Waiting

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Compared with some dogs, we’re not very good at waiting. Photo by Anthony Ginsbrook on Unsplash

We are all waiting, most of the time.

Usually it is for something we want.  Or else we wait in trepidation for something we don’t want.

Either way, waiting is something we’d better get used to, or else life is going to feel difficult.

THE PAIN IN ANTICIPATION

When we anticipate something, I guess it is the lack of control that causes the edge.  Waiting for exam results is particularly cruel to the human psyche.  It has all the ingredients: a lack of ability to influence events (once the exams are one); your fate being in the hands of someone else; the prospect of very different alternative outcomes.

Equally troubling to many people are legal battles; planning permission issues; waiting for job offers; waiting for the results of tribunals.

We hate to be judged, and many of the painful things we are waiting for are all about being judged by others.

THE PRESENCE OF TIME

At these moments, time is acutely present.  That is to say, we forget to flow with it, and start to want to control it, to speed it up or slow it down.  If only we could get to the ending, then we would not need to sit in anxious anticipation.

The very definition of waiting is that there is a difference between the time we are in now, and the time at which something is going to happen.  The more we relate to the future event, the more intense will be our relationship with time in the present.

THE USE OF MEDITATION

This is where meditation can be useful sometimes.  Through meditation, we try to discipline our minds and bodies to wait, just wait.  Whenever the past or future threaten to take our minds over, we gently let them go, and return to sitting in the present.

We admire some animals for the same ability – the ability to sit in the present, without caring about past or future.  The difference is that we have an enhanced ability to anticipate and remember, and so, if we can learn it, our ability to sit quietly in the present is hard won.

AN EXERCISE

Just for today, instead of grabbing at whatever events you fill your day with, view yourself as living, essentially, in the gaps in between.

In physics, we are learning that matter is mostly empty space.  In our days, we can learn the same thing: that our day, that seems so busy, is actually full of space, if we can just see it that way.

Try not to grab at activity in order to fill up the time, or take you closer to a goal.  Try just to sit, or walk, or wander, and observe how the world looks when you are not desperately pushing it forward or holding it back.  Learn to wait.

SUMMARY

To be human comfortably, we need to learn to wait peacefully.

In particular, humans hate being made to wait for big outcomes when they are to be judged by others.  We feel a loss of control, and an urge to fight time with our own feelings.

Meditation is the art of learning not to fight time.

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