Seven Sacred Pauses

The older I get, the better I understand myself. I'm learning that I thrive when I can be disciplined, or when I am pursuing a clear goal. Running marathons is absolute torture, but I love the training aspect. I thrive on having a clearly set training schedule telling me when to run, how to run, and what I should eat throughout the week. During the training seasons, I've never missed a long training run because if the calendar says I have to do it, then by damn, I'm going to do it. This sense of discipline doesn't carry over to all aspects of my life, unfortunately (like eating...I love me some candy and donuts). As an INFJ, however, I'm a natural doer. I like to be working towards a cause or self-betterment. If I'm not, I tend to be unfulfilled and a serious drag to be around.

In this past year, I've discovered that I am susceptible to anxiety--not the kind that a person generally feels when under stress. The kind that is only treated through counseling and medication. I've held off with medication for a variety of reasons and have opted, instead, to listen to my counselor and do a better job of understanding myself and my triggers. I've done a lot of self-examination in the last seven months. To address some of my triggers and as an attempt to have a more disciplined prayer life, this month I'm trying to incorporate seven pauses throughout my day. 

I learned of this in reading Jen Hatmaker's book, Seven. She, too, devoted herself to practicing the act of prayer seven times a day using Macrina Wiederkehr's book, Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day. 

I read this book during my month without social media and decided to implement it throughout the month of September. In the introduction of the book, Wiederkehr writes, "Seven Sacred Pauses is a book of reflections based on the themes of the hours that monastics have remained faithful to through the ages. It is meant to be a guide for those who would like to move through their day with greater mindfulness" (2). The book is broken into seven sections; each section identifies themes for the time of day, an explanation of those themes, and prayers/scripture readings/antiphons/poems/etc that can be used during a pause for that time frame. 

I've done some personalizing of this to make it all fit within my work schedule, but basically I pause seven times a day to pray, read scripture, and reflect. Depending on the time of day and what my work/parenting schedule looks like, sometimes I only pause for five minutes. Other times of the day, I spend 15-20 minutes in prayerful meditation. Here's my schedule: 

The night watch: 12 AM (yes...midnight)
The awakening: 5:15 AM
The blessing hour: 8:30 AM
The hour of illumination: 12 PM (or whenever I get to sneak away for lunch)
The wisdom hour: 4 PM
The twilight hour: 7:30 PM
The great silence: 9/10 PM (whenever I go to bed)

Obviously, some of these hours are more difficult than others. Midnight and 5:15 AM are the hardest for me just because I love sleeping. Noon tends to be my busiest time of day working with students, so this time is often done during a quick trip to the bathroom or while eating my lunch. While I thought maintaining this habit of pausing would be more difficult during the work week, it's actually been harder during the weekend because I have no set schedule and because I'm often tied up with the kids. I've found that setting alarms on my phone helps hold me accountable, and honestly it's not going to be a bad thing for my kids to have to be self-sufficient for 15 minutes so mama can pray.

After a week of pausing seven times a day (give or take a few days where I missed a time or two), I'm finding that it's a worthwhile practice that definitely takes discipline. There have already been a few times where I didn't want to be pulled away from the TV, from cooking, from playing with my kids, but when I've allowed myself to step away, I've come back to my activity with a new sense of purpose and focus. And this is exactly why I'm doing the pauses: To be in a better habit of mindfulness so I'm not swept away by the crazy of a day. As an added benefit, the very thing that is keeping me grounded is prayer, which helps me to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:17. If you're interested in doing these pauses and want an accountability partner, hit me up. 

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