My sister spoke today of getting up from her kitchen lunch counter after eating part of a meal, pausing the eating process to put her attention on something else. She shared how, upon returning to her plate, it was easy to have clear awareness of further hunger, or the lack thereof. The gift of the pause. We spoke also of another kind of pause, using whatsapp to talk to each other via sequential voice messages. It gives us a pause that lifts up our listening, a pause that elevates each communication into an island rising above the speedy waters of normal conversation.
A pause in a line of music, or a line of poetry, has the lovely name of caesura. Perhaps that’s what it is when I meditate, that pause that happens naturally at the end of each exhale. It is as if my body is waiting to discover whether there will be another, or whether this breath may be the conclusion of the Susa story. Pema Chodron teaches us to step into the present moment with a pause practice. Create a gap in your discursive mind, she says, recommending three conscious breaths anytime we feel stuck or need to bring forth awareness of behavior and thought patterns. Cultivating the practice of the pause can gift us with the freedom to chose a different pattern.
My Mexican life is full of pauses that emerge when expected events, as planned by puny humans, do not materialize. I am learning to experience this kind of pause with curiosity instead of frustration. The Mexican value of acceptance rubbing off on me is much deeper than its surface appearance of passivity. What opening am I being offered? What doorway into what unexpected wonder? Acceptance become a joyful, Beginner’s-Mind wandering into some unplanned experience.
It is not the path that is planned, but the path that unfolds which is holy. In an earlier time of my life, such pauses in the turn of events engendered resistance in me. Sometimes they still do, of course, but I emigrated from a culture that values control more than acceptance to one that holds close the spiritual wisdom of accepting impermanence. I am grateful to be growing into a softer attitude about all the pauses and changes that are a natural part of life. I am also profoundly grateful that, in its wake, the gift of the pause brings equanimity, health and alegría!