The Pause Obstacles



Welcome to part 6 in this series on letting go. (if you’re new, go to part 1 or if you missed getting out of the thread wheel go to part 5) In the past two articles, I did write on letting go, and although I recommend you read them if you want to learn more about the process of letting go, I did not include them in the series for the simple reason that they didn’t fit the format. Today, we’re going to continue the Mind Agility Course. And have a got a great subject for you, training your mind to pause on purpose. Such a powerful concept. So excited.

In dog agility, pause obstacles are marked off areas where the dog must pause, by either sitting or lying down for a designated period of time, usually about 5 seconds. Imagine a dog running full speed through the various obstacles and then when it arrives at the table, instead of crossing it one way or the other, as it does with all the other obstacles, it has to stop. You would think that it is a difficult exercise, however it is not, for the dog it is like any other exercise. Like our mind, the dog’s mind works with cues. The new cue is a marked off area, like a table or a box, which means stop. In these exercises, we’re training to stop the mind on purpose, even when it is going full speed.

Our minds are used to running around, simply because we have let them for so long. No more. If we want to get to the finish smoothly and quickly, we must teach our mind to follow the cues. In this exercise, we will train our mind to stop when it sees marked off areas designed for stopping. The reason we want our mind to stop is so it won’t keep running as it usually would. By stopping, we interrupt the normal flow of things. And in that moment, awareness is born.

What do I mean when I say, ‘awareness is born’? To be aware means that you have knowledge, that you are conscious, sensible, awake and alert. When you interrupt the flow of your thoughts, there is space for awareness to arise. It is a space in which we are conscious of what is happening, perceptive of underlying patterns, awake to new possibilities and alert to danger. In that space we go from being reactive to being response-able. In that space we are able to create responses that are aligned with the vision we have for ourselves. And we can let go of old patterns, as well as blame, self-victimization, taking anything personally.

When the dog gets on the pause obstacle, it stops and waits until it is allowed to continue. We’re going to create our own pause obstacle. Our brains are ingenious scanning and sorting devices. Give them a search command and they will find it. Stop reading for a moment and look around you. <stop reading> <look around> <start reading again> What did you see?

Now give your mind the command to search for all red items and look around you again. What did you see now? If you are like the rest of us, this time all the red items in the room were highlighted, standing out from the rest. It’s the same when you decide to buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice the car you intend to buy everywhere. This part of our brain is called the recticular activating system, or RAS. It is a group of cells that sort through the massive amounts of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis and bring to our attention anything that is related to what we are focused upon, consciously or unconsciously. We’re going to use this mechanism to our advantage. We’re going to train our minds to recognize certain patterns and stop when we come across them.

In the next parts, I’ll be discussing the three patterns we’re going to look out for: overexpectation, overgeneralization and overreaction. These are immature reactional patterns, think kindergarten. The cool thing about being a mom is that I get to see  reactional patterns as part of evolution in the form of a beautiful daughter. She is six now. Recently I have discussed the pause box with her, for the first time. She got it. Six, people, she’s six. I don’t know how old you are, but I can tell you these patterns are long overdue. It is time to get over them. In part 7, we’ll start with how to let go of overexpectation.


photo by Bruce Brouwer

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