What the World Series and Presidential Election reminded me to do.

When I left my hometown, I also left The Blue Jays and all things baseball behind. I’d been a big fan, but there was no MLB team in Vancouver and I just got busy with other things.

Almost 30 years later I found myself watching baseball again.

My in-laws all live in Chicago, and they are die-hard Cub Fans. Always have been, even when there was no good reason to be. So you can imagine their excitement when their team made it to the World Series. Each night my 85 year old mother-in-law drove to a sports bar in Skokie to cheer and laugh, drink beer and even cry with fellow fans. I call her the Cubbie Bubbie. My brother-in- law and a couple of cousins even scored seats at the games.

On the final night, my husband and I turned on the game. What I’d forgotten about baseball, one of the things that makes the game great, is The Pause. And when a World Series is on the line, the Pause becomes more, important, poetic and dramatic.

The pitcher connects with the catcher. He Pauses. He takes his time. Takes a breath, winds up and throws an impossibly fast ball. The batter swings and misses. Strike two. He steps away from the plate. He Pauses. He gives himself some time. Stepping forward, he positions himself to swing again. Tension mounts as the game is tied 6 to 6. In the 10th inning the rains pour down. The entire game Pauses for about 15 minutes.

The Cubs go on to win the World Series. After a Pause of 108 years.

In each of those pauses I would breathe, feel my own body, and become more acutely present.

It’s easy to get caught up in our thoughts, worries, emotions and stories. A Pause can bring you back to Peace.

A week after the Cubs great victory I woke to the news of Trump’s win. I was”shocked but not surprised”. I sobbed. Like I’ve never cried over politics before. I was sad and scared. I was afraid that this win would validate misogyny, bigotry, racism and elitism. I feared what would become of my husband’s immigrant students, the Supreme Court, women, the LGBT and black communities, our prison system, and environmentally sensitive areas that house endangered species and natural resources.

Then I Paused. I stopped talking about it. I got off social media. I sat quietly and took a moment by myself. As I felt my breath move in and out I could sense my body’s expression. Tight. Buzzing. Jagged. As I gave each sensation my attention, it morphed into something else. Over time my breath deepened, my body softened and expanded. I was calmer, and connected to myself again.

Nothing had changed. And everything had. I was no longer stuck in the survival panic of my reptilian brain. I was operating from a more evolved part of myself. I was no longer lost in the apocalyptic future my thoughts were building.

After the Pause I was able to love again. I felt stronger and more able to handle the change with an open heart. I could feel the need for kindness, acceptance and tolerance now more than ever. I could feel potential.

When you’re faced with great opportunity or great challenge, PAUSE.
Take a moment just to be.
To breathe.
To feel yourself in a body, that’s alive.

Remembering to Pause when you’re under great stress can be challenging. If you don’t practice Pausing regularly, you can only hope you’ll have enough awareness to override your own biology – the ancient fight-flight-freeze response of your nervous system. That’s sort of like hoping you’ll figure out how to swim once your boat capsizes in the ocean.

If you want to be able to Pause when you need it, I suggest you Pause when you don’t, just like practicing swimming before you head out to sea. You’ll be able to draw on your practice when you need it most.

This week, try Pausing several times a day. Set up reminders for yourself. Pause before every email your write, or every time you sit down, or at every red light. Just pay attention to your breath. Experience your body’s sensations, even as they change. Let your eyes look around. Then notice how your body feels.

Though it only takes a moment, the Pause has a way of slowing life down, bringing things into focus, and connecting you to yourself in a way that being busy never can.

It might be interesting to write about your experience each night, and at the end of a week look back on how it went. I’d love to hear how it goes.

Love Debra

If you know someone who’s facing a lot these days, please share this with them, so they can benefit from a Pause.

Tune for a Tuesday Afternoon #3

Elections can be such polarizing events.

I can easily get defensive of my position, sure of my rightness, and think you’re an idiot for your choice of candidates.

Or I can open my heart and be vulnerable. I can feel that under my posturing and anger, there is fear. And it gets in the way of love every time.

I mostly avoid the news, but I checked in for a few minutes of the Presidential debate Sunday night.

While I wanted to focus on differences, I couldn’t help but see similarities. Not to each other, but to me.

I wondered where all that hate had come from. Why would someone scorn people just because they look different, have other beliefs, speak a “foreign” language or are the opposite sex?

And I had to look at myself. Underneath my own disdain for the candidate there was fear. Fear that the results of this election could create more derision and division in this country. That we might widen the gap between the powerful, and the powerless and fuel more hatred and violence.

Hate’s not the opposite of love. Fear is. Hate is a secondary emotion that we often use to cover our fear. It makes us feel (artificially) stronger.

Feeling our fear makes us vulnerable. And we don’t generally like that. But vulnerability can lead to truth and intimacy.

So if I want to be truthful, I admit that this candidate is making me turn and face my own fear, and my desire to hurt. Though I’ve stopped myself, I’ve wanted to share nasty jokes about him, and dish the dirt when his name comes up. I have to remember that he’s a human with fears and insecurities that show up as posturing, armoring and bullying.

And I’m doing the very same thing in my mind when I think about him.

Realizing that gave me compassion: For the young child who perhaps didn’t have his own true nature reflected back to him in loving ways. Who maybe wasn’t taught that he’s enough, and doesn’t have to put anyone down to know his own worth.

Compassion: For myself. That I lose touch with who I really am, believe I’m separate from others and feel I have to fight to prove I’m right.

Alternate Routes, wrote this song, Nothing More, and have been using it to raise funds for the non-profit, Newton Kindness. This organization was created by the parents of six year old, Charlotte Bacon, who was shot and killed by a 20 year old who opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary, just before Christmas, 2012. Joel and JoAnn Bacon faced a parents’ worst fear, not with hatred, but with love. Their organization teaches and promotes kindness and tolerance to young children, as a way to honor their daughter’s life.

It would be easy to turn this man into a monster, and make him the enemy, but he too was a human being with great pain. There’s nothing we can do to save the victims now. But we can remember that in each of us there is potential for great love, and how we treat each other matters.

So, when I catch myself feeling disgusted by a candidate, I’m going to pray for them, for me and for all of us. Because We are how we treat each other… and Nothing more.


Love Debra