The Madhya: Finding the Pause in Meditation

The Challenge of Finding the Pause in Meditation

When you meditate, it’s always interesting to see what happens. In the beginning, grasping the concept of a pause, or as they call it, the madhya, was quite challenging. My teacher, Sally Kempton, advised me to follow the breath to its end. Between the in-breath and the out-breath, and between the out-breath and the in-breath, there would be a short pause. In that pause, there would be an opening.

The Evolution of Meditation Practice

Of course, I forced it, and tried and tried and was at a loss. She also told me to observe my thoughts and follow them to their very end. At the end and beginning of each thought stream, there would be a pause. I believed that there is never really a pause or an end to any of my thought streams, so I wasn’t sure when, or if, the gap would ever appear. As the years passed, I noticed that the more I sat for meditation, the longer those gaps or pauses became. Spaces emerged between thoughts and breaths. These pauses appeared with time, never when I tried to look for them. For me, I just had faith in meditation.

David Hawkins explains the pause like this:

“… with the Infinite Silence out of which thinkingness arises.
It is located not between but just before the emergence of thoughts.”

– Transcending the Levels of Consciousness by David R. Hawkins [pg. 341]

The Madhya: Beyond and Beneath Mental Fluctuations

Ask yourself, what happens when my stream of thoughts comes to an end? For most of us, such a question has never even been considered. However, by becoming aware of the energy from which thoughts arise, we find that indeed, the pause is the place that is actually the source of what our minds create. The madhya exists not only in between but also behind and underneath all the fluctuations of the mind.

Deepening the Meditation Experience: The Expansion of Madhya

Over the years, as I sat for meditation for longer periods, everything began to slow down, and the pauses in the thought stream became more pronounced and longer. At some point, the madhya became longer and started blending into the thought stream. The pause itself became the majority of the meditation. After that, the madhya, this pause, trickles into your life, allowing you to find yourself living in it. You find yourself living in the space between thoughts or in the space from which thinking arises. This is where we can access the Self or the ground of being, the consciousness that underlies and holds us all. The key is to never stop trying. When it comes to meditation, it’s like a boomerang: the more you put in, the stronger the return.

“The fractional pause in the flow of the breath or
in the flow of thoughts then opens out into the vastness of consciousness,
into what in Sanskrit is called the madhya (midpoint),
the center, the inner space where we experience our connection to the whole.”

– Meditation for the love of it: Enjoying your own deepest experience by Sally Kempton [pg. 37]

Experiencing the Pause in Everyday Life

Nowadays, I can identify this state more clearly in day-to-day life. A decade ago, I might not have recognized it at all. But consider this: where are the places beyond thought? Perhaps these places are found when we watch waves come ashore or when we are high up on a mountain, observing expansive natural surroundings. Maybe it’s while listening to the rustle of leaves on the trees. It could also happen when we look deeply into the eyes of our newborn baby or while belly laughing with a dear friend.

In all these moments, our thoughts slow down or dissolve enough to give us  the chance to find ourselves in that pause. 

The Modern Challenge: Filling Our Pauses

Today, we rarely have pauses or gaps in our thought activity. The pauses we do have are usually filled with either watching TV, reading the news, or scrolling on our phones. Many believe these activities are ways to relax, especially watching TV. However, if you observe a brain wave monitor while watching TV, you will see significant activity. Instead of relaxing, your brain is actually drained afterward. We all need a break from the constant barrage of thoughts and mind chatter. It’s important to find times to recharge your mind, and that’s why finding these pauses is crucial in maintaining some level of peace and joy.


A Simple Meditation Exercise

Pause and take one breath. Close your eyes. By taking one breath through your nose, you’ve already slowed down the pace of the world by a fraction. Listen. When you listen to the wind or the leaves rustling in the trees, you’ll find there is already a short pause in the mind stream. The mind is a funny thing; the more you feed it, the more active it becomes. And, the less attached you are to your thoughts, the less active and calmer the brain becomes.

Alternative Paths to the Pause

If you are not ready for traditional meditation, there are many ways to find this pause – this doorway to the underlying presence that sustains us all. In pranayama, one method to access this pause is during the retention between breaths. If you hold your breath for a quick moment, you will notice that your mind becomes still. In nature, simply pausing and listening to the sounds around you can immediately create a sense of synchronicity with the earth. This innate connection with the outdoors is intrinsic to our being. I like to stand by a lake or on a hill in mountain pose – a yoga pose where you stand straight with your arms by your side and your palms facing forward. If you are familiar with mountain pose, try going outside, adopting the pose, and just breathe. You will find a pause in an effortless way.

Embracing Everyday Moments of Presence

Many of us experience these moments daily without even realizing it, and without becoming a die-hard meditator like myself. It could be while watching a sunset, fishing on a lake, or laying a puzzle. When the mind slows and you find yourself in the present moment – that’s where it is. Make sure to become aware of it and cherish it, because in that awareness, you find the key to infinite joy.

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Abdi Assadi is unlike any other healer or spiritual teacher ever encountered. He is an expert in martial arts, and a dynamic healer practicing a diverse array of Chinese and Eastern Medicine, indigenous shamanic rituals, and meditation techniques. With a clinical practice in New York City for almost 4 decades, Abdi has accumulated a vast knowledge of real life experience working with several thousands of individuals, guiding them through the most difficult times, and teaching them how to understand themselves. One of the greatest things about him is he merges the human psyche with the spiritual psyche.

Steeped in deep wisdom and insight that is rare to find on this planet in these modern times, Abdi has an extraordinary ability in perceiving and comprehending human souls and their individual psyche. Guided by the divine, Abdi guides you to open up and see beyond your limited Self, into your own soul. His impeccable discernment enables him to unleash personal remarks that pierce through your veil, statements that you will never forget and in an instant alter your perception of yourself and your reality.

– Quotes from Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi:

All spiritual masters teach us that love is an activity before it is a condition – and that love is all-encompassing.
Page 18

It felt like I was coming off a race track and driving in a school zone. He knew, years before I did, that my speed was my way of suppressing my early childhood anxiety, and that only slowing down could heal it.

Why do you need to use all these words like God and spirituality? It is right here Abdi, all around you, all the time
Page 40

one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Page 51

Ultimately it keeps grace out of our lives because we are using our will power to manipulate every event and person around us.
Page 74

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Page 77

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Sally Kempton is a preeminent meditation teacher of our time.

She is an expert scholar in Hinduism and all Hindu texts especially in Kashmir Shaivisim. Formerly Swami Durgananda, she left monastic life in the 1980’s to teach publicly. She has written several books and is one of the most known and loved spiritual teachers in our time.

Note from Pernilla:

I met Sally at one of her workshops at City Yoga in LA in 2003. She had the most gentle and loving disposition, and I just wanted to always be around her. I was fortunate to have been part of her two year-long “Transformative journey” courses in 2006 and 2007 and many retreats ever since. She is the true representation of unconditional love and transmits intense shakti from her Guru Swami Muktananda.

Sally is the primary building block and foundation in my spiritual journey. Without her, I would have never found and stuck with meditation – the most transformative experience of my life. Without her, I would have been lost without a clue where to go next. Her wealth of knowledge of yogic philosophy and incredible understanding of the human condition is what makes her a force to be reckoned with.  She understands your depth and makes you feel seen, heard, validated, and deeply loved.