The Power of Positive Waiting
We do not appreciate waiting. Life is more fun when things happen right away. We like to go fast.
It can be a challenge for us to find the value of being patient. Waiting feeds our fears and insecurities. What if it never ends and we cannot get the result for which we wait? Is there anything more we can do to make sure what we want arrives sooner?
One of the things I like least about waiting is it tangibly demonstrates some things are beyond us. We cannot know everything, do everything, make everything right. We cannot prepare for every eventuality.
Waiting requires trust.
Many of us to interpret needing to wait as meaning we are not ready or worthy to receive something. We are not good enough, have not earned it, we need to work harder. if only we were better we might not need to wait so long.
Of course, one of the first things I do when I finish waiting for something is start waiting for the next thing.
I often try to distract myself while I wait, thinking about all the other things I could be doing, checking my email. Rarely do I tap into the opportunity which is part of my waiting.
The challenge for me is to learn how to wait well, how to wait in ways that feed my soul. The challenge for me is to be open and draw lessons from the time I spend waiting. I need to recognize it is a gift for me to accept and appreciate.
Needing to wait can spark feelings of being stuck in us. We are focused on the object of our efforts and lose sight of the moment in which we wait.
Waiting With a Purpose
In his novel Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse tells the story of a young man who leaves his family for a contemplative life. Early in the novel, when he has decided what he intends to do, Siddhartha asks for his father’s permission. His father withholds permission and tells his son he does not want to hear him ask again.
The father rises slowly and Siddhartha remains silent “with folded arms.
‘Why are you waiting?’ asked his father.
‘You know why,’ answered Siddhartha.”
The father leaves the room displeased and goes to bed. In an hour the father gets up and goes outdoors for a walk. he can see his son through a window, still standing and waiting. The father returns to bed, but rises each hour through the night. Each time he gets up he can see his son standing and waiting.
In the last hour of the night, just before daybreak, the father returns to the room again to find Siddhartha still standing.
“‘Siddhartha,’ he said, ‘why are you waiting?’
‘You know why.’
‘Will you go on standing and waiting until it is day, noon, evening?’
‘I will stand and wait.’
‘You will grow tired, Siddhartha.’
‘I will grow tired.’
‘You will fall asleep, Siddhartha.’
‘I will not fall asleep.’
‘You will die, Siddhartha.’
‘I will die.’
‘And you would rather die than obey your father?’
‘Siddhartha has always obeyed his father.’
‘So you will give up your project?’
‘Siddhartha will do what his father tells him.'”
The quality and strength of Siddhartha’s waiting impresses me each time I read those pages. He does not argue with his father or try to persuade him to see things from his perspective. He waits, before beginning his journey, and his waiting help his father see in a new way.
Waiting in the Stillness
Many of us experience waiting as an essential part of spiritual life. We sit with a combination of anxiety and anticipation, surrounded by people we do not really know, until it is time to go.
It is easy for us to lose sight of our purpose, of why we are waiting. We would prefer to speed things up, to get going, and win the argument. Most of us do not want to take time to wait.
I try to spend my waiting time in the present moment. It can be easy to get distracted by what we wish we had done in the past, or what we hope to do in the future. There is nothing we can to do force time to speed up or slow down. Nothing we do can change the circumstances in which we wait. What we can control is how we respond.
We take our time to sit, to breathe deeply, to listen to the sacred stillness within us and in the world around us.
Like Siddhartha, we will grow tired, but we will not sleep. We will go on standing and waiting until it is day, noon, evening.
Waiting for the Sacred Stillness
This has been a year of waiting for many of us, and we are still waiting.
We wait for release and relief from death and disease. Some of us wait for people we have loved and lost. Many of us wait for new opportunities or changes in our lives. We may be waiting for someone else to respond, or for ourselves to overcome difficult obstacles or learn challenging lessons.
One of the lessons this year may be teaching us is how to live with what is beyond our ability to control. It is not enough for us to simply sit and wait.
As we sit and listen, we practice being open to the power of sacred stillness. We close our eyes, breathe deeply, and listen. Our practice is not about remembering or planning, but about listening and being open.
We take time to wait for sacred stillness to wrap us in its intimate embrace. As we listen we recognize the stillness within us and in the world around us is one stillness.
Why are we waiting? You know why.
How are we waiting with a purpose today?
When will we spend time waiting for the sacred stillness this week?
[Image by A_Peach]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.