Many wise people have noted the profoundly important space that exists between ‘stimulus’ and ‘reaction’ (I think Viktor Frankl spoke of this in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning). In other words, something happens/someone says something and before we respond, there’s a scintilla of time and space: this is where the gold-dust lies.
Maybe just an atom of a micro-flake at first, but with practice, courage, and intent these gold flakes can grow, stick together and eventually buy us our freedom to choose how we want to react. Others talk about ‘acting’ vs ‘reacting’ – which generally means responding in a way that nourishes or – at least – does no harm to yourself or anyone else.
Getting to this idyllic place takes a lot of effort and devotion of course, and a wealth of practices have emerged across the world, and over the centuries to help us humans harness our innate ability to get there. By dint of evolution, we are shackled with a brilliant human brain, but with a super sensitive threat system, and a very busy pre-frontal cortex. In other words we’re up against it when it comes to switching out of ‘reactive’ mode.
Martial arts, yoga, and meditation are three well articulated ways of teaching us to drop inside of ourselves, take stock and learn more about what’s really going on in our psychic and emotional world. It’s only if we practice taking this ‘pause’ that we can then know how we then want to react. For example, anger often hides hurt, flippancy can mask insecurity – and we can rely on these easier ways of responding, at a cost.
So – my one resolution for 2019 isn’t just to pause more often – because I know how to do this, after years of contemplative practice. It’s to remember to pause….