I’m surprisingly cool when I wait in line. It sounds like a really arrogant thing to say but it’s true, you’d probably feel comfortable queuing up with me. Even if I was right behind you and your credit card got declined six times.
I’ve noticed that it’s not very common to find nice people in a line, I often look around I mostly see these faces deformed by hatred, ready to gore an old lady because she struggles with her wallet at the register.
I’m not saying that I’ve never been a line troll, I used to be normally obnoxious, but I changed out of necessity: being angry in a line tends to increase your frustration exponentially and makes you believe that the world is plotting against you. It’s also bad for your heart, and given my old age, it’s something worth considering.
Anyway, I came up with the conclusion that lines can either feel like a never ending enema or provide a chance to grow spiritually, depending on the outlook you choose to have.
Making your life an execrable experience
There’s a good reason why I used to get so mad in a waiting room before: I thought that life was somewhat going to be more exciting once I’d be done waiting.
I even wagged some future reward in front of me to make the wait bearable: eating a hamburger or smoking a huge joint, depending. Mentally postponing happiness was of course counter productive: it only made the wait feel longer.
Somehow, waiting in a post office or at the bank was not real life, it was a place in time and space that didn’t deserve my full attendance. This belief encouraged me to be the worst of myself, obviously.
I suspect that’s how we all end up cranky when lining up: we somehow assume that we don’t deserve this crap, that real life is elsewhere, outside the walls of this government building where time has been purposely slowed down.
Still…it’s our life, we arbitrarily decide that sharing a room with a bunch of strangers is not interesting enough for us, but the wait is only as painful as we make it.
I find it funny that so many of us hate sitting and waiting for our number to be called while being avid meditators at home, if you really look, what’s the difference between waiting at the bank and cross-legged on a pillow, really?
Maybe, as modern meditators we could see lines and idle times as a chance to practice mindfulness:
- On the platform, waiting for the train
- Stuck in traffic
- Held off at the register
- On the phone to return a defective Internet modem, while the background music stretches to infinity
Can you imagine how much more practice we would add to your regular schedule?
The miracle of meditation is that you can practice it anywhere, provided you develop the habit.
What prevents you from performing a body scan if you know that you’re bound to wait 10 minutes at the bank?
Or focusing on your breath in a traffic jam?
Any activity that forces you to stop is an opportunity to WATCH, investigate what’s happening in your body, your mind, and getting smarter and calmer in the process.
There’s a Tibetan term for the “spaces in between” BTW: Bardo, it designates any intermediate state…
The most famous “bardo” is the period between two lives, when the conscience of a deceased person has not been reincarnated yet. But there’s also the Bardo of sleep: the time spent between falling asleep and waking up.
If you really look, life is just a succession of intermediary stages, and you can fit a mindfulness time in pretty much all of them. Including the bardo of the queue at the movies or the airport customs.
Practicing anywhere has proven efficient for me, I believe it protects my mind from a lobotomizing city life.
I you also practice alternative meditation settings, I’d be happy if you could share them in the comments below :)