Taking Time to Pause

There are many meditation and breathing techniques that implement the awareness of pauses in the practice. Such pauses deepen our practice by slowing down the mind and body, thereby allowing us to become calmer and more inwardly focused.

Pauses come in many different forms. In meditation, it could be the pause between thoughts, or a pause between the steps of the practice. For example, in mantra meditation it might be the pause between chanting the mantras. One form of meditation, tratak, involves gazing steadily on a single object, and in doing so, gives the eyes a break from their constant involvement in the activities of the outside world.

Amma instructs, “You can start to meditate by focusing on the form of your Beloved Deity, or the formless, for example, the light of a candle. If the mind wanders bring it back. If you are unable to do that, then it is enough to watch where the mind is going. The mind should be kept under observation. Then it will stop running and come under your control.

“If you can see with a subtle eye, you will find that there’s a gap between thoughts. This gap is thinner than a hair’s breadth, but it is there. If you can keep the thoughts from flowing without control, as they do now, this gap will increase. This is possible only in a meditative mind that concentrates on a single thought. In meditation, the mind must dwell on one single thought, not on many thoughts.”

In breathwork, the pause could be the moment between the inhalation and exhalation, or vice versa. In this pause, the breath stands still, and perfect peace can be experienced, albeit for a split second. Another method of popular breath work is called box breathing, in which the practitioner inhales to a specified count, holds the breath for a certain count, and then exhales to a count that is longer than the inhale. In this practice, holding the breath is considered a pause, and the exhale that is longer than the inhale gives the heart a chance to slow down, as well as the mind.

Yoga poses are well recognized in helping the mind to quiet down and experience a break in the stream of thoughts. When we slow the body down, the mind slows down as well. When we rest in Shavasana, yoga’s relaxation pose, we have an opportunity to pause the movements of the body and observe the silence within.

With any of the above practices, focusing our attention on the pause can be very calming and centering. Even if the pause is short, that moment is one of minimal physical or mental activity, and so it holds the potential for a deeply peaceful and restful experience. In that moment, we are in a state of being fully in the here and now, leaving the mind uncluttered from thoughts of the past or future. With attention and practice, the pause will lengthen, thus extending the moment of quiet and peaceful rest.

Amma says, “In order to feel completely relaxed and to finally reach the state of Perfect Aloneness, the interference of the past and the future must cease. Only this moment exists and should be experienced.”

Integrated Amrita Meditation (IAM®) is a special recipe of these modalities, which includes simple yoga poses, movement, breath, and visualization, for the aim of stilling the mind and bringing it under our control, so that we can ultimately experience the innate peace and bliss within.

A regular meditation practice will help us experience the subtlety of the pauses in our life. The pauses we may take in our workday, or studies, are familiar forms of having a break in the daily routine. These breaks in our day could be of even greater benefit if we pause our minds as well as our body, because when both are quieted, the benefits multiply. Calming the body helps to calm the mind and vice-versa.

In conclusion, we invite you to take a moment after reading this article to pay attention to your thoughts or breath and find the space in between, however short it is. Or even during the activities of the day, such as in a meeting at work, waiting in line at the grocery store, or in a stressful situation, taking the time to pause can help you stay centered and peaceful.

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