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The Practice of Waiting

by on March 11, 2011

Unless you’re a billionaire, traveling is going to involve some amount of waiting.  Actually, if you’ve made your own material wealth, you already have experience with waiting, timing, etc.  For the rest of us, this entry is intended to provide tips and techniques for using the time spent waiting (for the next bus, for the plane to take off, for reaching your destination, etc), and not wasting away into nothingness.

How not to wait

These exercises may be performed while sitting, lying down, even standing.  For all of these, remember that comfort is crucial.  The general idea is not to waste energy trying to fix things.  Just let it be.  So, I’ll get right down to it.

Waiting 101 – watching the breath

  • With the mind’s eye, watch the breath.  Start with the quality of the inhale, letting each exhale dissipate as it will.  Inhale into the entire lung, starting at the bottom and letting the diaphragm expand, then filling up the middle and top of the lungs.  Then, watch the exhale, slowly letting all the air out, and squeezing the lower abdominal muscles.
  • Feel free to bring slight spinal and shoulder movements into the breath (shoulders move back and solar plexus moves foward with inhales, reverse for exhales).

Waiting 102 – watching the space between breaths

  • Once you get used to the above, try holding the inhale for a few seconds at a time, and do the same with the exhales.  Iyengar says the space between inhales and exhales, when observed with a calm mind, teaches the body to soak in and realize the prana being generated.  Watch this space, and over time, let it grow.  Comfort is crucial.

Waiting 201 – achieve equanimity with your environment

  • Our outward perception sometimes feels like an impediment to our inner observations.  In other words, sights and sounds waste energy in the form of distraction from our efforts to build energy on the inside.  To counter this, we can gain comfort with our external environment by paying attention to every stimulus equally.
  • First, close the eyes.  This is easy.  If not possible, maintain a steady gaze at a fixed point, and blink frequently.  Then, close the ears.  If not possible, give equal attention to every sound and form a circle of sound around your being.  The sound of the above breaths will help.  Listen for the space between the sounds (as in Waiting 102).
  • Eventually the happenings around you will turn into new, non-threatening, and highly educational stimuli.  Soon you will gain complete awareness of everything and everyone around you, while being centered.  In other word, equanimity (it is fun to say the word out loud and relish it) is achieved.

Waiting 202 –  just be

  • The idea here is to channel the endless energy of our awareness and environment deeper towards our inner self.  Once the breathing is steady and rhythmic and equanimity with the environment is experienced, we’ve cleared the path for a deeper awareness of who we really are.  Especially when we’re waiting.  Everyone is equal here, and you’re simmering in that realization.

When you finally open your eyes or come back to the situation, you’re energized and aware.  Share this energy with others!  This will enable you to tune into other people waiting around you, and maybe even break the monotony with some gentle conversation.  Practice makes perfect.

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From → Lifestyle, Pranayama

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