In addition to filters, pauses and cycles are two other concepts that bubble up for me when I start digging my wells. The notion of a pause within a recurring cycle appears repeatedly across cultural, philosophical and faith traditions. We are guided to pause and reflect for a few minutes every day, for a day every week, for a week in a season and for a month in a year; and the smaller pauses seem to nest into the larger ones, creating a throughline of intention and focus.
- Daily: The value of daily meditation or prayer appears across traditions and is present even in non-religious practices like Stoicism where we’re guided to bookend our days with morning and evening journaling and reflection.
- Weekly: The concept of resting fully, reflecting and disconnecting from work at least one day a week appears across all faiths and is made familiar to many of us in western culture through the portrayals of Jewish Sabbath.
- Seasonally: Most societies have seasonal celebrations that remind us that there a time to plant, a time to nurture, a time to reap and a time to rest. The Indian calendar is peppered with festivals that remind us to tune into and work with the changing seasons.
- Annually: And finally, Ramadan and Lent are the more prominent examples of the annual pauses we take.
Even if we bypass the faith-based traditions momentarily, there is increasing evidence that working with our circadian rhythms to create cycles of activity and rest is more efficient than trying to brute-force productivity. Ayurveda, one the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, offers in-depth guidance for the 24-hour circadian cycle and seasonal living (called Dinacharya and Ritucharya respectively) as cornerstones of preventive health care.
Our life is a hugely psychological and solitary journey where we manage powerful desires, dislikes, judgments and stories on a daily basis. Technically, we are also animals and have instincts that ask for speedy reactions to every event in our lives. But what seems to differentiate us from other animals is the awareness of our awareness. Recurring pauses in our schedules reduce our reactionary tendencies and train us to live in that meta-awareness so we are more thoughtful as we go about living our lives and digging our wells.
Pauses help us regenerate, refocus, and recommit to what’s here with enthusiasm and energy. Over the longer term, pauses, solitude and temporary retreats can also help us become more uniquely us by becoming less comparative, less competitive, and less fearful.
“Human beings left to their own devices—a very rare event—seem to work according to the quality of a given season and learn similarly in cycles. Good work and good education are achieved by visitation and then absence, appearance, and disappearance. Most people who exhibit a mastery in a work or a subject have often left it completely for a long period in their lives only to return for another look. Constant busyness has no absence in it, no openness to the arrival of any new season, no birdsong at the start of its day. Constant learning is counterproductive and makes both ourselves and the subject stale and uninteresting.” ― David Whyte, Poet