Talking Better Together by Pausing

Some days it feels like I am riding the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, a high-speed train): constantly thinking and doing. It reminds me of a train ride from Paris to southern France I took a few years ago. I got there quickly, but I missed the scenery along the way.

As on the train, so in life, when you constantly think and do, the scenery gets hazy, indistinct. You are out of contact with what is living inside and around you. In this uninterrupted flow of thoughts and actions, it is easy to slip into a kind of mindlessness. Just as the train’s movements lulled me to dose, incessant activity makes one unaware of the harm any of us could be causing through thoughts, words, gestures, and emotional states.

Pausing means stepping off the train of habitual thinking and doing and shifting one’s attention to what is alive inside and around you. In these moments, start by becoming aware of the physical sensations of weight and the points of pressure in your body from sitting, standing, or lying down. Notice the breath moving in your body and the sounds, even of silence, along with the colors and shapes around you. Once you are more aware of yourself as a living, physical being, notice the thoughts and feelings you are having without judging or criticizing yourself for any of them. Just notice it all as if you were a kind friend listening to and observing you with kindness.

Brief moments of pausing can be like mini-oases in your day. When I pause my heart rate slows a tad and I feel more at home with myself. I usually feel calmer and can perceive others more clearly. What a conversation might need to move forward in a positive way becomes apparent.

When you pause during your day, what’s the impact? What does or could remind you that it’s time to pause?  A timer on your watch or computer? A sticky note on your desk?

This blog draws on my forthcoming book Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a TimeClick here to leave your email address and we will notify you when the book becomes available this Fall.

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