We are in the midst of the crazy run-up to school breaking up for summer. Our calendar is filled with summer fairs, goodbye parties, singing performances and art shows. We are seriously depleting our energy reserves before the official switch-off and – hopefully – recharge.
This flurry of engagements has made me re-contemplate the value of pausing. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a pause as “a short period in which something such as a sound or an activity is stopped before starting again”. What it doesn’t mention is what happens during that short period of time. And that is exactly what intrigues me: the space between and its well of possibilities.
In the yogic art of breathing (pranayama) the practice of kumbhaka focuses on the space between breaths. Very often it is explained as holding one’s breath between either inhale and exhale, or exhale and inhale. However, this very brief moment of breath retention is not considered an interruption but rather an essential component of the natural breath. It is our awareness of this tiny pause that serves to enhance our breath’s quality. When practising kumbhaka and exploring this in-between moment, it feels like the discovery of an empty vessel of infinite possibilities.
How on earth can an empty vessel hold that much, you may wonder? This is where I feel the need to refer to the Japanese concept of Ma or – loosely translated – the essential space between all things. I am by no means an expert in this subject, but I do understand and strongly believe in the value of such things as a pause in speech, a silence between musical notes, negative space in architecture, quiet time in our busy lives.
So when in a week’s time we stop doing what we normally do, how about we give way to the space between and revel in its abundance of promise? It may fill us with the energy we need to thrive when we start again.
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