Day 1: Why Learn to Pause?

Sally-Anne, 01.04.20

Day 1: Developing the Power of Pause

Welcome to 21 Days on the Mountain, our video series where I teach you how to develop the Power of Pause. This simple but powerful practice is at the heart of Mindful Command, and an integral part of our Evolving Leadership programme.

Today we’ll learn what the Pause habit is, and how it can help us in times of challenge and stress. By learning the three simple steps of Pause, Focus and Breathe, you’ll discover how to create a mental space that allows you to respond ‘on purpose’, rather than reacting from a stressed or triggered place – an essential Leadership skill in these uncertain and challenging times.

So join me for Day 1 on the Mountain and enjoy a gentle two minute pause in your day.


Hello and thank you for joining me for the first day of 21 Days On The Mountain.

A chance to create space and take a breath together. To learn and practise the power of pause.

So here I am in a big Alpine meadow about 20 meters from my house just over there. And behind us, which you probably can’t see too well in this shot, are a pair of magnificent mountains. In the first mountain on my left there’s a huge nest at the top for a pair of Gypaetes or bearded vultures that have been living there for about 15 years. Every year they have a baby which learns to fly and the three of them fly through this valley majestically and splendidly, giving everyone who beholds them huge joy.

But right now, in this moment, let’s learn the power of pause. But before we start why does it matter? How does it help you to pause? Well I think the biggest, most important reason for learning to pause is to create space to think before you react.

And actually if you create space to think before you react, what you do is, rather than reacting, you respond. And you respond in a way that you say what you mean.

Often when we react we might burst out something that isn’t what we meant at all, and the worst of that is that we can hurt the very people we love. And particularly at this time when we’re constrained, we don’t have the freedom of movement that we normally have, we might find ourselves cooped up in our house or in our flat or wherever we live, in a space that feels confining, with people we love but may not want to hang out with all day, and yearning for our own space. And at this time when we can’t actually have it, we need to learn how to create it within us, for ourselves.

So let’s start with the three steps of pausing. The very first one, perhaps not surprisingly, is actually to press a pause button or something, whatever you want to call it – some kind of image that you might have in your mind, or something that you can feel or sense that says to you ‘stop’. Stop speaking. Don’t say anything, just pause.

Now what I do is, I imagine a pause button around about here (at the base of the sternum). I turn my attention inside, as if I were pressing a metaphoric button somewhere there, and I feel as if I’m actually pressing it. Stop. Pause. And as I do that, I bring my awareness to that place inside.

Now if you find that difficult, what you might do is focus on a spot perhaps slightly to the right of the person who’s speaking to you – who might have triggered this reaction that you’ve started to notice, and you simply turn your focus, if not literally but in your mind, away from the stimulus that is causing this trigger.

So focus on something, whether it’s here (base of the sternum) as I do, or whether for you it’s something outside yourself if that’s easier. But focus on this thing.

So pause, focus, and as you do that begin to breathe consciously. If you like, the third step is to breathe, but these things are happening pretty much simultaneously: pause, focus and breathe consciously.

I breathe in through my nose, or through my mouth if my nose is blocked, breathing in and out. And as I breathe in, bringing my awareness to this space right here, I might place my hand there and breathe into the back of my hand. And as I do that I feel as if I’m creating a space inside. I’m expanding inside if you like, and as I breathe out, I release and let go. And in that action of breathing in and breathing out, of expanding and releasing, I’m actually shifting my physiology. I’m shifting something inside me very gently, but just enough to create the mental space I need to respond on purpose rather than reacting from a triggered place.

So those are the three steps. I invite you if you can to look inside here, but if you find that hard, to focus on something outside you. We’re going to practise them together in a minute quietly in silence. And as you do that, know that the reason that we’re practicing this is to build an internal muscle which over time can – with regular practice and perseverance and concentration – develop into a new habit of pausing on purpose, to say and do what you mean in the moment.

So let’s practise together now. Close your eyes if it helps you to concentrate. I’m going to close mine – or keep them open if you prefer – and remember the three steps: pause, focus, breathe. And know that as you’re doing it you’re developing a new habit. So closing my eyes I press the pause button. I bring my awareness to the space behind my hand and I breathe consciously into that space. So please do this with me. Pause, focus, breathe. And practice together for one minute in silence now.


So when you’re ready, on your next outbreath gently open your eyes.

So wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, practise pausing. Taking a moment, following the three steps, expanding the space inside and releasing. Notice what changes, and know that as you’re doing it you’re starting to grow this muscle of pause that will help you respond on purpose.

Thank you for joining me today and please do join me again tomorrow when we’ll practise this again. Thank you.

21 Days on the Mountain

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