Posted Feb 4, 2013
Traffic slows to a stop, your chances of arriving at work on time plummet, and suddenly all you can think about is how much you detest the innocent stranger in the car in front of you.
Waiting isn't easy, in traffic or anywhere else, as those plumes of smoke emanating from your ears would tend to suggest. But that doesn't mean it has to be irredeemably miserable.
"This is a challenge," says Victor Davich, author of "8 Minute Meditation" (Perigree).
"The Chinese symbol for challenge is risk and opportunity, and this is an opportunity to become more in touch with yourself, become more peaceful, and to allow life to move as it's going to move for you on this particular moment on this particular day."
We spoke to Davich, who advocates practicing mindfulness while you wait, as well as experts in the fields of business and religion, about how to handle the commuter's curse. Their suggestions ranged from praying to sketching, but their basic approaches were similar: Accept that waiting is part of life and do what you can to make the moment worthwhile, enjoyable or maybe even beautiful.
"If you embrace (waiting), there's something purifying about it," says John Cavadini, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame. "Maybe it's because it's just so common. Maybe the reason we don't like to wait is because it makes us feel, in fact, that we are common. We're no different from anybody else; we have to wait in line. So, in some ways, embracing that means embracing that I'm a human being like everyone else."
Cavadini says he gets impatient when he has to wait on the way to work, other people start to get on his nerves, and he finds himself judging his fellow passengers harshly.
His solution: "I try to figure out how many people are on the train or how many people are on the plane or how many people are passing me on the road, and I try to say a prayer for each of those people."
If you'd rather approach the problem from a business angle, David Allen, author of "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" (Penguin), is here to help. Allen, who spends 200 to 300 days a year on the road, says you can sketch, listen to a podcast, zone out, read (he likes the portability of the iPad), listen to books on tape, or (if you're not driving a car) get some bite-sized work tasks done.
"You can do all kinds of stuff," he says. "You can dump old emails, dump junk emails and spam. You can use it for some FYI reading. It depends how much time you have. Some work is better to do in those little windows of time."
What you shouldn't do is knee-jerk "emergency scanning" of work emails; here, as elsewhere, it's important to have an organized process in place for handling your work tasks, he says.
He also comes down against dwelling on your frustration and disappointment: "Those are unproductive emotional states to hang out in."
Davich says that meditation can reduce your stress and increase your enjoyment of life, including that part of life that's being spent in a stalled bus.
"What I'd say to people is just allow what's happening to happen and don't resist it," says Davich. "And a good way of doing that is using your breathing as a natural support for allowing the situation to be as it is. Allow your breath to naturally rise and fall and use it as an anchor point for your breathing, which would be the place where you feel your breathing most prominently in your body."
For a lot of people the anchor point is the abdomen; in some cases it's the area under the nostrils.
"Just get in touch with that one area and allow the breathing to occur," Davich says. "That will take you into an allowing frame of mind that will allow you to accept what is going on - that is mindful meditation right there."
MEDITATE ON THIS
Want to try meditation with a leader in the field? Check out "Mindfulness With Jon Kabat-Zinn" on YouTube. Hint: You can skip the first 24 minutes and go directly to the demonstration of basic techniques.
©2012 Chicago Tribune Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.