The pause that refreshes

So I’m playing this game called Whole Life Challenge. I don’t think the founders think of it as a light-hearted pursuit the way I do, but frankly I’ve been using it as a handy frame for behaviors I was already pursuing without being concerned about lapses. Stretching every day is a new behavior for me, and a timely one, but since it’s for ten minutes I can (and do) choose to slip it in even when I completely forget. Foregoing bread and pasta I find silly, but for the most part I comply. I am moving through this challenge like a rockstar; everything fits easily in my stride.

And then there’s this week’s “lifestyle challenge”: mindful transitions. Hoo boy!

I’ve dabbled in this before. Several of the people whose writing I follow most closely point to this as a counterbalance to the undifferentiated stream of contemporary life. Said that way, my new reach toward Sabbath practice is a mindful transition written across an entire day. An entire day! Who can do that? Well, me, potentially.

What I have not before been able to manage is to pause my attention within any one day.

Interesting, huh? The large, dramatic gesture, with planning, and boundary walls, and pronouncements: that I know I can do.

The subtle, 30 seconds here, 1 minute there breath between? Oh my Lord, preserve me. 

I would have to notice that I’d changed my attention. Heck, I don’t even finish saying a sentence before my mind has moved to its Next Thing–it’s why I’m known for fading out at the end of sentences, or even stopping cold, having not left enough momentum and buffered memory to finish the thought.

More contradiction: I believe in doing the thing that I’m doing until it’s done. I learned the discipline from my mother as she tried to teach me how to manage my own overwhelm–when I start a certain volume of things, and all their ends are left in mid-air, their attentional residue consumes me so thoroughly that I’m left like a PC without enough RAM, fruitlessly swapping from one task to another, unable to complete any. The discipline of ‘one thing at a time’ has the potential to lend a toehold for mindful transition, wouldn’t you think?

But then there’s that habit of mentally leaving as soon as the task can be pursued ‘on its own,’ mind reaching for the Next Thing while the hands are washing dishes, or after the target and topic of the email are set. The rest of me may be only doing one thing…but the rest of me is not the mindful part.

Taking Sabbath is easier than rewiring a childhood habit. Hoo, boy indeed. It’s going to be an interesting week.

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