to be accepted? Am I going to be seen in a bad light? So we don’t pause so much with each other
in that open-ended way, without an agenda. And that creates a lot of distance. There was a study I read about — University
of Michigan — and they put together findings of seventy-two studies. They they are tracking the empathy in college
students and they said there is a forty percent decline in empathy in college students, and
most of it has happened over the last fifteen years. And it is related to texting — because,
when a group of students get together, rather than having a conversation and really let
it go deep, at least a few of them are texting while they are talking. And it is the general understanding that that
we are… that it is not safe enough to have deeper, more vulnerable kind of conversations
. . . the kind that lead towards empathy. And this is a broader comment on – and I
think that Nicholas Carr did it beautifully in his book “The Shallows” – that as
long as we are hanging out in virtual reality and getting pinged and trying to, you know,
track a lot of different channels at once, we don’t drop in to the kind of pause that
lets us really connect both with our own being and with others. I do spend time really on how our inability
to pause with each other and how our multitasking affects relationships and, in fact, I am teaching
two weekends on it this Fall, out in Tucson and one in Garrison New York, because as much…
as important as I believe it is to train ourselves to meditate on the cushion, I feel like we
need training to be with each other and stay present, not to go into our habitual strategies
that, in some way, are defending and hiding or judging; how do we undo that? So I invite you to check my website if you
want to explore this. It’s… it’s radical because it means
being vulnerable but it also means opening up the possibility of loving without holding
back, really. So pausing is what I am calling a portal. And it is a portal really to our potential
in terms of full intelligence and love. And Victor Frankl… the most… this is the
quote I use the most almost, and I think of it as a mantra almost, which is that “between
the stimulus and the response there is a space, and in that space is your power and your freedom.” And also your love and your wisdom. So we need to know how to stop. Sometimes I just say to myself, “Stop!” And it’s not an authoritarian kind of “Stop!”
or a demand, it’s more an invitation “Please, just stop!” So, we have strong conditioning not to pause,
but we also have this capacity to. And it’s, to me, an evolutionary marker
— it’s one of the big markers in our evolutionary unfolding. It’s a central theme in the story of the
Buddha, in the mythology of the Buddha. Some of you might remember this, that Siddhartha
Gautama, the Buddha to be, was seeking enlightenment. And before he got to the Bodhi Tree, he did…
he was seeking it in the striving kind of ways of, you know, all sorts of austerities
and the like, and after several years he was emaciated and sick and close to death and
he said, “There has got to be another way…” at which point, he had a kind of memory, or
vision, of when he was a child and he had been brought… it was during the annual celebration
of the spring plowing… And he was there sitting kind of with… under
this rose apple tree and the older men were plowing away and he was watching and he saw
the oxen straining to pull the plow, and he saw in the cut grasses, the freshly overturned
soil, the eggs of insects, and he could see the insects dying. And so he could see the suffering and that
kind of opened his heart to the… really… the suffering of all beings experience in
this living dying world. And in that open tenderness, he also saw the
blue of the sky and the graceful soaring of the birds and the scent of the rose apple
tree and he sensed the joy. So it was like he was in the space of relaxing
back where there was room for the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows. And he touched a real experience of freedom,
of just that open presence. Well, that memory basically let him know that
it is an innate capacity to come home into our freedom. And it doesn’t happen because we are striving
really hard to get somewhere; it happens in the moments when we pause — when we pause
all the doings and relax back into that Being-place. And this is what then guided him to sit under
the Bodhi Tree – and many of you are familiar with the story – where, and this is the
total archetypal pause, you know, where he came to rest under the Bodhi Tree. And it was non-doing. It was just full presence with what is. And in that presence, in that space of non-doing,
the light of the universe flowed through him, he saw the reality of who he was: that radiance,
that compassion, that presence that really is our nature. So, I share the mythology because it is really
in every tradition that, at some point, the most radical way that we can wake up is to
stop the grasping to something else and stop the pushing away, stop the controlling. Just stop. Maybe in that spirit why don’t we just take
a pause together? We’ll do a little guided pause: And you might sense all of meditation is a
pause where we are intentionally stepping out of our automatic or habitual doing. In meditation, we are discontinuing goal-oriented
activity. And then within meditation, we get lost in
thoughts that are trying to get us somewhere, figure something out or worry-thoughts, and
we just keep re-waking up. We relax back into that non-doing presence. You might sense with meditation there’s
subtle goals like “Let me try to quiet my mind or relax in my body”; but they really
are goals in the service of pausing and non-doing. So experiment for these… for this next short
while this kind of undoing, this relaxing back over and over. So that, no matter what comes up, you just
notice it and re-relax. Relax back into the senses, the experience
of right here. Relax with what you are hearing. Relax with the sensations in your body. And in this pause, relax with whatever is
true in your heart. When a thought comes up to carry you away…
when you notice it, you just re-relax, just pause for a moment, and relax back again,
inhabiting the pause. In a way, the practice of meditation is getting…
is forgetting and getting caught in some doing, some thinking, and then remembering again
and relaxing open and pausing yet again, inhabiting the pause, not doing anything, just being. So as you open your eyes, you might take with
you the consciousness of a pause for this next piece where we will be exploring a bit:
How do we pause when we are in reactivity? But first to say: You practice the pause and
build the muscle of pausing, that’s what meditation is doing. It’s basically saying: Get lost in doing,
recognize it, relax open and pause again, just arrive right here. And then we can practice informal pausing
through the day. And I hope you will, after reflecting on this,
just give yourself different times in the day that you say “Well, twenty seconds.” It’s amazing! Your whole biochemistry and your whole perspective
shifts with a twenty second pause. You can do it after you hang up the phone
or after an email. Or you can do the twenty seconds as you are
walking outside, just stop, it’s amazing, just stop, and completely drop everything
and just open your senses. Or while you are conversing with a friend
if it is a person that doesn’t think you are weird. You know, just stop together, pause together. Or when you first sit down at your desk in
the morning. I like to do it when I drive somewhere and
when I stop the car, before opening the door, just stay for a moment. You will find that it disrupts the trance
and brings you here. So what we will notice when we pause then,
as I mentioned, is you will feel a real tug to get into activity. And the trick is to just stay. There is a… I saw a little cartoon with two dogs in a
conversation, and one was saying: “I had my own blog for a while. But I decided to go back to just pointless
incessant barking.” I thought that was cute. So, when we cease activity, we kind of wake
up out of the trance we are in-the doing-trance-and we actually touch into a very unfamiliar kind
of… it is a mystery. We just… in the non-doing, really not doing,
it feels like a mystery. And it is a lot of aliveness. It is most necessary, though, to be able to
start extracting ourself from the trance when we are in reactivity. So let’s just talk about pausing when we
are reactive. Now one of the best pieces of research in
a relational field was John Gotman, who described he would work with couples when they were
hijacked, you know, they are in a reactive place with each other and he had them wired
so he could track that. And he would tell them: “Oh, something is
wrong with the equipment, we need to take a break for a moment.”, he sent them to
different places, and 15 minutes later he would bring them back, rewire them, and they
would resume the conversation, but very much more mature, resourceful and able to work
out what was going on. Because what had happened? They had a 15-minute pause, the classic time
out, where… and your adrenaline gets absorbed back into the system in a certain way in 15
minutes… and so they had come out of their limbic hijack and they were more online. The frontal cortex was more engaged and they
could work it out. Well, that, interestingly, that research was
done without any practice, so not only… so they were just… the pause worked just
because with time. The ten… count to ten works, right? There is some chilling out. Add into that the strategies of mindfulness
where you are actually intentionally pausing and intentionally arriving in the moment and
it doesn’t take 15 minutes. 29:15
So the way I usually invite people to practice the informal pause is to be intentional, know
you are stopping. Take three full breaths that, like… very
long in breath and very slow out breath — because that, right away, starts to relax the sympathetic
nervous system and help you to kind of reacclimate. And then, just on purpose wake up your senses,
so you know you are here. To pause and occupy the pause, know the…
you’re listening to sound right here; the forms you are seeing are right here; the sensations
in your body right here. Okay, so three breaths, open up your senses,
and then just, in some way, invite yourself to be here, kindly. That’s it. And if you practice that in a lot of different
situations, you will start getting the knack of homecoming. Okay, a few examples here: And this is one story that I love of a woman
who was with her mother and her mother told her that… She was spending the evening with her mother
and her mother let her know that she had breast cancer. And so here is how the reactivity came up:
As soon as her mother said that, of course she felt the sadness and then guilt and anger
and future-tripping and regret — all like boom, boom, boom! You know, the initial shock was really intense. And then she went into control-mode — planning-mode
— and what needs to happen and what are the treatment options and how soon do we get
the… the lump removed, you know, you get the idea, right? So this is where… this is where, rather
than pausing, she was going into the control-mode. And then she says: “Thank God for this work,
for learning how to pause and arrive because, despite the complete spiral I was in, I still
had enough presence to ask that all important question: ‘What am I noticing right now?’” That’s the beginning of a pause, right? Instead of the goal-oriented grasping and
fearing activity, “okay, right now.” And so she says: “In that moment, I was
able to do something I would have missed otherwise. My mother didn’t want to talk about any
of these things. As I was weighing her options – whether it
was a biopsy, mastectomy etc. etc. – she sat on the high-top chair in my kitchen staring
blankly into a cup of coffee. I was trying to be strong for her sake and
mine, but it suddenly became clear — that wasn’t what she needed. She was scared and needed to be scared. I debated whether to give her a hug, which
sounds terrible, I know, but I was barely holding it together and scurrying around making
dinner, poring over doctor’s reports. Staying busy was my way of avoiding a total
collapse. But being present, pausing and being present,
allowed me to shift to her way. I took a breath, walked across the room and
wrapped my arms around her. It was an awkward sideways hug but it was
also a long, necessary one. And then something happened. Slowly she started rocking side to side, like
a mother rocks a child, except the child was now the caretaker. It was a sweet tiny moment I’ll never forget,
one that I surely would have missed, were it not for the power of mindfulness.” The blessing of a pause. This shift, that happens in a pause, from
being in the grip of the controlling self —which is our more familiar identity — to,
in that pause, opening to inhabit, really, loving presence . . . a sensitivity . . . that
can then respond to our world with some wisdom. So that’s an example that I wanted to share
because our whole sense of identity shifts — and also how we relate to our world. Now, in another situation one man had a repeating
nightmare. In his nightmare… he was being chased by
a… this kind of shadowy partially masked figure that was terrifying and he couldn’t
directly look at the figure, he felt like if he did he would die. So each time the dream would repeat… he
would just be running until he would wake up in a cold sweat. So as we explored it together, I suggested
he should at least have the intention in… when he was in the dream… to stop, to stop
running and turn around and kind of just look, which he wasn’t… didn’t think he could
do. But actually that’s what he did. One of the times, he stopped, he turned around,
he looked, and, as he looked more closely, what he saw was a kind of caricature from
the “Phantom of the Opera” — a cartoon — which actually, as a child, had totally
frightened him . . . which I can relate to because that was one of the scariest things
to me as a child. But, anyway, that’s why I remembered the
story. It was like a cartoon of the “Phantom of
the Opera.” And then it just… the cartoon-figure dissolved. And that was the last time he ever had that
nightmare. It is radical to pause in the times we most
need pausing. One of the women in our group talked about
this today before class. When we most need it is when we are most stressed. We need to stop. One more story for you: This is another mother-daughter story that
really has always stayed with me. And in this one, a woman was talking about
how… you know… what a stand-off she had with her mother and her mother both terrified
and enraged her. And when she kind of opened up to some kind
of imagery her mother was like a dragon breathing fire and the fire was always criticism and
it went really deep. So she either avoided her mother – she was
running from the dragon – or she would burst out in… in rage that seemed really inappropriate,
it was just built up. So in therapy we just practiced, when she
started having those feelings, pausing and being with them until, in time, in the pausing
and being with, she started finding she had the space for them, which is the gift of mindfulness
— that when we are with, then we bring a clarity and a kindness. We find there is space for what’s there
and we are no longer in reactivity to it, we are larger. And that shift in identity is the whole deal,
because then we can respond with wisdom. So, in therapy – and she had many rounds of
that. And what she most wanted was… when she was
in person with her mother, to be able to pause and pull that off — stay with herself. So it happened when her mother confronted
her over the holidays, when they were all together. She confronted her, this young woman in her
twenties, with not having a job — she was between them — and a lot of stuff got stirred
up, but she didn’t shrink or attack. Instead, she responded in some way that didn’t
give her mother fuel, in which case her mother turned her attention somewhere else. But inwardly, she kept pausing and all the
stuff that was stirred up – the agitation, the sense of fear, the shame (because her
mother made her ashamed of herself) – she just breathed with it. She stayed in the pause. And she knew how to say “This feels horrible
and I can handle it!” Because that’s what happens when we learn
to pause. We actually “get” that we can deal with
it. And, so, as she stayed with it, as happened
when she was in therapy, space opened up — and not just space, but a real sense of tenderness
— and she could feel her own woundedness, but also feel the sorrow that, you know, she
started being able to look at her choices with a… with more clarity. She could stay. She could leave. She could confront her mother. She could let it slide. But see, in that space, she had more choices. As it happened, she stayed. And she started being able to witness her
mother because she had more of that kind of presence from that pause, and be able to see
this woman who was really ensnared in her own insecurity, who had kind of her hands
in fists, her words were tumbling out of control – and it really touched a sense of compassion
with her — so much so that she told me that, when they parted later that evening, she was
actually able to look her mother in the eye and kind of touch her lightly on the arm and
smile. Contact. So this is, again, what I call the sacred
art of pausing. And it’s much more challenging when we are
in the midst of something with another person. But I thought, given the practice, that we
just experiment right now, give you a chance to sense into bringing the pause in this kind
of radical way to a situation where you get stirred up. So just take a few minutes to try this. And it is short. So try it on your own after class. So of course, we try the pause in vivo but,
the more times when you’ve practiced on your own, the more you have got the pathways
in your brain and the feelings in your body that will help you when you are actually in
a situation. So you start this meditation with a pause. Not doing anything. Simply relaxing open into what is right here. You might just notice your body breathing. Let your senses be awake. And you might bring to mind a situation where
you pretty regularly get caught in some level of reactivity, where you maybe act in ways
that don’t express the most mature or awake part of your being. Could be something at work, at home, with
a friend or family, children, partner, parents. Something that involves another person. And let yourself remember that situation;
in other words, kind of do the lead up as if you are watching a movie, to what is going
on. So you can hear what the other person maybe
saying that is provocative or look on the person’s face. Sense what’s going on that really is triggering
you. And just pause at the key frame. Pause when… right before maybe you have
reacted fully. Pause when you wish you could pause. And in that pause, as I described, go ahead
and take those breaths. Just right now. Take those breaths. A nice full in breath, and a slow out breath. And again . . . and again. And actually, when you are with another person,
maybe there is not time for that, but for now just really sense the pause. Let your senses be awake and take a moment
to really pause and inhabit and experience the vulnerability or whatever is triggered
off in you. So rather than running away, running from
the dragon or running from the vulnerability, you pause and sit down into what is here with
a relaxed and gentle attention. Just breathe with it. Just like the woman with the dragon-mother,
you can sense “Okay, this doesn’t feel good, and I can be with this.” You can let the space of a pause have some
kindness to it. You know, just opening to what’s here with
a gentle quality of attention. And let the pause include attending to the
other person. And you might notice what else you perceive
when you have the benefit of a pause. What else do you see about that other person
when you are not in the grip of reactivity? How might that person be caught in their vulnerability? In their insecurity? In their unmet needs? Just as this woman whose mom was diagnosed
could see “Oh, she needs to be… She is afraid, she just needs to be with those
fears,” you might sense what this person is needing or feeling. When we really inhabit the space of a pause,
the flames burn brightly, we are really filled with light, we can see more, feel more, respond
to our circumstances with more awakeness and open-heartedness. Sense, out of the pause, how you might respond
— how your deepest nature can come through and
guide you. And you can trust, in the days and weeks to
come, that even a short pause . . . even a short pause, begins to give access to those
being-qualities – that deep intelligence and love and creativity that is really our
nature. Now, if you would like to open your eyes,
please do. And if you want to listen with your eyes closed,
that’s fine. We will do a little… just a tiny bit more
here. So as we awaken, much like building a fire,
it becomes more and more intuitive and spontaneous: “Oh, need to create some space! Need to stop! Need to stop figuring out because I am going
in a kind of circular little trance here. Just be.” We just know when to stop more and more to
create that space to let that light shine through. And, similarly, you know, just as we are opening
to the joys and sorrows in us, we sense it with other people, how to, rather than fix
them or do something or react, how to create some space to let what needs to happen, happen. I remember some years ago hearing a story
about a 4-year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman and he was recently
widowed. And so, one day, the little boy noticed the
man sitting out on his porch crying. And he went into the yard . . . and he went
into his yard and climbed onto his lap and just sat there. And his mother looked over and saw her son
and the old man sitting together. So when her child came home, she asked him
what he had said to the neighbor. And his response was this: “I didn’t say
anything, Mommy. I just helped him to cry.” The deepest expression of love is just this
non-doing presence because that’s when we are inhabiting who we really are. Now, we have been exploring this really on
an individual level thus far that, when we create this space to pause, this life burns
more brightly, the light comes through. And the same process unfolds in a societal
way when, rather than the cycles of blame and reactivity, when we can begin, when conflicting
people can pause, when we can begin to step out of our agendas and our fears and our reactivity,
that’s where there is that magic that happens when we see past the mask. When people of different skin colors, of different
races, of different beliefs or religions or lifestyles — whatever it is — that are
in conflict, that have conditioned fears and aversion, actually pause together and deepen
presence, they see past the mask, and then we begin to see “Oh just like me, you too
want to love and be loved! And just like me, you have fears that keep
you pulled back!” We get to see the reality. This is what we really need in the world. We need this training to pause and arrive
in mindfulness and in presence. So, I would like to close in a very simple
way to invite you yet again to just sense “Okay, right here right now, let me pause.” Just to close your eyes, you don’t even
have to adjust how you are sitting. I know how we tend to want to… compose ourselves
for a sit, but just to take a moment again. You might have that voice inside your mind
that says: “Just stop. Really stop. Come home into this Being.” You don’t have to try to be aware. The awareness is what you are, and pausing
is just a relaxing back to inhabit it. And it is natural, even as we sit still, that
the mind leaves the pause and goes into activity. And so our practice is just notice that, notice
and re-relax, settle back again. It’s a radical thing to just have that intention
to keep relaxing back, not doing anything, not controlling anything. Utterly awake, senses wide open. Utterly open, a non-doing presence. We close with the wisdom poetry of Pablo Neruda: “Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines; we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness. Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing. What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity. Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death. If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive. Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.” Namaste and blessings.

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