Pausing Together

“What does your life at this moment ask of you …
To act justly, to love mercy and to walk carefully, in league with all beings.”

On Sunday, October 25th, Valley Insight participated in the United Valley Interfaith Project’s Micah Hero Award Ceremony. Karen Summer presented me, Doreen Schweizer, as our first such honoree. Karen’s introduction was very kind and very short. She said, “One of the important things Doreen has taught our community is to pause.”

I then led the 150 gathered attendees in a few minutes of silence, after which I encouraged their reflecting for a moment on how each of us are heroes in our own lives––in large and in small ways. Every one of us is called upon in every day of our lives to be present with what we don’t like and, sometimes, what we cannot bear. Many times we have to let go of people, places, and projects we love. Our lives and the lives of those we share the world with are challenged in all sorts of ways. In all these situations, we encounter our own reactivity over and over; yet in the midst of the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows that are part of any human life, most often we find a way to act wisely and kindly towards ourselves and others. In fact, that is our deepest intention. Not only those of us on the stage receiving awards are heroes.

I spoke of VIMS as having a nontheistic approach to life, one in which ethics are not based on the word of a god, but instead, on our direct experience of life as humans. I explained that, in order to understand and fully accept this award, I needed first to translate the words of the Old Testament verse on which it is based into the phrases in quotes at the beginning of this article. I placed an ellipsis, instead of the question mark, after the first verse to indicate the call for a pause. Always, it is important to take a moment to contemplate, if only briefly, what is actually happening now, to assess the situation externally and internally both. The second sentence is an aspiration, a guide for the action that will ensue.

The pause is at the heart of our Dhamma practice. A daily meditation helps establish an inner quiet as a habit in our lives. The practice of randomly pausing for thirty seconds ten times a day is another way to cultivate a peaceful presence that can serve us well and more spontaneously in the midst of the busyness of life. There is a great deal of anxiety in the world today as the local, regional, national, and international terrorist attacks continue. Taking a moment to put your hand on your heart and settle into a warm and gentle awareness of the body, the breath, the sounds, and the people of this moment is essential to the sanity of the world.

Here in the Upper Valley, as the sun ebbs and the winter solstice approaches, I encourage us all to take more time for pausing and noticing the way things are right now, reflecting: “Oh, this is interesting; I wonder what will happen next; what might I do to ease the pain.”

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