• Matt Frizzell

waiting is a spiritual practice

Waiting is a lost spiritual practice.

Something like waiting as a spiritual practice can be found in most major world religions. Whether meditation, mindfulness, or ascetic practices like fasting, the experience of waiting concentrates our experience. If we allow it to focus our attention, it can awaken us to what we're really waiting for.


Waiting works like evaporation. Waiting concentrates our attention on the experience of anticipation and want as time evaporates off the other things occupying us. Waiting enriches what remains.

Waiting can be both terrifying and liberating. In everyday experience, waiting can flood us with anxiousness and impatience. If endured and not anesthetized with distractions (like scrolling on your phone), waiting can clear our hearts and minds of those surface wants and fractured attention for a clearer understanding of our wants and needs.

If we imaging being human as a unity of mind, heart, will, and body, consumerism nurtures and magnifies the wants of our body and will. Consumer culture exploits and blurs the boundary between need and want. Add technology and consumerism exploits and nurtures our will's impulse for meeting need and want with control. Our consumer culture is saturated with daily practices and experiences that condition us to want and control: clicks, drive-thrus, remote controls, search engines, touch-screens, switches, etc. Waiting halts all of that.

Partisanship and consumer culture rule by exploiting our most basic drives, yearnings and wants. These include fears, hopes, and some need for control. Through exploiting these aspects of who we are, they rule with our consent. At worst, consuming propaganda and false worldviews appeal to our deep yearnings and redefine what rules us and over us. The pinnacle of self-deception, of course, is the moment we are controlled by believing we are in control. Waiting forces us out of of that. Waiting forces us to relinquish control, hopefully not out of control. The anxiety can tighten its grip on us, or patience can clarify our attention on what we are really waiting for and most deeply seek. Waiting, whether by force or invitation, creates time to pause and concentrate on what rules within us. What deeper yearnings lie within? Politically, what do I really want? Does any partisan enmity, falsehoods, or frames of reference that've consumed me evaporate off? Is something deeper at work within me that I politically long for? What am I really waiting for? Waiting is a spiritual practice, if you let it be. It can liberate our attention on what really rules us and what we really yearn for.

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