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The Pause that Refreshes

A wise proverb: “It is as wrong to take offense as to give it.”

Abe Lincoln put it this way, “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.” 

There is a recent trend of being offended.  If feelings are stirred or thoughts challenged, some tend to take offense rather than examine their feelings and thoughts.  Some assume that because they feel afraid, others should tip-toe near the eggshells.  Victimhood becomes a mark of honor, a path to sympathy and power. 

Whether with others or ourselves, is a reactionary habit a wise or fulfilling one?  Can we neither take offense nor give it?  Act in haste, fear, or anger?  Let greed guide?   Which part of ourselves do we want to live from and further? 

Thendeka, a teacher I admire, advises that we instead – just pause. 

Her advice is parallel with my guru/friend Dr. Vasavada’s.  He would gently say, “Be in it.” Don’t hide from the feelings that overwhelm you.  Look at them with gentle curiosity. 

Both teachers help answer J. Krishnamurti’s pesky question: “Who are you to think you know how to fix yourself?  You’re thinking with the past.”  And his is like Einstein’s: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”

They’re right.  Most of our thinking is the past living on as memory and habit.  Core ideas get traveled a lot.  Neural connections have been formed.  When we think, we think with those established, intricate pathways, a familiar network among a fainter larger one.  Usual thoughts usually pop up.  We’re not thinking; our brain is thinking to us. 

The ordinary thoughts that pass through your mind when you’re not trying to work it in a particular way come from what brain scientists call the “Default Mode Network.”  Such thoughts occur to us automatically.  We assume they’re us.  They’re not.  They’re our brains, uninvited, doing what they do. 

Easterners call such habits “sanskaras,” mind momentum – the usual thoughts and emotions.  They’re like gyroscopes of thought, speech, and action that we’ve set spinning.  Much of the east’s spiritual advice involves not letting sanskaras run our lives.  In meditation, we learn to let them be and let them go.  They occupy our now temporarily but aren’t current; only the witness is current. 

You’re newer than you think.

Witnessing is you: new and aware.  But only rarely do we live there.  Our usual thoughts occupy us, oftentimes in unperceptive, unproductive patterns that nag or rile.  When we just observe, we learn to be comfortable with a detached, yet curious, pause.  We see our mind or situation with a relaxed awareness that allows compassionate curiosity. 

Pausing gives our intelligent mind a bit of room amidst our emotional mind’s upset, be it at itself or in some challenging situation.  Ruts and reactions are there, but witnessing them is more us than reactions and ruminations are, more immediate and intimate.  There’s a bit of space and time for newer, more creative, more compassionate thoughts to arise.  There’s a glimpse of the morass and through it from our self. 

As the theologian Schleiermacher reminded us, “Freedom is the ability to pause.”

Byron has been using his writing and public speaking to engage, challenge and inspire audiences for over 40 years. Reverend Carrier's mission is to rescue and revive our earthly Eden, including our human worth and potential. If you enjoy his work, consider supporting him with Patreon.

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Vernon Chandler
Vernon Chandler
21 days ago

Beautiful reflection!

Teja Ray
Teja Ray
18 days ago

Yes, it’s good to pause.

More people should practice the pause!

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