Chris Marshall


The Pause: A Return to the Self. 

In the chaos of today’s world, there’s a tool that we often overlook: the pause. It’s not about escaping the madness but about grounding ourselves in it. Pausing is a return, not to chase a better version of ourselves, but to simply return to our truest self.

It’s not about fixing our changing – at least not initially – it’s about understanding and unlimited self-compassion during a moment of introspection. A chance to genuinely reconnect with ourselves: our breath, and sense of energy, and recognise where our mind is at that precise moment. 

Many, in the endless quest for self-improvement,mistake a pause as a moment of change. Jamie Smart, in ‘Clarity’, give us a simple but powerful metaphor: muddy water, left undisturbed, becomes clear on its own. Our minds are no different. Their natural state is calm, just as water’s natural state is clear. Our minds naturally move towards calm and joy, if only we give them space. 

Yet, our current society rarely lets us. The noise, the endless to-dos, the allure of screens and instant gratification – they entertain us, but disconnect us from our core. Our rest, saturated with stimuli, hardly feels like rest at all. 

The world is speeding up. Becoming more disruptive, and more chaotic. Innovation is just one of the driving forces: but by no means the only one. Thus, the essence of the pause becomes vital. It’s about reconnection. 

By consistently dedicating time for introspection, and regularly learning to check in, we initiate a transformative ripple effect. An inner calm emerges, not from the effort but from the simple acknowledgement. 

The way we teach the Pause in the PPM Method, there is no room for judgment or critique, just awareness. And in that awareness, we find not only calm but clarity about decisions and the path ahead. 

We find our calm intelligence. 

Any athlete knows the importance of practice. They don’t start to train for the race the day before the event. Instead, this preparation starts months, sometimes years, in advance. 

In the same vein, the art of pausing, like any other skill, requires constant practice. If we learn it once, and then hope to be able to recall it in times of need, or moments of crisis, we likely find we can not attain it. 

Stress research over the past couple of decades has had breakthrough after breakthrough. Laurel Mellin, a researcher in this area, deep dives into our stress states, reminding us that stress is not binary. We are not simply ‘calm’ or ‘stressed’ rather, it’s a scale. Laurel’s work points to five stress states that we can easily identify. 

Thinking of our stress level on this scale, ranging from level one, where we are calm, joyful, and can easily engage in abstract thinking, through to stress out – level five – where we are losing our shit, helps us with our state observation. 

One of the things that people commonly notice when they regularly check in and seek a number of 1 to 5 of their current stress state, is that they spend most of their time at level 2 or 3, with occasional breakouts into 4, maybe 5 when a driver cuts us up, or the printer jams in the middle of a job, or we’re running late for an appointment, or asked to do a last-minute presentation. 

There are plenty of techniques we can use and learn to regulate our stress state, but our aim, in this post about the pause is to first off simply find awareness, and outline why we need to practice regularly checking in with ourselves.

The pause, in this sense, isn’t about relaxation; it’s about reflection and exploration. It’s about rebuilding a connection with ourselves, and better attuning to our needs. 

As we bring awareness and compassion to our state and our thinking, that muddy water will normally start to clear. It’s in these quiet moments that we can delve into the modalities of our thoughts. We can engage in abstract thinking that allows us to shift perspectives, or view problems we face from new angles and even dissociated positions. 

Regularly pausing and showing up with compassion and a curious observation of our sleeves, doesn’t just make us better equipped for challenges. It fundamentally transforms how we perceive and interact with the world. And in doing so, we don’t just weather storms better: we learn to harness them.