A life dedicated to service...

the gift of waiting

Waiting for what?

I’m becoming aware of the many instances when I’m forced to wait and the ways in which I respond to them. There are countless moments, part of every-day transactions, such as staring at the floor indicator in an elevator, waiting for the credit card transaction to go through, and wishing for the queue to move at a bank or cafe. Also the tiny, barely noticeable occasions: waiting for someone to complete a thought, for paint to dry (literally, while immersed in a craft project), or pain to subside. Then there are the worry-filled waits, such as anticipating sleep with a troubled mind or dreading the hematologist’s report about that let’s-not-yet-worry malignancy.

“When we are forced to wait, say in a traffic jam, our instinct is to do something to distract ourselves from the discomfort of waiting,” writes my Zen teacher*. “We turn on the radio, call or text someone on the phone, or just sit and fume.

Practicing mindfulness while waiting helps people find many small moments in the day when they can bring the thread of awareness up from where it lies hiding in the complex fabric of their lives. Waiting, a common event that usually produces negative emotions, can be transformed into a gift, the gift of free time to practice.

The mind benefits doubly: first, by abandoning negative mind-states, and second, by gaining the beneficial effects of even a few extra minutes of practice woven into the day.

By longing for the next moment or day to roll around, I am, by extension, wishing for life to reach its end. Instead of reacting and urging it/them to hurry up, I welcome that which Chozen* calls the “gift of waiting.” With each moment being irreplaceable, mindful waiting transforms me from impatient bystander to wide-awake participant in Life itself.

Worth the effort?


*Jan Chozen Bays, MD. (2011). “How to Train a Wild Elephant — and Other Adventures in Mindfulness.” Shambhala Publications; from an excerpt in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Fall 2011. Image: The late Alan Rickman aPotter character Professor Albus Dumbledore.

About the Author
Peter lives in Victoria, BC, where he volunteers in health-care. teaches mindfulness meditation, and offers end-of-life care.
  1. Mylene Reply

    Thank you for that, just what I needed to read this morning.

  2. Neil Reply

    Yes, I needed to read this message of waiting this morning, too. I have always waited for the mystical to happen in life and by doing so have given up much of the time of my life to…nothing in particular. I’m determined to make that change. Be ‘particular’ in my life. Pursue the Light! Starting today.

  3. Sue Schaefer Reply

    I had the experience in an express line that was moving rather non express like. The woman behind me started hrumphing and I was trying to not hrrumph as well so I turned to her and smiled.
    She looked at me and said “Oh what am I in such a hurry for, I was only going to go home and watch some ridiculous thing on TV”! We then compared items we were buying and ended up with recipe ideas for our respective dinners that night. One of the best waits I’ve had.

  4. Federico Vallin Reply

    Thank You Peter.
    This is what I’ve being waiting for…
    Federico

  5. Dan, Martha Reply

    Good one, Peter !

  6. Arnie Reply

    Thanks Godot!
    I just read this to Lorraine and Peggy on our terrace in Costa Rica where there is nothing to wait for. They both loved it as do I. Living and waiting, one and the same. With love…❤️❤️🕉😎☯️🌴💥🌍

  7. Paul Reply

    Thank you Peter, sage words. Sitting in traffic is such a soul draining feeling. I will try to put this to the test next time I am waiting to cross over Hwy 1 at Admirals Rd. 🙂

    Cheers
    Paul

  8. Jennifer Cortez Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder that waiting is another opportunity to practice. I feel I must point out that the late great Alan Rickman played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Dumbledore was played by Richard Harris and then Michael Gambon—unfortunately I am not sure which of the two is pictured here! 😊

    • Peter Reply

      Looks like Michael Gabon … but I’m not up on Potter films.

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