The Mighty Comma.
Of all punctuation marks, it is the comma, the mighty comma, that is most indispensable.
Even the period cannot match the comma. For it is the comma that introduces the pause that enables us to take a breath, gather in what has been read, and fit it together with what is on the way.
If we want a meditation lesson from grammar, the comma would be most suitable to offer it. Although our minds are filled with many thoughts, it is the space between our thoughts that’s most important.
But, as we all know, we often become so preoccupied with our thoughts that we suffer from run-on thinking, and scarcely have a moment to connect things together. In fact, most of us are moving so fast that we don’t even notice that there is a gap between our thoughts.
We may not need a stop sign, but a yield sign would be nice.
Whether we are sitting in formal meditation or going about our active lives, we need to create space to think our thoughts. We need to establish a theme to our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes, something to connect the dots together. We need to link ourselves to our thoughts.
But we won’t be able to do this with just another thought, no matter how noble or intriguing it may be. It is only by embracing the space between our thoughts that our truth will begin to emerge.
If we are to be truly engaged with our day, a theme must be established. Otherwise, we will remain harnessed to indifferent performance, living on autopilot. Only when a theme is established—a purpose—will we feel a relationship with what we are doing.
Disjointed activities and thoughts weary the mind and tire the body. But when a moment arises in our day with nothing going on, we often feel uncomfortable, as if we should be doing or thinking something. Instead of treasuring these moments by simply resting in them, we mindlessly fill them, grabbing our phones, going for an unneeded coffee, picking up the day planner, snatching up a magazine—anything that can fill up that space.
We are far more comfortable doing something than doing nothing. We are perhaps skilled at accomplishing things, communicating well with others, enjoying gadgets, cars, books, and other things we can see and touch. But we’re not too skilled at appreciating ourselves, as evidenced by our inability to refrain from the impulse to act, procure, or speak when there is no logical reason to do so.
But, it is that pause in our day that, like a comma in a sentence, offers just the pause we need to bring us back into alignment with our theme, our purpose.
People tend to forget commas in their writing, and oh!—how the readers suffer. And we neglect to pause in our thinking and actions, and oh!—how we suffer. We do not trust in ourselves enough to allow empty space to work its magic. We fear having nothing to do. We can’t get a handle on it, so we fight with it and get antsy, feel threatened, and reject it.
However, when we do embrace the momentary quiet, we begin to nourish and expand its presence in our lives. Doing so can lead us to recognize that going through life with “the writing on the wall” doesn’t stimulate the imagination. What we really need is a blank slate—a slate that doesn’t dictate any expectations of us. Returning to the blank slate is a moment of time for us to reconnect to ourselves and put our day into context, to let the pieces come together and toss away those that don’t fit.
When we let ourselves pause and just be, we begin to develop trust in ourselves and remove fear. We allow a clearer picture of our lives to emerge simply by doing nothing more than staying out of the way and allowing it to happen.
So let’s relinquish our desire to fill every single moment of our lives, and instead learn to embrace the pause, the quiet, the commas of our lives.
Author: Richard Josephson
Image: Dustin Lee/Unsplash
Editor: Callie Rushton