the power of The Pause

I just got back celebrating my birthday with some serious outdoor time in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and then the east side of the Sierra Nevada in California (my absolute favorite place in the world). Can you say Endless Seas of Granite? My idea of HEAVEN <3

I meditated daily during this break, and I tell you – when I got back, I was a hell of a lot more patient with the world. Way more than I would have been had I just been hiking but not meditating.

Those of you who’ve worked with me know I incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my coaching programs.

Why is it that on top of encouraging my clients to have daily (and epic) adventures and to live unconventional + unapologetically authentic lives would I incorporate something as seemingly…”boring” as meditation?

The Power of the Pause.

Here’s the deal: once you start doing the hard work and pushing yourself to grow and evolve and shed the bullshit so you can be the most authentic version of you, you start to pay attention to how you think and how you feel.

On this path, we need to get curious about our thoughts and feelings because it is precisely these thoughts and feelings that get in the way of our evolution, of making the best choices for ourselves and taking a new path instead of the old ones that keep taking us down the same boring lane we are so sick of.

The hard truth is that most of us will find that many of our thoughts are about how inadequate or undeserving we are. We find that our feelings are often…shitty ones. Boredom. Anxiety. Loneliness. Anxiety. Anger. Anxiety. (can you tell which one I most struggle with?)

So why would we want to do something like meditate and intentionally spend time noticing and experiencing those thoughts and emotions? Why would we ever want to do something that felt so…uncomfortable?

Becoming aware of these negative thoughts and feelings is not optional if you want to evolve. It is a necessity.

We may feel we don’t have any control over our thoughts and feelings. However, once we recognize them, we DO have more control over how we respond to them.

At first there is just a millisecond between a thought and feeling before we take an action. Often, we aren’t even aware of the thought or feeling we have before we react…which is why our actions are often inappropriate or not in our best interests.

When someone is rude to us, we think “what a jerk!” and we might yell or just be pissed for the rest of the morning. If only we knew they just found out the love of their life was leaving them for another person. If we chose to have a different thought about them instead – one that gave them the benefit of the doubt – we’d respond differently. We’d also feel differently about the situation.

So how do we lengthen that pause?

Mindfulness. And Meditation.

These are the ONLY things I have found that help me stretch the time between a shitty thought or feeling, and the way I respond.

The more I meditate, the more I notice, “Interesting. I wonder why I am choosing to interpret things this way?” and I remember that my response is based on how I am thinking about the situation, rather that what is actually going on.

Eventually, after practicing meditation regularly (even for only 10 minutes a day), we can add a few more milliseconds between our thoughts and feelings and our actions.

That can make all the difference.

We can make better choices about how we want to think about the situation, or at the very least, choose a healthier response. One that makes us proud about how we showed up in the world.

Let’s face it: the world needs more people who care about how they show up.

We really only just need a smidge of time between our thoughts and what we do. Enough time to have a Pause. Enough time to make a better choice.

Sometimes (or often) my insight comes after the event. I still give myself credit for that, because hey, life is hard enough. But the more I practice, the better I get.

The times I let my practice slide, the less compassionate I am in the world. I just don’t have as much ability to see the other person’s perspective, or the bigger picture of a hard situation I am in. No bueno.

If meditation isn’t your thing, start with just trying to be more mindful. Savor that mango. That glass of wine. That sunset.

Take pauses throughout the day and try to notice things with every sense available to your body – the weight of your body being pulled by the earth, the texture of the ground you are on or the clothes you are wearing, the sounds around you, don’t just see the tree but also see the individual leaves and their textures and how they move in the wind; take in the scent of the air (or your b.o. if you were stuck in a tent during a thunderstorm like I was ;).

Just noticing LIFE more will help you notice your mind more.

Pick something right now that you are going to notice every single detail about – even if only for 5 seconds. Your breath passing in and out of your nose? A kiss? Cuddling with your furry friend? It’s not too hard to start.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

Pain is Inevitable. Suffering is Optional. Here is How to Unlock Your Freedom


“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Haruki Murakami

“Freedom” is a word we often toss around a lot these days: “I want more Freedom,” “Create More Freedom In Your Life!” yada yada. But freedom implies freedom from something. What do you seek freedom from? Financial burdens? Controlling or unfulfilling relationships? Clutter? Incapacitating negative self-talk? An oppressive boss?

My guess is that ultimately, you are seeking freedom from some sort of suffering. But here’s the thing: while many people want to be free from the things that cause suffering in their lives, very few people want to actually change.

This be a wee bit of a problem, sistah.

You see, if we don’t do things differently, we can’t expect things to change. And in order to become free of suffering, we need things to change.

One of the most skillful tools I have found for helping to move away from suffering and towards happiness is to drive the blame of all your suffering into one cause – the root cause being inside of you. Not YOU yourself – no, that’s what we tend to do when self-blame is more comfortable than doing the hard work of getting to the root. What I mean by the root cause being inside of you is that it is your default mode that causes suffering. And the cool thing is, that is changeable.

Pema Chodron explained this in a really accessible way when she said that the triggers of our suffering are different from the causes. Often we think that the triggers of our suffering – like traffic, or friends being late, or someone giving us some negative feedback – are the true causes. We feel that if they didn’t happen, we would be happy.

Well, perhaps that is true – except for the fact that shit does happen (that’s why there’s so many bumper stickers with that on it) and we might as well learn to deal with it instead of running from it. Haven’t you noticed that running from it is just as exhausting anyway?

In any event, the guy that stands you up, or the boss that skipped the Zen of Leadership course…they are triggers of a deeper, natural default mode you have.

It is also true that this default is unique to you. Do you notice how some people are bothered by something and another person could care less? Like me, I don’t generally mind when my man goes out skiing for the weekend with the boys and I have no idea when he’ll be back. Unless I am ovulating and we are supposed to do the deed. But that level of unknowing and lack of proximity for days on end would drive some of my friends absolutely batshit crazy! Yet they tolerate their boyfriends being consistently late or not returning their calls and that, my friends, is a no-can-do in my book.

The question is, “What does the trigger bring up in you?” Is it a sense of loneliness? Of not being loved? Of being disrespected? Or a sense of anger or fear?

Each time we strengthen that natural propensity/default and get engaged by it, or start feeling bad about yourself, we enforce it. We dig the groove in our brain deeper that tells it this is the path we want to take whenever we encounter that trigger.

What would benefit us more is to skip over the story of the trigger and drive all the attention and focus (aka “blame”) into our default mode. By doing this, you’ll feel more motivated to work with it because you’ll start to associate the correct cause – your default mode – with suffering. It’s not the trigger, it’s the default. And try as we might to control the triggers, we will fail. But we can control our default mode.

How can we start to do this?

First we must let go of the story behind the triggers. Often it isn’t the negative feedback per se that leads to suffering, but rather that story that follows. For example, if your colleague says, “Hey Jane, I thought the chart you showed us was really confusing. Maybe next time use bullet points,” you can start to spiral into a line of thinking such as: “Man, they are about to discover what an idiot I really am. I knew I shouldn’t be in this position. I am not smart enough. That person was such a bitch for saying that to me. I’m going to try to avoid them (or look for flaws in their next presentation).” Let the suffering begin.

Alternately, you can think, “Ick. That felt shitty. I wonder what’s going on inside of me to take that so personally. I better not respond yet. I’ll sit on it and see if I think it’s valid feedback or not. If it is, I’ll change my presentation. If not, I’ll let it go.”

The challenge is that it takes time to create the space between the emotion that gets triggered and the creative response. An uncontrolled emotional reaction is quick and effortless because it is our default. If it weren’t so damaging to us most of the time, it would be awesome! However, in order to do things differently – and thus create change and therefore move us away from suffering and towards happiness – we need to create space between the trigger and our response.

How do we create that space?

Sorry if you’re not fond of it, but meditation is essential in letting the storyline go. The thing is, you don’t have to do the sitting-on-a-cushion type of meditation. You can do walking meditation, or running meditation, or hiking through the park meditation for that matter. Whatever you choose, just make sure it is conducive to calming your thoughts.

When you meditate and focus on your breath or another point of concentration, you will have thoughts pop up. When this happens, you train in a technique to notice your thinking and label the thoughts as thoughts. That’s it. Simply label them as thoughts. You label the thought then go back to the breath/object of your meditation.

Essentially, by doing this, you train in letting thoughts go. And as a result, you train in letting the story go. When you see a thought as a thought, you let go of the story that follows when you would have mistaken it for a bona fide truth in the past (instead of merely a thought).

The storyline of a thought is like pouring kerosine on fire. In the quote from Haruki Murakami, he says, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” It’s OK to feel pain! Pain is a part of life, a part of loving and of being in a body that gets sick or injured and grows old. The problem is that we pour kerosine over the fire and turn the pain into this disproportionate, long-lasting suffering.

It is better to keep the hurt as an ember – not a bonfire of suffering! Discover where it is that your pain turns into rage or self-deprication or self-blame. That’s where you defaults lie.

Then, now that you’ve targeted the root cause, start to send unconditional love to that place rather than blaming them. Don’t be harsh with yourself or try to repress your feelings. Be present, allow the pain to be there, and send it unconditional love. Send loving kindness to this default you have that’s ultimately fear-based. These defaults are indeed afraid and based on fear of danger, so the way to work with them is to help them relax by sending unconditional love. Try this Tong Len Meditation audio to start.

As we get better at seeing the true causes of our suffering, and the difference between the triggers and our pre-existing defaults, we can start to appreciate our triggers as a chance to grow. As long as we have the defaults, the triggers will affect us. Since we can’t get rid of the triggers, we can work with sending loving compassion to our fear-based default modes.

This path is not for the faint of heart, but it IS a path to take when ultimate freedom is your goal. Share some of your triggers below, and let’s start addressing our suffering at the root cause – the fear that those triggers bring up. This is a life lesson, and process that gets easier and easier the more you practice.