In the spiritual quest one discovery often leads to another. For instance, one of the most amazing discoveries that many people make while developing and exploring awareness is the pause changes everything. It is hard to believe that a small gesture, like the pause, can alter one’s life so dramatically, but this is definitely what people who develop and practice awareness have found. There is a “trick” to making this discovery, however.
Awareness is accessing consciousness. We develop the part of us that witnesses everything, but is free of judgement and blame or opinion, the part Rumi calls our “pure consciousness core, the same in ecstasy and in self hating fatigue.” Consciousness has always been with us. To develop and practice awareness we observe our subjective states in a detached manner but, importantly, we do not deny these states. To strengthen our awareness, we might say things to our self like, “look, I am feeling fear,” or “look, there’s anger” (sadness, grief) simultaneous to feeling these feelings. We observe and feel at the same time.
In order to stay in awareness, we must give up our automatic and instant reactions to whatever causes us any kind of fear, discomfort, perturbation or disturbance. These reactions have usually been programed over a long period time; in many ways they have become our persona, and they are largely responsible for the world we are creating and the world we are receiving. That is why, until we develop awareness, our world doesn’t change much.
So, what happens next? With awareness we begin to see our reactions and situations much more clearly than we ever have before, sometimes for the first time. Immediately the desire to to fix things arises! This is natural but counterproductive. When we immediately try to fix things, we cut off our awareness and enter the story itself, the subjective. We are right back where we started, and we will usually continue to access our same old reactive patterns (fixes) with the same old results. One of the reasons we have taken up awareness in the first place is to be able to respond to challenging situations in a more skillful manner. By immediately going to “fix it” mode we have given up this opportunity, and, even worse, we are calling on the same old tools to do the job! For this reason, I tell my clients and students, “When first practicing awareness, do nothing, do not try to fix things; let go of your cherished and entrenched reactions. Do this for at least two weeks.” This is the “trick” I spoke of, because it is this non-doing, no-action response that creates the pause that changes everything!
In this pause between awareness and action, we are able to see for the first time the real basis of our reactive behavior. Instead reacting blindly and automatically out of our fear or sorrow or anger, in the pause, we have given ourselves time. This becomes time to observe our behavior, time to ask ourselves personally responsible questions like “where is this reaction coming from; why do I act this way; why does this always bother me?” Time to see that our formerly unconscious, reactive behavior is not, and has not been, serving us or the greater good. Time to develop skillful responses that replace unconscious, automatic reactions to events. This pause becomes a habit that alters and enhances our whole connection with the world around us. That is why it is called “the pause that changes everything.”