Hither and thither our mind takes us, and we spend our life’s precious moments in mundane, multifarious activities. A day’s routine may have for a student a mad rush for reaching the school or college in time, attending classes, doing homework, going for tuitions, playing with friends, watching the television whereas for an adult it may be either doing all household chores or going for work, commuting, attending meetings and getting back home tired and hungry!
The time to take a pause is an important rule of Mother Nature. Just ponder on it. Seasons take a pause and follow a cyclic pattern. The day pauses to give way to the dusk and night to ensue, and the night pauses for the Sun to rise with the dawn of a new day. Children too get summer, winter and autumn breaks in schools and colleges. Weekends are times for office goers to take a pause from the daily hectic schedule and immerse in chores of the home. Many animals are known to hibernate during winters and some even take a summer break called aestivation. A break from the routine, to bring newness, is the call of Nature.
The transition hours of dawn and dusk have a special significance for spiritual advancement. Meditating during these hours, when one state of being is beginning to pause giving way to another state to become, is considered to have many benefits. Unseeming though, the moments of this transition could translate as periods of higher awareness for a spiritual aspirant. Intense mental awareness, concentrating on the thought of God, during such periods could help in reaching the state of sublime stillness. The doorway to God’s presence as if opens suddenly in such blessed moments of absolute silence.
In deeper states of meditation, the breath pauses and so does the mind with calming of the restless thoughts, thus reaching higher states of awareness. The significance of Hong Sau, a technique of concentration given by Paramhansa Yogananda, is that it helps us to experience the states of breathlessness. The length of these precious moments of pause, where breath ceases to exist, begins to increase as we go deeper into the practice of this technique. These are the states of higher awareness where one’s consciousness is expansive and there comes the feeling of connectedness with the cosmos. One may experience God in any of His eight aspects (Love, Joy, Peace, Calmness, Light, Sound, Wisdom and Power). Paramhansa Yogananda said that, “Just as an apple blossom gives rise to an apple, the fruit of meditation is wisdom.” With the dawn of a deeper understanding of our inner reality, such moments when our breath briefly pauses during meditation are realized to be truly sacred!
Practice the Pause
Taking a pause in moments of upheaval and unrest helps in centering ourselves. Self reflection and taking stock of what is happening in such moments channelizes our energy for finding solutions rather than moaning on what has not been achieved. Introspection is thus needed to reflect on our actions and making remedial corrections. The moments of pause help us to focus and refocus on the eternal now, and taking our consciousness away from the distracting thoughts of past disappointments and future worries. The greatest reward is experienced when amidst a chaotic environment one is able to maintain one’s cool without reacting to the situation impulsively. Calm inner awareness is the key to arriving at balanced, unbiased decisions. As Yoganandaji said, “We must be actively calm and calmly active.”
The Dynamic Pause
Interestingly, our body cells go through a process called ‘cell cycle’ where there is a long period of seeming pause which lasts between two cell divisions. This period known as ‘interphase’ is actually divided into three phases: From one cell division to a stage when the cell again begins to replicate its genetic material that is called the first gap period — the Gl phase. This is followed by the synthesis or S-phase when the genetic material is actually replicated in preparation for the next cell division. After the S-phase comes the second gap period — the G2 phase, which lasts from the end of S-phase until the seeming ‘action’ occurs and the cell divides again. It is really wonderful that before a cell actually divides into two, there occurs a long but a dynamic pause. This signifies the periods of pause inherent in Nature that have a bearing on the moments to follow.
Let us now try to understand whether the moments of pause in our life just lack an appreciable activity or are they the times of unseen yet intense happenings when creative thoughts and novel ideas take root in one’s consciousness? Many scientists who have done ground-breaking work leading to new discoveries and inventions in science say that they were at their creative-best during rest periods after doing intense mental problem solving. Does the brain rewires itself during these silent moments? Yes, it looks to be. When this amazing organ is resting, it is actually working to form new networks of brain cells that allow new creative thoughts emerge on the mental sky. Solutions to challenging problems, even in mundane day-to- day activities, come often instantly if the mind is allowed to take breaks from tense situations, to consider the difficult task with a fresh look and greater understanding. These moments of a seeming pause are indeed the times when one is intensely calm and, consequently, more receptive to the higher realities which are then perceived almost effortlessly. That is why Yoganandaji said, “Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted. A truth cannot be created but only perceived.”
The Pause After Death
The inherent mortal limitation of having a definite lifespan makes the physical body a mere cage that houses the immortal soul within. As Yoganandaji explains in his commentaries on the Bhagwad Gita, the soul leaves its bodily cage at the time of death and departs to the astral world, where it remains till that soul enters a new physical form to continue its journey towards self awakening. A release from these endless cycles of birth and death is what all of us are seeking consciously or unconsciously, which is the blessed state of enlightenment! Finally free from all material desires, attachments and karmic bondages, the soul merges back into the consciousness of the Infinite Spirit, a blissful reunion that signifies an endless pause for a liberated soul.. unless the compassion of such a self realized Master causes an ‘Avatar’ to be born on the earthly plane for uplifting men and women struggling to seek the truth.