The Habit of Pausing


Illustration by @jaykayort

Hello. It’s good to be back after taking a mini-sabbatical (or pause) from blogging during the month of July. I focused on family, writing, and the Adventures in Seeing workshop, where we practiced, among other things, in building pauses into our days.

Why is this important?

We need space in our lives in order to reflect and decide how to most effectively respond to what life offers us. Coach and teacher Leslie Hershberger recommends the pause as a way of recalibrating.

“The Pause is just so damn powerful. I feel like a Pause evangelical these days as it’s so desperately needed in these over-stimulated times. It’s a way to touch a place of relief and groundedness inside yourself which offers a spacious clarity about what you can do and where you can let go.”

You may be wondering how you will possibly find the time to add pauses to your already full days. There is too much to do, too little time. If you are feeling this way, then you may have to step back and decide what’s most important and what to let go. Adding short pauses may be one way to discern.

Stanford professor BJ Fogg recommends beginning with “tiny habits, “simple changes that are easy and can be done in less than 30 seconds. Start small, adding a 30-second pause after something that you already do every day (this is your cue or prompt); perhaps after every meal.

For those 30 seconds, notice where you are, what’s around you, and what you’re feeling. Notice the sights, smells, and sounds. Or, when you’re photographing, pause for 30 seconds before you click the shutter. Think about what stopped you, what you’re feeling, and how to compose. Only then do you click.

The purpose of pausing is not the pause itself. It’s what you experience during the pause.

The point is to have the space to be able to touch into a place inside of you, that groundedness that Leslie speaks of, a place of stillness below the surface of your everyday reality. It’s where your core self resides, and once there you can tap into her wisdom. Once you know what that space feels like, you can go there at will, even in the midst of doing.

Your pausing becomes as easy as breathing, a way of being, a part of who you are. You won’t have to think about it. Even with your photography, you’ll be able to quickly intuit what stopped you and how to compose.

The Domino Effect of Pausing

Entrepreneur and writer James Clear speaks about how adopting one small habit leads to the development of other positive habits in this post, The Domino Effect. He says,

There is an astounding interconnectedness between the systems of life and human behavior is no exception. The inherent relatedness of things is a core reason why choices in one area of life can lead to surprising results in other areas, regardless of the plans you make. ~ James Clear

By learning to make pausing an integral part of your life, you’ll experience the power of the pause – greater engagement with life, better relationships all around due to your attention, and a life centered on what’s most important to you. What could be better than that?

Have you made pausing a habit? How did you do it?


Tasting Notes for Life

beer sampler

Beer Sampler at The Exchange Brewery

In the Adventures in Seeing workshop, we do an exercise with food that is designed to awaken all of our senses, not just the visual one. The more our senses are heightened, the more present and more memorable the experience will be.

In his fascinating book, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More than Human World, David Abram posits that the development of written language and thought has severed our connection to the immediacy of our sensual experience.

The life-world is the world of our immediately lived experience, as we live it, prior to all our thoughts about it. It is that which is present to us in our everyday tasks and enjoyments – reality as it engages us before being analyzed by our theories and science. The life-world is the world that we count on without necessarily paying it much attention, the world of the clouds overhead and the ground underfoot, of getting out of bed and preparing food and turning on the tap for water. Easily overlooked, this primordial world is already there when we begin to reflect and philosophize. ~ David Abram

I like how he differentiates the life-world from the mind-world. As an abstract thinker myself, I need practices to reconnect with my senses.

Food is a great way to start because we all have to eat and eating is (or can be) a very sensual experience. Food is colourful and has flavours and textures. Preparing and cooking food produces sounds and aromas.

Slowing down and photographing the experience of a meal is a practice in presence.

I had an unexpected experience of opening the senses while sharing a craft beer sampler at a craft brewery in my town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’m not normally a beer drinker but it was a hot summer day, so my husband and I decided to go for a brew. We sat outside on the patio, where we heard birdsong and cars, glasses clinking, as well as the conversations of other patrons, the servers, and people walking by.

I loved the presentation of this sampler in a circle on a rough hewn board. Photographing from above gives a view of the soft hues from light tans to yellows to amber to dark brown.

After the visual treat, it was an experience of smell and taste. For example, #2 at the very top was named Hefeweizen, described in the tasting notes as “the perfect union of hefe (yeast) and weizen (wheat). With pronounced clove and banana flavours from German-born yeast and a light, lively finish, this is the perfect summer beer.”

At first, I caught a strong scent of banana with just a hint of spicy clove. The smooth, creaminess of banana came out in the taste as well. It was light, fresh, and tangy and cooled my throat. A few tastes later, the clove began to dominate, with the banana taking a backseat. This was interesting to me. Maybe the clove just needed the attention before it made its presence known?

It was a memorable experience because all of my senses were awake.

What if we had tasting notes for life?

I live in a town with many wineries and craft breweries. Tasting notes are common at these places. A good tasting note first describes the possible aromas deriving from the place (the soil or terroir), the type of grape, other fruits or florals. Climate conditions for that vintage are also a determining factor, as well as the maker’s process, herbs and spices coming from the aging and bottling process.

Tasters are invited to swirl and smell and taste slowly and to describe their own tasting experience. How does it feel in the mouth? What is the texture like? Is it soft and creamy, or tart, or juicy? What lingers afterwards?

It’s an exercise in mindfulness.

There are many ways to open the senses other than food or drink. We can carry this idea of tasting notes over to other life experiences, for example, attending a music concert, taking a stroll on the beach, or having a barbecue with friends. Any experience will do, even sitting on your front porch or folding the laundry.

What experiences open your senses the most? Imagine writing a tasting note about your experience. What did you see, hear, taste, touch, smell?

P.S. I’m taking the month of July off from the blog for family time, my current workshop, and other writing. See you back here in August.


Life’s a Blur

planter, blur

Summer Planter

I have a dilemma. My camera is not working properly and a new one is not yet in the budget. I don’t know what to do – try to get it repaired, start setting aside money for the newer version or even more for a better version. When I’m in this liminal space, I need to let things sit for awhile and wait for the right answer to come. I don’t have any big trips coming up and I still have my iPhone. Life is good.

My camera still operates, but I can’t change the aperture. Having limitations is a great way to spark creativity, so I planned a photo walk with my camera and a 50 mm lens. With the camera on automatic, the aperture was stuck at f/1.4, wide open, so very shallow depth of field. I turned on manual focus and dialled it all the way in for extreme closeups. When the lens was pointed towards the big picture landscape, scenes appeared in the viewfinder as a total blur.

I was seeing impressions of spring.


blur, queen street

Queen Street Corner

Abstract impressions can be created by going in close or through intentional camera movement or blur. With these impressions, details are lost and the focus becomes colour and texture, shapes and lines. It’s a different way of seeing. It’s a way to play and break the “rule” of having everything in sharp focus. Life is a blur, after all.
lake, impressions

Lake Ontario Impression

This is one of the many exercises we do in the Going Abstract workshop, which will be offered again this November. See more impressionistic images using blur and intentional camera movement on Flickr.

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