Day 1: The Power of Pause
Welcome to 7 Days on the Winter Mountain, our second video series where I teach you my simple Pause Tool: to empower you to pause intentionally in any moment. This powerful practice is at the heart of Mindful Command and an integral part of our Evolving Leadership programme.
Today I remind you why pausing is not only useful, it’s essential for anyone and everyone suffering from stress or overwhelm, particularly in these challenging times.
I remind you how the 3 simple steps of the pause practice give you the mental space that allows you to respond ‘on purpose’, rather than reacting from a triggered place. This is an essential skill for Leaders, and for human beings everywhere.
So join me for Day 1 on the Winter Mountain and enjoy a gentle two minute pause in your day.
Hello and welcome to 7 Days on the Winter Mountain. And to those of you who joined me last spring for our 21-day series, welcome back. For the next 7 days we’re going to take a few minutes every day to pause together, to practice the power of pause.
But for the moment let me explain to you a little bit about where I am. So you can probably see I’m in a big field full of snow – it’s pretty deep. Our house is about 25 meters in that direction and behind me is the ski area. Beyond this field is a small ski area with a very French village feel, where families love to come and ski – hopefully they’ll be able to this winter. Over to my right are two majestic mountains. And those of you who saw our series last year will have seen them then. Today they’re covered in snow. One of them, the home of two magnificent bearded vultures. And the other, La Pointe de Sales, behind which is Mont Blanc.
So I’m surrounded by snow-covered mountains and I’m well aware that where you are right now, watching this, might be a very different picture. Those of you particularly in the UK in lockdown at the moment, might be feeling very confined. You might feel as if you have very limited room for manoeuvre, very little space to move. You might be a working parent, home schooling, and things might be really really tough. I want you to understand that I get that.
What I’m offering over the next seven days is a little bit of space each of those days – and for as many times beyond, that you want to re-watch this – to take a moment for yourself; to contemplate this place if you’ve been here before; to remember what it’s like to imagine yourself skiing – not with deep painful regret but with excited anticipation for what will be possible in the future at some point.
For the moment here the ski areas are closed. People who are fit enough to walk up the mountain are having fun skiing back down. You can snowshoe, but you can’t take a single lift. So the ski area behind us is closed at the moment and people are using it for tobogganing.
So just to say that as I stand here in the middle of this beautiful winter wonderland, I want to share it with you in service of giving you space to be, in your mind at least, in the snow.
So why pause? Why pause at all?
I first discovered the power of pause probably about ten years ago, about five years into my mindfulness practice when I started teaching mindfulness to the leaders I coach. And what I found was that most people I work with feel as if they are too busy to take a few minutes in their day to practise meditating. So I thought, you know, what can I do here? Because I know the value of pausing, I know the value of creating space to think and simply watch our breath, and look inside, and take a moment for ourselves. But it’s really quite hard to convince people whose minds are completely focused on their work, and on the busyness and overwhelm of it.
It’s very difficult to persuade people, perhaps like you, that this is not only useful, it’s essential.
And so I came up with the idea of what I called the pause tool, which I’m going to teach you again today. Just to liberate a little bit of space in the day simply to pause, simply to focus inside and simply to breathe. And that can be for one minute in your day. And trust me, if you do it for one minute, you will feel something. You will feel a difference. You will feel as if something has shifted. And indeed it has. So when we pause, what we’re doing is creating a moment of thinking space, a moment that enables you to respond rather than react to something that has just happened. So that when you speak and when you act, you do it on purpose. You say what you mean. You do something that consciously serves yourself and those around you.
That’s the value. That’s the point. That’s the big ‘why’ of pausing.
So let’s pause together now. And let me remind you of the pause tool: the three-step process that some of you will already know. And it’s this.
Step one: pause. I want you to imagine that you have a pause button somewhere inside. And if you can, imagine that the pause button is about here – this area known as the solar plexus is a really powerful place to connect to if you can. And with practice you will be able to do that. So imagine that you have a pause button here: bring your attention into this space and that’s step two.
Step two is: focus. Focus into this space.That takes concentration. It takes a little effort to literally pull your attention down into this space. If it helps, close your eyes, put your hand here to make a kind of a physical connection, and imagine yourself looking down at your hand.
And the third step of this simple pause practice is to breathe. Breathe consciously. Be very aware of your breath as you breathe in and aware of your breath as you breathe out. So bringing your concentration, your attention into this space, and simultaneously onto your breath.
Let’s practice together. Breathing in and breathing out. And as you breathe, imagine that your breath is flowing into this space. If you watch my hand, you might just be able to see that as I breathe in, my hand is moving. Because I’m kind of consciously filling that space behind my hand, filling it with breath – that’s actually going into my lungs of course, but I’m imagining that the breath is coming into the back of my hand. And that’s the power of the mind: because I think it is, it’s as if it is.
So I’m breathing into the back of my hand, and as I breathe out I release, I let go. Bring your full awareness to your outbreath and experience a sense of release. So breathing in, creating space; breathing out, releasing and letting go.
So let’s practice that together for a couple of minutes. Either close your eyes or lower your gaze. As I lower my gaze this snow is actually quite bright, so I’m going to close my eyes. Do
whatever is comfortable for you. What matters is, is that you give your full focus, your full attention to this pause practice for the next two minutes. And whatever thoughts arise, whatever difficulty you may have, it simply doesn’t matter. Because all that matters is that you are giving it your best. And that’s what the practice is.
And the purpose of practice is is to never forget, to always return knowing that this is something that you can come back to and explore and experience for yourself as often as you like.
So let’s begin. Breathing in, know that you are breathing in, creating space; breathing out, know that you are breathing out, releasing and letting go…
When you’re ready, gently open your eyes or raise your gaze.
Thank you for joining me for Day 1 of our 7 Days on the Winter Mountain.
I look forward to you joining me again tomorrow.