To Be Present and To Pause


There are many, many reasons to consider cultivating mindfulness. Here are two: to learn to be present, and to learn to pause.

A study by psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University found that people may spend nearly half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re actually doing. More often than not, we’re reliving events that happened in the past, planning or rehearsing events that may happen in the future, or worrying about events that might never happen at all.

Mindfulness helps us learn how to notice and retrieve our wandering mind so we can return it to the present moment — to what’s actually happening right now.

As Ellen Langer explains in her book Mindfulness, one of the ways of being mindless is automatic behavior. We think automatic thoughts, feel automatic feelings, and have automatic reactions without even being aware of what’s going on.

If we can learn to be mindful — if we can be aware, and notice — we can start to recognize a gap between a stimulus (e.g., thought or feeling) and a response. If we can notice the gap, we can pause and possibly make a different, better choice.

(By the way, if you’re wondering why I didn’t just use a very popular quote that begins “between stimulus and response there is a choice…,” it’s because that quote is frequently misattributed and may not actually have been said by anyone.)

By Cynthia Knapp Dlugosz

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