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.

The Fluent Self