To live in harmony with your goals, you sometimes need to apply willpower. But you cannot use your willpower unless you first are aware, and you cannot be aware if you are too busy or living on autopilot without any pause.
The ability to pause is one of the main superpowers of meditation practice; it gives you space, clarity, presence, peace of mind, groundedness, and wellbeing. When you pause you can slow things down to make sense of the chaos of daily life. You feel more in control.
If don’t pause, you are just following your conditioning, as triggered by the environment. There is then no space between you and your impulses. When everything is fast-paced and busy, you may end up forgetting your goals and not even noticing you’re taking steps away from them. Your mind is juggling ten different things—so there is no space left in your working memory to resist temptations like social media, shopping, or junk food.
Regularly pausing and being more present in your life enables you to be more aware of your goals, remain focused on what matters, and make decisions based on your values rather than your impulses.
How do we pause and slow things down? Through meditation and mindfulness.
Simply by practicing meditation daily you will already experience more pause in your life. Yet you can enhance this process by remembering to deliberately pause during your day.
The simplest way to create a pause is through conscious, deep breathing. It calms down your nervous system, down-regulates your impulses (lizard brain), and stimulates the prefrontal cortex (the evolved brain). Your emotions become more manageable, and you feel more aware and in control. You have moved from unconsciousness to consciousness.
Throughout the centuries, meditation masters have developed multiple breathing techniques, many of which I cover in my Limitless Life program. The simplest technique to start with is simply to take three deep abdominal breaths. Here are some guidelines to help you get the most out of those three breaths:
- Place your hands on your belly
- Imagine your belly being a balloon
- As you breathe in, expand your belly
- As you breathe out, relax your belly
- Let your breaths be slow, deep, and even
- Take three breaths like that
For meditation, we generally breathe in and out through the nose. If we are very tense, we can breathe in through the nose, then out through the mouth with a long sigh. If we want to continue beyond three breaths, we breathe in and out only through the nose.
The trickiest part of practicing PAW is remembering to pause. In our fast-paced life, we often forget. So I recommend that you create a habit of three short pauses or “mini-meditations” in your day. Consider using alarms on your phone to remind you to do it. Or use one of these images as the wallpaper for your phone—it’s something you will see dozens of times per day!
A mini-meditation is a short pause that you can practice anywhere, anytime—while you are commuting, eating, walking, waiting for something, or preparing for a difficult conversation. You can even do it with your eyes open.
During this pause, for a minute or two, practice your favorite style of meditation. That could be conscious breathing, or repeating a mantra in your mind, or doing a quick body scan, or any other technique.
If your goal is to overcome certain impulses or drop bad habits, pausing becomes even more important—and more difficult. When a strong urge comes, you might need to get away from the temptation until the urge cools down.
To pause your impulses and get a break, do something so the temptation is not right under your nose anymore: leave the store, hang up the call, go for a walk, close your eyes, count from fifty to one, put your phone face-down and on silent mode, or shut down your computer. Do whatever you need to do to get quiet until things cool down. If getting a quiet pause simply is not an option, try getting busy with something more positive.
Summary: Whenever you find yourself in a self-control conflict—a conflict between short-term desires and long-term goals—take a moment to pause and breathe deeply three times. To make it more likely that you’ll remember, setup reminders to practice mini-meditations at least three times a day. Finally, if you are facing an overpowering urge and can’t get space to pause and observe it, then get busy with a positive activity.