Today Robert and I had to go to the Social Security Office. I thought they opened at 8 am, so to avoid having to stand in line outside, we showed up around 8:30. But the office actually opened at 9 am, so we did have to stand in line outside. As we were waiting, I wondered how many people in the country were also standing in a line at that very moment. It was an interesting thing to think about, all the different places people have to stand in line, all the different situations, all the different people. I wondered what all those people were doing as they stood in line, what were they thinking? At least in Tucson, it was not a hardship to wait outside, as it might have been in much the rest of the country right now. As we waited, we took turns walking around the parking lot and the neighborhood.
I’ve heard people recommend doing various things while waiting in line. It can be a mini-meditation time – just stand up straight and focus on your breathing. It can be a mindfulness time – be aware of the present moment, how do you feel having to wait, are your feelings changing as you wait? It can be a time to do isometric exercises – pull in your abdominal muscles, then let them out, do this as many times as you can while you wait. It can be a compassionate time – look at each person in line; you can’t know their life situation, but wish them happiness and freedom from suffering, do this for each person in the line. It can be a social time – find something to talk about with the people standing around you; some won’t want to talk, but others will.
Waiting can also just be considered a frustrating waste of time. Sometimes, how you respond to waiting depends on your circumstances. If I am late and didn’t calculate the time in line into my busy schedule, it can cause me anxiety and sometimes even anger. However, if I’m not in a hurry, I can be much more open to just experiencing the wait. But, no matter how I have scheduled my time, my feelings about waiting don’t make any difference on the time I will have to wait. So since being anxious, frustrated or angry doesn’t make the wait any shorter, it seems like it’s better to just relax and find something more positive to do or think about during the wait. Of course, it is easier to say this than to do this.