Managing the Anxiety of Waiting | Developing Patience

Last month was difficult. I was struggling with the practice of patience.
 
I’m in the midst of a professional change that I’m very excited about, but the last few weeks have been challenging. For someone who sits in meditation for hours at a time, I’ve been surprised at how difficult waiting to finalize my new job was.
 
Logically, I knew everything was fine and moving along at a good pace. Emotionally, each passing hour without news felt like water torture.
 
I value the ease that has come into my life from meditating daily and realize that I’ve grown unaccustomed to feeling this kind of agitation.
 
Before I started practicing Zazen regularly I would get irritated simply waiting at a red light. Today, I see these little pauses as a mini oasis in the hustle of a busy day - a chance to be mindful and enjoy the moment.
 
I want to share some of the strategies I employed to ease my emotional discomfort during these past few weeks:
 
Five Tips for Managing the Anxiety of Waiting 
 
Dismantle with Mindfulness: When I sit in meditation I try to examine the emotion closely. Something amazing happens whenever I do this. I can’t really “find it.” Where are the roots? What does it feel like? What is the story I’m telling myself that is inspiring this emotion? Every time I work through this kind of examination, I find under close inspection the emotion tends to mitigate or disappear. The simple act of observing the emotion pulls me out of it and gives me a little relief.  
 
Adjusting Expectations: A big cause of my anxiety of waiting comes from an expectation that something should be happening. I didn’t know where the finish line was but my anxiety says I should have crossed it already. By recognizing and modifying my expectations I create some ease. Think the job offer might come tomorrow? I’ll start telling myself it comes in a week. Surprisingly, I seem to be able to trick myself even though I know what I’m up to.
 
Go With the Flow: When I was a little kid I remember watching CNN coverage of a flood in Mississippi. I saw a man clinging to a tree desperately trying to resist the flow of the river. I wondered why he didn’t just let go and let the river carry him. I find living to be like this: when I resist the tide of life I am struggling against something much larger than me. When I let go and go with the flow, I gain the strength of the whole river.  
 
Healthy Distraction: There is a challenge in the 5th Zen Precept, “Do not cloud the mind, proceed clearly.” Typically understood to be the precept recommending we abstain from intoxicants, this ethical teaching also calls us to not be distracted and miss our life. Keeping that in mind, there is such a thing as a healthy distraction. Reading a book, going for a walk with a friend, taking a yoga class and the like are healthy ways we can be present and help take our mind off our anxiety around waiting. 
 
Only Human: I can have a big ego and it expects me to be perfect. I’m not perfect, I’m just a human being. In my head a flaw like lack of patience is a massive failing. Why? Because I have an unrealistic expectation that I should be a robot who is devoid of human feelings. Of course I’m anxious to get news about my new job! It is only human to be a little uncomfortable during the transition. Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not a superhuman, nor a subhuman, just a human-human.
 
During times like these I remind myself that this too will past. I try not to wish my life away. We’re always in some kind of transition or uncertainty. Learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable is one of the great challenges of my spiritual path today.
 
May your life and your practice go well!
 
Warmly,
Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed.
ZenHappinessProject.com
 
P.S. How is your practice going? Have you been finding the time to meditate? Drop me a note and let me know how you’re doing!