A New Year’s pause

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

January for many is a time of reflection and goal-setting for the new-year. For me, though, after the frenetic pace of the holidays, I just want to let go of any thinking about what I need to do and press my “pause” button whenever I want. Granted, I’ll create my 2014 goals, but right now my goal is to consciously return to the practice of pausing several times a day—something I learned when I dropped diets and took up eating mindfully.        

What is the pause button? Of course it’s not the button on your TV remote or other electronic devices. Instead I’m suggesting the pause button on your thinking. Have you ever tried to stop thinking? Try it. I guarantee you’ll find it impossible. So if it’s impossible to stop thinking, then what is this “pause-thinking-button” all about?

A “pause-thinking-button” is really a metaphor for paying attention on purpose to the moment you are in “right now” and without judgment. When you press the button, you are intentionally changing the “channel” in your mind from either the past or the future to the here and now—or as mindfulness meditators call it “the present moment.” 

You’ll discover your mind tends to drift away from the present moment, but this tendency is really your teacher and is something to watch for. When you notice the mental drift, again press your “pause-thinking-button.” I find it helps to think of your mental drift as a soft, frisky puppy that you gently guide back to your “right now” moment.   

There are many ways to entertain that puppy to help it stay present with you, but you will need a focus point or mental anchor. Simply sitting still and noticing your breath as it goes in and out or mentally saying “in” and “out” in tandem with your breaths is helpful. Listening to the sounds in the environment where you are sitting and observing your surroundings as you take a short walk are other focus points. Paying attention to the flavors of food and how your body feels as you eat is an incredibly powerful anchor that reduces overeating.      

I find that several short pauses throughout my day to appreciate the “right now” moment refreshes my mind and grounds my soul. It only takes a few short practice periods to experience the benefits. How about you right now begin your New Year’s pause and be ready for those times when you will need it later?     

Call 419-494-7699 or email mindfuleatingcoach@gmail.comfor information about the next winter workshop, Beginning the Journey, starting January 16,and ask about other mindful eating training programs.