We find ourselves in situations we can’t control, where none of our strategies work. We frantically try to manage what is happening while helpless and distraught. We strike back quickly or retreat when someone says something hurtful to us. We scramble to cover up a mistake at work or go out of our way to make up for it. We nervously rehearse and strategize in confrontations we head into emotionally.

The more frantically our bodies and minds work the more we fear failure. We fill our days with mental planning and worrying, habitual talking, fixing, scratching, adjusting, phoning, snacking, discarding, buying, looking in the mirror. What would it be like if we were to take our hands off the controls in the midst of this business? What if we were to intentionally pause and for a minute or two notice our inner experience and stop our mental computations and our rushing around?

The first practice of Radical Acceptance is learning to pause. A time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving towards any goal, or a suspension of activity is the definition of pause. The pause can last for a minute, for hours or for seasons of our life and can occur in the midst of almost any activity. We may sit down and meditate by taking a pause from our ongoing responsibilities. We may let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath in the midst of meditation by pausing as well. We may step out of our daily life to go on a retreat, sabbatical or spend time in nature in order to pause. In order to genuniely listen and be with another person we may pause in a conversation by letting go of what we’re about to say. When we feel suddenly moved or delighted or saddened to let the feelings play through our heart we often pause. We discontinue thinking, talking, walking, writing, planning worrying, eating, etc. when we pause.


By nature a pause is usually time limited. We have more ability to make choices when we finally resume our activities. We don’t know what will happen next when we take a pause so it can often be intimidating to do so. We become open to new and creative ways of responding to our wants and fears by pausing and disrupting our habitual behaviors. Knowing the difference between the appropriate times to pause and the times we should not pause is also important to keep in mind. Our driven pace and habitual controlling in daily life does not serve surviving and certainly not thriving. Much of our driven pace arises from our free floating anxiety about something being wrong or not enough.

We can clearly see the wants and fears that are driving us when we take our hands off the controls. We become conscious of how the feeling that something is missing or wrong will keep us leaning in to the future on our way somewhere else in our moments of pausing. We have a choice, we can continue out futile attempts at managing our experience, or we can meet our vulnerability with the wisdom of Radical Acceptance. The moment that feels the most intolerable to pause are often the moments we most need to do so. Pausing may be the last thing we want to do when we are in a fit of anger, when overwhelmed by sorrow or filled with desire. The rawness of our rage, grief, or desire may threaten to engulf us. However, Radical Acceptance will not be possible without opening to the actual experience of the present moment.

We can develop the capacity to stop hiding and to stop running away from our experience through the art of pausing. We begin to trust in our capacity to be open to whatever arises, in our naturally wise heart and our natural intelligence. In the moment of pausing its like we awaken from a dream, our trance recedes and Radical Acceptance becomes possible.