A pause, even for a second, in the endless flow of words that swirl around me, enables a shift in energy.

Too often I speak on automatic. My words do not have space to be considered. There is no room for them to breathe. My words are driven by reactivity rather than drawn from freedom. They are forced by external circumstance; they are not offered from inner liberation.

When I step aside for a moment from the momentum of words, or the steamroller of emotion, that endlessly trouble the surface of my life, I come back into myself. When I pause, I return to a sense of presence, steady and stable, deeper than all the tumult of circumstance that so often controls my words.

The pause reminds me that it is not so much my words that communicate. It is the spirit with which I speak that actually touches those who hear the sound of my voice.

The most compelling, poetic and eloquent words ever uttered will fail to support openness and light if they are motivated by an intention to control, manipulate, pressure, or impress. Equally, my words may be faltering, inadequate, and inarticulate; but if spoken from an open heart of love and kindness, they will nurture life, no matter how much they may falter.

Jesus said,

out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)

Whatever my words may be, they communicate the state of my heart. My heart shows itself in public through every word I utter.

This is why the Book of Proverbs encourages the reader to,

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life…. (Proverbs 4:23)

… or, although the sage does not make this point, from the heart may also flow “the springs of” death.

When my heart is pinched and tight, no matter what I say, I communicate pressure and tension. When my heart is trapped in fear and bent on self-protection, anyone with whom I speak will unconsciously recoil at the sound of my voice. When I seek to use words to bring about a certain outcome, to control the other, or to demand agreement, my audience will always perceive the pressure I am exerting. Tiny shards of resistance will slip in against my words.

The pause reminds me to consider the state of my heart. Am I using my words in an attempt to fill some emptiness I feel at the centre of my being? What effect am I trying to generate using the blunt weapon of language? Am I using words to try to get something from someone?

When I pause to recollect myself, to feel my feet on the ground, to take a breath, relax my shoulders and my face, the tone of my voice shifts. My words are less clipped; I speak more slowly. I interrupt less. Warmth and openness seep in around the edges of my words.  The person with whom I am speaking is able to relax, and soften. Communication shifts to a deeper level. The possibility of authenticity emerges from the momentary surrender into silence.

In the space created by the pause, the momentum shifts from unconscious words to conscious energy. I am able to function not only in my head; I am also come into touch with the communication that arises from my feelings, my body, and my secret responsive instinctual centre.

The pause allows me to take responsibility for my own life. I see where I am being dishonest with myself and how I am seeking to use the other as a means to satisfy my own unacknowledged need.

To pause is to step outside of the power struggle that characterizes so many human interactions and open to a fresh deep place from which it becomes possible to live in a way that is more authentic and life-giving.