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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Respecting the Pause.

Just so you know, I am physically incapable of saying the word “pause” without making little doggy hands. Paws!

This is going to make writing this pause-centric post extra-challenging, but possibly also entertaining. If you happen to be in the room with me. Paws!

Anyway, back to the point. Selma and I interviewed fellow Shivanaut Diane Ripstein this week, purportedly about public speaking, but actually about life in general.

She was brilliant (as always) and gave loads of genius tips. Especially about the practice of pausing.

Which I am about to do now. With a dotted divider line. Like so!

Back to spaciousness again.

It’s funny, because — in my head — talking about public speaking was supposed to be an intermission (paws!) from the stuff I usually talk about.

But we ended up at so many of the same places.

Rest, mindfulness, conscious interaction, play, and spaciousness.

Pausing in the context of stopping, and reflecting, and interrupting patterns.

And now we were talking about taking that very practice into a public interaction.

So here are some of the wise things Diane said, and where they intersect with the themes I’m constantly thinking about:

The pause is a buffer.

The pause gives you time to think.

It lets you press the reset button.

It gives you breathing room.

A pause draws attention to the content, not the pauses.

So despite all the things our fuzzball monsters whisper to us about how we need to fill all that awkwardness with words…

Diane tells us pausing reads as thoughtfulness and intelligence. It seems deliberate, even when internally we’re worried about being perceived as lost or flailing.

And it signifies confidence.

I believe her.

The pause is what gives people time to absorb.

It’s the resting after doing. It’s shavasana after yoga or Shiva Nata.

It’s taking that extra moment in space and time to allow what has been said or done or received to really sink into your bones.

Pausing gives your people the opportunity to really take in everything that’s happening and the wisdom in what you’re saying.

To pause is to invoke white space.

Listening to Diane, I was contemplating how little I know about pausing.

How hard it is for me to stop. How I simultaneously crave and resist times of resting. And how many Emergency Vacations have had to happen in order for me to really, truly schedule time off.

But then she mentioned that pausing in speech is like white space on a blog.

And I got it.

In my writing practice, I’m constantly building in spaces, shortening thoughts, adding dividers.

I do know how to pause. I have been practicing the art of the pause for years. Now it’s time to learn how to translate that ability into other disciplines and other domains.

Pausing is about trust.

Trusting that the right people will keep reading, listening, following, caring. Even when we have moments of fumbling.

Trusting that we’re getting better at this ongoing experiment that is trying things.

Trusting that there is no way to fall on your face, because pausing is power.

Trusting that white space really does make it all more accessible, attractive and approachable.

Trusting that after the pause comes a step, and another step, and a pause and another pause. That the sequence will hold itself. The culture will hold itself.

Here’s what I’m taking from Diane.

This is directly from my notes, apologies to Diane if I’ve misquoted her:

“When the internal voice urges you to keep going, do the opposite.

Pauses are vital. And breath is nourishing. So breathe.

Commit to the practice of pausing.

Give each period its due.

And practice!”

And here’s how I’m practicing.

Mostly, I’ve just been doing this white space thing in my head. Slowing down my thoughts.

And then I’ve been trying to add a beat to everything. In casual conversation.

While brushing my teeth, during a stretch, getting up from a chair.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. I forget, or I feel really impatient.

But that’s not the end of the world. It’s a pause from the pausing. As long as I’m noticing it and interacting with it, I’m still in the practice.

And comment zen for today.

Okay, so my brother and I will respond to everything we hear with a thoughtful expression and then saying, “That gives me paws!” Paws!

And I have been wanting to say it for the entire post. Ohmygod.

That gives me pause.

So please join me in that because otherwise I’m giggling awkwardly all by myself over here.

Other than that, the usual. We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.

We make room for everyone else to have their stuff by being curious and compassionate, and not giving unsolicited advice. Big love to everyone.

34 Responses to Respecting the Pause.

  1. Pompette
    Twitter: pascalerecher

    Oh as usual, so much good in your post.

    as a freelance, I have to work at home, to find paid work, to do the awful accounting stuff and so on… and I always struggle stoping. Even to eat at lunchtime. And if I stop, it’s more out of procrastination, doing something else not to do THE THING. Then Guilt and bam, not really a restful activity.

    I love the idea of buffer, I already buffer day when I just work on the things that annoys me the most or prep important stuff ahead.

    The white space and the trust has just sparkle there in my brain. Need to use that, in my practice, it open a brand new look on pause ( Paws ! oh my, I am so going to think about you next time I hear someone say pause, I’ll have to refrain myself from doing the doggy hands !)

  2. Tori Deaux
    Twitter: ToriDeaux

    So here I am awake, at 4am, because of certain animals with many PAWSes which seem to be made for tramping around, and I find a new Havi post. Yay. One about PAWSes. And I remember that once, this was a thing I taught and wrote about incessantly – the white space. The instant between. The empty beat, the one you can ride on. The unifying, connecting *space* that wraps around and through and…

    I wonder what happened to the awareness of that PAWS?

    And yes, I’m giggling insanely here, partially because I’m punch-drunk with insomnia, and partially because I keep making little doggie paws with my hands, which makes it very, very hard to type.

  3. Eve
    Twitter: evejacques

    I love the paws thing! I do dog things too! (I mean, YES this is a deeply insightful post full of things I really, really needed to hear right about now. BUT MOSTLY I JUST LOVE THE PAWS! :)

    Also, between this, the Fake Band of the Week, and ‘Breakfast is the three most important meals of the day’ – your brother sounds awesome.

  4. Hula Hope
    Twitter: hopehula

    As someone often more comfortable writing than speaking, this is so helpful! I will take the image of the white space in the page that relaxes my eyes and helps it all sink in into this job interview today…And pray I can resist paw motions. Thankyou as always Havi.

  5. Lindsay says:

    Wow, that gave me paws!
    Trying to think about how this also plays into the concept of adapting. I feel there is a connection in there somewhere.
    Lots to consider!

  6. Kaleena
    Twitter: Kaleena

    Wow. This is something. I just recently came to understand the concept of spaciousness (yes, despite all of the hanging out I do here), so this Pause is yet another lovely layer added to this Thought Cake.

    I suspect that I may be slightly addicted to the feeling of busy and chaos. Not when it’s all willy nilly with iguanas flying past my face via tornado, but when I catch the flow and I’m like, boom boom boom. Gotcha. It really is almost like a high. It’s hard to explain.

    Yet I do notice that at some point that my body eventually goes on strike. I make fun of myself in my self-deprecating way, telling my body that we just can’t handle this ‘being grown-up’ thing, but maybe that’s not right. This post makes me think that I might be too quick to judge and call myself lazy. Hell, nobody else in my life thinks I am. Maybe I just deserve a good long pause here and there. A mindful one, instead of the internal mutiny that eventually comes.

    Thanks again, Havi. Your words are beautiful and touch many.

  7. creativevoyage
    Twitter: creatievoyage

    soo good… I feel a little … sad today… I think instead of jollying myself out of it I just need to allow a pawse.. thanks

  8. Leslie M-B
    Twitter: lesliemb

    As a professor, I’ve had to learn to respect the pause. When I was first teaching, as a grad student, more than a decade ago, I hated that awkward pause in class discussion, everyone staring at me uncomfortably. I felt the need to fill it with something.

    Fortunately, in my first year of teaching, a mentor taught me a trick: when students are quiet, begin counting silently to 100. My own twist: when I’ve reached 30, I tell them I’m counting to 100. Someone always speaks by the time I get to 50.

    The discussions after those pauses are always improved over what came before. The pause enriches conversation.

  9. Sue T says:

    Oh, thank you, Havi, I love this so much. I need to get pauses into my living and working areas. Not just time pauses, but space pauses.

    I already know that space is helpful. But when the space fills up with clutter, instead of getting stuck I can remember white space pauses, and pawses.

    I can think about a dog or cat carefully (hehe!) picking up all those pieces of paper. And carefully stacking them in the right piles … labeling file folders … putting the pile papers in the folders … and putting the folders away.

    And I can help since that is goofy and fun, and since it will result in these lovely white spaces where work and creativity have room to occur.

    And also, it will remind me that decluttering can be a rejuvenating breathing space, instead of a boring, unrewarding, yucky *job* which my monsters tell me to avoid.

    I’m off to make a very large “Paws!” sign which should be a lot better than “Clean up this mess!”

  10. Mari says:

    Ohhhhhhhhhhh. Pause. Yes. I have been reading and re-reading and re-reading a dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh about how we act like we’re being driven by a whip wielding monster and how it’s ok to stop.

    It is ok to stop.

    It is ok to pause.

    (Psssst, Maria, it’s ok to not date for a while. It’s ok to pause, to stop…..oh yes, and pausing helps you play. As the Girl would say, “No, really Momma. It’s ok. It is.”)


  11. Shannon
    Twitter: clover

    A beat.


    I dig.


    Also, yay!

  12. Emily
    Twitter: emilyroots

    What you’ve said today.

    It gives me pause.

    And somehow

    You have again written

    Exactly what I needed to hear.

  13. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Oh, yay! I am so glad to not be the only one doing doggy hands. Pause! PAWS!

    @Mari – I was hoping The Girl would make an appearance. She knows about this stuff!

    @Sue – Ooh, I like the idea of taking pausing into decluttering, and then having a PAWS reminder instead. That is brilliant and inspiring. Wow.

    @Leslie – that story is perfect. Thank you.

    @everyone – hugs all around.

  14. Kylie
    Twitter: kyliewriteshere

    Talk about synchronicity. Wow.

    Trust has been a big theme for me lately, and just yesterday I began really delving into the practice of pausing (especially before engaging in habits that aren’t serving me).

    So, yes. There is so much value in the pause (and in the paws).

    In tangentially related news, how cute are puppy paws? So cute! I want to pet them all day long. Paws!

  15. Ty Barbary
    Twitter: tybarbary

    When the internal voice urges you to keep going, do the opposite.

    I JUST had a conversation about this with my partner! Ah-hah. That when I think I have to gogogogofasterfastergo!… I should stop for a moment, and when I start again, move slowly. I will finish my things in the same amount of time if I’m rushing frantically or if I’m moving smoothly and deliberately. And I will definitely be a lot happier if I’m calm while I’m doing and when I’m done.

    As for the pawsing… I am in the practice. I was wiped out yesterday by a migraine, and there was nothing to do when I got home from work but pawse. Lie down. Be comfortable. Close eyes. Breathe. Don’t worry about what I could or should be doing – just be still. Breathe. Rest. Sit with the pain, and breathe.

    And around 9 o’clock, when the pain let up, I was happy and energetic and playful, instead of stressed-to-restlessness about having lost most of my day. It was wonderful. I love this practice (even though it is rather challenging some days!).

    This post is wonderful – for the paws, for the comments, for the everything.

  16. Lisa
    Twitter: soapboxcreation

    Puppy Paws!

  17. Chesh
    Twitter: cheshious

    Love this!

    Years of school and perfectionism have trained me that if I’m not doing something then it’s terrible and bad and scary and oh! But a pause (paws!), that’s something small and cute and furry and short that I can do without my monsters freaking out (or freaking out as much). It’s not a timed break, it’s taking a pause *until I’m ready to move again.* Not only until the timer rings (or I must stay stopped until the timer rings), but until I’m ready. Whee!

    Also, it reminds me of the accupressure treatment my kitty gives me sometimes. If I’m twitchy and moving around when he wants to cuddle, he will put a couple paws on me and stand there until I settle down. Frequently this will be on my shoulder when I’m lying on the couch, and since I have a lot of tightness in my rotator cuff, it’s that good-intense painful like I get when I go in for massages. He’s my fuzzy little masseuse and I can pay him in meat instead of money. Also, it’s a good reminder to chill out and be still, even just for a moment.

  18. Sue T says:

    Ooh ooh, more synchronicity!

    Was looking for pictures of dog or cat paws for my sign and ….


  19. claire
    Twitter: claireofRA

    Re: public speaking, so true! Somewhere I have a copy of my graduation speech from high school. I hit up my 9th grade English teacher for help and she marked it up with pauses and breaths. Hardest thing was pausing to take a breath and a sip of water before I even started.

    As for paws, it makes me think of playing Lego Harry Potter since there are these mounds of dirt which exude little paw prints to remind you that you need to be the dog to dig them up.

  20. Claudia says:

    This is a great faculty development tip as well. We suggested that teachers wait for at least 5 seconds after asking the class a question before jumping back in again to answer the question yourself. This specifically gives your students/audience time to reflect, overcome shyness, and participate in the conversation. It’s helpful to build in pawses to create a welcoming comfort zone for others to contribute. Good stuff.

  21. Diane
    Twitter: DianeRipstein

    Oh my!

    I am honoured and delighted to see our conversation and my thoughts expanded here in the blog, Havi. In fact, seeing my words reflected back through your own lens is quite inspiring.

    Here’s to paws and pauses for us all. It’s a good thing. It was a pleasure to chat with you and Selma at the very fine Kitchen Table…thank you and let’s do it again!

  22. Anna Barnett
    Twitter: annabarnett

    I just read the whole thing again, slowly, with paws.

    “Give each period its due.”

    Beautiful. And I want to take a double meaning for my frustatingly loose-ended, pause-filled transition period. Give each period its due.

  23. kat says:

    Brings to mind when I was in school, decades ago, and the thing we referred to as a “pregnant pause”.

    The pause had an effect of stopping, for a moment.

    The pregnant let you know there was something wonderful following, waiting to be brought forth at just the right moment.

    And yes! Paws! My dog will put both paws in my hands, begging for that little tick of the tock just to look into his eyes and listen to the love. I love how he knows exactly what I need!

    As do you, Havi.

  24. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia Moise

    I love the idea of pause…. and white space…. and Diane! Yay Diane! I think it must have been a brilliant conversation, can’t wait to hear it.

  25. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Breathing. Pausing. Beautiful. Paws!

  26. Kelly Parkinson
    Twitter: copylicious

    Instead of project managers, there should be more paws managers. They should get special accreditation from the International University of Processing the Process, and their job is to get the project to move as slowly and mindfully as possible. They specialize in ease techniques and they all do like 4 hours of yoga a day. And everyone who works with a paws manager gets the most brilliant results because they took such long, mindful pawses to consider every decision, instead of just charging ahead.

    If I was president of the universe, I would implement this immediately, and Diane would give me speech lessons so I didn’t mess up my reelection campaign.

  27. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Breathing. Pausing. So lovely.


  28. Orna Drawas
    Twitter: ornaspeaks

    Before writing this response, I had to PAUSE so that I could take it all it. The concept is so powerful. PAUSE to reflect. PAUSE to reset. PAUSE to take a deep breath and move forward.

    Without the PAUSE, we continue on the treadmill of life. The PAUSE allows us to make those ever-so-slight corrections that will keep us on our path to fulfillment.

    Thank you Diane Ripstein for your wisdom and thank you Havi Brooks for sharing it with us! As author of: PERFORM LIKE A ROCK STAR and Still Have Time for Lunch, I can see few activities more important in your day, than a meaningful PAUSE!

  29. […] pause……. not only in your presentations, but your life! Havi Brooks’ blog:  The Fluent Self takes on the topic of “pausing” and shares an interview with Ripstein that gives us good reason […]

  30. Annie Smidt says:

    I love the idea that pausing makes you sound smart, even if you are flailing internally. I will work on that one!

  31. […] Brooks talks about the beauty of the pause. (And the paws! […]

  32. […] can’t avoid setting this house in order indefinitely, but I’m trying to respect the pause and take some time between frenetic activities to sit and absorb. There are so many things that […]

  33. Esteban
    Twitter: Estebban

    Really interesting post, I can relate to Leslie story about teaching, I’ve been teaching for a few months and I’m still feeling the need to fill every moment with sound AND speed…

    Now that I think of it, even my own students have told me before to calm and slow down… Will try the 100 seconds pause technique :)

    I’ll also try the new meaning (Paws!) to refer to organizing my workspace, normally it’s something I do not want to do, let’s see if this helps.


  34. […] all about SEPARATING THE STEPS! And pausing! (Paws!) Get ready (paws!) leave house (paws!) commence social interaction! AND it’s all about doing […]

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