Saturday, 18 February 2017

To wait, or not to wait. That is the question... (8 minutes read)

I have been thinking a lot recently about a colleague's beautiful, wise, and helpful blog post* which includes considerations on 'waiting'. As in, Bruce rarely waits any more. He doesn't wait in line at the post office, or for news, or for a waiter to come take his order. Intriguing eh? A life without waiting? What does he do in that post office queue then? He stands in line. He moves forward a little. He stands. He moves forward. He greets the cashier and makes his requests, purchases them, and moves away from the counter to the door.... That way there is no waiting. Unless, as I see it, he tries to be further on into the intention than he actually is - both pushing and contracting in tension to be somewhere other than where he is right now. Falling into expectation and assumption.

And this fascinates me - an inveterate 'bad at waiting person'. A person currently 'waiting' for a house-buyer, 'waiting' to move, 'waiting' to start a new chapter in life, and not finding it easy.

Many years ago now, in the days leading up to the births of each of my children, I was a pretty hopeless case; not wanting to be left on my own in case.... Clutching my PhD in 'Waiting', I did nothing else so as to be ultra ready. (What, pray, is 'ultra ready'? We can be ready, or not ready, but not more than ready.) I was a bag of nerves - alert for any sign of labour. And then, when it happened - with my son in a rapid hour and a quarter - I was fine. Cool as a cucumber (or as cool as a cucumber can be in childbirth) and in the flow. But the days before? The not knowing when it would be? Hopeless.

This stress-from-waiting has tickled my curiosity many times in my life. And when Bruce wrote his piece, and spoke of its content in courses, I was drawn to listen deeply. How can I not wait, but instead just 'live until'? How can I just do what I am doing, or rest in the middle of doings, without the 'waiting flavouring'?

I considered this long and hard, but there was no substitution for discovering for how I was 'flavouring' the moments until until they felt like I was lost in waiting. For me, my 'flavouring' includes holding my breath (more usefully to know, not breathing out), a 'heightened' sense of awareness - aka, everything in me comes up to the top height all around my chest and head, and I'm not really aware at all; I am actually in fear, lost in my mind's 'what ifs'. My legs are tight and or jiggling -  full of 'be ready to move suddenly' - and my hands slightly clenched. I am not balanced over my feet, or over my sit-bones on a chair; I am living about 2 feet in front of my chest. Oh, and we won't mention my tongue and jaw - tight in readiness for a million 'buts' and 'what ifs'. Barely noticeable, but I have caught the tensions many a time and 'stalked' them to discover their deeper nuances. It's become ever clearer to me that I 'do' a heck of a lot as I 'wait', and whilst doing and waiting seem to be complete opposites, it's becoming ever clearer to me that they are secret and dodgy bedfellows.

Now understanding the traps of 'attachment', my 'flavourings' are no longer such a big reaction and daily I am glad of the work I do, because I can't imagine how I would be without it, but some of them are still there. I look for them; weeding them out from the melee of 'I'm stressed' at times of what might be called 'waiting'. Right now, in the 'waiting' to find another buyer for my home, I can talk about it, justify the slowness of the process, understand it, and act on some of the preparations for moving home, but the real change takes place when I stop doing what it is I do which constitutes me sensing that I am in waiting mode... What I constantly find I'm doing in most cases is trying to be cool, calm, and collected. So, next self-question is, what am I doing with myself when I am trying to be calm? I find I repress myself - squeeze, tighten, hold, compress, restrict, forbid myself - into the sort of stillness I long ago perceived to to be 'cool, calm and collected'. The ability to repress was a quality much lauded during my upbringing, but that's not the stillness I am after; it's fake. And there are too many vestiges of it still around.  In Alexander work we talk about 'inhibiting ones habitual way of reacting', and although this inhibition isn't suppression, instead the absence of the habit happening at all, it feels to me now that even that way might not necessarily be real each time; it isn't allowing for characteristic differences. I am looking for the space in between suppression and nothing; the being at peace with the way I am within the process I am in.

It's very important for me to discover with my students what their 'shoulds' are.... How do they want to be vs how they think they ought to be. And to discover that when the how they actually are is given permission and witnessed, they often find that their way is perfectly fine. So, what if my 'un-cool' way of un-supressed fidgety waiting isn't bad at all? What if it's just my way? What if some wait by simply being still where they are until.... And some wait by jiggling about? What if there isn't a right or wrong way, but only the way which most fits each person's authentic way of being? Today. Different - maybe - to tomorrow's way. And that when we say 'yes' to this, there is no friction, no suppression, no 'other than who I am', and so we feel fine all round.

When I rode polo ponies there were many pony-characters on the yard. All were fast on the pitch, but some were placid and quiet on exercise or on the yard. They stood still as I opened a gate, or we awaited our turn to come back onto the yard. But some were jigglers; they danced and pranced their way through exercise - never walking, instead jogging, skirting numerous invisible scary things along the way, nipping through gates ahead of everyone, and clip-clopping their hooves on the concrete in the yard as, tied to the ring on the wall, they swivelled back and forth, waiting (not) to be tacked up and un-tacked before and after the ride. That was just what they did. That was their character. And our job was to respond to them appropriately. Novice riders didn't ride them. You got a quiet ride if you felt a bit poorly. Mostly the head-groom rode the jiggly ones as he loved being jiggled. But no one said they were 'bad' horses. And nor were the horses who stood still and waited 'good'. They were just seen as different characters.

So, my students and I make discoveries around this: what is it they do when they are waiting for something? Some say they try to be quiet and just trust, but it's hell. Some say they jiggle about and they 'shouldn't'. And we play with just allowing what they do to be experienced consciously and find it's ok..... Ah, so letting what wants to happen happen stops the sense of waiting?

And the answer, I have found, is 'yes. Being able to not go into melt-down in the post-office queue is good. As is the less-likely reaction of falling to the ground asleep and tripping up the person behind you in the queue. But in the space between these are all sorts of responses; some standing, until moving, until more standing, until the transaction accomplished. Some jiggling about, dancing, weaving, swaying, filling the 'time until' with movement - just plain moving because they are movers.

What do you do? What is it you do which lets you know you are 'waiting'. Because something does let you know. Without this doing-of-something, you are just there, standing in line, or living until moving house day, or sitting in  a chair until a waiter asks you what you want. And we know this because when happy during the time we cease to call it waiting. When talking with a friend, even on the ubiquitous cell phone, or with lots of time, we don't call it 'waiting'.

So, waiting is a state of mind and the response to the mind lies in the body where it is interpreted. Waiting is not an event in itself. Go play with this? Maybe take another look at the image at the top of this post whilst noticing what happens inside you. See what you come up with? You can't be wrong. Let's make some new discoveries, and maybe feel lighter towards ourselves because of it? When do you wait? Where within yourself do you 'do waiting'? And most importantly of all, HOW do you 'do waiting' - how are you being in yourself which creates the act of waiting? Can you soften that into something different? I'm playing with this. Join me?

PS Writing a piece on not waiting seems to be impossible to do without using the words 'wait' and 'waiting' over and over and over... How many times are they here in this piece?!