In praise of pauses - Extinction Rebellion UK

In praise of pauses

I have noticed something about people who do amazing work on behalf of our planet – they are not always good at taking breaks. I am terrible at building gaps in my life, and when I don’t, it leads to trouble.

I understand why it’s hard for me to take breaks. Some of the reasons are internal. Part of me relies on regular affirmation in order to feel accepted. Part of me uses work as a distraction from difficult emotions. Part of me
feels that I’m only worthy if I keep producing and achieving. There is also intense pressure from outside – we are in the midst of a planetary emergency, and when I connect with my grief and my fear I am driven to work longer and harder.

However, when I neglect to take breaks, I become clogged with adrenaline and fatigue. I want to ‘get it done quick’, rather than finding creativity in contemplative space. I burn out. Our dear Earth knows about the necessity periods of rest. Daffodils, dormice, bears and trees all have a good long sleep once a year.

How can we get better at adding pauses to our days? First we identify the parts of ourselves that are holding us back from resting, and befriend them. The part that is afraid of stopping – what does it think might happen if you do? The part that feels unworthy – where did this belief come from? Offering these parts some understanding and loving attention creates a little space, which makes the second step possible.

This is where we plan the pauses, and then honour them as we would any other important appointment. I begin each day with ten minutes of spiritual practice. Monday is my ‘Sabbath’, with no time online and a strict ban on appointments.

Our Earth needs us over the coming years, and so we have a duty to take care of ourselves. Even twenty seconds can make a big difference. Maybe take a slow breath right now, close your eyes, and allow your shoulder muscles to relax.


Satya Robyn is a Buddhist priest, psychotherapist and author
who runs a Buddhist temple in Malvern with her husband

Related topics


Sign up for news