One of the kindest gifts we can offer ourselves throughout the day is the gift of a sacred a pause. The invitation is to interrupt our habitual ways of thinking and feeling and make contact with awareness, a state that David Rome calls grounded aware presence.
The following exercise only takes a few minutes and can be done any time, any where. The fruits of this practice are immediate. As we open ourselves up to awareness — the essential quality of our being — we connect to a trustable home base and a boundless source of support, freedom, and love. Many report feelings of receptivity, well-being, ease, and trust.
Pausing in this way is similar to walking in fog. At first you don't notice you're getting wet, but after repeated pauses you're saturated. Please experiment. See what's true for you, and let me know!
Awareness Exercise: A Sacred Pause*
"The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.” ~Buddha
Begin by bringing awareness out of your head and into your body. It doesn’t matter whether you're sitting, standing, or lying down. Start by sensing your position. Are you comfortable or is something achy and tense? Can you make yourself 5% more comfortable by shifting your posture in some way? Allow yourself to take two or three deep breaths and settle. As you settle, see if you can notice that your body is being supported by the earth. Through the force of gravity, we're in constant connection to the earth. See if you can soften and let go of some of your muscular holding, trusting your weight to the earth. Yielding your tension. Perhaps you feel the rootedness in your legs as you stand, or how your sit bones are supported by your chair, or how your back is supported by the floor. See if you can really trust that the earth “has you.” If you allow it, your felt connection to earth can be a sacred holding, a supportive nurturance that’s available anytime and anywhere. Say the word grounded softly to yourself.
"Self-knowing awareness . . . is like pure space." ~Longchenpa
Next, bring your attention to your sense of hearing. Be open to the noise around you and see if you can identify five different sounds. Simply label the sounds — e.g., car traffic, clock ticking, air conditioner hum, birds singing, wind in the trees, lawn mower — without getting caught up in discursive thought. As you notice the sounds, see if you can also notice the silence that surrounds the sounds. The silence out of which sounds arise. Sense the silent space around your body, and extend this sense out into the vast space that has no boundaries. You're making contact with silent, open, vast limitless awareness. There is freedom in our connection to this vastness. Say the word aware softly to yourself.
"There is a place in the heart where everything meets.
Go there if you want to find me.
Mind, senses, soul, eternity, all are there.
Are you there?
Enter the bowl of vastness that is the heart.
Give yourself to it with total abandon . . .
Once you know the way
the nature of attention will call you
to return, again and again,
and be saturated with knowing,
I belong here, I am at home here.”
~Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche
Next, bring your attention into the center of your chest. Place your hand on your heart and feel yourself connecting to yourself. Feel your heartbeat. The heart is a sacred place in many traditions — the confluence of mind and body, sky and ground, spirit and form. The source of love. You are simply here, experiencing your basic existence. You are vitally alive in this moment. Say the word present softly to yourself.
Grounded aware presence:
Finally, let your attention encompass your whole body and say the phrase grounded aware presence softly to yourself. Feel your connection to yourself and your surrounding environment and enjoy the fruits of this pause. When you're finished, sense the possibility of bringing this awake awareness to whatever you're doing next.
*Adapted from David Rome's book Your body knows the answer.