I want to live a life of engagement by building and nurturing relationships as well as adding to my community large and small. I find that I have a fair amount of energy to engage, but it is not infinite. I discovered several years ago that I am more human when I pause from time to time. The phrase “more human” is loaded, yet all it means to me is that I am more aware of my physical body, emotions, and thought processes. I am a living breathing being after all. However, it seems that I work with computers and other machines so much that I sometimes start to resemble them, or at least expect the same “controlled, predictable” performance from my body, heart, and mind. In truth, I am messy and unpredictable with needs for food, sleep, and love. Pausing takes many forms as I acknowledge myself as human. It can be a few purposeful breaths during the day, my morning mediation, or when possible, a longer mediation retreat. Pausing nourishes me. Pausing replenishes me. Pausing is a radical act of self-compassion.
I recently returned from a longer pause, a five-day silent teacher-led meditation retreat. I have learned to not share my retreat experience with just anybody, as the concept can be quite shocking to those not familiar with retreats. Silence seems to be their biggest concern. For me, the silence seems like a small matter; the biggest concern is being with myself for 3, 5, 7, 10 days or more. In the pause of the retreat, I have no place to hide. I pause in this safe, supportive, and known community so I can be fully exposed. It is through this exposure that I allow all the stories and barriers that I build up about me to fall away. Pausing to be more human. Pausing to meet others as human. I learn something each time I pause. I bring forward more of me each time I engage.
Through a habit of pausing I have taken the time to get to know myself. My mindfulness practice has facilitated this knowing. There is part of me that just wants to pause and not engage. I acknowledge this hesitation within me and I find myself again and again reengaging. Sometimes I think I could live as a hermit in a cave, but I don’t; or hide in my job and derive my whole identity through production, but I can’t. The choice I have made each day so far is to live in this world. I choose to be fully me. I choose to pause AND live an engaged life.
Pausing to Engage
By Paul Galvin