“I was talking with a friend recently who asked me a question. I paused to think for a few moments, and my friend interrupted ‘are you ok? Is something wrong?’.” Told by Jenny Fox Eades, March 2010
Jenny (Note 1), my friend, colleague and fellow traveller in Positive Psychology, has been working in Canberra and Melbourne these past three weeks. She and I had an interesting discussion about pausing, taking time, and using silence to consider what to say or do next.
Jenny is a great supporter of little drops of quiet.
Our chat had particular resonance because I have attended Jenny’s Celebrating Strengths program and experienced first hand how she works with (and more importantly how she role models) pausing, quietness, silence and mindfulness. Further, I have just returned from a fabulous retreat for executives and leaders: ‘Cultivating Leadership Presence through Mindfulness’ where the facilitators, Saki Santorelli and Janice Marturano (Note 2) helped us to learn the value of pausing and making space.
These ideas, which are not new, have also begun to be reported on in a number of positive psychology articles, books and other literature. For example,
- Tal Ben-Shahar suggests that “We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze more and more activities into less and less time. Consequently, we fail to savor, to enjoy. To become a life connoisseur, to enjoy the richness that life has to offer, we need to take our time.”
- Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté offer a range of calming techniques to help build strength, health and resilience
- Barbara Fredrickson reports on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to help build positivity
- Todd Kashdan writes about taking time to be open and curious: “The more we automatically and mindlessly categorize thoughts, feelings and other people, the more we suffer. Well-being stumbles when we go on auto-pilot.”
- Oberdan Marianetti and Jonathan Passmore argue that “only by slowing down, can one be at once more effective and more satisfied. In fact, it is the engaging in moments of inner stillness that creates opportunities to step out of this overwhelming flow, regain composure, strength and clarity of thought, to rejoin the flow and follow it harmoniously.”
Back to my conversation with Jenny, I asked her talk more about her thoughts on pausing and taking time:
“Of all the strengths, I think it is gratitude that most requires us to pause. We need to stop and think ‘this is good’. Gratitude is the first casualty of stress. If you don’t stop, you don’t have time to feel grateful. I am particularly struck by the work of David Steindl-Rast who wrote Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer and who is behind the wonderful website www.gratefulness.org. He suggests that if you pause before and after actions it decompresses time. Interestingly, I find there’s a parallel here with an Alexander Technique concept known as inhibition, that before you take an action, you inhibit, you pause, and then take an action mindfully and consciously. Alexander Technique helps us to embody pausing.
For parents and teachers, applying this with our children is the most important thing we can do: pausing, thinking before acting or speaking, asking and waiting patiently for them to respond. Children need more time; we need to create space for them. Pausing opens up that space and results in authentic communication. It shows respect and shows we know they have something worth saying and that it’s worth waiting for.
We can all find moments throughout the day to create little drops of quiet. It changes the quality of the day and it changes the quality of our relationships”.
Changing the quality of our relationships
Jenny’s final thought reminded me of a pleasing experience at the Cultivating Leadership Presence retreat. A number of us found that it was in the silence and the moments of pausing that relationships deepened and strengthened. We learnt we can connect deeply in our silence.
How can we find moments to create little drops of quiet in our days? And, perhaps even more importantly, how can we help others to have their little drops of quiet?
Jenny Fox Eades is a UK education advisor, works in schools with students and staff and runs training days and master classes in colleges and schools. She trained as a special needs teacher, has qualifications in counselling, group therapy and a Masters in Psychoanalytic Observational Studies. She is a graduate of Ben Dean’s and Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching Program and is a founder member of Positive Workplace International. Jenny was in Australia to run her Celebrating Strengths Program, a whole school and community coaching program.
Saki F. Santorelli is Executive Director, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Janice L. Marturano is Director of Leadership Education, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. She is also Vice President, Public Responsibility and Deputy General Counsel, General Mills, Inc.
Ben-Shahar, T. (2007). Happier: Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. New York: McGraw Hill.
Fox Eades, J (2008). Celebrating Strengths: Building Strengths-based Schools. CAPP Press
Santorelli, S. (2000) Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine. Three Rivers Press
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life. Three Rivers Press. Now out in paperback.
Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. New York: William Morrow.
Marianetti, O, & Passmore, J “Mindfulness at Work: Paying Attention to Enhance Well-being and Performance” (2010) in Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work edited by in Linley, P.A, Harrington, S, & Garcea. Oxford University Press
Reivich, K. & Shatte, A. (2002). The resilience factor: how changing the way you think will change your life for good. New York: Broadway Books.
Steindl-Rast, D & Nouwen, H.J.M. (1984) Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness. Paulist Press