The Power of the Pause
Thoughts from a life on very fast-forward
Here you are: sitting, taking a break before you hit the Fast-Forward button on your life again. I get that. I’m just like you. I live on fast-forward, too.
But I do have a wish for you. Before you press that button again, I’m hoping—actually, I’m praying—that you’ll have the courage to first press Pause.
That’s right: Press the Pause button. I hope we can all learn about what I call The Power of the Pause. As everybody else is rushing around out there like a lunatic, I dare you to do the opposite: I dare you to pause.
Pausing allows you to take a beat, to take a breath in your life. I’m asking all of us to learn how to pause— especially now, because while I believe the state of our communication is out of control, I also believe The Power of the Pause gives us an opportunity to fix it.
We all have the power to change the way we, as a nation, a society, speak to one another. We can change our national discourse for the better—what we read online and in newspapers and magazines, what we see on TV, what we hear on the radio. We have the power to change it.
I’m hoping you’ll dare to bring change to our community by pausing and changing the channel in our communication.
Pause—and change it from criticism and faultfinding to understanding and compassion.
Pause—and change it from naysaying and name-calling to acceptance and appreciation.
Pause—and change it from dissembling and dishonesty to openness and explanation.
Pause—and change it from screaming to speaking.
Edmund Hillary once remarked, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” So let’s go out into what I call “The Open Field.” Pause—and then go beyond!
Pause—and take the time to find out what’s important to you and make it your own. Find out what you love, what’s real and true to you—so those become the things that most often infuse and inform your work, your home, your life.
Pause—before you report or pass along something you “heard” but you don’t know is absolutely true, something you haven’t corroborated with not just one but two sources, as I was taught to do as a journalist. And make sure that they are two reliable sources—not just two sources who “heard” what you “heard.” A lie isn’t true just because more than one person repeats it.
So pause—before you put a rumor out there as fact. Just because you read it or saw it on TV or on the web no matter how many times doesn’t mean it’s true. Don’t just pass on garbage because you want to be first. There’s no glory in being first with garbage.
Pause—before you hit the Send button and forward a picture that could ruin someone’s life, or write something nasty on someone’s cyber wall because you think it’s funny or clever. It probably isn’t.
Pause—before you make judgments about people’s personal or professional decisions.
Pause—before you join in disparaging someone’s looks or sexual identity or intellectual ability.
Pause—before forwarding the untrue and inflammatory tidbits that have made it so difficult for would-be public servants and their families to step up and lead.
Woman Flora and Fungi credit Elizabeth DeJure Wood
Sometimes when we pause, we give ourselves the space to realize we need to hold ourselves back from impulsively acting out on ego: to make ourselves feel good or better or bigger or “smarter” or more “in the know.”
Pausing gives us the power to change direction—and with power comes responsibility. So remember to pause before you sign on with someone or some organization whose work you already know you don’t admire and respect. Who you work for is as important as what you do.
You know, I didn’t come up with this stop-everything-and-pause idea. Henry David Thoreau went off to Walden Pond. Anne Morrow Lindbergh went to the sea. Buddha, Gandhi, Saint Teresa of Calcutta—the greatest and wisest have often stopped and withdrawn from active lives to journey within themselves. The wisdom they garnered there and shared with us has changed the world. Pause and feel your strength and your vulnerability. Acknowledge your goodness, and don’t be afraid of it. Look at your darkness and work to understand it, so you’ll have the power to choose who you’ll be in this world.
Women: Look at your toughness and your softness. You can and should make room for both in your life. The world needs both.
Men: Find your gentleness and wrap it into your manliness. You, too, can make room for both. The greatest men do.
I pray that you will be able to pause and spend time with yourself to give thanks for the journey that has brought you here. Express your gratitude today to all those who have made your journey possible. Pause and be grateful for all the love you have in your life and all the love you’ve ever had.
As you head out into The Open Field of life, keep your mind open, keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Courageous people are often afraid. In fact, that’s why they need courage in the first place! Have the courage to go beyond your fears.
Have the courage to go beyond judgment, to go beyond others’ rules and expectations. Have the courage to go beyond shoulda-coulda-woulda.
Live and write your own story and then be brave enough to communicate it authentically. Trust me, someone else will be inspired by it and learn from it.
And finally, remember this. Whenever you’re in doubt: Pause. Take a moment. Look at your options. Check your intentions. And then? And then take the high road.
Dear God, I need to slow my life down to see, really see, the people in my life. Help me to be so conscious of them that I take the time to look into their eyes and connect with the person who is there right in front of me. Amen.
Woman and Cat Sphere Elizabeth DeJure Wood
Adapted from I’ve Been Thinking. . . Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life by Maria Shriver, published in February by Viking/Pamela Dorman Books.
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“Whenever you’re in doubt: Pause. Take a moment. Look at your options. Check your intentions. And Then? And then take the high road.” ~ Maria Shriver