Learning to pause

Learning to pause - Part 2

Impact's Senior Consultants Penelope Mavor and David Cooper share their easy tips on 'precious pause moments'.

In our last article we discussed how practising meditation in a disciplined way can encourage us to pause more often and more effectively. As a next step, this week’s article provides you with some potential meditative pause moments you can easily incorporate into your day. 

A couple of intentional breaths


Take these breaths to help you relax and bring your attention to the present. Stop what you are doing and bring awareness to the fact that you are breathing. Focus on your breath coming in and out of your nostrils and the rise and fall of your stomach. If you are feeling tense, you may want to take a couple of deep breaths. Breathe through your nose if possible, inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for 3 seconds.

Ideal for:

  • Calming your mind before you tackle your inbox first thing in the morning
  • Gathering yourself before you give your opinion in a heated exchange
  • Preparing yourself to present to a crowd
  • Reconsidering before you reach for that second doughnut!

2 minutes at your desk


Set aside any distractions (turn off your phone, close your door (or if you are in an open plan, put up a “do not” disturb sign)). Gently close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing, focus on each breath. In. Out. Keep focusing on this. Your mind may wander, but every time you notice it doing so, just gently, without judging yourself, bring your attention back to your breath. Do this daily. Creating this simple habit, 2 minutes a day, pays tremendous dividends. 

Ideal for:

  • Re-setting yourself emotionally and physiologically
  • Feeling more open and calm
  •  Focusing attention toward task accuracy and productivity

10-minute solo


Find a private place if you can – although it is also possible to do this whilst sitting on the tube/metro! Try listening to a guided mediation – this one is a good place to start.

Ideal for:

  • Achieving a deeper level of relaxation
  • Preparing yourself mentally for an important meeting
  • To mark the transition from the end of the working day to your leisure time.

Silence, Stillness and Solitude


This is a favorite sometimes used on Impact programmes to begin each day. This can be done in as little as five minutes with fifteen minutes being ideal.  Do this meditation before the morning commute, on the train, in a quiet spot at the office before logging into the day. Seated or prone, relax and close your eyes. Now complete a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual audit of your current self. Focus on these states, moving only from one to the other after you create an understanding in yourself of the present moment – how are you physically? Comfortable, fidgety, healing, in pain? How are you mentally?  Scattered, focusing, full, drained? Explore every possibility focusing deeply and intently on your current state. Complete this meditation with some personal commitments to holding or addressing areas you highlight as significant for that day.

 Ideal for:

  • Grounding yourself and preparing for the day
  • Developing heightened awareness of self
  • Creating a more robust personal meditation practice

Some other top tips – whatever your length of pause…

  • The more we can do to create a conducive environment, the better. The less distractions we have, the more focused we can be. So generally it is better if you are in a quiet place by yourself. But if you can do it whilst in the middle of a crowd go for it!
  • The narrower the area you focus on in terms of your breathing, the sharper your mind will become. Focusing on the entrance of your nostrils observing the air come in and out will create more focus than observing the rise and fall of your belly. 
  • Again in the interests of minimising distractions, it is better if you close your eyes. You may feel self-conscious pausing or meditating, even if no one is around. Any thoughts like that are ‘grist for the mill’, as you can practice letting those thoughts come and go, as you focus on your breath. You can also congratulate yourself for doing something that is good for you!

 Enjoy spotting your opportunities for those precious pauses and taking them, and remember:

 “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”