The Path of Waiting

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Photograph by Zen Doe

Spring seems to be on permanent hold this year.  The flowers have tried their hardest not to bloom.  A few have surrendered to the force of their nature and opened, only to be frozen or crushed by snow.  The horses are shedding, the spring birds have arrived, but there’s not a warm day in sight.  It seems everyone and everything is waiting.

Waiting.  It’s the universal human experience.  We wait for the garage to call and say that our car is ready, we wait for our turn at the post office, we wait for the call from the doctor or the vet.  We wait.  We live in a suspended state, with all of our attention on that thing that we are waiting for.  It’s uncomfortable.  It feels glacial.  It seems that nothing is right until that thing happens or is resolved, and then we can get on with our lives.  What an interesting notion!

Because it is so uncomfortable, we go to all kinds of lengths to distract ourselves from the obsession with the issue.  When waiting involves a potentially serious outcome, fear can arise with an intensity that can be utterly debilitating.  And yet, nothing has happened yet.

Next time you find yourself in the bardo, the purgatory of waiting, take the opportunity to look at it.  “What?!  No!  Why would I want to examine my mind in such an uncomfortable state?!  Forget that!”

Waiting is a wonderful teacher.  If you are willing to stand hand in hand with your waiting for a few moments, you may find that it’s not quite as much of a monster as it seems.  Rather, it’s a potent cue to take a breath and experience what’s really happening in this moment.  Notice the steam rising from your coffee cup, the temperature of the air, the feel of your body in your chair.  The tension of your muscles.  Breathe again.  Relax a bit.  Just this moment is all there is.

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49 Comments on “The Path of Waiting

  1. How i feel waiting is always such a true gauge – sometimes the steam off the tea cup is making art in the air – and sometimes I can’t see anything in traffic for my impatience with the situation. Then I know where I am. Thank you for your lovely writing and prompts!

  2. Pingback: The Master of Waiting | The Retired Seeker

  3. You’re welcome Zen Doe and this kind of thing; learning about not pushing or getting impatient, when it’s expressed well, as you have it here, is a most valuable thing. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Tiramit, your post is wonderful! Thank you so much for the link back here. I’m so very glad that you found something useful here.

  4. Great post. I totally agree – waiting is a great teacher. More than a decade of waiting in the car outside the kids’ school/tennis class/ dance class has taught me that. Learnt to enjoy those hours as my downtime – reading, thinking, whatever . . .

  5. I am an impatient person. When forced to wait, I remind myself that patience is “waiting happily.” I know, I want to throw up also.

  6. Ah..yes the waiting game always puts me in the future anticipating what I will do when the waiting is over! I’ll remember this post and try to look deeper next time. Thanks….

    • Same for all of us. It’s how human mind works. But, it is an opportunity to practice seeing past habitual reactions that we perceive as ‘truth’.

  7. waiting teaches us patience. but who doesnt know that already? and we are still so restless and edgy. got to get into a healthy relationship and wait

    • I think that “waiting teaches us patience” if we’re open to learning. Otherwise, I think we practice impatience. I’m quite good at impatience. I’ve had a lot of practice! 😉

  8. Impatience? Yes! I avoid shopping and dining out during busy times so I don’t have to wait. But if I know there is a risk of waiting or getting stuck in traffic, I make sure I have a book to read, so the time is not wasted. Books are also an escape from reality. So is going into my own head to think things through.
    A little over a year ago I started working with the concept of “mindful presence” where the past and future are not part of my thoughts. It is meditative and takes a lot of practice. I’m still not great at it but practice when I can. The only time I am truly in the “here and now” with no effort is when I am with the horses. I am surrounded at home with my dogs and cats, but somehow the horses pull me out and keep me in the present with no thoughts or worries.
    Zen, your writings are so thought provoking. If I don’t have an “aha” moment from reading, you always give me something to think about, to carry with me as I go through my days. Thank you!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Anne. Yes, that’s the total magic of horses – they are completely, without exception, “in the moment”. I’m sure all animals are, but horses, being prey animals, don’t just drop for a nap any old time. Horses pay attention. I was out with the shedding blade yesterday, and could feel so clearly that I was not in sync with them. My thoughts were all over the place. They are wonderful mirrors.

  9. Your photos of the storm have been incredible! Beautiful! Waiting was a lesson from this winter for me too, and I am grateful for all the beauty it provided.

  10. Thank you. It seems like I can never have enough reminders, but this is a wonderful one. I was thinking of you this morning, and that beautiful picture of Kit in the snow….we have something of a thaw here today. I hope you don’t have to long to wait for yours.

    • Thank you, Lynette. And wonderful that you’re learning to look, with care, at what’s happening just now.

  11. For the graduate level course, include being mindful of your experience of waiting. Never let your practice become a way to shut things out. Include everything.

    • Love the graduate level course, Zen. Working on embracing everything in the present movement including the tendency for my mind to yearn for the future. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

    • Michael, waiting can be a fierce teacher too. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by for a read. Be well, ZD

  12. I remember when I first got out of the military there were two things I would not do.
    Own anything green. Not a car , clothes …nothing. And I would never wait in a line for food again…never! Of course time mellows the memories and now I do both. On another note. Zen I would trade you the pollen falling for the snow fall for awhile. Everything here is yellow. It’s beautiful outside but you can’t open your windows. I don’t have allergies but my eyes are gritty and my nose and throat are full. Even in my ears!!

    • I imagine that in a few weeks I’ll be able to take this same photo, and instead of white, there will be that much yellow in the trees! But yeah, it’s remarkable just how dreadful waiting can be. I had a meeting to go to yesterday, 2 hours away. It took me FOUR HOURS to get home because of road work and an accident. Just horrendous, in terms of the waiting. I had to do some serious work to just hang out with my impatience!

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