Like most Americans, I don’t really like to wait. Not in line, not in traffic, not really for anything. And waiting to get on the freeway, or into a movie, or for coffee in my favorite bistro really is sort of pointless. When the waiting is done, the payoff is pretty small. Unfortunately, my lack of being able to wait for small things makes me unable to wait comfortably for the big things such as insight and wisdom, courage and reason. Until I can let go of my desire for instant gratification, I cannot attain the greater joys of life. And that’s hard. And it means I have to wait, and think, and not give in to every whim.
In Ken Burns new film, “The Dust Bowl”, there is a wonderful insight from a survivor of that horrible era of man-made ecological devastation who explains why what happened then keeps happening again and again. He says, “We want it right now–and if it makes money now it’s a good idea. But if the things we’re doing are going to mess up the future, it wasn’t a good idea. Don’t deal in the moment. Take the long-term look at things.”
Lots of new age gurus and even lots of very serious spiritual folks tout the power of the present moment to change everything. And there is no question that living every moment well is a great strategy for personal happiness. But what does it take for us to resist “dealing in the moment”? Everything I want right now will not serve me well in the future. Some things are worth waiting for.
What are you waiting for? What are you willing to wait for? Love worth having? Work worth doing? A life worth living? What practices help you wait or at least tolerate the waiting? Try walking a labyrinth, visiting with an elder, or listening intently to a loved one for more than 15 minutes. Return the stare of a terrier or watch the waves at the beach until it makes you itchy. Go to a museum and sit with a painting or sculpture that you like and see if you can see “more” by simply looking for an extended time. Shut off all your electronic devices and listen to the sound of silence for 10 minutes.
If you do any of these practices and do not have an immediate change of perspective or insight, be willing to wait some more.