The Sacred Pause

As many of you know, I am in the middle of my second term of graduate school. While I am still in the process of getting to know this new city, I'm also building a new student base while working to remain connected to my dear old one.... and now i've got a slew of midterms, papers, and projects?? Yikes! Did i mention that my spiritual practice is the most important thing in my life, the thing that sustains me and nourishes me? My refuge from the storm? Exactly what time of day does that come in? Another yikes!!

One of my mentors recently reassured me "There's no way to be doing it all right now. It's normal to feel like you can't fit it all in-- you can't!" These words were simple and true, and yet so helpful. This helped me to realize that I can't have 2 hours a day for practice-time like I have in the past, and that for right now, that needs to be okay.

It's important to know the difference between a consistent style of living that doesn't allow room for nurturing the inner life -- this style is defined by over-committing, over-scheduling, getting addicted to being "connected" and in-touch all the time -- and a period of time in life when we're doing a lot because it is what's right -- a time like this could be defined by graduate school, parenting young children, working on a big personal/professional project, supporting a family member or loved one through a personal or health crisis.

If it's a style of life that we're hooked into, we need to practice saying no, and making space for the things that nurture our inner lives -- yoga, meditation, having quiet time, being outside in nature, reading the dharma, etc. We need to look at the life-long habit patterns that have set us up for this way of living. We need to inquire -- what we are avoiding and why? And even if we think it's just a period of time that we're busy, we need to be honest with ourselves-- does this period of time of being busy get followed with another, and then another, and then another? Now it is starting to sound like style of living that we need to look at more closely.

When it's the situation of a period of time of life -- for me, it's graduate school -- we need two things on a practical level. One: take as many opportunities as possible during the day to return to presence. And not just in a general sense, but in a clearly connected, present, sustained sense, for 5 whole minutes.

: seek out days or parts of days devoted to extended practice, whenever possible. Without this, our well will begin to run dry, and the 5 minute pit-stops during the day won't mean much because there won't be anything in the well to draw from. For me, this means finding a day-long of meditation practice every quarter or so during the semester, and going away on retreat during my breaks from school whenever possible. For others of you, it might mean going to class instead of practicing at home, or going to sit with a group once a month instead of always sitting by yourself.

Below is a link to one of my favorite dharma teachers speaking about the practice of pausing and paying attention. I invite my fellow students and mothers and teachers and support providers to use this practice -- in addition to extended periods of practice whenever possible -- to bring the home ground of awareness into your lives at any moment, on and off the mat/cushion.

Until next time, much love to you all!