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.