You’ve been waiting all week and it’s finally here. Happy Friday, and all the great things that come with it! Speaking of, waiting was our topic of conversation earlier this week — specifically, the art of waiting for additional information when you really just want to be planning. Been there? Me too. Uncertainty can be really painful, but as we discussed, it’s a part of life every day in ways we don’t even recognize. We either don’t see the uncertainty (which is an inherent part of the future) or we mask it by distracting ourselves. We distract ourselves a lot when we’re uncomfortable, by the way, which leads me to this weekend’s mindfulness challenge.
What do you usually do when you sit down in a doctor’s waiting room? Or when the friend who’s meeting you for coffee is late? Or when you’re riding the bus, or standing in line for anything? Nearly all of us do the same thing. Why hello, phone…what do you have to entertain me while I sit here? On the rare occasion that you may be over the almighty phone, you shift to another screen, or even a magazine laying around. You would never simply sit and wait because doing so feels awkward. It feels like wasting time, when in fact, you’re doing just the opposite with distraction. You’re usually filling the space with emptiness so you don’t have to feel the time passing, or maybe even so you don’t have to feel what you’re really feeling when there’s nothing left to look at but the here and now.
As I’ve said before, I’m all for efficiently using your time, and I’m even a fan of intentional mind-wandering. If you can make a deliberate choice about how to use your waiting time, then do that. But this weekend, make an effort to notice when that choice isn’t so deliberate. How often do you seek distractions to soften feelings of boredom, agitation, or even fear? I’m not telling you to dwell in those feelings instead, especially if for some reason they are deeply painful. But if it’s about temporary discomfort, just notice when you reflexively look for something to occupy you instead. Doesn’t mean you won’t still pick up that phone, etc., but you will have taken that moment between stimulus and response to notice, and made a deliberate choice on how to act.
That’s mindfulness. It’s that simple. That’s why these are “no-fail” challenges. Life is hard enough, right? And as a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once a while, you could miss it.”
Photo credit: Marcin Czaja