by Jill Sockman

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks preparing for a corporate presentation on the practical application of mindfulness. It’s work I know and love, that lives under the surface of my skin every waking moment. It’s  sometimes applied, sometimes ignored. There’s one particular practice that has stood out for me as I’ve been endlessly writing, reviewing, revising, and rehearsing. And as I have been in head down, uber focus, must produce, on-a-deadline mode, I was reminded at a critical moment in my work about the power of the pause. It happened once and then it happened over and over again throughout this process. When I listened it was ease and flow. When I didn’t, it was painful in all the ways stress and strain drag us down.

What’s behind the power of the pause? The key to sustainable productivity, creativity, and flow. It’s a practical way to deal with the reality of our easily distracted minds. It’s a way to access our greatest ideas, our deep energy reserves and the potent voice of creativity that lives within. It’s pretty simple. You can only stay in the flow state, in the ease of creative productivity for so long. If you’re like me, it’s such a sweet spot, and I love it. It’s when the words come tumbling out onto the page, when ideas are rising so quickly I can barely type quickly enough to catch them before they are gone.

But eventually, that wave subsides and the process becomes more effortful, less flowy. And when that happens what do you do? Up until about two weeks ago, I would glue my butt to my chair, strain and spin and moan until I was truly depleted, exhausted, in a horrible mood– or all three. I forgot about the simple efficacy of the power of the pause. I forgot that there’s another way.

What’s the lesson? Ride the flow, or if there’s precious little current available, put your head down and focus, but for just a short while. How long that is varies for me from day to day, but I’m getting more sensitive to the place where I start to zone out. I’m more aware of the voice inside that gently whispers “take a break now” which happens well before that same inner wisdom screams “STOP THE MADNESS” at a bloodcurdling volume.

If I am doing the practice, as soon as the zone out begins, when the flow turns to strain and the ease turns to effort, I get up and do something different. Not checking my email again, not flipping through my to-do list, not staring at the screen or at my calendar, but something else entirely. I create a gap. I take a pause – a real one. Whether it’s going for a walk, sitting at the piano and plunking out a few tunes, doing a brief meditation, chatting on the phone with a friend, or lying on the floor staring at the ceiling, I change the channel from Work Mode to something else – anything else. When this is done in a mindful way, before too long, I feel the flow start to percolate again as the ideas and energy return, and I get back to it. We must work. But the message that we must rest and play is slowly sinking into my thick little head as the greater truth.

What’s in your day today? How can you implement the power of the pause to be not only more productive, but more relaxed and happy along the way?