The power of the pause

There’s a lot not going on for me this holiday season, and I love it. For the first time in at least 25 years, I’ll be spending Christmas and New Year’s away from home. That means I’m not decorating, searching for stocking stuffers, wrapping a bunch of gifts, or even thinking about grocery shopping. And that’s not because I don’t love my family. I get to be with some of them soon, and I am looking forward to it. But this year, I’m also taking time to pause.

This is the season when we are supposed to be doing that. Today is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year before the light begins to return. You may think it’s the day with the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset, but it’s not. It’s actually when the sun appears the lowest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is at its farthest southern point over Earth. When the sun begins to creep back north again, we start to experience more light.

Solstice, to me, feels like a pause, that micro-moment when darkness tips toward light. Like in yoga class when we inhale as deeply as possible, then hold our breath for just a beat before we feel it wave over into an exhale.

There is so much wisdom in cycles. In this darker part of our annual cycle, the natural world is resting, gathering strength for rebirth. (Meanwhile, we humans are ramping up the doing and the going, expending rather than conserving our precious energy.) Nature is so much smarter than I am. If I am being offered a moment to rest in this fruitful darkness, what will I make of it?

Pausing can feel awkward. Think of the conversational “pregnant pause.” Research shows that it takes Americans only four seconds to become uncomfortable with silence in a conversation. In journalism school, I learned the technique of sitting quietly and allowing the pause so that my interviewee would feel so edgy they would begin to talk. It worked amazingly well!

Similarly, we have difficulty tolerating silence in our daily life. How often do we disconnect from activity and sound? And why don’t we?

Probably because most of us are culturally programmed to be productive, and this is often tied to our sense of self-worth. If we pause to stop doing or producing or pleasing someone else are we wasting precious moments of our life? That’s one way to view it. But another is that by pausing, we’re giving ourselves a chance to fully experience these precious moments thereby bringing more of ourselves to our lives.

Pausing creates space for emotions to emerge. This can feel vulnerable, so we often avoid it. But feeling emotions and moving their energy through us is a pathway to healing. Nothing good comes from ignoring and avoiding them.

Slowing down, resting, wandering, lingering, listening, imagining. These are all ways to reset, rejuvenate and seed new growth. Even the simple act of taking a few slow, deep breaths now and again is tremendously beneficial to our bodies, minds and spirits.

According to a news report I recently read, today on Winter Solstice, Denver will get nine hours and 21 minutes of sunlight. I plan to spend at least a few of these hours outdoors roaming among the trees. And maybe another hour or so in meditation and sacred ritual. I’ll definitely spend some time focusing on my breath.

Then there will be exactly 14 hours and 39 minutes of darkness to remind me that pausing in this way is exactly what I need this holiday season.

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Jennifer Reeve

I am  a healing guide, a space holder and a reflector of your sacred light. My aim is to help you connect with your wild, expansive Divine essence so you may freely share your gifts with the world. I offer intuitive readings, non-touch energy healings, spiritual mentoring, embodiment practices, nature connection and sacred ceremony. It would be my honor to guide you toward your expansion.

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