This week saw the country take a collective pause to honour the work and life of Jack Layton. I watched the Parliament Hill ceremony and began thinking about how important and rare these times are, when silent reflection unites us with each other and with ourselves. Pausing is important. It tells us that there’s something important about this moment – that something worth paying attention to has just happened or is about to happen. As a musician, I liken these moments to a symphony concert, when the conductor raises arms and baton, the musicians settle into place in united concentration on the join task in front of them. Or the end of the symphony, when the music stops, but the conductor holds the silence while both musicians and audience are momentarily suspended in time. Something important just happened – we’re not exactly the same as we were, now that we’ve been here, seen and heard what we’ve just seen and heard.
How often do we in our regular lives take time to pause and really experience our lives? Every day we’re experiencing priceless moments, losses, celebrations, mundane events that are essentially profound moments of just being human. So many of these get away from us and just fade into the ordinary of our routine.
In Christianity, our collective pauses centre around the Eucharist, in the sharing of bread and wine that symbolizes our unity in Christ. Jesus’ own life recounted in Scripture followed a pattern of action and retreat, times of pause for solitude and prayer interwoven with action and engagement with the real messiness of his world. Other faith traditions have equally important rituals and examples of sacred pauses that unite them.
One of my recent learnings has come from the current research into neuroscience and well-being. I’ve started encouraging clients to be aware of “Remember this” moments; moments where they recognize and take a figurative snapshot of a sacred moment in their day.
These times of pause make life more real, and they permit us to truly feel the gratitude and the sorrow of our everyday lives. When these moments are shared, they enrich our communal experience and bind us together as a community, a country, and a society.