Learning to pause

A couple of weeks ago I shared some excerpts from the early chapters of Do Pause by Robert Poynton. I’ve now finished the book and want to summarise my own thoughts on the topic here. At the moment, these seem to fit three key themes.

How we experience time

My sense of time slowed during the pandemic, I enjoyed the easy pace and the stillness. Recently it has sped up again. I’ve allowed it to. The scenery outside the window has started to fly by and I’m moving to try to keep up with it. But I’m left wondering whether I need to. In some areas, I’ve made conscious decisions to slow things down and I’m feeling the benefit.

The most notable is a move towards slow news. I’ve stopped getting my news via social media, TV and the web. Instead, for the past 6 months, I’ve had the Guardian Weekly delivered every Friday. I’m typically just starting to read the previous week’s edition when the next one drops onto the door mat. This means all my news is slightly delayed. I’m finding it easier to cope with the dumpster fire going on outside my door having slowed down the news cycle.

Ritual pauses

Something else we did during the lockdowns was to take stay at home vacations. We tried one more after lockdowns had ended, but it tanked. I think that was mostly because the world around us was harder to shut out. It was harder to communicate to people exactly what we were doing and why we would be out of touch for a few days.

Something Poynton references when talking about the ritual pause for the sabbath is the idea that on this day everyone knows not to bother you. This left me wondering: where in modern/secular life where do these collective pauses exist? The closest I recognise, in the UK at least, are Bank Holidays.


Poynton talks about using the seasons as a metaphor for establishing a pattern of pauses. To think about the different energies that each season brings and how they are reflected in the cadence of our own life and work. An example he gives later in the book when describing how we might practically pause is the idea of layering our time.

This is explained through Henry Rollins’ concept of inhale years and exhale years:

He alternates between what he calls ‘inhale years’ where he is absorbing new experiences and ‘exhale years’ when he is touring and working.

This is something I’ve been exploring for the past few months in how I divide my time each week between different types of activity. It includes a meeting / plan free day where I allow myself to do whatever I feel most drawn to in the moment.

These are the foundations of a new exploration for me around how we create and use pauses. I’m taking this a springboard for further research and experimentation into how and why I pause, and how I can help others to create pauses in their own life. Stay tuned folks!

Featured image by whoislimos on Unsplash

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about emma

I am a coach and facilitator helping people to pause, reflect and make conscious choices about what comes next. In my writing I explore themes of personal development, reflective practice and what it means to live well.