waiting as a spiritual discipline

Posted on August 24, 2017


“Why do you hurry?

When you rush, you lose things along the way.

But when you slow down, things come to you.”

(Bedouin Guide)souls to catch up

I am finding that as my life slows down, waiting has been something that was alien to me.

We are taught that

when we are hungry, rather than taking the time to cook healthy food, we turn to food that is convenient and fast,

when we go somewhere, we try to get there the fastest way and the process is lost in the destination,

when we need something from the store, even if it is a half mile away, we jump into the car and drive there,

when there is a line in traffic or at the store, waiting has become synonymous with a curse word…

As I searched for images on waiting, I realized what a foreign concept the waiting that I’m talking about is to our culture. Whenever waiting was mentioned, it was in conjunction with the word “for”. We are waiting for the weekend, waiting for summer, waiting for vacation, waiting for my check, waiting for my friend to come home, waiting for a mate. This is not waiting. This is longing. This is desire. This is the very opposite of what true “waiting” is all about. This way of living is all about discontentment. I don’t like being broke, so I’m waiting for my check. I don’t like winter, so I’m waiting for summer. I don’t like working, so I’m waiting for the weekend. I don’t like being alone, so I’m waiting for a friend or a mate and anything other than what life has already given me. Waiting has become waa, waa, waa. This is not waiting. This is longing. And longing creates sorrow. We turn our backs on what we are given. We live our lives in scarcity rather than in the abundance we have been given.

True waiting puts an end to scurrying around. Waiting embraces time and place. Waiting transcends time and space. Waiting enriches our lives by choosing life and not death. Waiting opens our eyes and our ears, our minds and our hearts. True waiting gives us permission to just be who we are, here and now, with a smile on the face and in the heart. On Sunday, when Quakers worship in silence for an hour, we often called it waiting worship; waiting expectantly but without expectation. Fully being and living each moment of every day.

This spring, my car gave me the boot by blowing its head gasket. Little did I know that this is exactly what I needed this summer.

I’ve never liked cars and finally I realize they have never really liked me. I can tell you story after story to demonstrate this.

When I first got out on my own in my mid 20s, the primary lesson I learned is that this whole mess is dysfunctional and if I were given the chance to redesign civilization I would begin with two rules. 1) no money. 2) no cars. Start over and make it work!!!

This summer, I am discovering something new, a companion that has


always been with me. It is me. Learning to be with myself, here and now.

When I come to a bus stop, this is the test. Do I stand there waiting for 5 minutes or 25 or 55 minutes? And what do I do when I have to wait. I often observe others waiting. Some fidgeting. Some cursing, Others lost (dumbed down) in their smart phones. And yet others sitting quietly and peacefully. What will I do when I have to wait? We have lost the art of waiting meaningfully. We waste our lives away scurrying around in our minds even in our waiting.

What I see is that most waiting is wasted time.


I sit, waiting, observing, listening

To the violence of the rat race

Racing down the road to nowhere.

Learning to wait is one of the

first lessons of leaving the rat race,

Letting go of convenience, speed,

And the stress of being a racing rat;

Turning toward health and wellness,

peace and contentment,

soundness of mind.


The whole earth is in a constant process of waiting.

The fetus is in the womb for 9 months, waiting for birth;

The born is on the Earth for 90 years, waiting for death;

The seed sits in the ground, waiting;

the gardener waters and cultivates, waiting;

the hunter sits quietly for hours, waiting;

the darkness lingers, waiting;

the sun behind clouds, waiting;

and all of nature watches

as the human race keeps racing around,

creating chaos and then losing themselves in it,

without even knowing…

Maybe waiting is a form of poetry calling to us to awaken and live.


‎”The only thing that can save the world

is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world.

That’s what poetry does.”

(Allan Ginsberg)


“Poetry may make us

. . . a little more aware

of the deeper, unnamed feelings

which form the substratum of our being

to which we rarely penetrate;

for our lives are mostly

a constant evasion of ourselves.”

(T. S. Eliot, Nobel Prize acceptance


“Ours is a restless culture. Life has become excessively busy for a large portion of the population. Stress is almost built into our body clocks. I am not a fast driver, probably slower than most. But sometimes I find myself hurrying to get somewhere—switching lanes, passing traffic, going through yellow lights—when it occurs to me that the only thing putting pressure on me to rush is my own state of mind…. Our wants are constantly expanding, and our income usually lags behind. More hours to work, more things to do, and more places to go create pressure. Far from producing a sense of inner peace, this style of life nurtures a spiritual void.”

Arthur Simon

Source: How Much Is Enough?