The Importance of Pause and Open

Columbus Circle
Photo by Pat David

I was sitting in Columbus Circle on my lunch break the other day as I often do. It is one of my favorite spots in the city – an island at the threshold of where vast skyscrapers give way to the now swiftly color-changing greenery of Central Park. I like sitting on the ends of the long wooden benches there facing the fountain, which will soon be shut down for winter.

As I sat, the clouds parted and the sun shone down directly over 8th avenue, and into my face. I didn’t change positions. I just closed my eyes. It was welcome as it was a bit chilly out. With my eyes closed, I remembered the meditation gathering I had attended the prior evening.

We were practicing insight dialogue, which is the practice of sharing one’s awareness and meditation practice with another person through conscious speaking and deep listening. I hadn’t been to an insight dialogue meeting in quite some time.

It was uncomfortable at first but as I opened up with my partner, and she with me, all the while paying attention to the body, to the breath, and to my own suffering, the experience transitioned into something wholly positive, safe, and beautiful.

In the warmth of the sun, I thought of this, paused, opened, noticed my breathing, the slight discomfort of my digesting lunch, water hitting the hard surface of the fountain, the warmth of my skin underneath layers of clothing heated by the light, the stab of overwhelming emotional pain with which I’ve been struggling, and the absolute joy of being alive in that moment.

You see, one of the things, or perhaps THE thing I (and many others) directly confront in the practice of Buddhist meditation is suffering. It was the second point we were asked to discuss and listen during the dialogue practice.

And it dawned on me, the eradication of suffering is not the destruction of suffering. It is the awareness and acceptance that it is there, and the subsequent choice that consciousness presents to us: the choice to let our suffering destroy or to let it teach. It is the absorption and re-conditioning of suffering.

In that meditative moment under the sun, I experienced an enormous range of emotions from sadness to anger to fear, and ultimately to joy. And for a moment my heart burst open. I marveled at the unbelievable beauty and immediacy of living, the wonder of simply breathing and drinking in the rays of our life-giving star.

My words romanticize the event because of the meditative state I was experiencing, but if you look at it from another perspective, I was just some dude sitting on a bench, face turned skyward, eyes closed, smiling (maybe crying a little?) like a fool.

The point is – this is the most seemingly mundane thing I’m speaking about, and yet it was the best moment of my day. Just to let myself be. To listen. To live.

Wishing you awareness this week.

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Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.

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