What’s In A Pause? Transformation Potential: Evolving What You Profess – In The Moment. Ian Wight, Associate Professor, City Planning, University Of Manitoba

[Education – New ways of learning]

Can you pause – for a moment – that could be potentially transformative? A stop that is actually a movement, in the direction of new possibilities, for some growth, some development – of your consciousness, your self-awareness. A cessation of your conventional default auto-pilot mode… that is actually a creative act, triggering a change in trajectory, a novel perspective. Are you ‘up’ for intentionally harnessing the power of pause, for exploring what might be generated, by giving pause a chance, to fundamentally change you?


For over a decade now my formal professional practice has been complemented and enriched by participation in a ‘community of practice’ – more informal, but highly informative – if not occasionally transformative. We hold ‘inquiries’ that interest us as a group; a current inquiry has been around ‘the power of pause’. It has given me pause – to reflect on its professional development potential. And – as usual – the inquiry has been highly generative, a testament to the value of the dialogue that can be achieved in a community of practice that affords a unique combination of amenity, intimacy and curiosity.


Invariably, the inquiries – which often have feel of pregnant pauses in my normal professional life – transport me into new realms of experience, which take the form of what I have come to call ‘in-sightings’. These often manifest in, literally, new terms – that attempt to capture the essence of the insights. A recent inquiry has me wondering about the possibility of pause as the root of a phenomenon on a par with causation; pause as linked to pausation (in the same way that cause is linked to causation).


So much of what professionals profess nowadays is based on an appreciation of ‘cause-effect’, rendering much of our practice as applied science. This has always felt unduly limited – and limiting – to myself. What about not only the application of science as a frame for our practice, but also the application of art (or the arts), and the application of humanity (or the humanities) … and enacting such multi-dimensional integration by design? Is this cause for pause?


Might pause power such a reframing? Potentially, I would suggest – if pause was associated with pausation, in a world where ‘becoming’ was as privileged as ‘being’. Pausation targets what might be – what might come into being – as much as causation effectively targets what has been, or what is currently. While we obviously must continue to pay homage to the power of ‘cause-effect’, can we also equally credit what I sense is its twin – ‘pause-potential’?


What are the ‘pausatives’ in pausation? The inquiry provoked me quite profoundly to confront how I relate with respect to pause, to making it operable in my terms. My ‘pausatives’ emerged as interesting conjunctions – withconvention, with creativity, and with transformation. Part of my sense of pause is associated with a break from convention (an absence of pause) into ‘post-convention’ (pregnant with pausation).


The power of pause initially felt most compelling in the context of programmed experiential personal/professional development activities, with the conscious injection of an opportunity to simply pause – from what was otherwise a normal course of events, or a regular/routine flow of experiencing. No other requirements, or expectations – of the facilitator, or the participants. Just a pause. An opening of sorts, a clearing. A suspension of what might otherwise be the case. A letting-go, with the possibility of a letting-come.


If we think about it, most of our awake existence is characterized by an absence of pause in this respect – we are more likely to be on active, ongoing, busy ‘auto-pilot’, which can also be code for being ‘other-driven’. An actual pause is therefore – almost by definition – out-of-the-ordinary, if not outright extra-ordinary… when we consciously opt to check in with our Self. As such, it is a break with convention, but it is not so much unconventional, as post-conventional – if the underlying intention is effectively to tap the potential in the pause.


To pause, in this sense, is essentially – perhaps without fully ‘knowing’ it – a future-regarding, rather than past-respecting, move – taking it beyond reflection, and beyond a therapeutic intervention. Indeed, it is less a therapy for what might currently ail us – that we might want to put a stop to, or cease – than an active whole-seeking intervention, in the sense of action with a view to enabling a new envisioning, tapping into the potential, in ever-more-whole-making. In some interpretations, the (pause-potential) intention is less around what ‘ails’ us, as what ‘wells’ us… what supports/enables our ongoing well-being, by attending to our well-becoming.


Etymologically, the root of ‘well’ is ‘whole’. Pause represents a potential whole-making place, in service of our evolution. To ‘evolve’ is to become ‘ever-more-whole’. The invocation to pause can also be extended to embrace all dimensions of our selves – not simply body and mind. Pause can intrinsically invoke the intelligence in one’s heart and soul, and spirit; the potential in pause, pause-potential, is potentially infinite.