“A pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving toward any goal. . . . The pause can occur in the midst of almost any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or for seasons of our life. . . . We may pause in the midst of meditation to let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath. We may pause by stepping out of daily life to go on a retreat or to spend time in nature or to take a sabbatical. . . . You might try it now: Stop reading and sit there, doing “no thing,” and simply notice what you are experiencing.” – Tara Brach

Instead of choosing resolutions, I’ve elected a word of the year. By settling on a single theme, I stay on track and excavate how one word carves out depth in my life. In 2012, I chose compassion, in 2013, gratitude and in 2014, laughter. Last year, I wrote extensively about my choice, quiet, which highlighted my need to step back, take refuge in solitude, in order to cultivate a contented life. By understanding my necessity to retreat, I paid attention to how this word took shape in my day-to-day activities.

What did I learn? I abhor large crowds of people because I don’t prefer to “network”; instead I favor the company of a small intimate group of friends who love to exchange ideas on what matters the most to them. My preferred night out is a family dinner at home followed by reading or watching a movie in the comforts of our living room. I enjoy the quiet of running early in the morning and waking up before my family to sip in the morning energy. I examined my conversations over the course of the year and I learned it is better to stay quiet and let someone else do the talking. Active listening is a rare commodity and I watched how many times I jumped into conversations, when in reality, I failed to add anything of substance. Of course, quiet, will still remain a process. I’ve not given up my addiction to technology, iPhones and computer included. I sacrifice quiet sometimes for a greater good, whether it is to support my daughter or other roles which may require stepping into a bevy full of noise. It has also brought an awareness of how irritable I become when I don’t have hours I can call mine – when my time is hijacked, it pierces my marrow.

This excavation over the last year helped revealed my word for 2016. Pause. There is so much power in those five letters. A part of me believes this word has always lingered in the background, like an extra on a movie set, waiting until I was ready to make it an omniscient narrator in my life. For the majority of my life, when circumstances or relationships go awry, I jump to the worst conclusion. I forget to pause and instead list all the potential ugly consequences which might unravel in the coming hours, days or months. I usually fail to let the events unfold and jump to conclusions and assumptions. Every single time I fall into this sticky web, I try to remember, Don Ruiz’s advice in The Four Agreements, “Don’t make assumptions.” Yet, as much as this advice speaks to me on an intellectual level, I haven’t taken the care to let it percolate or practice it in a way which will fulfill my life. But in 2016, I hope to embrace pause, giving myself permission to take a few seconds, minutes, hours, days or months, before hurling head first into a negative way of thinking.

In conjunction with this word, I’ve decided to consciously include meditation as a daily practice. I’ve talked at length about my inability to embrace stillness and my reluctance to tackle this behavior. I am starting small. Pausing requires intense awareness and patience. My plan is to meditate for at least 2 minutes a day. Maybe at the end of the year I will work my way to more minutes of pausing, but for now, it is a beginning.

I will post my musings on my word of the year throughout the upcoming months. 2016. Let the pause begin.

What is your word of the year?

The winner of my book giveaway: Dana Schwartz. Thanks everyone for the recommendations!

Image: Pause 272/365 by Dennis Skley via Flickr