The Value of Having to Wait

One of the ways you can tell when meditation is really starting to take hold of you is that when life presents you with opportunities to wait somewhere, you sigh with relief.

Waiting is no longer boring. 

I’m not saying that waiting is a time to meditate, although it can be — and it’s an excellent way to while away a few moments when you do happen to be stuck somewhere with nothing else to do.

But that’s not really my point.

My point is that meditation changes your experience of everyday life in such a way that everyday experiences become richer and more…worth taking an interest in. You start noticing details, like textures. You notice the things that give a place its character. You notice the way the wind feels against your skin and the way the sun beats down. Even the negative details (like the sun beating down when it’s 90° F or about 32° C) become points of interest in a way that they were not before. You start to realize that the trickle of sweat making its way down your back is just a point of interest, that it doesn’t really have a positive or negative intrinsic value, that its power to irritate doesn’t even have to exist. Meanwhile, you develop some sort of radar for the energy of the people around you. You notice what kind of day they are having.

Once this starts to happen, you also begin to notice the degree to which people are caught up in their own energy — the degree to which they are projecting “attitude” as a cover-up for uncertainty or anxiety. And you even start noticing the way that the energy of the attitude projection is channeling what they notice and what they don’t notice. And then you start to realize that your own attitude projection is channeling what filters into your own little bubble and what doesn’t. 

And if you’re an introvert or someone who is very sensitive to overstimulation from a world full of people, that’s a quite useful moment. Because that’s the moment when you may find that going to the grocery store at rush hour doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. That you don’t have to be pulled into everyone else’s hustle and bustle. That you can wander about at your own speed, quietly observing, as if you were in a bubble of silence. And this is beneficial for three reasons:

1) you get to be in your own little bubble of silence where people can’t irritate and annoy you,

2) you are less tired because you get the energy back that you might otherwise have had to use up projecting the role that you normally see yourself in, and

3) moving at a slower, more mindful speed than everyone else somehow takes you off their radar — as if you had put on an invisibility cloak. While you are busy noticing, you are not being noticed. And the ability to be invisible can not only be useful, but also can be a form of protection.

Next time you have to wait somewhere, try unpacking the blessings of these moments of waiting. Ask yourself whether the irritation is truly real, or just a point of interest. Notice what kind of place you are in, what’s going on with the people around you, and what kind of bubble you have placed around yourself. Does the name of your bubble have to be “I cannot believe I have to wait so long,” or could the name of your bubble be “I have no real awareness of the passage of time”?

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