Yoga and the Art of Waiting

The most important lesson yoga can teach us is how to be happy now. Not when we lose 10 pounds, not when we find the perfect partner, not when we get the dream job, or have money in the bank. Right. Now. Check in with yourself. How do you feel? Any stirrings of happiness, contentment, satisfaction? If not, why not? My guess is that, like most of us, your thoughts are tossed into the future (or the past) on an event or situation that will likely never come to fruition (or has already occurred so there is nothing to change). Mark Twain has a great quote: “I have lived a most extraordinary life. 95% of which has never occurred.”

We all wait in line at the bank, or the gas station, or to sign in for a yoga class. During those few moments (or perhaps they are stretched to a few minutes) how are we? Frustrated that we have to wait? Chatting with the person next to us? Thinking about all the things we could be doing instead? Or are we feeling the air conditioning on our skin, noticing how the people around us are dressed, enjoying the comfort of our shoes, or taking the opportunity to take a few deep, cleansing breaths? There is a difference in the wait times between waiting for our lives to “get better” and the requisite “wait” that we all have to do in various circumstances.

If we spend a majority of our time planning and scheming and worrying about future events, we completely miss out on the present. And even if you think your present isn’t all that interesting, it is your life, and you brought yourself to this point in time. Like most of us, I have a calendar that schedules my life. I write everything down so I don’t double-book myself and still leave enough time to make it from one appointment to another. I have no one to blame for my schedule. If I find that I don’t have the freetime I want, there is no one but me to rework the calendar and put in time for meeting with friends or just a little time to read a book or feel the grass or walk the dog. By placing events on a calendar, I eliminate the worry that I’ll forget something, and when I’m tutoring a student, I can be fully present, or when I’m teaching a class, I know that there is nothing else to do at that moment except teach.

Anyone who is successful must have goals (granted, our definitions of success and goals may vary). Goals are what we intend to do in the future, some moment that isn’t this one. Planning and scheduling are all  part of achieving goals and fitting in to society as a contributor. However, I propose that if we spent too much of the “now” worrying over “the future”, then we’re no longer practicing yoga. The longer we stay out of the now and allow our ego to plant thought after thought of “what ifs”, the further away from happiness we move, until we’re buried under all the optional misery that we’ve spent so much time and work to “notice”, before it drops away as we take control of the ego and plant ourselves firmly in the now.

Like most people, I struggle with this about this time of year. With school starting, I wonder what my classes will look like, who will walk in my door, whether or not I’ll have my lessons prepared, and how successful of a year it will be. Recently, I’ve received some disturbing information regarding my school year. I’ve taken steps to attempt to put things in perspective, and to remind myself that the more I spin scenarios about possibilities of what could go wrong and extra work and lack of . . . whatever, the more I’m missing out on the now. And right now are my last few days of summer vacation. Who would want to spend them frustrated, annoyed, upset, angry, or anything else (optional misery) about something that may not be able to be changed (the requisite “pain”), all the while missing out on the moment of enjoying lunch with a friend, viewing paintings in a museum, a trailride on my horse, or engaging in creativity by adding another post to my yoga blog? Not me! Here, once again, is an opportunity for me to withdraw my thoughts from the future and place my attention and focus on the now. It doesn’t mean that I give up, that I don’t try to work things out, but it does mean that life has, once again, offered up a chance for me to apply the teachings and tools of yoga to remain in my center, firmly connected to that part in all of us that is calm and peaceful.

So whether you’re waiting in line for a sno-cone at the beach, in traffic knowing you’re going to be late for work, or to find out the results of your application for a promotion, anchor yourself in the now. Your breath, the sensations in the body, and don’t allow the ego to steal the time you have by placing you in a situation that could very well “never occur”. On my web site I’ve taken some of yoga’s tools and wrote about them in 25 poems. You can read three of them for free. And if you have a tale of your own about waiting . . . leave it in the comment box. Namaste.