I am delighted so share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post from the community. Read on for Abbey Assistant Melinda Thomas‘ reflection on statio is adapted from her book Sacred Balance: Aligning Body and Spirit Through Yoga and the Benedictine Way.
In the days before my son was born, my centering routine looked very different than it does today. I would rise early, read a daily meditation for lectio divina, journal, spend an hour or so in asana, and then move about my day. I’d stop working around four o’clock in the afternoon, walk the dog, meditate for thirty minutes, and then make dinner.
Now I am a single mom and don’t have long, open spaces of time to devote to extended practice. What I do have is a commitment to what is essential for keeping me oriented toward a life of wellness, love, and integrity. I still rise early to practice asana and sit in prayer. My lectio practice is haphazard, though I always create just a few minutes to read something of Spirit. Sometimes I journal. My meditation practice is short. I still do my best to walk outside for at least a few minutes each day to breathe fresh air and reorient my mind and spirit. . . . My steadfast commitment to these simple practices brings an equanimity to my life that I miss during periods in which I give them up to busyness and overexertion. Like a tree firmly planted in the earth, they grant me the steadiness out of which to grow.
Because balance is a dynamic conversation between stability and movement, our practices need to evolve and adapt to our life’s circumstance. Through humility and the deep listening of obedience, we begin to recognize where and how we remain rooted. Yet there is one practice we can wholeheartedly embrace, regardless of the season and circumstances of life, and that is statio.
Statio is the monastic practice of pausing at the end of one task before beginning another. It’s as simple and forgettable as that. In pausing, we open the smallest of spaces within for the largesse of Presence to be revealed. In that holy pause, we reconnect with our roots, which extend into the Ground of Being. In that space, we can grow alongside the Grace that carries us forward.
It is so easy to just move from one activity or task to the next, without taking the time to slow down for a moment and pay attention to where we are and what we are doing. I am guilty of this. What helps is to begin by attaching an intentional statio to a repetitive task. Pause before making a phone call or sending an email or text. Pause and breathe for a few minutes in the car before going to work or picking up your child from school. Pause before a meal and give thanks for the food you are to receive and the many hands that brought it to your table.
In our asana, we cultivate our capacity for statio by linking movement with breath. We pause, breathe, and then move. When we hold a pose and focus on the rhythms of breath, we invite ourselves to settle into the pause between inhale and exhale, exhale and inhale. Through statio, we tap into the dynamic stillpoint between steadiness and motion, stability and conversion, rajas and tamas.
Statio is also crucial in our efforts to be loving members of any community. We can pause before speaking. We can make a habit of stopping the busywork and engaging with our family, colleagues, children. We can take a deep breath and read the news so we become aware of the world around us and pray for how we may respond to the needs of our society. We can look away from our screens and up at the sky to marvel at God’s creation. Each pause, then, becomes an acceptance of the invitation to a life growing in grace.
When can you practice statio—intentional pause—throughout your day?
Melinda Emily Thomas is the Executive Assistant for Abbey of the Arts providing program, logistical and mentoring support as well as offering monthly yoga classes. She has been studying and practicing yoga for more than twenty years, and teaching for over fifteen. In each of her classes and workshops Melinda weaves spiritual and contemplative themes into accessible, alignment based movement practice. Melinda is a writer and the author of Sacred Balance: Aligning Body and Spirit Through Yoga and the Benedictine Way. She lives in North Carolina with her son whose room is often littered with LEGOs and who still wants to cuddle. Visit her website >>
Image © Melinda Emily Thomas