Packing a pause

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A lot can happen in the time it takes to inhale and exhale three times. Just think about all the space three full breaths would create in your head if given the opportunity. If only we could train ourselves to approach life with a pause strapped on our backs, then those 3 breaths can be very, very usefully used. Better even than counting to 10. While counting to 10 does create valuable space in our head it does not automatically provide our brain with a good supply of smart oxygen.
I’ll tell you what: if I’d taken 3 full breaths the other night, I might not have so quickly taken sides on an issue I had no business taking a side on. At the very least, those three breaths would have encouraged me to gather a few more details if I was going to take a position. (I would so gladly take those breaths now instead of doing the very painful and time consuming back pedaling that awaits me still.)
But even more value can be eked of those breaths. While three will take us a good distance all on their own, we can get even further by using each one to bring valuable insight to the situation. It goes like this:
  1. On the first breath, tune into the dynamics going on outside of you
  2. On the second breath, tune into what’s going on inside of you
  3. On the third breath, focus/anchor on the breath
Deliberately tuning into what’s going on outside of you provides an opportunity to take stock of important information, including any flags you were vaguely aware of but ready to ignore. Tuning inward shines the light on your own immediate emotional state, oh so ready to carry you away. After that, bringing your focus back to the breath gives you a solid center to come from. Separating the dynamic into these pieces and looking at the landscape in this way as if from above gives us the chance to remember who we are or who we want to be. After taking those three breaths in that way, you will then be equipped to clarify your smartest next move.
The Big If
Alas, the success of this beautiful technique rests entirely on the big “If” from a couple paragraphs back:
If we could just train ourselves to pack a pause like we pack snacks for a road trip, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice when we’re hungry, we could probably sidestep a lot of bad stuff. 
Training. Pause training. That’s what it would take. Why not take 3 big breaths right now? One for outside, one for inside, one just riding on the breath.
We are now ready for our next smart move.