Pause, Breathe, then Act

A friend of mine sent this article from Harvard Business Review a bit ago.  Even though I’ve already sent the link to some people, I think it’s simple yet profound enough to read again.  Take a look.

Without repeating the article, the question is:

Why don’t we take a moment to pause and breathe in real life?

We’ve all hit the “Send” button on an email and immediately regretted it. So many of us do it regularly, in fact, that Google has added a feature to Gmail called “Undo Send”. Once you hit “Send” Gmail holds the email for five seconds, during which time you can stop the email from going out.

What’s interesting is that, apparently, a five-second pause is all most people need to realize they’ve made a mistake.

With an email, hitting “Undo Send” can save a tremendous amount of time, energy, and backpedaling. But in real time — in person or on the phone — there’s no “Undo Send.” The key, in real time, is to avoid the unproductive “Send” in the first place.

If you take a breath and delay your action, you give your brain time to control the immediate emotional response (the article highlights specific neurological reactions). Slowing down the breath has a direct calming affect on the brain. How much time does it take? Not long – just a second or two. 

So basically, when something happens, we need to pause, take a breath and then react.

Yoga teaches this same principle.  In fact, it teaches us to not only breathe, but to be aware of all parts of the breath – the inhale, the exhale and the pauses in between. By bringing our awareness to the breath, by actually sitting in physical stillness and taking the time to simply listen to it, we can quiet the mind. Most of our thoughts are simply illusions the mind creates to distract us from reality. We often miss out on our own lives by living inside our heads. When we calm the mind, we open our awareness to the direct experience of the present.

Music for today: Johnny Appleseed , Joe Strummer and the Mescalaros (Global a Go-Go, 2009)

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