In my move to WordPress, this post went missing…here it is republished.
Jack on productive [tag]waiting[/tag]:
Waiting is a fact of life. We wait in line, on hold, for people to get back to us, for traffic lights to change, for parking spaces to open up, for solutions to appear, for consensus to be built, for projects to move forward.
What is unproductive waiting … and what is productive waiting?
Two pieces, for me.
First, there is the kind of waiting when our minds are not united with the task at hand, and second there is the kind of waiting when we are fully engaged.
On the first one, the waiting in lines, on hold and so on, we can choose to be mindful about that waiting or use that waiting to do something else. I think the question then starts to come apart, for there can be no such thing as productive or unproductive waiting. Only waiting in which we are present and waiting in which we are not.
For people wanting to meditate, but who find that they don’t have enough time in the day to do so, these periods of waiting can be true gifts. They can be like mindfulness bells, ringing us into awareness. When we are asked to wait or “forced” to wait, we can simply direct our attention to being mindfully present and practice awareness.
The second kind of waiting is the one that really fascinates me. This is waiting when we are fully engaged in the present. The most powerful experience I have ever had of this was when my children were born. Being with my partner through two long labours was a very interesting kind of waiting. Time starts to do funny things – it gets shifty and stretchy, and your awareness of it detaches and solely rests on the emergent moment. A child will soon be born, and the best you can do is to be fully alive to that possiblility. Distraction serves no purpose. In fact, with our second child, my partner commented that at one point it felt as if she was living in a ghost world. As we walked around with her living through this long and low grade labour (40 hours!) she noted that none of people we were walking past had any idea of what was going on between us and within her. She felt in the world but not at all a part of it – like a ghost. But she was deeply within the moment.
This is a deep [tag]presencing[/tag]. It is waiting for something to emerge, something life changing, possibly life threatening, and yet with no way to know how it will all unfold. Radical trust into the moment, radical readiness to accept what will come.
When Otto Scharmer writes about presencing, I think this is what he is talking about. We can practice for these kinds of moments by embracing the first kind of waiting, which gives us the capacity to appreciate the second kind on those rare occasions in our life when we are gifted that experience.