In our era of instant downloads, waiting is something of a lost art. But for all our speedy technology, we still have to contend with waiting. We wait in line, we wait for test results, we wait for the seasons to change. We wait for things big and small.
It is true that some things simply cannot wait. And it is also true that if we want something, we are not necessarily better off waiting for it. If we seek fulfillment or personal satisfaction, we cannot wait for these things to come to us. We have to take the initiative to pursue them.
But waiting has a time and a place. There are moments when we must take action and moments we must pause and be still. For those moments when we must pause, we can take the opportunity to tune in and become more aware. Here are few ways that waiting changes us for the better.
Waiting is Acceptance
When we are forced to wait, we might grow angry. We want our cappuccino to arrive, we want the stoplight to turn green, we want to see our doctor immediately! But waiting is a chance to let go of the need to control. By learning to wait, you learn to be comfortable in the uncertainty of the moment, to be okay with not knowing when your cappuccino will arrive, when traffic will let up, or when the doctor will be free. Learning to wait does not necessarily mean being passive, but accepting things as they are (your cappuccino is simply taking awhile, traffic is heavy, the doctor is busy with another patient).
Waiting Builds Gratitude
The longer we wait for something, the more we tend to appreciate it when it finally arrives. Think of when you wait for food at a restaurant or when you wait for the warmth of spring to arrive. How delicious your food smells when it’s placed under your nose! How good the sunshine feels on the first day of spring! In this way, waiting builds gratitude. The next time you find yourself growing impatient and tapping your foot while waiting, stop and consider the work and effort and time that goes into what you are waiting for. Nothing that is valuable is immediate.
Waiting Is Mindfulness
Waiting does not necessarily mean total inaction. Sometimes, it simply means making the most of something as you watch it progress and unfold. Think of cookies baking in the oven or flowers that grow patiently on your windowsill. Think of when you are waiting in line at the store. You could distract yourself or just sit and pine for the wait to be over. Or you could observe. As the cookies bake, be attentive to their delicious aroma and the way they fantastically change shape in the oven. As your flowers grow, notice their color, the small shoots that emerge from the soil. Even as you wait in line, listen to the noises of the register, the small talk that hums around you. Waiting is a chance to immerse yourself in the process, rather than sit and harp on the final results. When you do this, you turn the act of waiting into a state of being.
While we’ve used some more mundane examples here, perhaps you can think of times when waiting for something taught you the ways in which you needed to relinquish control and simply be in the moment.