The world that we live in seems to be more emotionally and physically chaotic than ever.

As a highly sensitive black woman trying to maneuver through the chaos, I know at this point in my life that I must also maneuver through bouts of anxiety and depression as I am prone to both. The wide ranging variety of worldly traumatic events from the past couple of years coupled with everyday stresses (which can be amplified by an anxious mind) have taken me down some dark and turbulent roads within myself.

Although it may take awhile to get to this point, the journey usually leaves me with some nuggets of wisdom, a sense of deeper healing and more compassion for myself and others (and just to be abundantly clear this journey can sometimes take a very long time).

One of the main tools that continues to aid me in these journeys is yoga and with the seemingly endless stream of violent events of the past few months (years) combined with the pure insanity of the upcoming election, the class I recently attended was no different. Everything in my body was telling me I needed to go. I needed to be in a place of healing; an environment focused on love, acceptance and forgiveness. Mostly, I just needed to feel safe.

Just like any other class, my teacher was emphasizing breath but more so than usual he was emphasizing pausing. He gently asked us to take a sacred pause before we transitioned to our next pose.

Pause, breathe, check-in and then move.

Pause, breathe, check-in, move.

Repeat.

That night, and many days since then, this concept of pausing has resonated deeply within me.

As someone who deals with anxiety, I know firsthand the importance of the pause. If I am not careful, I can easily spiral quickly down a rabbit hole of angst and “what-ifs.” My mother’s annually scheduled doctor check-ins can suddenly morph into appointments for life threatening illnesses. Alternatively, my mind can easily turn driving behind a flatbed truck on the freeway into a grotesque scene from Final Destination.

Through my own necessary pauses, I realize more than ever that we are a reactionary culture. We pride ourselves on acting quickly and efficiently and I want to be crystal clear, that is not always a bad thing. It can be wonderful as countless lives are saved and catastrophes often avoided (or at the very least, made less disastrous).

We have never been more productive as a society but we have also never been so disconnected. We build, create and accomplish more than ever before at speeds never seen before; but we also have to-do lists that never end, push notifications coming to our phone alerting us to check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and pop-ups telling us that we’ve matched with an exciting new stranger 10 miles away. Our attention spans have never been shorter and our focus often lies on what is happening externally in the world around us rather than what is happening in the world within us.

And because of this disconnect, we react. Our days can often be boiled down to a sequence of situations occurring, emotions being stirred and reactions (sometimes without consideration) taking place.

We see it on the news and even more tragically, in front of our own faces every day.

A police officer carries around unaddressed false/negative beliefs. He/She feels threatened. He/she reacts. Lives are tragically lost.

We see it in the ridiculous circus spectacle that we like to refer to as the “election race.”

A candidate feels they are being attacked. The ego is threatened and reacts. Malicious (and ignorant) words spread like wildfire.

We see it in our own lives on a daily basis.

A partner or someone we are romantically involved with says something that upsets us. We feel triggered. We react.

A coworker questions us. We feel threatened. We react.

A friend disagrees with us. We feel betrayed. We react.

A parent disapproves of us or something we did. We feel unloved. We react.

Like an itch we feel we must always scratch, we react…..but that itch hardly ever fully goes away.

Why?

Because when we react without taking the time to understand what is the underlying cause of this “itch,” we are only adding adding fuel to the fire; we are only strengthening its existence. We may have that satisfying sense of relief upon our initial reaction and sometimes we may even feel a little smug about it (this person has wronged me so now I’m going to defend myself and show them and the world why they are bad or wrong).

But why do we continue to scratch?

We do it because it feels good. It feels good to feel right. It feels both good and necessary to defend ourselves against perceived threats. We so often fear looking bad and feeling bad that we react without thinking. At the most fundamental level, it is a means of survival.

The problem is that this form of reaction, this fear-based-not-thinking-before-I-speak-or-act-reaction, does not actually fix anything. It may seem temporarily resolved but in fact it’s quite the opposite. It exacerbates false beliefs that so many of us (including myself) carry around, the biggest and most important ones being “something is wrong with me” and “I am not enough.”

Imagine if we began to understand that nothing is wrong with us and that we are enough just as we are? If we started to act from a place of love instead of a place of lacking?

Imagine how different we as a humankind could be, how different our relationships could be and how different our world could be if we all just took a sacred pause; if we all just took a breath and asked ourselves some questions before we instantly reacted?

  • What am I feeling in this instance?
  • Can I take a moment to let it pass? (hint: it always does)
  • Can I make a different choice in my action?

I really believe this can happen. It already happens every day whether or not we are aware of it. The reason of course is because a lot of the time something WON’T happen when a sacred pause is taken. Something will most likely have been prevented: a situation didn’t escalate or a life was not tragically and unnecessarily lost. The results of a sacred pause will most likely not end up on CNN or any other news / social media outlet.

We all have access to it. It’s not some mysterious concept that you have to take classes on, read books about or meditate on (although all of those definitely help). It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and if not a few, just one. All it can take is one breath to not pull the trigger, to not scream at a significant other, to not send that scathing email. In that one breath there is the possibility to see yourself and a situation clearly, if only briefly.

Sometimes the pause can make all of the difference and sometimes it may not change a thing. The difference is that with it, there is potential; potential to make a more loving, or at least calmer, choice. Without it, there is only a reaction and not necessarily a good one.

So just start there. Just breathe.