Welcoming the conscious pause


Conscious paws are always welcome 🍃

Somewhere on the continuum between torturous procrastination and frenetic “just so I feel like I’m doing something” action is a place of pausing. Of breathing. Of looking around, looking within, and inquiring: what do I really want here? What is it I truly need?

Or perhaps this place, which I call conscious pausing, is not on that continuum at all. Maybe it is actually off that continuum — the silent, sometimes-sacred space you step off the path to claim, like the big rock next to the river that runs along the highway.

I mention this place of conscious pausing because it took me four days to recognize that I was forgetting it was available to me. I returned from visiting my family for Christmas a week ago, and allowed myself a couple of days to recharge (which a younger me would have felt like a slacker for allowing myself, so, yay! Progress!).

But after those two days, I began to ping-pong between a feeling of severe procrastination (I should be doing something, but what? how?) and impulsive activity that felt pointless and disconnected.

(One sign that I, a Myers-Briggs INFP, am “in the grip” — read: under stress — is that I start taking urgent actions that actually make things worse. If you’re at all interested in personality type theory, it’s worth reading up on what your type looks like when it’s “in the grip.” You can start to recognize these behaviors in yourself and regroup.)

Once I noticed how I was acting, I realized my desire to “start the New Year off right” had caused me to fall back on old black-and-white thinking: “If you’re not doing productive things, you must be procrastinating. And if you’re procrastinating, you suck. And now 2016 sucks. Bah!” (Humbug.)

But the key, my friends, as always, is in noticing — a seemingly benign word with a ton of power.

Because once I noticed my swing from one end of that aforementioned spectrum to the other and back, I was able to consider the possibility that I had another choice. That, instead of beating myself up for procrastinating or jumping into frenetic doing, I could take that conscious pause and reconnect with what I truly wanted and needed.


Here are some questions I find helpful when I realize it’s time for a conscious pause.

(It’s good to ask them while placing awareness on your breath. I often find that writing the questions and my answers in my journal gives me a bit of detachment from myself so I can see what’s going on in me more clearly. But you can also speak them aloud, or have a friend read the questions to you.)

How exactly am I feeling right now? What emotions are coming up? (If you’re not sure, start here: are you more mad, sad, glad or scared?)

How does it feel in my body right now? (I have a headache, my chest is tight, my knees hurt.)

How do I want to feel right now? (excited, hopeful, peaceful, relaxed?)

How does my body feel when I’m in that place? (get specific here: my spine straightens, my pulse slows, I breathe more deeply.)

What thoughts am I having about the immediate future?

(Here are some of mine as examples: I can’t get it all done. I’m already behind. I won’t make the deadline. I can’t show up fully for my client.)

How can I change these thoughts to thoughts that feel better but also feel true? (When you work with your thoughts, you must believe your new thoughts — your essential self will not be fooled by hollow “positive affirmations”!)

Here’s how I changed my examples above:

I don’t have to get it all done, only the priority stuff. (I believed that.)

Exactly WHAT am I behind? A semi truck? (The frantic part of me didn’t have an answer for this; she just sort of laughed, nervously.)

If I absolutely can’t make the deadline, I can find a work-around. I’ll see it better when I’m in a place of peace.

I can offer my client my imperfect presence, my listening, my best for today. That is all I can ever do. It’s been enough in the past, so why wouldn’t it be enough now? (My frantic self rolled her eyes and scowled at me a bit here, but I could see her shoulders relaxing despite her best efforts to act intimidating.)


After you check in with these exercises, you’ll notice that what you’re wanting and needing will be all over your answers to the questions. (It’s amazing how easily and automatically we forget to ask ourselves what we want and need!)

It really helped that my cat climbed into my lap while I was checking in with myself. Is there anything more grounding than a warm feline?

By the way, you don’t have to answer all of these questions (you don’t HAVE to do anything!). You can start with the first one, and move on as it feels right. You may find relief after the first two.

Or, you can nix the questions altogether and simply focus on your breath and the fact that you are, indeed, choosing to consciously pause and stop the madness! What I love about going through these questions, though, is the clarity I come out with on the other side. Every time I see my behavior, my thinking, my feelings, with more clarity, it’s that much easier to navigate the stress when it arises the next time around.

Here’s to conscious pausing and a juicily creative 2016! How might you integrate the power of the conscious pause into your intentions and goals for the new year?

8 thoughts on “Welcoming the conscious pause

    • I’m so glad to hear the post helped, Janice! I sure needed that reminder to pause, too. It’s easy to get caught up in “shoulds” at the start of the new year. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!


  1. Thanks for this powerful, gentle wisdom Jill. I’m having a whole day of consciously pausing right now (I know, I’m soooo lucky to have that opportunity) and have decided my to do list can wait till tomorrow…and I mean ALL of it, because what I’ve noticed is even some of the things on it I think I enjoy have the hint of ‘should’ about them today, so they’re off limits too! I’ve been walking, writing, mooching around an art gallery and taking myself out for coffee – it’s been great! I just know I’ll get through the to do’s so much more quickly tomorrow because of the kindness I’ve given myself today. May your year be fun and fruitful my friend, and filled with kindness…including to yourself:-) Happy New Year Hugs, Harula xxx

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    • Harula, that sounds like a truly lovely, well-filling day! I find those easy-going days of “conscious meandering” so essential. So interesting that you noticed “the hint of should” in even some of the things you enjoy on your to-do list. I hear you there! I am in total agreement with you that today’s kindness toward yourself will pay off in spades when you get to tomorrow’s to-do list. I have found that to be true for myself time and time again! A very Happy New Year to you, too, my friend, and yes, lots of kindness! 🙂


  2. Haha, a semi truck. That made me laugh. 🙂 I literally just finished writing a post about this very thing {from a slightly different angle, and not published yet}. I’ve definitely been experiencing that nebulous ‘behind’ feeling, although I’m not behind at all with what needs doing. Must be an old habit I haven’t quite shed yet, and a little too much looking at what ‘everyone else’ is doing {or apparently doing}.

    New year energy is something I love, but if I’m not careful with the noticing {yes! Noticing is so much more than it seems}, I can tip over into that urgent feeling. I love the reminder here to take a conscious pause {or several}. I’ll be doing that tomorrow when I reinstate my Silent Sundays – no technology {at least until the evening}, no talking, just resting, reading and thinking. Wishing you a happy and creative 2016 Jill!

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    • Tara, you make a great point that the “I’m behind” feeling is in many ways an old habit (at least, it feels that way for me as well!). And I hear you on how that good-feeling New Year’s energy can cross over into something … else (that doesn’t feel as good!) without the noticing. For me, it’s like perfectionistic energy gets its hooks in sometimes and says “let’s do more, and better!”

      I hope you are having a wonderful Silent Sunday — that’s a terrific way to build the conscious pausing into your week! Thanks so much for sharing, and a very happy New Year to you, too! 🙂

      P.S. Would love to read your take on this when you’ve published it!


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