Inspired by the NSW Parliament and alongside many other NSW schoolkids, both my children have recently prepared bear pit speeches to deliver at school. After some brainstorming and research, they wrote out their words on little cards. After a run through out loud, I realised it wasn’t enough to have put the full stops in at the end of their sentences. Both kids just raced from one point to the next with no spaces between. We actually had to go back over their cards with bright coloured markers to remind them when to pause. This would be their time to take a breath and allow their audiences to catch up.
The Winter hibernation encourages us to slow down, go more internal and just live a little quieter. For my kids speeches and for the wellbeing of all you grown ups, I love the Japanese concept of Ma. Ma refers to the interval or gap between structural parts.
Ma is about space. It’s the part where there is nothing. It’s about pausing and taking breaks which so important for all of us. Yes, even we grown ups need to place comma’s and full stops at intervals in our daily lives. We tend to be so bound up in societal, family, and work connections, that it can be hard to shake off the village and just be. While we can’t drop all those obligations forever, I believe we need to practice claiming precious moments of mindfulness to just be. To fully experience the world around us, we need to be able to clear ourselves from the distractions. These distractions continuously beg for our attention: We find ourselves outsmarted by our smart phones. The seductiveness of social media. The cheap news sites. The noise of the celeb gossip. Left undisciplined, these things tend to crowd out the part of us that needs to just be. They turn us into a human absorbing or a human doing and not a human being.
We seem to train ourselves for more, more, more. Instead, let’s think Ma Ma Ma. Ma is in the walking from one point to another, and it’s just as important as your origin and destination. Good acting is about pauses. Music needs space. Art uses silence. A friend just returned from two weeks in Paris and commented how wonderful it was to travel and stay in just the one place for so long rather than cram in several French stops. Cramming our lives full of one exciting experience after another is not the point and can actually detract from the enjoyment.
Taking pauses doesn’t come naturally to all of us. And recent culture discourages it, giving cred for pulling all-nighters and working crazy long weeks. (How often do you answer ‘busy’ when someone asks how you are?). Some things just need to be learned – My 9 year old who speaks fairly eloquently still needs help to put the full stops in her writings. But practice makes perfect and here are a few ideas:
- Enjoy the tea breaks – I was so moved to experience a real Japanese tea ceremony years ago. The focus and silences made it feel sacred and reverent.
- Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew each mouthful 30 times before swallowing.
- Detox with an e-tox by scheduling periods to put the devices away.
- Pause and look deep into someone’s eyes when next you see them.
- Unitasking beats multitasking.
- There are a gazillion stats on how productivity rises when people take regular rest breaks – google it!
- Consider what your own personal highlighter texta might be to help you pause at intervals – maybe setting an alarm? Maybe training yourself to take three breaths before you answer your phone?
- Transform Yoga Pilates and Barre classes put in the stops. I consider them to be a great punctuation for life! 😊
- School holidays are here so if you have kids you might be in a natural pause from your regular routine. Enjoy the space.
- Or else you are in that crush of negotiating childcare arrangements so you can still get to work and keep everyone happy. Do pro-actively create your spaces within that.
- If you are kid-free, this is still a natural time of year to pause. It’s Winter!
- A mantra that helps me feel relaxed about slowing down is: “I have all the time I need for what is important to me”.
May you enjoy your Ma this Winter.
PS Here’s the punchline for my youngest one. She wrote quite a funny speech, and there were a couple of points where we couldn’t help laughing, even on the 25th time. So we made sure she put a special extra long pause after those points. However, at the end of the day, she announced brightly that she didn’t need to put those long pauses in at all. It transpires that all the children in her year 1 class were strictly told not to interrupt the speaker in any way or make any noise, and it seems, that included laughter!