In this 2nd episode of Wabi Women, we examine the Pillar of Pause.
- The Pillar of PAUSE
Sometime between emptying their nests and filling out the Do Not Resuscitate form for their aging parents, women find themselves uncomfortably unsettled. Something breaks our daily trance, and we start asking, Is this it? Midlife can be a restless time. We may think about the things we haven’t done and the chances we still wish to take. However, we need to pause before we can run. Many midlife women feel they are trapped, too busy taking care of everyone else to explore their own needs. The gift of the pause is letting go of whatever is distracting you from just being here, in the moment, in the now, to reflect, evaluate, observe and care for the self. Listeners will learn how to have an appointment with themselves and not feel guilty.
I have been a lifelong spiritual seeker. I would not have predicted that I would feel that my mind had “set” at any point in my life. My pursuit of things spiritual began when I was very young. Although I was raised in a Protestant home, and we went to church on Sundays for a few years early in my parents’ marriage, we were not a religious family. I, however, had a huge curiosity about religion. I read the Bible, Old Testament and New, and invited myself along to my friends’ summer Bible camps. My mother called me “the nun”. I was so curious about Judaism that I became a babysitter for the Rabbi, a nice not Jewish girl who could babysit his children while he and his congregation were at synagogue. I understood the holidays and the importance of the milk and meat plates.
At University, I was an English major, which required an understanding of history, religious practices and beliefs. I learned much about the history of religion from my reading. Also, I took many philosophy classes, which challenged my small-town thinking.
I can see now that I come from a maternal line of seekers. My mother was a searcher in her own way. The first book I remember her recommending to me was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which from its publication in 1962 spurred the banning of DDT and other elements of the environmental movement. Mom was way ahead of her time in understanding how we were destroying earth, and that my generation would be charged with saving it and the cleanup. She made us homemade food, very rarely giving us anything from a can or a box, in a day and age when mothers prided themselves in their ability to go to the grocery store to buy an instant meal or packaged cookies. She used natural medicines, like milk and bread poultices, mustard plasters, feeding a cold and starving a fever, and did not believe we needed prescriptions for antibiotics or mood-altering substances.
My mother was also looking for spiritual practices to help make sense of her life as a 1960s mother and homemaker. She read T. Lobsang Rampa and spent afternoons while my siblings and I were at school astral travelling to the Taj Mahal and other time periods. She had all kinds of superstitions, believed in witches and garden devas and spoke of the power of positive thoughts. I accepted unquestioningly all of these ideas.
My maternal grandmother, another pioneer, ran her own health food store at a time when very few women had their own businesses. She introduced me to holistic healing, to alternative therapies like colour therapy and reflexology, and in general to an openness about approaches that differed from traditional Western medicine and thought. I accepted these non-traditional ideas as well.
And so I came into adulthood with what I viewed as a relatively open mind. When I think about the word mindset, I think about the way I approach things, the mind I bring to each and every day, and particularly to challenges. Also, perhaps because of my midlife age and stage of life, I think about my mind being set or fixed, like a pudding, or a cast, or, heaven forbid, my mother’s hair- sprayed, special occasion hairdo in the 1960s.
Lead by my maternal models, I remained open to religious, spiritual, and other healing modalities for myself and the world. I had a concept of my mind as more open than closed. Moving through the many challenges that life brings, or perhaps coming to the middle of my life with a fixed idea about what works and does not work, in a moment of openness and reflection, I came recognize that somehow in my 50s my mind had become set about who I was in the world, while the world continued to change around me. That’s when I started to feel the grind – the grind of my set mind against the changing world. Things started to become more difficult, and I more uneasy.
If all this sounds even somewhat familiar to you, you are reading the right book. As a younger person, you may have believed you could and may have actually changed the world from the outside in. Midlife is the turning point of change, from thinking you can change the world outside to change the way you feel inside, to a knowing that changing the way you feel inside will change the world outside. This book sets out the nine pillars you need to turn into yourself to create the solid inner foundation on which to build the rest of your life. Leigh and I know this because we’ve done it and it has worked for us. By playfully working the nine pillars, we have not only discovered who we are, we have envisioned who we want to be and, on that strong, nine- pillared foundation, we are making the changes we need to make to become who we want to be.
How do you change your mind set? If you recognize that your mind is your thoughts, and you are willing to spend some time and effort getting to know your thoughts in order to grow the thoughts that serve you and to change some of your thoughts, you will change your mind. I like to think of it as similar to changing the setting on the dryer: the normal cycle won’t preserve my delicates the way the delicate cycle will, so I need to change the setting. For example, if you want to change something, identify one small change you can make, like being more curious, or being kinder. When you notice your habitual thoughts creeping in, gently guide yourself towards the more curious or the kinder thought. Give yourself permission to just imagine yourself as a more curious or kinder person. Recognizing that you have a choice in what you think is the beginning of and the permission to change.
Come along with us on this journey into your midlife. We will give you the guidance and foundation of the nine pillars, lots of exercises to help you begin to realize your changes, and lots of personal examples of how our own lives have been transformed by this process. We’re going to have so much fun, and it can be easy – Just Push Play! We begin by breaking the pattern of your thoughts with the Pause.
PLAYTIME: Me Time
Listeners start by clearing a space: doing small things, daily, that make them smile, allow them to feel peace and put themselves first, if only for a few minutes daily. Creating a jar full of their favorite handwritten ideas for inspiration, the reader picks “Write a haiku,” “Bike around the block,” or “Peel and eat an orange in the garden.” By routinely making a space, our radio listeners will be encouraged to practice this first Pillar of Pause. Drawing from ancient Tibetan meditation techniques, our listeners distill one thought for the day, maybe a coincidence, a memory, a new idea, dating and recording just one line in the space provided in their playbook to celebrate the day.
Back Door to Your Heart
One morning, I was doing backbends in my yoga class, lying on my belly and like an airplane lifting my legs and arms leaving just the hip bones on the mat- shalabhasana. This works the middle back, a place the instructor described as the back door to the heart. Prior to that moment, when I envisioned the physical heart, it was always from the front. When I envisioned the metaphorical heart, I put my hand on my chest not on my back. For some reason, I had not envisioned that energy might come to the heart from the back as well as the front.
Suddenly, I remembered the house into which I was born. It was new at the time, a late 1950s bungalow. On the main floor at the front was a living and dining room- this was adult- only territory except by rare invitation. The kitchen was at the at the back of the house. The three bedrooms and a bath were off a hallway that joined to the living room at the front and to the kitchen at the back. Off the kitchen was door to the landing of the back door and stairs down to the basement rec room with the TV and toys for the children. All designed to keep the front for the adults only and the back and down for the kids. To that end, my mother’s strict rule was that we children were not to use the front door. She kept it locked.
During the early 1960s “Cold War,” there were air raid drills. A siren would sound and everyone would go to their bomb shelter or the corner of the basement where provisions for the nuclear holocaust were stored. At school, students crouched under their desks and covered their heads with their hands. Of course, in retrospect, I know we would have been instantly burnt to a crisp had the bomb been dropped, that none of these actions would have made any difference. I suspect the air raids were simply to keep us afraid, and boy how it worked for me!
One sunny day, my younger sister and I were walking home from a birthday party just around the corner from our house. The air raid siren started. We lived close to the airport where the siren was situated, so it was very loud at our home. We both started screaming, high-pitched and hysterically . We ran around the corner and, because it was closest, up the front steps of our house to the front door. I banged on the front door of the house crying for my mother to let us in. Her response through the front screen door was, “Go to the back door”.
I could not believe it! My mother was going to let my sister and I get nuked rather than open the front door for us. At the time, I didn’t realize my mother knew it was just an exercise. I was horrified that our very lives meant less to my mother than that my sister and I did not break the back door rule and potentially track dirt through her house.
As an adult, I told the air raid story in a lighthearted fashion to my mother. She laughed it off as two unnecessarily frightened young girls. Behind her laugh, I sensed a concern, a concern for the way in which something that seemed so innocuous to her at the time retained much more meaning for me than she had ever imagined it might. Now, I wonder the same thing about my own child. Will he remember me as at times too protective and at others too liberal? It tugs at my heart.
So, in that pause in my yoga class, I asked myself, “What has come in the heart’s back door?” Going back to the occasion of the air raid, I was aware of fear and a sense of unworthiness. And, my awareness of them allowed me to let them go.
Here’s my postcard. It says:
You are enuf! Always remember that.
I love you
This playtime is designed to allow your unconscious mind to come forward. Set apart 15 minutes to ask the truth to come and set you free. Write a quick question. You are inviting an answer that is, for now, beyond the conscious mind. To do this:
- Quiet your body and mind. You might light a candle, say a prayer or meditate. You might also simply just take a few deep breaths.
- Begin by addressing your “higher self”, your guide, your God, or unconscious mind, according to your belief.
- Place the pen in your non-dominant hand and write what comes without reviewing or analyzing it. Allow your eyes to become unfocused while you do so.
- When done, be sure to express your gratitude for the guidance.
- You might put your automatic writing in the back pocket of this book to remind yourself later of the message.