In this extended time of shutting down and slowing down, it may seem like a really weird idea to give ourselves permission for taking a pause.
But each of us in our own way continue to be under a tremendous amount of stress caused by change, uncertainty, and loss of control. Not to mention political, social and economic upheaval, feelings of grief and loss, and a general feeling of anxiety and overwhelm.
And though self-care has been a buzz word this year, it seems that hot baths and Netflix binging just aren’t cutting it.
What if what we really need is to just take a pause and be still?
To stop and listen closely to the small quiet voice of our truest self. To listen to the invitation to connect with something bigger than ours…. God, the Universe, the Creator, Divine Mystery, or however you name that. To listen to our body and our soul and not just the constant buzz of our thoughts.
What if instead of trying to do something more, how about taking a pause and doing less?
It doesn’t have to be one more thing on your To Do list. There’s no need for it to feel hard. It’s actually pretty simple.
Take A Pause, Be Present, and Sit Quietly
Here’s some pointers about how to adapt a different mindset for taking a pause, being present to yourself, and sitting quietly with the Divine.
When you start to notice that you are exhibiting some behaviors—maybe reactions or even thought processes that don’t align with “how you would like to be,” then consider carving out some time for personal retreat.
This is not a time to beat yourself up for acting a certain way. Just notice, consider the reactions like a “sign post,” or a warning light on your car dashboard that something is amiss. It’s an invitation to create some space for yourself—and to BE with God.
I talk with so many busy women at all different phases of life who feel like their days are just jam packed. They laugh sometimes when I propose taking a few hours away for journaling and reflection, let alone a weekend or week retreat away from life.
So instead, I suggest taking short breaks out of my day to meditate or just mindfully be present and breathe, maybe just 3 or 4 minutes, to allow the monkey brain to slow down. It makes a huge difference!
For those of us who are juggling homeschooling children, conducting and attending virtual business meetings in the midst of laundry, the doorbell ringing and other domestic duties, and just life in general, setting out to incorporate a few chunks of quiet time each day could actually be considered personal retreat time, and a helpful way to make space to receive the nourishment all of our souls need and crave.
A few things to think about:
- Try keeping a sticky note by your side when you take time out. If something comes into your mind wanting your attention—pay the water bill; call Daniel back; pick up the dry cleaning—try writing those items down. Get them out of your head and trust that you will bring them back to your consciousness when you need it.
- Consider incorporating a formal prayer method like The Daily Examen, a part of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, into your day. These exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed to help people be more present and aware about their days. Lunchtime Examen, Pray As You Go Examen as well as the Consciousness Examen each provide frameworks for prayer and contemplation, relieving some pressure for you to create your own format.
If you are interested in learning more about The Examen practice, we offer a two-hour Contemplative Practice Mini-Retreat at Soul Care where you can learn and practice this simple yet powerful tool.
While it is important to not expect specific outcomes when we take time out for God and ourselves, it is significant to set an intention. How are you making the choice in the moment to be present to yourself and nourish your soul?
This can look a few different ways:
- Carve out time
Is there a day of the week that works best with your schedule? A time of day where you feel closest to the Divine or simply a time that works best for you in between other commitments? Do you need to say no to other tasks in order to make time for refreshment?
- Notify those who are close to you
If you don’t live alone, it might be helpful to let children, partners and/or housemates know that you’ll be out of commission for a bit of time. Consider silencing your phone if possible.
- Identify an area of focus
Do you feel led to read your favorite meditation book? Perhaps reading poetry makes you feel alive, or maybe coloring or painting ushers in quiet. The idea is to find something that connects you to the Divine and makes your soul light up.
Don’t Hold Too Tight To Your Own Agenda
Whether you work on taking a mini-retreat that lasts for a few hours every once in awhile, or you manage to carve out a few moments of pause for slow breathing and mindfulness throughout your day, don’t hold tight to expected outcomes or how you want to feel at the end of your time.
Just do the things that nurture your soul.
It is not really helpful to have expectations on how that nourishment will come. Just trust the process and leave the outcome to God. Try to release the notion that you will have a particular experience during times of pause, regardless of the length of the experience.
Many times you might not even know what you need from taking a pause. But if you hold too tightly to what you think should happen, you are not allowing your soul and the Universe to really provide you with renewal—in exactly the way you need in the moment.
In a culture that fixates on metrics and outcomes, there’s freedom in knowing the Divine Mystery will do the work and provide what your soul most needs. Grace and peace are available when you are willing to take a pause in these quiet moments and show up for yourself.
Create Sacred Space
If you desire to intentionally make more space in your day for pause and retreat, it's helpful to have a special spot that triggers a sense of calm. This can be a very ordinary space and place. It's the intention you bring to be fully present and taking a pause that makes it sacred.
Perhaps you have a favorite room or chair in your home. Or a spot on your porch or deck. Or a tree or path that's nearby. Even a corner of a bedroom or office can be sacred space.
Give yourself freedom to find the place that is best suited to you and your spirit. No matter what you do, select your space with items and an environment that fits you and make it your source of holiness. No matter what ordinary sacred space you create, the Holy will meet you there.
Make It Special
No matter where or when you choose to take a pause, here's some ideas for how to enrich your space and time you spend in presence there.
Some might choose to read scripture or holy text as their focus, while others might find comfort in poetry, biography, or even children’s books.
Record the Holy threads and breadcrumbs in your life. Use it to write prayers, things you notice, or maybe even poems, songs, or phrases that might emerge. Or draw, color, doodle, or write sideways. There are no rules. Many times our fingers can connect to the Holy much quicker than our heads. Sometimes words or images will spill onto the page.
If images, photos, or drawing and painting bring quiet to your mind and soul, use art as an area of focus for your time. You can create your own or use art from other people. Reflect on how it makes you feel, what memories or thoughts it invokes, how the Divine presence is within. Art can be a great tool to listen to your soul and God.
Music in all its genres and forms can set the tone for the day. Your soul can be moved by secular or spiritual music, fast, slow, or somewhere in between, whatever resonates with you. Maybe your invitation might be to meditate with the music, or to even move with the music. Or it could evoke more creativity and connections to the Divine or simply provide peaceful background.
- Opening and Closing Ritual
Identify a way to begin and end your time for pausing. Creating a ritual helps make it more special and build a more consistent happen. You can use a specific reflection or prayer or words. Light a candle. Ring a bell. State your intention aloud or write it down.
You Are Invited To Take A Pause
I have this verse from Mark 6:30-31 written in my journal to remind me that even the Jesus needs time to take a pause.
The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.
We will benefit, too, by temporarily leaving our regular environments to spend time with the Divine—even if just a minute or two for mindful breathing or going down the hall to the next room for an hour of quiet reading and journaling.
You need it.
And more than that, you deserve it.
Taking A Pause at Soul Care
One of the reasons why Soul Care was created is to provide a convenient and accessible place for all in our community to have a place for stillness and rest. You can make an appointment to use one of the Quiet Pods to enjoy time for reading, praying, meditating, journaling, creativity, or even to take a nap! We have tons of resources available if you don’t know where to start. Or we can put together a personalized mini-retreat for two hours, four hours, six hours, or an entire day on a topic of your choice so you can rest, renew, and refresh. No need to drive far away or stay the night or spend lots of money to take a pause and fill up your soul.