People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Isaiah 26:3 The Message
“Silence is the pause in me when I am near to God.” Arvo Part
Imagine an ordinary day. The stars seem to be aligned, everybody around you is functioning as expected, and every plan is unfolding just as you had hoped. And then the world turns. Not a life-or-death crisis, perhaps, but one niggling distraction after another that causes you to wonder what’s going on. Our human instinct in response to each disruption is to react quickly, make an immediate decision, and try to return to our previous state of homeostasis or balance. While that may be our go-to mode of operation, the practice of pausing may be more helpful.
Throughout the psalms we repeatedly encounter challenging situations people faced. They were reminded over and over again in the portions of Old Testament Scripture available to them that God was their refuge and shield. Many such proclamations in the psalms are followed by the Hebrew word selah. Some suggest that the term indicated a pause—like a rest in a musical score—possibly in a narrative story set to music. Others believe the expression signified a designated place in the poetry for one to pause, reflect, and consider God’s promised presence before acting.
Pausing to reflect is difficult for a generation programmed toward DOing. We tend to value decisive action, speedy problem solving, and conclusive follow-through. Interestingly, when we do find ourselves able to pause, reflect, and trust God’s promised presence, we may see paths through our dilemmas that might not otherwise have occurred to us. Hitting the pause button is a discipline that involves stopping, connecting with our breath, being intentionally silent in the moment, and recognizing that our now doesn’t have to equate to our forever. The breath calms our reactive system and gives focus to our overactive, solution-oriented minds. Taking a break, pausing to reflect and remember God’s promised protection is a faith practice that serves us daily, as we live off our mats and into the world.
Focus Pose: Pausing to take a breath in the midst of life’s challenges can be difficult. Hand to Foot Pose, utthita hasta padangusthasana, is one I find so challenging I have to push myself to practice it. There’s a lot going on in this pose: balance, muscle stretching, hip opening, and coordination. Take it in small, preparatory steps. Using a strap, start in a supine version of the pose, practicing this version until you’re comfortable in the pose on your back. Now approach the standing pose, perhaps using a chair placed by a wall as a prop. Place your raised leg on the chair pushing into the wall with your heel. Over time, as your body allows, graduate to a higher leg position by placing blankets on the chair. At some point, when your body is ready, use a strap to lift your leg off the chair. Regardless of what expression of the pose is currently available to you, pause and rest in the pose. Selah!