I recently finished this book called The Power of Pause, by Terry Hershey. I picked it up at the library one day when I took my daughter in to get some books for summer reading. I wasn't looking for anything myself, as I seem to have a continual pile of unfinished reading material at my bedside. Nonetheless, while I was browsing, this book title caught my eye. In seeing it, I was immediately reminded of a particular teaching one of my teachers/mentors had shared with me: "The Power of the Pause".
The "Pause" she refers to relates to allowing space and time before taking any action- whether it be a response to a request, a decision to be made, or steps taken toward a desired outcome. In taking "pause", we give space and time for consultation of our own intuition and higher wisdom. This helps us to take "right action" on a more regular basis. "Right action" is action that is supportive of our Highest Good. This helps us to stay in alignment with our higher purpose in life. But I digress...
In Terry's book, the "pause" he refers to relates more to slowing down the pace of our lives and creating space for "being" instead of "doing". The "pause" is an invitation to rest, renew, refill. One of the chapters was about the Shadow. The "Shadow" is simply the part(s) of ourselves that we tend to hide or turn away from. We do this because thinking about it or facing it makes us feel uncomfortable, ashamed, embarrassed, fearful, or angry. We judge our Shadow and we'd rather it just went away so we could forget about it and pretend it didn't exist. The "Shadow" part(s) could be a particular behavior or habit, an event or experience, or thoughts and feelings.
At the end of this chapter, Terry suggests taking some time to sit under the shade of a tree to consider our Shadow(s). To spend time with it. And then ask yourself, "What has my Shadow given me? What blessings? What desired outcomes? What has this part of my Shadow taught me in life?"
When I PAUSED to consider my own Shadow, my struggle with anxiety was the first thing that came to my mind. It is the side of myself that I have allowed very few people to see. It is messy, dark, and difficult. It is the part of me that has been the most difficult to accept. To accept that I have a problem that often feels too big for me, a problem with my mental health, a problem that no one can physically see so others may question its significance or even its validity. My struggle with anxiety has created alienation and isolation from others. I compared myself. I battled with it incessantly, determined to win the war. I wracked my already-stressed-out brain for answers in a state where answers are nowhere to be found.
All of this is what made me so very unaccepting of my anxiety. I despised it. It gave me nothing but pain and I wanted to be rid of it. Little did I know that in denying this "Shadow" side of me, I was feeding it. I was giving strength and power to that which imprisoned me.
And so, as I paused to consider the anxiety in the shadows, it suddenly dawned on me that my anxiety problem was in fact one of the greatest gifts of my life. In that moment, under the shade of the tree, I saw the blessing that it had become. But how can this be?
Because my struggle with anxiety sent me on a long quest in the search for solutions to my problem. It prompted me to work with therapists and counsellors, where I learned so much about myself. I visited healers and delved deeper into learning about the energy body and vibrational healing. I worked with naturopaths, biochemists, and Ayurvedic practitioners to adjust my diet and lifestyle practices. My spiritual life opened and deepened as I learned to trust in the Divine. Every time I was anxious (which was A LOT) I had an opportunity to try new health, wellness, and lifestyle habits to see what helped me. And what made me feel the same or worse. The wisdom and insight I have gained has been exponentially greater due to having an anxiety disorder. I became my own detective, my own advocate, my own friend and coach.
To be sure, I have had a lot of help along the road to healing. But ultimately, the habits, practices, and changes- the WORK- all of this was up to me if I was to heal. And heal I did.
I am still learning. And that's ok with me. Because now I see the true gift of anxiety. I see all that it has taught me and given to me. And so when anxiety comes, I now accept and embrace it. "Hey there, old friend," I say, "what are you here to teach me right now?". Anxiety has become an awareness tool that I can use to tell me where there is imbalance in my life and what I need at any given time. This is freeing me from what for so long felt like a prison.
So thanks Terry, for writing a little gem of a book.
And I am reminded of something my first spiritual teacher once said:
"Your greatest suffering can be your greatest teacher".
And so it is.
Remember that during busy times such as the holiday season, it is especially important to make time for quiet. When we don’t give our minds and senses a break from the constant stimulation, we end up feeling stressed and running on “autopilot”. This causes us to miss the moment and also encourages us to make unhealthy choices when we end up asking ourselves “How did that happen?” or “why did I do/eat that?” or telling ourselves we’re hopeless and we’ll never reach our health goals whatever they may be.
You can set yourself up for enjoying a healthy holiday with these tips:
1. Adopt an "attitude of gratitude" during this time. Keep a "gratitude journal" for the next 2 months and each night before bed write down 3-5 things you are grateful for ( big or small). You will love how this simple process uplifts and calms you.
2. Practice Presence. For the next 2 months, commit to a mindfulness practice during your meals. Resist the urge to eat on the run, while standing up, while watching TV or looking at your phone/pc/device. Whether eating solo or with others, be fully present to yourself, your family/friends, and your food.
3. Say "no". There are lots of events, parties, gatherings happening during this time. Don't be afraid to decline an invitation if you are feeling overwhelmed and need the space in your life for peace during this busy season.
4. Get outside! Don't let the dreary weather deter you from spending some time outdoors and in nature. Our modern and busy lifestyles take us further from our innate connection to the natural world. Make time to be outdoors and let nature heal your body, mind, and senses.
5. If you get off track during the holidays, be compassionate to yourself. We all overindulge at times. Scientific studies have shown that if you forgive yourself and move on, then you are more likely to get back on track and make healthful choices.
6. Try to be active each day. If you can't get to the gym or your regular class, go for a walk, do some yard/house clean up, or stream a class or Youtube video at home.
7. If you are stressed or tired, spend time in nature, or simply stretch, rest and pray/meditate. Sometimes the best choice is to create space for quiet and away from the constant stimulation we are bombarded with during this time.
I hope you will implement a few of these tips to help you enjoy a healthy more peaceful holiday season! Next time I will share my quick tips and strategies for navigating the perils of overindulging at holiday parties! Stay tuned…. Be Well, Create Calm, and Love Lots
I am a wellness educator and trainer who is passionate about helping others to look, feel, and be their best in body, mind, and heart. Thanks for visiting my blog!