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I know you have been running for quite some time. Not literally, not on two feet maybe. But your mind has been scattered all over the place - running, brisk-walking, trying to fly even, in the face of a relentless onslaught of thoughts, cares, worries, tasks and what not.
Some of you would have made resolutions for the new year, which is already upon us but still new (I think). Some, not many, as the trend I’ve noticed is of giving up on resolutions in the first place: “Why make them if you have to break them!” goes the rationale.
Among those who did, what would the resolutions be about? It is not uncommon to pledge to reduce weight, do exercising, quit smoking (or fuming, if it’s fuming you are addicted to), save up for that dream trip, learn something new, etc., etc.
While all these pledges are important and bring us joy (if completed, of course), let me offer you another promise to make yourself this time. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
It’s nothing complicated. Just a simple word: Pause. P, A, U, S, E, pause. And the promise you can make yourself can be put something like this: “I’ll give myself enough pauses in the year ahead.”
Now, why pause and what kind of a pause?
We are living in an age when almost everything is occurring at an accelerated pace. After dividing the day into 24 hours, we seem to be racing to stuff all 1440 minutes of it with productivity, trying to multiply our fortunes with material wealth, luxuries and conveniences. It's a 24x7, global world, we proudly proclaim, barely catching our breath.
In this fast-moving, racing world, people, especially in the mega cities, are mostly on their physical and mental toes. They are commuting long commutes, running errands or walking erroneously; they are rushing to complete PPTs, attend meetings and meet attendees at events; they pound their keyboards furiously in the hope of spitting out code to lick the competition for that time-to-market edge; and they must party harder to justify all that hard work in double quick time!
We are caught in a never-ending hangover of a time-tortured existence. And as if pencilled notes, stick-ons and diaries were not enough, we now have a digital pile of smartphone alerts to keep us on the tenterhooks.
We have barely learned to put our phones in silent mode when constantly reminded of...the need...to...do so...on certain...occasions. But when shall we learn to put our minds in silent, or pause, mode?
A semblance of pause in our hurried lives began in pop culture with what is called the “slow movement,” which itself expanded from Slow Food, an organization founded in Italy in 1986 by one Carlo Petrini as an alternative to fast food (heard of McDonald’s, have you?) This cultural shift toward slowing down life is catching on and, according to Wikipedia, we now have slow cities, slow ageing, slow cinema and slow church. There’s even an attempt to brand and institutionalize slowness through The World Institute of Slowness!
But the pauses I’m talking about is about you, your pace and your life rather than about a fad, a brand or about joining something just because it is de rigueur to do so.
For one, no one other than you can define the types, quantities and qualities of the pauses that best suit you.
- You may want to take a pause by way of a coffee break (nothing new I know but still).
- You may want to pause by correcting your posture in which you are working, perhaps tilting your head backward or straightening your spine or simply getting your bearing for a while before resuming.
- For longer pauses, you may go on a road trip or, like they say now, enjoy a staycation.
- Still longer pauses can be taken through longer, well-planned trips (difficult for many for want of money or ample leave balance).
- You may try one of my favorite pauses, which is to close the eyes for a couple of minutes (cupping them with the hands helps) and savor the relief that comes from switching from a glaring screen (if you work on a computer) to the blankness of black. You can always enhance it with some deep breathing.
Whichever pauses you choose, they should be appropriately timed with the right space between two pauses: too many will interfere with your work and too few wouldn’t bring you sufficient respite.
And while you take these reprieves, it wouldn’t be out of place to take a moment to reflect back on your larger purpose, your bigger goals--as well as the impact of your own journey on those around you.
When you look back on these pauses, you may realize that some of them indeed made the journey worthwhile. You may also discover, and appreciate, that silence often shapes you as a person just as activity does.
In our environmentally degrading world, there aren’t too many roses left, but no harm stopping and smelling them once in a while when we can (or planting some if we fail to find any).
May the New Year punctuate your days ahead with many many becalming, fragrant and refreshing pauses!