Continuing to Pause – Lessons I’m Learning

Val Rathjen, Community Learning Network

3 8 27 April 2021

There’s a phrase we often use in the Holding Safer Spaces training as we begin the circle, “How are you arriving?” I want to begin this moment together with you with the same question. I invite you to pause right now and to consider, how you are arriving- right here, right now? How does your body feel, are you relaxed or tense? What’s going on around you? Can you let go of the busy, and take a few deep breaths and just be?

Let’s take a moment and just breathe together – in for the count of 5 and out for the count of 10…repeat.

Inhale exhale

Feel better? Yup, me too.

I’m going to be honest with you, lately I’ve been noticing a certain sense of fragile-ness within myself. I’ve had more than a few moments in the last few weeks when I’ve felt like, and said, “I’m done”. Thankfully, there have also been times of hope and purpose that rejuvenate me and provide the strength I need to carry on. I’m guessing that I am not alone in experiencing these ups and downs.

I looked it up today (April 23, 2021) – we have all be walking through the altered reality of COVID since January 20th last year when the first COVID tests were done in Alberta. March 12, 2020 the first restrictions were introduced, which means we’ve had 387 days of disruption in one form or another. We have all been impacted, likely in every area of our lives. It’s been a long haul.

So, while there are lots of things to be thankful for, it’s also important to acknowledge that we may be tired and need a little extra gentleness and grace in our lives right now.

I’ve learned some things in the past year that have impact for my journey forward. Things that I never would have imagined being so meaningful and valuable for my own mental health and balance. 

The importance of pausing, and practicing grounding and centering exercises.

I’ll be honest, I grew up in a very practical and ‘get it done’ type of family. On the farm there were lots of jobs that just had to get done, and you sucked it up and did it. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fabulous upbringing and wouldn’t change it for anything, but the idea of “grounding” or “centering” was not a part of my ingrained work ethic. We’d laugh and say, “Suck it up butter cup” and get on with it.

The thing that I’ve learned, and continue to learn, is that we can still have a strong work ethic and also allow ourselves the grace to pause, to step back and slow down, to breath and reflect.

Now let me share a really practical example of the difference this is making in my own life. I recently had the opportunity to work with a coach, and when we talked through all the different things going on in my professional and personal life, she issued me a 2 minute challenge. My task, because I am very much a “doer” and task driven, was to sit and quiet my mind for 2 minutes. To think about how my body felt sitting in the chair, how my feet felt on the carpet. To pay attention to how my shoulders and neck felt, was I tense or relaxed? What noises did I hear? Focus on my breathing, inhale for the count of 5 and exhale for the count of 10. It wasn’t about trying to not think about anything, which would have been impossible for me, but rather about really focusing my thoughts and paying attention to me.

Here’s what I learned. I had this unseen “URGENT” button in my life. Meaning, I felt like there was always something that I needed to be doing, something that required my attention and it needed to be done NOW. This was how I was operating, running from one thing to the next, or trying to juggle multiple priorities all at once. I thought I needed to do it all and do it now!

What ended up being true, however, was something different. Turns out, I could stop and pause. I could let go for a minute or two and slow everything down. When I did, something amazing happened, the urgent drained away. I could suddenly see my ‘to do’ list with clarity and move things around so that it was more manageable. I could also give focus and attention in meaningful ways to things that were truly important rather than just rushing through to get on to the next thing. It has been game changing for me!

If you find yourself relating to my story. If you too are a “doer”, a “fixer”, or feeling a bit fragile under the weight of everything. Here’s a few things I’d encourage you to try:

  • Pause. Take a breath and allow yourself a moment to just be. Not everything has to happen right now.
  • Try one (or more) of these grounding exercises:

1. Breathe in for a count of five, and then out for a count of ten...
2. Make a list of all the things and people you love...
3. Pause to acknowledge all your senses...
4. List 3 things your thankful for…

The work you do is important, but so are you. If you will take even 2 minutes to pause and ground yourself, I believe it will ripple through the rest of your day. My hope, is that you will be kind and gentle with yourself, and that you will have strength to continue to be a light in your community, guiding learners into new possibilities.

I’ll leave you with this poem.

S…l…o…w… it all down.
Pause from your full calendar and long task list.
Take a moment – or ten – to simply be.
To remind yourself that this is life, right here and right now.
To reacquaint yourself with your pulsing heart and your incredible body
that allows you to do all that you do.
To remember that life is precious and fragile
and should be lived in love.
To remind yourself
that whatever is happening
or wherever you find yourself in your journey,
it is all as it is supposed to be.

~Nikki Banas

Val Rathjen
CLN East-Central Region RSS


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