4 Ways to Pause and Not React

As we move into 2024, an election year here in the United States, I am starting to see a common topic emerging in the media. From yoga instructors, meditation apps, Buddhist monks, educators, and ministers, I am hearing their calls to take a moment to pause and not react.

For most of my life, I have taken a side stage to politics. The tension of people “just not getting along” can make my stomach start to tighten with stress. As a business owner, I have been fired by a freelance writer because I wouldn’t disclose who I voted for. I’ve been uninvited to friends’ homes because I didn’t have the right political sign in my yard, and I’ve lost lifelong friends because I said, “I’m not sure I agree with that.” I would suspect many of you to have either experienced this or feared it.

Emotional stress is hard for all of us, but I have to lobby for it being even more challenging for some personalities than others. As an artist, we express our inner world through our hearts. If we are being reactive instead of responsive, it can make it difficult for us to use our creative skills.

What makes it so difficult for us to pause and not react? Chris Anderson writes on Tim Ferriss’s Blog:

“The Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh taught that attention is the most precious gift we can give someone. Certainly, all generosity starts right there—a willingness to stop focusing on ourselves and pay attention to someone else and their needs. From that act of connection, anything can happen.”

I think that Thich That Hahn is calling us to pause and really pay attention to the other side of any given topic. If we allow ourselves to pause and really pay attention, it frees us up to ask questions and search for solutions, versus contributing to the negativity and conflict.

We, as artists, need to get into the political ring and join the conversations. Our perspective and opinions matter. We have the gift of creativity, which is about problem-solving. If we react, we burn through our body’s creative energy, making it hard to connect and work together on solutions.

Here are a couple of communities that I suggest looking into to build healthy habits to create a practice of pausing and not reacting:

1. Author and Yoga Instructor: Lynn Roulo

In a weekly newsletter from Lynn Roulo, a Kundalini yoga instructor living in Greece, she suggests the practice of emotional regulation.

“Emotional regulation is the ability to effectively exert control over your emotions. It does not mean suppressing or avoiding your emotions, but it does mean managing them. Emotional regulation is a key component of emotional intelligence and has a huge impact on your success in life—both personally and professionally. The good news is there are lots of tools and approaches for effective emotional regulation.”

Lynn teaches her students about various breath practices that can strengthen and regulate your emotional state. She has many free videos, including this quick video: “One Minute Breath” on her website.

2. Podcast: 10% Happier with Dan Harris

Pema Chödrön, Renowned Buddhist Nun, explains to Dan Harris on his 10% Happier Podcast about the bodhisattva vows, a formal commitment to free others from suffering. This practice of being non-reactive to the suffering of others helps the Buddhist to heal their own suffering.

In Pema’s interview, she talks about the difficulty of taking this vow. She walks us through the many triggers of our own suffering, which is a necessary step on the path to enlightenment.

3. Author & Podcast Hosts: Beatrice Chestnut and Uranio Paes

Beatrice and Uranio have a bi-monthly podcast, Enneagram 2.0, that talks about the ego (or personality). In episode #17, they talk in-depth about the importance of managing your reactivity. Uranio clearly states: “Just don’t do it. Period.

When I heard Uranio say this, I took it to heart. I made a vow to pause and really reflect. Instead of fighting or debating my daughter or husband, I was able to calmly respond. Taking pause and stepping away from the emotional conflict has really allowed me to get to the root of why I was being triggered in the first place. If I’m reacting, I am just repeating the same old patterns, and I don’t go deeper into questioning what is really going on and addressing what I need to heal. (Sorry, Brett, I know I’m not perfect at this, but I sure am trying!)

4. Director of Center for Action and Contemplation: Brian D. McLaren

In the Daily Meditations newsletter, from the Center for Action and Contemplation, Brian McLaren states:

“We have to prepare ourselves to live good lives of defiant joy even in the midst of chaos and suffering. This can be done. It has been done by billions of our ancestors and neighbors. Their legacy teaches us to see each intensifying episode of turbulence as a labor pain from which a new creative opportunity can be born. Life will be tough; the only question is whether we will become tougher, wiser, and more resilient.… The communities that learn and teach … spiritual resilience will become vital resources for everyone.”

I’m hopeful that this pending election cycle will be different. The question is, will we do the work necessary to be part of the solution? Or will we continue with our existing habits and repeat reactive election cycles of the past?

For me, I’ve taken a vow to pause and not react. Are you with me?

All my love,

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6 thoughts on “4 Ways to Pause and Not React

  1. Olive Parker says:

    Thank you for your post Becky. I am ready to make this election year less stressful and heal relationships that have suffered due to differences of opinion. Thanks for the suggestions and links to follow on this topic.

  2. Barb Solem says:

    Hi Becky! I loved your article; it made me realize we all need to stop and pause before reacting. If we all practice and Institute this response to things that personally trigger us, imagine how calm and peace-filled the world would be surrounding us. Personal reminder to me because of your article: pause and give time to analyze and think through a non-emotional and rational response. Thanks for the reminder this is a successful strategy.

    • beckynunn says:

      Thanks so much Barb!!! I keep repeating over and over again to myself “I will not react, period”. This has stopped me in my tracks again and again, but shoot, it is hard!

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