Why Wait?

The phrase “I hate waiting” is one we’ve all heard and many of us have muttered. Waiting sucks. It’s pointless. Boring. Waiting is frustration and tension. A waste of time. So why do it?

I’m not advocating that we all demand everything we want this very moment. What I’m advocating is that we make this very moment the focus of our attention, rather than a moment coming in some indeterminate time.

Recently, on a day trip with some of my family, I had to stay behind and wait for my wife who had taken my nephew to the bathroom. As I stood there in the hallway, not knowing quiet how long the little man would take, I realised that I didn’t have to wait. I just had to be there. They would come out eventually. So, instead of waiting, I just stood and was there. I didn’t fiddle with my phone, hoping for a pleasant distraction, I didn’t feel any sense of urgency. I just stood and listened to the sound of the people in the nearby cafe, enjoyed the sunlight coming in through the nearby window, noticed how I felt physically and watched the thoughts in my mind come and go.

This didn’t feel like waiting. This was being.

Over the rest of the day I found myself thinking about what it means to wait as opposed to what it means to be. Waiting, it seems, is predicated on an assumption of incompleteness. Something is going to happen and until it happens I have an open loop, something that needs to be finished off. And while this may be true there’s no reason that this should be an active process. I may have to allow the kettle to boil to make tea but that doesn’t mean that during that time my main focus must be waiting. Waiting, perhaps, should become a background process?

Whatever the endpoint of all this thinking, the insight is the same, if waiting is a future focused activity based on incompleteness, it follows that we can replace it with a present focused activity based on completeness in the moment.

The future will come whether I spend my present thinking about it or not. But the present will be gone by the time that happens. So it’s only logical to spend the mental energy I have to apply my awareness and focus on the present. It’s really all I have.

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