by Tara Brach
As with any addiction, the escape from pain of our shadow self only increases our suffering. Our strategies amplify the feeling that something is wrong with us and stop us from attending to the parts of ourselves that most need our attention to heal.
One of Carl Jung's key insights was that the unfelt parts of our psyches are the source of all neuroses and suffering. A vicious cycle: the more ashamed we feel, the more we may be driven to attack others to protect ourselves.
When we learn to face the fear and shame we habitually avoid, we begin to awaken from a trance. By pausing and accepting our experience, we free ourselves to respond to our circumstances in ways that bring genuine peace and happiness.
A pause is a suspension of activity, a temporary disengagement when we no longer move toward any goal. It can occur during almost any activity and last for an instant, for hours, or for seasons of life. We may pause from our responsibilities by sitting down to meditate. We may pause during meditation to let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath. We may pause by stepping out of daily life for a retreat, to spend time in nature, or to take a sabbatical. We may pause in conversation, letting go of what we're about to say to genuinely listen to and be with the other person. We may pause when we are suddenly delighted or saddened, allowing the feelings to play through our hearts.
In a pause, we simply discontinue whatever we are doing. We become wholly present, attentive and, often, physically still. Try it now: Stop reading and sit there, doing "no thing," and simply notice what you experience.
A pause is by definition limited. We resume our activities, but with increased presence and more ability to choose. In the pause before sinking our teeth into a chocolate bar, we might recognize the tingle of anticipation, and perhaps a background cloud of guilt and self-judgment. We may then choose to savor the chocolate, or we might decide to skip the chocolate and go out for a run. By disrupting our habits, we open ourselves to new and creative ways of responding to our wants and fears.
Taking our hands off the controls and pausing lets us clearly see the wants and fears that drive us. We become conscious of how the feeling that something is missing or wrong keeps us leaning into the future. We can continue our futile attempt to manage our experience, or we can meet our vulnerability with the wisdom of what I call "radical acceptance."