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October: The Waiting Place

Hi friends, welcome to October. A few nights ago, I had to read Lucas one of his favorite books – Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss – for about the 500th time! If you’re familiar with the book, you’ll recognize the part below, which resonated with me on a completely different level this time around:

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Hmm, that place sounds familiar….oh right, I think I’ve been there a few times since March. And if the countless number of memes on social media about just putting up our Christmas lights now and calling it a day are any indication, many of us are in the waiting place right now, counting down the days until 2020 is over.

The waiting place, in non-Dr. Seuss terms, is where we end up when we burn out and decide the good fight isn’t worth fighting anymore. It’s where we go in the hopes that someone else will deal with the problem and just give us a thumbs up when it’s safe to go back out and play. It’s where we numb out in front of Netflix or Instagram for hours, disengage with our purpose, and pretend not to care.

Yes, the waiting place is comfortable, easy (well, at least easier), and at first may even feel like a nice, well-deserved break. But the waiting place is also isolating, uninspired and boring. The thing is, when we stop engaging with life in order to protect ourselves from the pain that comes from living, we also numb out our ability to experience joy and love. When we remove discomfort, we also remove learning, growth, and innovation. When we remove interaction, we also remove understanding, empathy, and compassion.

I know shutting down now and waking up sometime next year when there’s a COVID vaccine, people can travel freely, and the economy is stable sounds pretty good, but I honestly think I’d rather keep my eyes wide open and wake up one day next year with the strength, resilience, and wisdom of someone who has gone through some really tough times and been fundamentally transformed by the experience. Don’t you?

“The promise of any crises is that it will pick us up and deposit us on the other side of something. Will we trust the process of will we run and hide?” – Deborah Adele | The Yamas & Niyamas

Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, tells us that “like attracts like” and “opposites heal”. The energy in the air is already a little stagnant and depressing these days, and as we move into the Fall and Winter seasons, the desire to lay low and hide out the rest of the year will become even more appealing. But if we’re going to heal from this pandemic (and all of the other challenges we’re facing), we’re going to have to choose the opposite – to plug in, engage, connect, and put our energy, resources, and time where our mouths are. If we don’t leave the waiting place, the people, businesses, services, parks, and performing arts we love will not be there for us on the other side of Covid-19.

Instead of tuning out and letting the storm blow over, can we bravely show up and let it cleanse us, help us unravel old patterns and habits, shift our priorities and solidify our values? Instead of closing our eyes until things look pretty and orderly again, can we finally let go of the need for things to look pretty and orderly, and let this teach us to find beauty amidst the chaos and pain? Instead of closing our hearts to the rest of 2020, can we allow the next few months to expand our capacity for gratitude, joy, and love beyond what we thought was possible?

I know you’re tired, maybe overwhelmed, probably over this whole thing – I am too. But this isn’t about doing more of what we were doing or pretending things haven’t changed. It’s about allowing the change to touch us, move us, and spark something in us that our old lifestyle burned out. In yoga, the word used to describe this process of embracing the struggle and being transformed is tapas– which literally means “heat.”

Just like a cake batter that’s unwilling to cook will never become a delicious cake, we may never reach our full potential, or learn that we have all of the ingredients we need right here, right now to live the life we want, unless we sit in this fire.

When I turned the page of that Dr. Seuss book, the next lines following the description of “the waiting place” were:

No! That’s not for you! 

I agree. The waiting place is not for you, or me, or us.

We have a long road ahead and I know it won’t be easy, but it’ll be much more fulfilling and worthwhile than spending time in the waiting place. So let’s take a deep breath and get moving, I can’t wait to see all the places we’ll go.


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