I’m bad at pausing. I know how to push those parallel lines, and have no problem doing so when I’m too tired or stressed or sick of working, but I break down once I’m there.
Having come through one summer semester of nursing school, I find myself more stressed by my pause, or rest, than by my work at school.
I want my pausing to be meaningful. I want to feel something big in it. Maybe I want the accomplishment I feel after finishing a project or taking a test, or maybe I just want to feel warm and fuzzy inside. Probably I want to feel accomplished in my warmth and fuzziness.
Mostly I just end up laying on my bed too exhausted to think about anything else, knowing that I should probably rise up to do something restful like read a leisure book or watch a movie or bake some cookies. But that’s too much work, and it stresses me out.
So what did I do?
I pulled out a beautiful old book rarely handled due to the risk it might fall apart between my fingers. Its title is “Origins: The Encyclopedia of Words” and on a brittle yellow page that smells like the libraries of my childhood it told me all about the origins of the word “pause”. Coming from both Latin (“to break”) and Greek (“to cause to stop” or “to cease”), its roots took a turn in late Latin to give us words like ponere (“to put or place”) and poser (“to rest”), eventually leading us through Old English and French to the derivative “pose”.
And then the etymological dictionary gave me this sentence:
The [compounds] of ‘to pose’ can very easily cause a quite spectacular confusion: the simplest, most logical treatment is to deal with all of them…
Yes! I am quite spectacularly confused. How do I pause? Certainly not by laying on my back staring at the ceiling fan. But let’s consider the compounds of “to pose,” words like position and posture and compose.
When a dancer pauses, it is not to flop on the floor in fatigue and apathy. Rather it is intentional, beautifully composed and an integral part of the dance. A dancer does not just pause, he poses.
And at the core of any dance lesson is a series of positions that gives us the basis for the rest of the dance. A ballet dancer must know and understand first position before attempting any other movement or step. Positions give the dancer a place from whence to start, and a place to go. They are a kind of pause.
Yoga also knows how to pose. “You should do the asanas with vigor,” B.K.S. Iyengar tells us, “and at the same time be relaxed and composed.” Sounds like dance.
With further exploration this semester, I hope that pausing will not present such spectacular confusion in my life. Two things I know so far: pausing is a learned skill. It takes dedication and work, though of a different kind. And secondly, it is essential to life, inciting us to live spectacularly in one moment while establishing the footing for us to advance.
When the asana is correct there is a lightness, a freedom. Freedom comes when every part of the body is active. Let us be free in whatever posture we are doing. Let us be full in whatever we do. -B.K.S. Iyengar
How do you pause?
Quotes from Origins: A short etymological dictionary of modern English by Eric Partridge. New York: Macmillan, 1958. And Yoga: The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira and Shyam Mehta. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.