THE POWER PAUSE
The wise person realizes that, when something of importance comes up, that he/she must return to the one place where humans have the advantage, so that he can run his life from the higher brain instead of from the often "off" primitive mind that is incapable of higher thinking. The various names for the parts of the primitive mind are the reptilian brain, the limbic or emotional brain, the monkey mind, the chimp brain, etc. - all are recognitions of what all the disciplines (including the guru types and the psychological disciplines) have observed - they are not reliable, nor thinking, nor to be trusted. Intuition and emotional reasoning do not have the mythical "knowing" that the information is right and true, for it often is not.
If something goes "wrong", the last thing you want to do is leave the primitive mind in charge and often firing off the fight/flight response inappropriately and often with damage. Thus we need to "intervene" in the process (the causal chain) and stop it before it gets too far along and is too powerful or too much damage has occurred. (Recall the old standard "count from 1 to 10" before doing anything.)
The "strategy" that must be done, the moment a negative feeling is noticed, is
1. Pause (i.e. "stop!")
2. Breathe (3 to 6 deep slow, deep breaths, helping break the reactive response, so that the higher brain is available. The primitive brain gets the signal that normally means "all is well".
3. Think (i.e. engage and use the higher thinking brain by asking a question, such as "what would be best to do right now?" and then figure out how to do what needs to be done. See Thinking, Fast And Slow.)
Simple, but one would best make this a top priority strong habit that is used virtually every time whenever there is an "offness". Pause, breathe, think. Pause, breathe, think. Pause, breathe, think....
THIS MECHANISM IS CRUCIAL TO HAVING A GOOD LIFE!
This page is about using the short pause, but the bigger picture suggests that we should also use, where appropriate, larger "pauses" or Time Outs. (A pause is more of a short-term time-out mechanism.) The short pause is absolutely essential for breaking the stress cycle AND restoring operational balance in our brain and body, without which we go into dysfunction and breakdown. This can, as discussed below, help lead us to better thinking in the moment and better adjustment to life, so that we can Live Life As A Life Champion.
Note that the unconscious mind is about a thousand times faster (per some scientific estimates) than the conscious mind, so that means that if we want to have the conscious mind (the higher brain) make our choices we have to give it time to catch up.
For better decisions and equanimity, we need to consciously engage the higher mind - otherwise the primitive mind is making the decision, which will cause bad decisions, unhappiness, and spending time unraveling the damage done. To do this, we must have a "system" that we train our primitive mind to engage in to allow us enough time "to think". For "the pause", see the standard statements to use, provided at the end of this piece, in the "insert this" section.
Use the other "pause" mechanisms, listed in the box to the right.
THE "SACRED" PAUSE, ESSENTIAL
The short pause, aka the "sacred pause", is simply stopping what one is doing for a brief time. It can be used as the lead-in to using the "time out tool", where, in this process, a person will deactivate stress/fear mechanisms, "check in", engage the higher brain, and then actually decide what to do or say to oneself next. When the higher brain is engaged it takes charge, so that we are no longer ensconced in the automatic reactivity in the lower brain. This systematic time out process is perhaps the number one key practice that leads to people living higher powered lives. (It has within it the same principle that is behind Living Life As A Life Champion.) I repeat, so you'll fully "get" (and eventually "grok") that it is the pause that is necessary for having the higher brain to be engaged. [In Daniel Kahnemann's Thinking, Fast And Slow, he is clear that the mind, which he calls System One, is fast as the blazes but neither accurate nor an intelligent thinker. But are "slow" thinking is necessary to make good decisions, use rational thinking - and to do that we must pause for a moment, which will allow the slower, but better, thinking brain to function and guide our lives. That is what he calls System Two. See System One And System Two - Our Gifts To Work With.]
And it is with the Higher Brain (sometimes called the Higher Mind) that you will make the key decision that follows.
CHANGE WHICH WOLF YOU FEED - OF COURSE!
To do well in life, we need to feed the good wolf (see Watch Your Inputs Carefully). However, in this society we keep feeding the "bad" wolf, which is, in this case, our "bad" habits of thinking and doing that lead to unhappiness and stress. Somehow we get stuck in the belief that continuing a bad conversation internally (or externally) somehow gets us a positive effect, much as we do in "Worry". If we use The Pause, we can disengage from the constant, useless, downward spiral.
Let's be perfectly clear here. You are run by your habits - after all, they are just automatic routines. But you have an absolute native ability to be able to interrupt, and stop, any habit, action, or thinking. Many people believe that they are helpless against their habits, that they always weigh too much or do certain harmful activities or thinking. But that is an illusion. It is created simply because we have allowed the habits to continue by not interrupting them and by not replacing them, so that we are left with the only choice being the existing habit.
We absolutely have the power to choose to continue the old habit or not. However, if we choose not to continue the habit, that choice will not work unless we honor reality and do that which must be done to achieve the result. Basically, humans will continue the old (existing) habit unless he/she designs a new habit to replace the old habit - essentially creating a new "program" for the computer to run. If there is no new program, then the computer cannot possibly do anything but run the old program.
You can't get rid of an old habit into thin air and then hope something undefined will all of a sudden pop into your mind to do. You can't rely on your higher brain engaging and coming up with a better way to do something in the moment. Habits will generally prevail in the moment. But if you design, when the higher brain is in gear and it is put to work, a better program and then practice it (that's like "programming" it into a computer), you will succeed.
The process of replacing a habit happens gradually at first and is most often slower than we'd like, but it does happen. As in anything we are first learning to be competent in, we are at first relatively incompetent. Thus we experience some failures at first, just like a child learning to walk. But if one keeps on attempting to engage and continue the new program, one will always succeed.
And persisting in that process will be immensely well worth it, as it inevitably leads to our betterment and to our happiness.
What I am writing about here is so easy (the act of simply "stopping" for a moment) that anyone can do it. But interestingly enough, we do not need to wait to get a benefit later, as we get immediate benefits from simply "disengaging" from the stress we accumulate and heighten when we do not stop frequently. Our stress levels drop simply by breaking the stress for a moment and our bodies get to readjust automatically toward greater balance, and the resulting greater functionality.
It is not something you haven't heard of, but it is something that you don't practice and it is something that you need if you are to function at a high level in life. If you don't do it, there will be a constant drag on your life.
WHAT WE DO...MINDLESSLY
We automatically, reactively, try to escape any discomfort. Ironically, we often create massive discomfort and suffering from this attempt to escape. We actually often get into "escalation", where one thought feeds on another, hyping our distress and/or stress to levels we are not equipped to handle without damage. We are living inside a dysfunctional emotional state that in itself creates even greater harm.
Obviously, I think, we need to not continue this unworkable habit.
If we practice meditation, we would begin to build up a new habit, one of being ultimately able to stay present no matter what is going on. If we can do a mini-mini version of this, the short pause, we can also build up a new habit that will bring us much peace and alot more effectiveness in life.
In meditation, we see a thought and let it pass recognizing it only as a thought, with no power in itself. We understand that the "discomfort" we feel is merely an unpleasant chemical sensation, but one that will not harm us for having had it. It is scientifically proven that any particular emotion only has a life span of one and a half minutes. It disappears unless we create it anew. And, we should best realize, it means nothing - really!
But you don't need to know any of this information or all of the theories and you don't need to practice meditation (though it would be a good idea to do), all you need is to exercise elementary choice for 3 to 60 seconds. And, amazingly, you'll get a whole new set of habits that serve you. (I know, it seems to simple to have a large impact. But if you do it often, you'll see the great impact.)
Note that we will, relatively often get caught up in aggression and/or fear without actually realizing it. We do not seem to realize that anger and/or aggression are not primary emotions, but are secondary emotions that are the result of fear. If we notice any of that, or any tension or unpleasant feeling at all, then we must immediately implement the pause - to "stop" the process - and pause long enough to really disengage.
The basic idea is to not get caught up in the emotion but to "stay present", which means being in touch with the world or your world without the emotion in it for the moment.
And pausing briefly and frequently during the day is virtually without effort. For just a few seconds you can be "present" in the "now".
ALTHOUGH IT'S EASY, WHY BOTHER?
1. You'll feel better.
2. You'll feel calmer.
3. You'll access your higher brain more and make better decisions.
4. A harmful spiral can be avoided.
5. You'll tend to not use a "balm" that is not beneficial (food, drink, etc.).
Long term, a habit is created to:
1. Have the part of your right brain be more selective in sifting among thoughts, with better screening.
2. Be able to decouple from a thought and an emotion, so not caught up in them.
3. You'll make better, more rational choices.
4. You will feel more in charge of yourself and more powerful.
WHAT DO I DO?
The "pause" can be anywhere between 3 seconds to 60 seconds. Of course, you can continue it if desired.
The 3 second one can be done even without other people noticing it. You simply let go of thinking for 3 seconds (or just try to clear your brain) and do a very relaxing breath. You can also, if practical, close your eyes and get a 3 second "rest". It sounds like too little, but it is amazingly worthwhile. Just do it every time you feel any stress or form of discomfort or notice any negativity on your part.
In the one minute pause you do a little more. [You can do all of this in about 10 seconds or less once you get the "skill" of doing it.] You pause, do a deep sigh and let go, trying to relax as you do your sigh or outbreath. It is good to gently close your eyes, if practical. Then you can do three or four deep, slow breaths, holding your breath for 4 seconds between breaths [which makes it hard to continue breathing fast!). Then you simply notice what is going on in your body, noticing tension and letting it go, especially in the jaw and eyes and cheeks.
Of course, you can couple it with some writing if you wish to deal with something that you noticed at some point, perhaps the initial thought.
A PAUSE IS...
...an interruption of the normal reactivity - learning to be aware of the signs and/or triggers that cause reactivity is always the first part of managing one's emotions and thoughts for the better.
A spot where I will allow my natural intelligence to be accessed, for better decisions.
Affirmation, for life (practice 21 days, 2 times a day)
"I can stop any time. I can pause...and I can breathe...and/or I can relax...and/or I can rest..."
___ I see the great benefit of using "the pause".
___ As such, I commit to implementing it and sustaining it in my life, for all of my
life, as a major practice.
___ I will build it into my Reminders system (tickle and/or Reminders List, most
likely located in my Reminders Notebook).
AND YOU CAN INSERT...
And in that brief moment or that one minute, you can also insert coping statements, power questions, affirmations, and/or mantras.
"I honor myself."
"I see this for what it is. I choose not to continue it. I choose peace.""
"What is the right thing to do?" (We 'know' what the right thing to do is, if we stop for a moment and use some means to address it. We definitely cannot access it if we are caught up in anger, but if we pause for a moment, we can insert something intelligent into the gap.)
In the "seven seconds" it takes for the higher brain to catch up with the lightning fast lower brain, you could insert (i.e. install in the lower brain, through repetition, perhaps initially daily in your grounding sessions, such statements or questions as:
"Let me think about this for a second." (You can say this internally or actually alound in certain cases.)
"What is reality? Am I OK?" (See the whole dialogue, below.)
"What is the best thing to do here?"
The "Am I OK?" conversation is a crucial one. It can look like this:
"Am I actually ok? (not damaged, still intact) Will I survive ok physically after this?
When I get past this moment will I find it to be temporary and to mean nothing over the long term?"
How important is it for you to have these statements (in bold) in the "top of the mind", ready and instantly available?
This is one of the most important things you can do, so please don't take this lightly as if it is just another written piece you have learned something from.
Actually implement it!
That means you put this in your Reminders Notebook and that you include it in your Grounding for the day, until you've installed this conversation (through repetition) until it is automatic and super usable, instantly produced by the primitive mind.