The Mindful Pause Exercise

The “Pause Exercise”* is a brief exercise that can be used anytime and anywhere. It helps us shift gears from begin wrapped up in our thinking about future or past and come to settle in the present. This is one of the mindfulness practices which many people find useful when they take a mindfulness group and will continue after the group is finished. At first you can try it in the quiet of your home to get a feeling for the exercise. Then as you gain confidence you can use it to pause in the middle of your day or in the face of a stressful experience. After you finish you simply make the next best choice for you and move back into your activities.

Below are some formal written instructions if that helps.

  1. Pause - Awareness: Stop what you are doing. If sitting, sit upright in a dignified but not stiff posture. If standing, stand upright but not rigid. Be aware of what is happening in your experience. Take a moment to take note of seeing, hearing, body sensations, thoughts, emotions. Notice liking, disliking or spacing out. Simply observe, acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is unwanted. Come home to this moment as it is right now. The essence of the pause is being aware of your present moment’s experience, however it is.
  2. Relax- Dropping into the Body: Relax the body and gently redirect full attention to the body. Feel the support of the contact places of the body, the feet, the buttocks, the back of the thighs, the hands, the lips, the eyelids. Feel the direct experience of the sensations, touch, pressure, softness, firmness, warmth or coolness. Open to the sensations and your physical experience throughout the whole body.
  3. Breathe: Direct your attention to your breath. Feel each in and out breath. Let it be in its own natural rhythm. Your breath and body can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.
  4. Open - Expanding: Expand the field of your awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression. Open up to the breath and body and sounds. Open up to the breath and body and sounds and sights. Open up to all senses as you move into your life.

“The breathing space provides a way to step out of automatic pilot mode, out of rumination or reactivity to strong emotion, to reconnect and open to the present moment.” The Mindful Way Through Depression

* In Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy this is called the “Breathing Space”. The “Pause Exercise” is used in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and is a variant of the Breathing Space exercise.