Instead of Filling Time, Consciously Wait (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 346)
“Patience is not passive waiting. Patience is active acceptance of the process required to attain your goals and dreams.”
— Ray A. Davis
We live in a society in which almost everyone is waiting for something to happen, waiting for something to end, waiting for someone to leave or waiting for someone to show up and make up the difference. The waiting experience is often frustrating and if our goal were to learn patience, which it rarely is, the waiting period does a good job of helping us get there. Our inability to wait stems largely from the fact that we are innately restless and seek to fill time instead of allowing ourselves to become aware of new ideas and possibilities that often only reveal themselves while we are in between current and future status.
Let’s be honest, most of us seek to fill time while we wait. At a doctor’s appointment, we read magazines or books. Delayed at the airport, we post Instagram messages about the view from our seat, the annoying traveler next to us, or the weather. In line at the grocery store, we talk on the phone or send text messages to someone about nothing in particular. Observe any line of people at a bank or even at a carnival, you will see heads down, eyes glued to their phones, ears plugged, fingers speed typing away — all in an attempt to fill the time.
We have been conditioned to think that wasting time is a sign of laziness, that even if we are waiting for something or someone legitimately, we must aim to fill that time with productivity. I’m all for not being lazy and being productive so long as you live. Without productivity, it is likely that we do not treat anything with importance or derive any meaning from our lives. It is also likely that we won’t make much money or have many friends that add value to our lives or be able to take care of a family either. Productivity is the bedrock of achievement. It means something to reach a goal or fulfill a dream and make something happen.
But we can succumb to that conditioning so often that we miss one very significant part of waiting without filling up the time. That most important part is conscious waiting. Conscious waiting is not defined by filling up space and time with a bunch of activities just to be doing something. It does not induce anxiety because of uncertainty. It also does not confuse deep understanding and creativity with busyness. Conscious waiting is meaningfully stretching the minutes and moments in which you find yourself waiting. It allows you to open your mind and eyes to new possibilities and opportunities that merely filling time might blind you too. It is waiting with purpose, being intentionally and willing to live and move forward even in the face of uncertainty.
Waiting, at least as it has come to be defined and understood in our modern society, is usually met with frustration and resistance. We don’t like to wait and having to do so often leads to complaining and whining about the situation or about the person. People who wait by filling time often miss great opportunities. People who wait for a perfect time to start working on their goals often never fulfill them. People who wait to take risks often miss out on what could have been. People who wait for the world to change often fail to find their place in it. People who wait to experience a better life often have the life they always wanted to pass them right by.
Conscious waiting involves an active mind that seeks to keep going and to keep making even small measures of progress that give way to shifts in thinking and perception and open up new channels of innovation and discovery. There will never be a complete elimination of waiting. For as long as we live, we will have to wait especially for the things and the people that are meaningful, worthy, and long-lasting. Good things, as they say, take time. But waiting was never meant to be an inactive event where we fill time with trivial activities. It is an opportunity for us to be alert, attentive, and aware of all the opportunities and possibilities before us. You want to be fully present for that.
Next time you find yourself waiting, take that time to think about what you are doing, where you are going, and how you will get there. Reflect on and contemplate your goals and objectives. Anyone can merely fill time but it takes trust and anticipation and a kind willingness to watch and work and allow your mind to go to places it has never been before. Good opportunities often come out of nowhere and fall into our laps not when we’re complaining about the wait, but when we’re consciously waiting, knowing that anything and everything is possible.
“Active waiting means present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen