When I left my hometown, I also left The Blue Jays and all things baseball behind. I’d been a big fan, but there was no MLB team in Vancouver and I just got busy with other things.
Almost 30 years later I found myself watching baseball again.
My in-laws all live in Chicago, and they are die-hard Cub Fans. Always have been, even when there was no good reason to be. So you can imagine their excitement when their team made it to the World Series. Each night my 85 year old mother-in-law drove to a sports bar in Skokie to cheer and laugh, drink beer and even cry with fellow fans. I call her the Cubbie Bubbie. My brother-in- law and a couple of cousins even scored seats at the games.
On the final night, my husband and I turned on the game. What I’d forgotten about baseball, one of the things that makes the game great, is The Pause. And when a World Series is on the line, the Pause becomes more, important, poetic and dramatic.
The pitcher connects with the catcher. He Pauses. He takes his time. Takes a breath, winds up and throws an impossibly fast ball. The batter swings and misses. Strike two. He steps away from the plate. He Pauses. He gives himself some time. Stepping forward, he positions himself to swing again. Tension mounts as the game is tied 6 to 6. In the 10th inning the rains pour down. The entire game Pauses for about 15 minutes.
The Cubs go on to win the World Series. After a Pause of 108 years.
In each of those pauses I would breathe, feel my own body, and become more acutely present.
It’s easy to get caught up in our thoughts, worries, emotions and stories. A Pause can bring you back to Peace.
A week after the Cubs great victory I woke to the news of Trump’s win. I was”shocked but not surprised”. I sobbed. Like I’ve never cried over politics before. I was sad and scared. I was afraid that this win would validate misogyny, bigotry, racism and elitism. I feared what would become of my husband’s immigrant students, the Supreme Court, women, the LGBT and black communities, our prison system, and environmentally sensitive areas that house endangered species and natural resources.
Then I Paused. I stopped talking about it. I got off social media. I sat quietly and took a moment by myself. As I felt my breath move in and out I could sense my body’s expression. Tight. Buzzing. Jagged. As I gave each sensation my attention, it morphed into something else. Over time my breath deepened, my body softened and expanded. I was calmer, and connected to myself again.
Nothing had changed. And everything had. I was no longer stuck in the survival panic of my reptilian brain. I was operating from a more evolved part of myself. I was no longer lost in the apocalyptic future my thoughts were building.
After the Pause I was able to love again. I felt stronger and more able to handle the change with an open heart. I could feel the need for kindness, acceptance and tolerance now more than ever. I could feel potential.
When you’re faced with great opportunity or great challenge, PAUSE.
Take a moment just to be.
To feel yourself in a body, that’s alive.
Remembering to Pause when you’re under great stress can be challenging. If you don’t practice Pausing regularly, you can only hope you’ll have enough awareness to override your own biology – the ancient fight-flight-freeze response of your nervous system. That’s sort of like hoping you’ll figure out how to swim once your boat capsizes in the ocean.
If you want to be able to Pause when you need it, I suggest you Pause when you don’t, just like practicing swimming before you head out to sea. You’ll be able to draw on your practice when you need it most.
This week, try Pausing several times a day. Set up reminders for yourself. Pause before every email your write, or every time you sit down, or at every red light. Just pay attention to your breath. Experience your body’s sensations, even as they change. Let your eyes look around. Then notice how your body feels.
Though it only takes a moment, the Pause has a way of slowing life down, bringing things into focus, and connecting you to yourself in a way that being busy never can.
It might be interesting to write about your experience each night, and at the end of a week look back on how it went. I’d love to hear how it goes.
If you know someone who’s facing a lot these days, please share this with them, so they can benefit from a Pause.