In the much loved children’s book Oh the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess, he describes a space where nothing happens as The Waiting Place…
“…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.”
I have spent many years in this waiting space, and thought I knew it well. I’ve known it to be a futile, boring, uncomfortable and lonely space. Yet today, waiting for my train to come, I realise great things can happen in that waiting space. The waiting space can be where reading a book is allowed, where writing or drawing can unfold, or where time is presented simply for the body and mind to catch up with each other and check in with a cup of tea. The waiting space can even be thought of as the therapeutic space where the body is supported in suspension so that the fascia and deep holding patterns of the body and mind can release. It is not the waiting space that is good or bad in itself, but the attitude we bring to the space that determines our perception and activities.
In the yoga sutras of Patanjali, sutra 4.15 says the same objects may be perceived by different minds in different ways, because those minds manifested differently. (vastu samye chitta bhedat tayoh vibhaktah panthah- every object is empty from its own side, it is up to the perceiver to fill it with meaning). Right now I am eavesdropping into a conversation of three women at a table next to mine at the train station. They are discussing what to order from the menu. One woman has apparently chosen the goats cheese frittata, while the woman next to her has an aversion to the taste and smell of goats cheese. The third woman has just shared that she and her daughter both adore goats cheese but are repulsed by bananas and their taste and texture. Who knows what events have led to these preferences and aversions? It doesn’t really matter. Often we are shaped by the culture and environment we live in leading to habit patterns that attract us to one thing versus another, and it can be easy to understand in the case of food that it isn’t the food itself that is delicious or disgusting.
What is more challenging to grasp, perhaps, is the notion that doing nothing can benefit our functionality and efficiency. The cultural zeitgeist is one where we are pushed to achieve more and more, disregarding the body/mind’s capacity to take more on. We are conditioned to ‘fill up’; whether it be our house, our hard drive, our bellies or our big cars, running a ‘tank’ anything less than half full instills fear and uncertainty. We are likewise taught to keep moving, especially through situations that are difficult or uncomfortable. Staying with something scary, something unfamiliar, or something that makes us confront some aspect of ourselves that we otherwise try to avoid is a keystone or the world we live in. But what if we could let go of the need to keep moving, to do more, to be more? What if the act of taking away would strengthen and enhance our capacity to function? What if the Waiting Place could become the space for pre-movement, the place where the body/mind reorganises itself in a different, economical way, preparing to resume going forward in a new way, maybe even by falling, instead of stepping quickly with heavy feet?
According to Dr. Suess, it can! Why?
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. … So, be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!