waiting in a queue could be a blessing in disguise!

Usually in the West we see everyone forming a disciplined queue, whereas in India even for a plate of idli in a self-serviced cafe, its not unusual to find people crowding around the counter, elbowing each other out as if there was some impending famine and its some urgent fight for survival for the last remaining stock! However during one of my travels, I had been in an unusual situation in a European airport. Everyone – mostly fair skinned foreigners – were in a disciplined queue as usual, and suddenly there was an announcement that there was some mess up in reservations on the flight, and there were only a few seats available. Suddenly the discipline scene changed dramatically and it became more unruly than the local Bangalore mob that tries boarding a public bus even before it stops! I was really stunned to see this incredible sight that I’d never witnessed before in the west, and realised that everyone sticks to discipline as long as resources are guaranteed. In India we’ve somehow been brought up to believe that if we don’t fight for it we lose it… I think this terrible idea is inbuilt into our psyche right from our childhood due to the competition in our educational system.

Sudhee recently sent me a link from Robin Sharma‘s blog on the discipline of being ethical. The post talks about how he takes a stand on not standing in a shortcut queue, but taking the extra time of standing in the longer one because it was the right thing to do.

He writes…

My daughter and I were following the rules – but this meant we ended up waiting another 15 minutes to ride up the mountain. And this meant less runs. On a perfect day.

He finds the advantages…

But I get to stay true to my values. And I get to show my precious daughter a little leadership by example

I appreciate this idea and find the post quite inspiring. On the other hand, I don’t know if one could stand by it if the situation was something more critical than a skiing trip. But well atleast one can practice it in simple things 🙂 There is a story from the truly wonderful book Zen in the Martial Arts, by Joe Hyams…

“You will never learn to do anything well in life unless you are willing to give yourself time,” he said. “I believe you are accustomed to having everything come easily to you, but this is not the way of life or the martial arts.”

“I try to be patient,” I responded.

“We are not talking about patience,” he answered. “To be patient is to have the capacity of calm endurance. To give yourself time is to actively work toward a goal without setting a limit on how long you will work.”

One day I asked him (Master Han) how he could remain so patient with the many demands on his time. We were then having tea in his office and I noticed on his desk an unopened letter from Korea that had just arrived in the morning mail. I expected him to excuse himself and read the letter at once, but he put the letter aside. “Why don’t you read your letter from home?” I asked. “I’ll wait.”

“I am doing what I would do had I been alone,” he said. “I am putting the letter aside until I conquer haste. Then when I open it, it will be as though it is something precious.”

I thought over what he said for a moment and finally remarked that I didn’t know what such patience led to. “It leads to this,” he said. “Those who are patient in the trivial things in life and control themselves will one day have the same mastery in great and important things.”

In any case, hopefully Robin also used the opportunity to spend quality time with his daughter 🙂

One who learns to truly listen (aka a meditator) finds that waiting is never a hassle. Even standing in a queue (of course may not be practical in the context of any urgent worrying situation, but easier in ordinary situations) can be an opportunity to re-discover that one has all the time in the world! 🙂

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