Author Information

Benjamin Feldman


Stress is something all of us face in the day-to-day events of our lives, and which at times makes us do things that are regrettable, such as snapping at a loved one or driving recklessly to get somewhere on time. The literature on stress and stress reactivity tends to focus on the fight or flight reactions we have to stressors, aiming to change thoughts or behaviors to diminish the longevity and magnitude of sympathetic nervous system responses. While we cannot change our physiological stress reaction, we can change our responses to stressors or, in other words, our reactivity. Mindfulness practice is one way of training ourselves to observe our reactivity to stress and to choose non-reactive responses. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 4). Over the last 30 years, Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have been developed to teach contemplative practices which aid stress reduction. This research is based on one MBI, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The concept of pausing (rather than changing thoughts or behavior) will be explored in relation to MBSR, since one must first pause during a reaction before being able to intentionally choose a different response. Thus far, there has been relatively little research exploring how pausing relates to stress reactivity and mindfulness.

A study of what scholars and mindfulness practitioners (i.e., people who actively practice mindfulness meditation) mean by pausing will clarify this potentially helpful mechanism of stress reduction. The concept of pausing has been taken for granted as self-evident and is sparsely found in the MBSR scholarly literature. Clarifying this term and how it could help facilitate managing stress reactivity in everyday life should expand our understanding of how mindfulness practice works. A literature review examining uses of terms related to “pausing” is presented, followed by a qualitative study analyzing previously obtained, in-depth interviews with practitioners. Examining how interviewees describe the phenomena of pausing was expected to clarify how mindfulness practice enables new responses.

Note on the Author

Benjamin G. Feldman graduated in 2018 with a major in Psychology and minor in Biology. His research, mentored by Dr. Michelle Mamberg (Psychology), was presented at the Student Arts and Research Symposium (StARS) at Bridgewater State University.

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