Why is waiting so hard? This is what happens when we rewire our brains to slow down

As yogis, we have a reputation for being cool, calm and collected, but how realistic is this when everyone around us is rushing around, ears glued to their cell phones?

Before the internet, we used to write letters. Letters are so different than IMs or texts. They take time to write. They take time to send.

Then there’s the envelope, a stamp, finding a mailbox and remembering to bring the letter with you when you leave the house.

And once it’s sent, your words wait in undelivered limbo. They land at an unknown time and mystery encases the arrival of a response.

Letter writing is so rich in romance and deep connection — maybe because the waiting invites learning and challenge.

I’ve always been hyper-efficient with lots on the go. So by extension, I kind of sucked at waiting.

I realized this living in Spain in my early 20s, when I worked as an English teacher. I wanted to travel after university, but couldn’t afford it, so my solution was finding a host of travel jobs.

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At first, working in Salamanca, Esp. was a huge struggle because my students would show up late — every single time.

If I was meeting them at their home, I would arrive to find them in no way ready. I would awkwardly wait while they brushed their teeth (at 11 a.m.!), or ate their breakfast or lunch.

One day, I waited 90 minutes in a cafe for one of my students — Laura.

After one hour I started to get mad.

“So disrespectful,” I thought to myself.

Thinking back, it was so ethnocentric to judge “early” as “better.”

This was a time before cell phones, so despite being annoyed, I kept waiting. I couldn’t risk losing the future classes.

When Laura finally arrived, she had a big smile on her face.

“Hola! Que tal?”

“Hi, how are you?” she asked, sitting down like it was nothing!

I was flabbergasted, and that’s when I realized this impatience was mine to hold — not Laura’s or any of my “disrespectful” students.

Myobsession with timelinesswas cultural and I had something to learn.

I realized on that day that I needed to refresh the meaning of the word “wait” entirely. I had to start seeing it as time won, instead of time lost.

Rather than worrying about losing time waiting for the subway, or a late train, I had the power to consciously view the wait, as bonus time — a chance to read a book, write in my journal or even practice on-board airplane chair yoga.

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The lesson I learned in that Spanish cafe was such a hugely potent one for me. To this day, I still can’t shake my Canadian punctuality, but instead of being annoyed, I try my best to approach waiting as a bonus.

Once I started being able to see “waiting” for what it is, I felt empowered.

Picture yourself lying in savasana, knowing that the day awaits, ready to start the moment you hear that “namaste.”

As teachers, we see it in the bodies — all tight, wound up and waiting for a sound that signifies someone else is moving, so they can too leap off their mat.

We try to help by reminding people of the beauty of savasana — a chance to let go and let live.

Nowadays, doing nothing is a challenge, but once we become OK with it, we can allow that emptiness into our life in a positive way — wee may even have time to practice the long lost Socratic practice of…thinking.

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What deeper learning is there really?

Is there anything better than getting in-tuned with your body, mind and spirit?

That moment you realize you’re not waiting for savasana to end; you’re letting yourself fall back into the shimmering glow of undefined mystery.

Jimmy Cliff wrote a song that was covered by Jerry Garcia, Willie Nelson and countless others:

“Sitting here in limbo
Waiting for the tide to flow…
Well, they’re putting up resistance
But I know that my faith will lead me on.”

Then there’s Tom Petty:

:The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part.”

Why are we, humans, writing songs about waiting?

Well, maybe it’s because waiting is like love — filled with undeniable curiosity about the unknown.

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So, the next time you find yourself waiting, consider asking yourself this: Could I be letting go right now? How can I better take in the wholeness of life?

I feel so motivated to explore the obligatory wait times in life, and I’d love to work alongside anyone willing to ride the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens with me.

When we embrace “the wait” as a chance to be still, as the bright light behind the setting sun, we can then face the next challenge head-on with a readiness to forge forward with solutions.

— be peace, Jess