There were about 1500 people (no exaggeration!) ahead of me in the ashram lunch line. It was a lovely day to wait outside, but still…Around me conversation buzzed and much of it was complaint. Then the man behind me quietly said, “The measure of your spiritual development is how you stand in line.”
Over the years, this has often reminded me that spiritual development is not primarily reflected in great experiences or fabulous meditations, but in the way we do the most ordinary things—like waiting, whether it be in a line or in traffic or for something to happen in our life.
We live in a society that’s in a hurry. We do not like to wait—for anything. We get impatient and pushy over the slightest delay in traffic. We complain, at least in our heads, if the checkout clerk is too slow. We wait for non-physical things, too, for dreams to come true, for relationships to arrive, for changes in our own experiences. We seem to want the world to move at the speed that is most comfortable for us and since we’re usually in a hurry, impatience, if not its outer expression, sends our blood pressure into a snit.
Then, when we seek to be quiet for reflection or meditation, how easy is it? Can we sink into the silence?
Waiting, like most other ordinary activities, can be an opportunity to seek inner peacefulness, if we so choose. If we’re standing in line for concert tickets with 20 people ahead of us, we can choose to take a couple deep breaths, relax our tense muscles and center ourselves. In this state, waiting for a few minutes, we can recall how grateful we are for being here at all, how much we are looking forward to the music, how pleasant it is to be sharing the experience with others, or how beautiful the moon is, floating quietly above city lights.
So our waiting is not only a measure of our spiritual development, but also an opportunity to foster it even more. It can be a respite from our rushing around. It can give us a few minutes of ease. It can present us with awareness of what is really important and give us a chance to be glad about it.
How do you stand in line?