This weekend was one of my training weekends for my 200hr teaching qualification. So yesterday I spent the majority of the day talking (or listening to be more precise) yoga philosophy with James Boag. It was a wonderful experience as James is inspirational yet practical, informative and interesting, plus very knowledgeable. He said something (actually he said many things, but this one in particular has been running around my head ever since) that resonated with me, “Have the courage to pause, to stop”.
It sounds so simple to take a break, but the reality can be so much harder. There is always so much Stuff That Has To Be Done. It never ends. My partner tells me to take a break, but how can I take a break when I still need to do all of the things on my to do list? When there are shoes on the floor and crayons all over the table? I never stop. This is why I need yoga, yoga is my pause, and yet I’ve begun to feel that this is not enough. So tonight I am sitting here, I am not looking at my to do list, I am not looking at my emails, I am not looking at facebook. I am going to write this and then I am going to stop. I am going to sit and do nothing for ten minutes, and then I am going to read my book. And do you know what, I am going to really enjoy it.
Are these endless lists of ours really important? Will the world end if we don’t complete the tasks on them? Off the top of my head, there are about 5 things on my to do list for today. One of them is to plan my Christmas party, one of them is to look for a new desk. Do I need to do these things today? Of course not. I already have a plan for the party in my head, so what I really mean by writing ‘plan Christmas party’ is make another ten or so to do lists to stress about. I don’t actually have the room where my desk will be painted yet, so even if I did find one that I like, I wouldn’t be able to buy this yet. I’m beginning to think that when my partner tells me that I give myself so much extra work to do, he might be right (but shhh, don’t tell him!). How much of your life do you spend doing things so you can relax later? So you can be happy later? So you have more time later? I know that I spend a lot of time thinking like this. But does it ever happen? Future happiness is a myth, really there is only one place we can be happy and that is now. Have the courage to stop.
And it does take courage. It takes a lot to step back and say no, I’m not going to keep rushing forwards, I’m going to take a moment to pause, to reflect, to consider whether I actually want to be rushing forwards right now. Maybe I don’t, maybe once I’ve had time to think about it I really want to move sideways instead, or round in a circle, there are always different paths we can take. But sometimes it’s hard to see them. We can’t always hear the directions, there is so much noise in the world around us. If we take a chance, if we stop, we might find some stillness, some quietness, and in this quietness we might find our way.
Here’s a scene from my life. It’s late afternoon, I’m tired, my girls are tired, and it’s still hours till bedtime. Everyone is grumpy, someone starts to get upset, someone starts to shout, I try to distract them with an activity and fail, I try to distract them with a snack, this works for a moment but not for long. I try a book, a toy, a different book, a different toy… each one may provide a few moments of distraction but it doesn’t solve the problem. And yet I keep going, getting more and more fraught as I offer more and more distractions. What might happen if I tried something different? If, in the midst of this chaos, I paused, sat down, closed my eyes, started to breathe? Well I’m pretty certain that the initial reaction from my yoga babies would be to shout at me for ignoring them, but I’m also pretty certain that after a couple of minutes a couple of things would probably start to happen. One, I would start to feel calmer and more able to deal with the situation in front of me, I might even get a bright idea for how to get through the rest of the day with all of us in one piece! Two, my girls would feel my calmness, they might even join in with my breathing, they would definitely have to stop and think (“What is mummy doing? Why is she doing that? When is she going to stop and read more stories?”). And this would be good for everyone.
So I’m going to set myself a challenge. This week, I’m going to take time everyday to stop. Each morning I’m going to set myself an achievable set of tasks for the day and each evening, I am going to stop. I am going to enjoy the life I am living now, not the life I may be living next week, next month or next year. Each day, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, torn or unsure about what to do, I am going to stop. I am going to pause until I know where to go next. And if I never work out where to go next? Well I suppose I will just keep pausing, I will listen for my little light inside, and maybe one day I will hear it. For now though, it’s enough to simply pause every now and again, to find that stillness, that quietness. Stop.