I’m writing this at 9:45 pm on election evening; all polls are closed and some races have been called. In Washington state, many of the winners have been named and the initiatives decided. In the presidential race, it is too close to call. It seems likely that we will wait for a definitive answer—perhaps a day or two, perhaps longer.
We wait during uncertainty, and that is especially hard when the stakes are high. We would like this to be over and may push for a premature ending in order to ease feelings of anxiety. “Is 2020 over yet?” has been a frequent refrain on social media.
Can waiting in times of uncertainty be a spiritual practice? With any spiritual practice, it’s not so much what you do, but rather how you do it. In Every Day Spiritual Practice, Scott Alexander defines spiritual practice as:
Any activity in which you can regularly and intentionally engage, and which significantly deepens the quality of your relationship with the miracle of life both within and beyond you.
What makes something a spiritual practice is intentionality, regularity, depth. So, waiting can be a spiritual practice if it is done with an awareness of what is happening within ourselves (impatience, worry, hopefulness, all the feelings…), done regularly (how often are you waiting these days?), and with a sense of connection to something beyond ourselves (like knowing that the entire world is waiting, too.)
There are two very practical things I offer as ways to help make waiting a spiritual practice in these next days. The first is boundaries on media and other input. Being aware of what is happening in the world is important, but it can drown out what is happening within us. Both are necessary; make sure to listen within, too.
Second, do something. Action motivated by passion and hope goes a long way toward relieving the anxiety of waiting. Reach out to others, move your body, do something for someone else. Be intentional about action that feeds hope rather than anger.
We are in for some waiting. I invite you to make this a time of practice.
Blessings on your week.
P.S. Join me for these next few evenings at 7:00 pm for a few minutes of spiritual grounding.