The other day as I was taking a break from my desk work, and decided to check out a video that I had heard about with Maria Shriver delivering a commencement speech to the USC Annenberg School of Communication. In the 20 minute video she advises the young graduates about the importance of taking a pause in life and prior to any significant decision. She spoke of the importance of personal communication and to take the time to actually speak to people rather than relying solely on text, email and other digital forms of communication. Ms. Shriver also referred to the vital importance of pausing in life to go within and connect with the communication of our own being.
We’ve heard the cliché that we are not human doings, we are human beings, and yet most of us seem to fill every second of every day with some sort of activity; even when it seems like a quiet meditative activity such as reading or even watching TV. But the kind of pause that is necessary to go within and connect with ourselves and the inspirational wisdom that can guide us to life’s next step is a complete and total rest from any activity. Just sitting still and letting the mind flow. Some call this meditation, some call it contemplation, and some call it complete and utter torture. If you fall into the later category, then this act of doing nothing is of even greater importance.
Even music and rhythm has a place for a pause. For those that do not read music, (that would include me) it is called a rest. The Wikipedia definition of the pause in rhythm says “A rest is an interval of silence in a piece of music, marked by a symbol indicating the length of the pause. Each rest symbol corresponds with a particular note value.” Without that rest, all the notes just run together and the rhythm becomes jumbled and indefinable. Uh, hello….our lives are no different than a sheet of music! Without taking a break, a pause, a rest, time for meditation or contemplation or whatever you want to label it as, without it, our lives become a chaotic orchestra of discombobulated thoughts, events, and occurrences that never lead to any quality productivity or clear understanding of what our next step is.
In this amazing time of expanded communication via the internet, computers, cell phones and other mobile devices, we are connected more than ever to the macrocosm of life, our planet and even the universe as a whole. Unfortunately, it is often to the detriment of our connection to the microcosm of our being. And it is that microcosmic relationship to our own inner wisdom that can guide our life in the direction that we desire with a clear vision of the bigger picture. So how do we carve out space in our incredibly busy lives to create a strong link to our inner blueprint? Sometimes the task of slowing down seems monumental and only ads more stress and anxiety to our already chock-full life. However the result of not stopping to pause and rest every now and then has potentially detrimental consequences. It would be like not feeding your body the food it needs, not hydrating yourself or not filing your car with gas.
In so many ways we have improved our lives with what are now considered things we cannot live without. Technology and communication devices are absolutely vital to the level of productivity and advancement we can now achieve. But we must not let it be a wedge between the outer world and our inner world and thereby closing us off to ourselves and disengaging us from the vast wisdom that can only be accessed by shutting down all the gadgets and just being.
For the type A personalities, this may seem quite daunting at first, even painful. But that discomfort is a huge contrast to the consequences of not remembering the lost art of leisure and the clarity it provides. The next time you feel a bit lost, or wonder what to do next, don’t “do” anything. Sit yourself down somewhere, preferable with a nice view, and just “be.” Resist the inner urge to peruse facebook, or check your email. Leave the phone somewhere else and just “be.” Don’t turn on the TV or check out a YouTube video, just “be.” The only technology that may support this effort is music, but I would suggest the instrumental type so you don’t get caught up in the lyrics.
Try it. Give it all a rest and see what happens. Your thoughts will swim at first, but within a few minutes they will streamline into a cohesive, linear pattern that will morph into inspiration and wisdom. Tell the negative inner voice that it gets to take a break too. This process as a whole will vary from person to person. You have to find your own personal pausal groove. Don’t beat yourself up if the wisdom doesn’t flow right away. Practice is required to be adept at anything. But subtle refreshment is guaranteed even with your first attempt. It will only improve with time. And refreshment, rejuvenation and renewal are required to do anything with more than just basic adequacy, so this process will only improve your overall productivity and quality of everything you do.
Welsh poet, William Henry Davies who lived from 1871 to 1941 recognized the importance of taking a break and the unhealthy speed at which modern society was going in a time that by modern standards would be viewed a significantly slower period in our history. His poem “Leisure” states it best…
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Do you take the time to give it a rest? Share with us your successes and challenges with the concept of pause.
And now I shall go contemplate the leaves…