That’s where I am as I write these words. I’ve been summoned to jury duty more than once. Each time I’m certain there is no chance I will be selected once they find out I practiced law and am a minister. First, they’re confused. Then, I’m dismissed. Happens every time.
But I show up … and just … well … wait.
It’s not something I relish. My mind is saying, “I’ll probably be here all day only to be excused in the end. What a waste of time!” My impatient gene kicks in. After a while, I ask myself, “How can I approach this spiritually?” Perhaps I can do a little mindfulness. Maybe this is an opportunity for me to practice patience. Yeah, patience.
English author Geoffrey Chaucer in his famous The Canterbury Tales wrote, “Patience is a high virtue.” Yet, the human part of us is often impatient and wants events to happen sooner rather than later. Or, as is often the case in this microwave world, we want it and we want it now!
We all can probably develop more patience in some area of our lives. There is value in patience. Impatience increases our stress and the toxins in our body. Moreover, as Epictetus, a Greek sage and philosopher noted, “No great thing is created suddenly.”
One of the best definitions I’ve heard of patience came from one of my mentors and spiritual teachers, Bill Cameron, who said in effect, “Patience is what you do while you’re waiting for whatever you’re waiting for to happen.”
That waiting period is “the meantime.” The question often before us is “What do you do in the meantime?”
My experience of waiting around during jury duty is a minor meantime experience. But often the stakes are higher.
What do you do when you’re waiting for that phone call once you’ve heard a loved one has been in an accident?
What do you do from the time of the interview until the time you get the call that the job is yours?
Or the time between taking a blood test to determine if you have a suspected illness and when the results come back?
Everyone goes through the meantime at some point or another.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in a South African prison in the meantime before becoming that nation’s president.
The late British philosopher, writer and speaker Alan Watts, who helped popularize Eastern philosophy in the West, tells of a time in his life when he was constantly waiting for his wife. He would even tell her that they needed to be at a certain place – a dinner or play or movie – at seven o’clock even though it was really eight o’clock. This didn’t work. She would still be late, at least according to his particular time clock.
This began to disturb him as he realized that whenever he waited for his wife, his mind would go to undesirable places. However, there was a moment he changed his mental focus and said, “I’ve been saying to myself I’ve always wanted more time for meditation.” So while he was waiting, he began to meditate. After a while, even though his wife still showed up late, to Alan Watts she came way too early because he was just getting into his meditation.
Besides meditating, Alan began to discover things to be grateful for. Instead of feeling angry or agitated or disrespected, he used the meantime for something progressive, enlightening and constructive.
In our own meantime, while we’re waiting for the demonstration to take place in our life or the miracle to happen, we can use the time as an opportunity to examine our awareness and contemplate the realm of the divine through prayer, meditation and gratitude.
As for my jury duty experience … well, when lunchtime approached, we were told we all could go. Apparently, a deal was struck and our services were no longer needed. Then I realized I created a story in my mind that had nothing to do with what actually happened. I had stepped into the “Making Stuff Up Zone.” But that’s a topic for another day.
Peace and Blessings,