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At times I think we need the space to just stop. The time to wait and see what (if anything) happens.

This isn’t being productive. Goals aren’t achieved or deeds accomplished.

This kind of time is not valued in our society. What happens if you tell people that you’ve been doing nothing? Not working on a hobby, not doing ‘recreation’ – just doing nothing. I suspect you would often be on the receiving of negative judgements.

I see a split in our culture between business and patience. We are meant to be busy (though this does allow time for us to tell others how busy we are). On the other hand we are meant to be patient. What this amounts to is keeping on being busy rather than waiting. We need to patiently pursue our goals – by being busy in their pursuit.

I think this is a recipe for exhaustion. I need times of just doing nothing in particular – watching the world go by, chatting about nothing in particular, wandering around (rather than doing my exercise routine).

When we’re busy we are focused on one thing and excluding others. Stopping means that we can pay attention to other things.

(Busyness can be a way of keeping unresolved emotional baggage from surfacing – I think this is a good use of busyness. Some people who experience depression keep busy as a way of getting through minor episodes of depression – which I think is excellent.)

We may pay attention to the world around us – the beauty of flowers and a sunset may be clichés, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful. We may find unresolved relationship issues emerge: which we may be able to address or not. It may be a time of getting perspective on where we are: on a particular aspect of a life or one of our relationships.

How to do it?
This is tricky. When we get obsessive is probably the time we most need to pause – and the time we are least likely to do it. Here are some ideas I have:
Set aside one day a week. This is difficult and not supported by our culture. Even for devout Christians the one day of rest can become busier than the other days. However it does have the advantage of coming round regularly and so being a useful reminder. If we plan some kind of pause on the same day each week we will at least be reminded of our need for it.
Celebrate special occasions. These can be regular ones (birthdays and anniversaries) but also special ones – changing jobs, starting and finishing projects and so on.
Scheduling time with friends.
Little reminders. A sign above the computer or walking past a piece of furniture that reminds us to breathe.
These are simple things. In my experience they can make a big difference.

How do you find taking time to pause? Do you find it easy to do or is it more of a challenge? I’d like to hear your experience in the comments.

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5 Comments to “How to Pause”

  1. Daphne says:

    Hi Evan,

    This post made me feel very guilty, because I have a bad habit of not knowing when to pause when I’m upset. I just go on and on. I wish I’d read this a few days ago. I know that’s not the point you’re making, it’s just what hit me hardest when I read this.

    Great post, and Stumbled.

  2. Evan says:

    Hi Daphne, thanks for your very personal and honest comment. I hope I never set out to make anyone feel guilty, but it is great to know that what I wrote connected with you. Thanks again for your comment.

  3. My mental health requires plenty of moodling time. I learned long ago that if I didn’t integrate it into my daily life I would take it in the middle of the night. For me it’s a no brainer.

  4. Evan says:

    Thanks Jean, I need this time too.

  5. Interesting and useful info – thanks for informing everyone. Matt

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