What am I Waiting For: And What Waits? ~ by Mo Henderson ~ part of the “What are you waiting for?” series.

 

‘A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us’.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

Waiting can sometimes be a source of frustration. When we are surrounded by a culture of productivity, things can be seen as a test or comparison, the shape of our bodies, the hours we work, what we earn or what we buy can be judged and measured, influencing our attitude towards ourselves and others. When I was nursing years ago, I remember trying to be all things to all people, never saying no to what I thought was needed at the time. I was dedicated. However, on reflection, I was also a workaholic and a people pleaser. The consequence was, I almost suffered burnout, the result of which would have left me useless for all, including myself. Most of my decisions were made hurriedly, I didn’t wait and felt unfulfilled in many ways.

Exhausted and at a very low ebb in my life, a friend and I attended a retreat and I was introduced to Zazen (Buddhist meditation). In the beginning, the experience of practice appeared to make things worse! However, something kept me going and after many years of going on with practice and study, I believe I am discovering more of my authentic self and taking part in something much bigger.

I hope this little poem expresses some of the difficulties of learning to sit still, question myself and see things differently.

So who is it who waits and who is it who acts? I wish to learn from my teachers, know not to copy them, find my real authentic self and play a part in life as best I can. Who will that be tomorrow, I don’t actually know.

What is Waiting?

Will I see colours, blues and purples?
They say blue is spacious and purple is very spiritual,
I read about the bliss and the explosion of light,
Can I feel the same, no, try as I might?

When will the bell ring?
I need to move,
this pain in my back is changing my mood.
This body can be troublesome,
these thoughts are too much,
If things were different, then I’d be in touch.

Who is it sitting here, is it me?
Maybe there’s more to know and to see.
But first, acceptance and patience to wait,
for this little child who will open the gate.
Stepping out to finally greet,
what is always calling me to meet?

Mo Henderson

Waiting: Not Waiting-Just flow ~ part of the ‘What Are You Waiting For?’ feauture ~ by Karen Richards

Continuing our theme of “What Are You Waiting For?”, this week Karen Richards recounts a personal experience of the teaching that comes from “waiting”.

Many years ago, whilst walking in the Northumberland countryside with a monk friend, she told me the story of when, as a novice monk, she had been given the task of picking up a senior monk from the railway station. The train was late, with no confirmed time of arrival, leaving her waiting on the platform. She described the thoughts and emotions she felt: anxiety, uncertainty, irritation, and boredom. But then, a quiet voice in her mind said “You know how to wait” and she was able to let go of the frustration she was feeling and just be still.

As a carer to someone who finds movement difficult, I often have to wait for him to complete basic actions that most people take for granted. – to stand, to sit, to walk across the room, to take off socks – before I can help him with the next task.  It requires patience on both our parts. Sometimes patience comes naturally, sometimes it does not.

There have been times when, just like the novice monk, on the platform at the station, I have felt anxiety and impatience in that waiting space between the beginning of an action and its completion but the quiet statement that she spoke to herself, and which she shared so generously with me, “You know how to wait” has echoed down the years and has become a personal mantra that, when spoken gently and without self-judgement, reveals a vast openness within and engenders great love and compassion for the husband that I care for, for myself, for our difficulties and the difficulties of others. It is possible, at this point to understand where the anxiety and impatience come from – a sense of loss in my case – and things can be seen more clearly for what they are.

This change in viewpoint also has the effect of dissolving the concept of “waiting” altogether, as one moment, whether it be a moment of action or inaction, follows on in one continuous flow. I am grateful to that wise monk for her teaching and in awe of the process that is Buddhist training.

 

Waiting for the Last Bus ~ by Chris Yeomans ~part of the “What are you waiting for?” series

This week, we begin a series of posts on the theme of “What are you waiting for?” Our first offering, by Chris Yeomans, is a reflective review of the book, Waiting for the Last Bus” by Richard Holloway.

 

I have long been an admirer of Richard Holloway, who managed to talk himself out of his job, not only as Bishop of Edinburgh but as Head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, when he realised that he could no longer believe in what he was supposed to be preaching. A man who, in trying to find out whether ethics or spirituality could exist without a God, inevitably found himself at odds with the established church. In the preface to an earlier work ‘Looking in the Distance’ he says, “There is a rich and diverse range of human spiritualities in the world, and countless people follow them without reference to religion or any necessary sense of God. I have written this book for that great company because I now find myself within it.”

So I was, of course, more than pleased when he published this book about old age and death, being as how some of us are now drawing much closer to that period of our lives than hereunto.

It’s an alluring image, the idea of standing by the bus stop, waiting and wondering, knowing that there are no longer infinite opportunities yet to come. In the book, Holloway uses another similar image: that of getting on a train, used by a dying friend. “Her metaphor for death had been the train not the bus. She knew she’d have to board alone, but she wanted me there up to the last moment. ‘Make sure you buy a platform ticket,’ she warned me. (…). That’s where she wanted me, as close as I could get to her departure. I was there when the train drew in and she boarded.’

The book explores aspects of being old: how it might be good to be, what human values persist, what fears, myths and legends persist. But, mostly, it is memorable for those two images, which anodise death by making it seem like an ordinary lifetime event. Which of course it both is and isn’t. Ordinary because it will come to us all. Extraordinary because for each of us it will come only once. And as the years pass, we find ourselves inevitably pondering upon it more, and, if not exactly waiting, (which implies a suspension of activity), at least wondering.