Monday, July 14, 2008

The Significant Pause

I didn't publish a blog on Friday that made fun of someone's enormous face. I did it in the name of the buddhist precept, "Right Speech." I usually know when I'm not using "Right Speech" because I have a nagging sensation that I'm not being nice and whatever it is I'm about to say or write, I probably shouldn't.

Of course, impulsive youngest child that I am, I usually shrug off that feeling (dismiss it as "No Fun!") and go ahead and go for the laughs. But I tried something different on Friday, and then wound up reading about "The Sacred Pause" on Sunday.

The Sacred Pause is that moment when you choose to not react, to not be impulsive. That moment when you overcome your own pressing need to be heard, to vent, to matter. If we could only just pause and listen to what someone else has to say rather than trying to get a word in edgewise, or if we only paused long enough to consider our own misgivings for what we are about to do, we might actually save ourselves a lot of grief.  We get more perspective on the situation if we just shut our mouths.

It's hard to think and consider, to weigh the situation objectively, if you're constantly reacting. In the reaction mode we defend ourselves, we fight, we try to win regardless of the bloody aftermath. When you pause you actually gain the advantage, if you think about it.

You can watch while your opponent (whether it be friend, lover, co-worker, Self) flails, yells, prattles, cries — and in  your pause you might actually learn something. Maybe you'll notice their body language, perhaps you'll hear their words, perhaps in  your own moment of stillness during the cyclone that's hit, you'll realize what is actually going on behind the surface. You can at least figure out what your own motivations are. You'll be less likely to regret something you said, in self-defense or anger. And when you're battling with Self, if you pause, you may actually discover that there is no demon. There is no fight.

It was only a moment. A moment of fear, of rage, of insecurity — whatever — and it passed like the thousands of ceaseless waves that crash upon the shore and slide gently back to sea. Why fight the waves? Why scream at them for threatening the sand? So many useless, wearisome battles. If we keep fighting them all, we'll be used up, dried up things by the time it's time to die. I don't want to live my life fighting and regretting.

I like the idea of hitting the Pause button. Seems we're always pressing Play. Or we get hurt and insist we're pressing Stop and we're not going to listen ever again. Pause offers a Middle Way. Pause says we're just going to rest a bit while we consider. Pause implies we'll play again — but not just yet.

There's much to learn in silence.

By pausing on Friday I learned that it was my own insecurity that caused me to write that blog. I couched it in humor and it certainly would have made you laugh, but my insecurity was misplaced. To direct any unkindness towards a girl who once dated my boyfriend, or towards any of the women he may have dated, is just perpetuating the hurt in my jealous, fearful heart.

Let it go, baby.

You won. There are no more demons to battle, no girls to mock. Let them go nurse their heartaches undisturbed by you. Let them go and love others, free from your judgement and superiority. Turn your eyes to what you have, right now.

The past is nothing. The future unknown. Happiness lies here, in this moment now. Let us pause here for a spell.

(Source: I'm currently reading Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, PhD. The "Sacred Pause" comes from her book.)


  1. Fine. Take the high road.

    But I do hope you have a weak moment in the future and fast forward to a humorous blog about somebody else's enormous features. Wait, that is too easy a setup for your BF. Let's see if he bites.

  2. There's plenty of other stuff to laugh about. I mean, damn, with my sex-related injuries, I really don't need to make other people the target of my humor.

    I got me! I'm all the material I need!

  3. Remember, Mandy. Never make fun of someone else, unless it makes you feel better about yourself.

  4. I need a record button... so I can remember what people say and use it against them in a court of law.

  5. In chess it's called "en passant", and it's where you have a chance to capture but instead don't and move on. It can be a very effective strategy.

    Since that sounded all intelligent, I should follow it up with a dick joke, maybe..

  6. Of all the things I can think of to quit, comedy would no doubt be the hardest. I love "The Sacred Pause" though. Maybe with a name like that, I'll take them more often:) OM

  7. Dang, so exactly how much comedy will we be missing out on? 50%? 60%? hopefully this new rule won't totally kill the joy.

  8. @Kurt:

    You know I love French!


    This isn't new and it isn't a rule. I have stopped myself from publishing many a blog in the past, but never thought to write about the process.

    It's like a peek into the buddhist mind.

    And rules are for kids and criminals. Precepts are a choice. I am free to ignore them or practice them, and screw up as much as I like.


  9. Mmm... maybe I'm a buddhist and I just didn't know it.

    Oh. And bravo!

  10. There are peaks and valleys, waves of good and bad. I read a quote in a magazine the other day that sums it all up:

    "We can't control the waves, but we can learn to surf."

  11. First off Brett is a dork - but he is funny.

    You are right sister - we are looking for the same answers. It is almost like we are doing research for a topic in different areas and bringing together our notes to create a super theory.

    I love the sacred pause. Plus that sounds nice. I have been trying to look at everyone as if they are perfect therefore they have no need for me to offer them advice. It makes me shut my mouth and listen openly and without judgment. At least sometimes....

  12. Clearly Kimmie would be a perfect choice as the subject of ridicule.

    You didn't know you DJ eh? Hope you take requests.

  13. The Third kicks my ass all the time. It's easy for me to not drink or do drugs, but it's so hard to not gossip or cuss like a sailor, or to destroy people with sarcasm. I loves me some sarcasm.

  14. this was a blog in perfect time for me. Thank you.... maybe I need to pick up a book on buddaism or two....

  15. When my daughter started getting older I started pausing. When I am really, really upset with someone I won't say a word for awhile and then I will speak calmly and clearly about the problem with none of my customary colorful language. It's amazing how much scarier that is for people than the reactionary outbursts that generally rule. Lately I've been very stressed and have forgotten to pause as often as I should, hopefully now I'll remember more often.

  16. "The Sacred Pause" that's what it's called!!
    I always thought of it as diplomacy when I would bite my tongue, smile and nod when forced to deal with the ineptitude of the person that I was previously married to.
    Is it still considered "sacred" if you bite your tongue in half?

  17. I like your pause thingy idea. It'll help me to better ensure that all of my responses are as scorch-earthed and devastating as the human mind can envision or dream up. Good stuff, Mandy. Thanks.

  18. @Ophelia:

    If you're biting your tongue in half, I suspect you need a longer pause. Maybe even take a walk.

  19. @Megan:

    I consciously employed the Pause with my son last night, and rather than reacting irritably when he asked me to help him with things I knew he could himself, I paused and considered his request.

    What I realized is that yes, he could do these things by himself. His request wasn't so much for help, but for mothering.

    So I did it with a gladful heart.

  20. *Soccer MILF:

    I think we can still employ sarcasm, so long as the intent is not hurtful.

    Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn't. Pausing helps figure that out.

  21. Thank you for sharing this. Such cool stuff. Have you read "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle? I think you'd like it.

  22. I hit the pause button this weekend. It had a radical effect on me, my psychie and the world around me.

    It really does work.

  23. Perhaps the highest road would have been the blog not containing the billboard of a woman's face? Or without patting one's one back?

  24. I do believe ... great post, Mandy. (Big Hugs)

  25. I love the "let loose" blogs, and in general, I'm pretty forward, but yes, there are always moments when I have to clamp my hand over my mouth. Even if someone does have an 80s mullet.