Therapy Tools - PAUSING: The Practice of 'One Minute Mindfulness'




The Practice of 'One Minute Mindfulness'


What do you feel when you watch a sunset...?

C alm...?  Appreciative...?  Undistracted?

If so, then you already know something about PAUSING, because cultivating a sunset state of mind is the aim of PAUSING.

Here's what I mean.

When stress triggers reactivity .  Or when disturbing feelings trigger negativity. Or when troubling thoughts trigger worry. The skill of PAUSING can promote a feeling of stability and peace of mind.

Consisting of two simple steps--- c onscious breathing and m indful noticing ---PAUSING is a self-guided, pocket meditation that produces a positive effect when practiced regularly.

Try it and see for yourself...


Focus on Your Breath (Step One)

  1. Inhale normally.  Silently say to yourself, “IN.”
  2. Exhale normally.  Silently say to yourself, “OUT.”
  3. Repeat ‘1’ and ‘2.’
  4. Then go to Step Two .


Notice Your Thoughts and Feelings ( Step Two)

  1. Now, continuing to breathe normally, pay attention to the flow of your thoughts and feelings.
  2. Just notice whatever comes to mind.  Make 'room' for all of your thoughts and feelings.  Don't fight them.  Don't run from them.  Don't dismiss them.  Just watch them.  There's no need to believe them.  No need to act on them.
  3. As you do this, you may notice a specific thought or feeling that is particularly bothersome---for example, " I hate the way my boss speaks to me.” If so, you can take your 'noticing practice' a little further by doing the following....
  4. C o mbine this bothersome thought or feeling with the sentence stem--- “I notice that I am thinking [or feeling]...." --- and make them into a single sentence . The sentence should look like this: "I notice that I am thinking, I hate the way my boss speaks to me."
  5. Now that you've formed this sentence, silently say it to yourself and notice how it 'visits' (or sits in) your mind.  Don't fight it.  Don't run from it.  Don't dismiss it.  Just let it hang out there for a moment.
  6. When you're ready, return to the beginning of the PAUSING  exercise, and repeat Step One and then Step Two. Just follow your breath...then follow your mind...and notice the new thoughts and feelings that arise.  And so on.
  7. That's PAUSING---just breathing and noticing the flow of your mind without getting lost or entangled in it.




  1. Practice PAUSING at the first sign of stress .  This includes any flicker of reactivity, negativity or worry.  No matter how briefly the stress appears...repeat each step in order, as needed.  You'll know when to stop when you feel the grip of your stress easing.
  2. Move slowly through the steps as directed .  Focus your awareness--- first on your breath, then on your thoughts and feelings.  Do it in a  measured way.  P eople typically need just a few repetitions to begin to feel relief.
  3. Here's why it works :
    1. Step One (Conscious breathing) engages the calming part of your nervous system.  It grounds you in your body and in the present moment.
    2. Step Two (Mindful noticing) engages the observing part of your mind.  With practice you learn to watch the flow of your mind (as if standing near a river) without becoming  engulfed by it .  As you strengthen your ability to mentally step back from the unhelpful "stuff" your mind generates , your tendency to overreact to your feelings or be controlled by your thoughts, begins to lessen.
    3. Tip: When watching a thought, it is useful to remember that just because you think it , it doesn't mean you should believe it...or be it... or do it .  They're just thoughts.  Not commands.  Not facts.  Just thoughts.
  4. Finally, PAUSING only works by practicing it .  Like a muscle, the skill of PAUSING grows stronger by exercising it.  To paraphrase Dan Harris (of Ten Percent), each rep is "a bicep curl" for your mind.



The goal of PAUSING is to loosen the grip that your distressing thoughts or disturbing feelings have over you.  While this exercise won't cure your mind’s tendency to generate upsetting thoughts and feelings, it does relax their hold over your mood and behavior.

Regular practice tempers your mental habit of either over-focusing (ruminating) on your unhelpful thoughts or actively pushing away (avoiding) your disturbing  feelings.  It strengthens the mental habit of being with what is : neither clinging to (identifying with) nor rejecting (resisting) your experience as it occurs.



PAUSING is a way to invite your mind to slow down and refocus its energy.  The combined practice of conscious breathing and mindful noticing helps you to: 1/ Protect yourself from the pull of problematic urges and negative self-stories; and, 2/ Position yourself to more freely and flexibly choose behaviors that reflect your core values and intentions.

In short, PAUSING helps you to work with what is that you can: D o what works, to do what matters .

Like watching a sunset...!



Conceived by Michael Altshuler, LCSW, CGP

For more information I can be reached at: [email protected].


This practice was developed in appreciation of the work of many exceptional teachers including:

Sam Harris, Loch Kelly, Steven Hayes,

Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Russ Harris, Benji Schoendorff,

Tara Brach and Eckhart Tolle.

Michael Altshuler, LCSW, CGP

  (914) 478-7952
  21 Jefferson Avenue Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
  [email protected]

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