In the most recent issue of Newsweek magazine, Robert J. Samuelson wrote a column titled The Sad Fate of the Comma.
I have always liked commas, but I seem to be in a shrinking minority. The comma is in retreat, though it is not yet extinct. In text messages and e-mails, commas appear infrequently, and then often by accident (someone hits the wrong key). Even on the printed page, commas are dwindling. Many standard uses from my childhood (after, for example, an introductory prepositional phrase) have become optional or, worse, have been ditched. If all this involved only grammar, I might let it lie. But the comma’s sad fate is, I think, a metaphor for something larger: how we deal with the frantic, can’t-wait-a-minute nature of modern life. The comma is, after all, a small sign that flashes PAUSE. It tells the reader to slow down, think a bit, and then move on. We don’t have time for that. No pauses allowed.
My husband came home from work a few hours after I read the article and mentioned that a yoga instructor had visited his office as part of their Wellness Program.
“Did you learn anything?” I asked.
He said he learned that if people took ten minutes out of their day to sit quietly and relax, scientific studies show stress levels reduce drastically. In other words, he learned it’s important to pause.
He had a worksheet from the Mind/Body Medical Institute. Click here for the full set of instructions, but in a nutshell it simply says to sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe (the easy part), as you clear your mind of active thoughts (the hard part).
Summers seems like an especially good time to incorporate the practice of pause because schedules can get so busy. You might be thinking: “That’s precisely the problem. I’m so busy I don’t have time to relax for 10 minutes.” But as the yoga instructor who visited my husband’s office mentions on her website, pausing will calm you down and clear your mind for better decision-making, ultimately giving you much more time.