I find that pausing is one of the most painful, poignant and illuminating exercises in this whole game.
Whether it’s five seconds or 15 minutes, I urge you to pause more.
When we pause, we deliberately face what’s just below the surface. I first noticed this in the car. My habit was, and is, to reach for the big knobbly on button on the radio, the moment I take off. God forbid that I should not be distracted for even one second! So having become aware of it, I now try to remember to hold off pressing the button. And mostly what I find, in this moment of naked awareness, is some kind of dissatisfaction. Mostly a low rumble, but enough to subconsciously motivate me to turn on the radio.
Facing this underlying dissatisfaction, is highly uncomfortable. I don’t know why it’s there, and neither do I need to know. But I’m clear that this is like a kind of undertow, a hidden and somewhat malevolent force of nature. However much we splash around on the surface, it’s still there. I’m not talking about anything too dramatic, and I’m neither depressed nor anxious, but it’s there and it’s quite fundamental.
In my nine week online course, I tried to come up with a simple way to work with this. The objective of course is not to get rid of it, but rather, to recognise that the drivers of our behaviour in everyday life run deep, and they have a lot to tell us.
So I came up with LALA. I tried to turn it into Doolally, as an acronym, but I thought people might not take me seriously, so LALA it is.
The first L stands for listen. That’s the point where you don’t turn on the radio, or where one of your stress triggers kicks in and if you’re lucky you see it coming. So you turn up the awareness and tune-in with fearless attention.
Next comes the A for acceptance. Whatever you feel, whatever comes to mind, you just let it be as it is. Feel it working through you. No comment, no judgement.
Having encountered the feelings and emotions, and recognised their strength and effect, you’re now ready for the second L , which stands for learn. Now we can employ cognitive intelligence to recognise what’s going on, and to make a perhaps more appropriate choice.
Which takes us to the final A for action. Or perhaps, appropriate action, where we consciously make a wholesome response rather than unthinking one.
That can all happen in space of a few seconds, but what an amazing and speedy journey we’ve taken, and one which can, in my experience, entirely divert the course of the day into a more positive direction. It’s like putting a pebble in the course of the stream right at the spring, which may send the water off to become a river in quite a different valley.
So if that can happen in the space of a moment, how much more can we learn from grabbing five or 15 minutes when we’ve had enough of the day and the TV is about to absorb us? Or maybe before getting your fix of social media. If we’re really honest and take just a moment before we opt for our favourite zombie-like distraction, it can be incredibly worthwhile.
Personally, I’d rather be LALA than doolally.