Saturday, September 1, 2012

Develop Your Conscious Waiting App: A Resource for Power-less Times

If Dante Alighieri were to update his epic poem, The Divine Comedy, waiting rooms just might have their own place in Hell, or, at least, Purgatory, because these rooms collect us all together, doing what we most dispise: nothing. Waiting around, doing nothing can slowly erode our patience, kindness, sense of worth and, ultimately, our health. Waiting makes us feel powerless, which add to our stress and contributes to a loss in immune function.

What we need is an "app" to combat waiting. While it's true that most people will turn to their electronics for distraction during times of waiting, a digital tool is not what I mean. What we need to combat waiting is a mental tool, a Conscious Waiting App TM, that we turn to anytime, anywhere, in those situations when we are forced to do nothing or be uncomfortable with waiting. We could use this app whenever our teens are late for curfew, or our doctor tells us on Friday that our cancer screening test results won't be in until Tuesday, or when our parent is undergoing surgery. Instead of worrying, which increases our adrenaline, blood pressure and physical tension, we could turn inward to our Conscious Waiting App TM and connect to our own strength, spirit and compassion.

There are many ways to turn inward and connect: meditation, mantra, visualization, body awareness and breath awareness are just some of the ways. Find one of these that works for you and practice that tool for at least a month, each time life presents you with an opportunity to wait. Who knows? You might find your attitude towards waiting changing! If you don't already have tool that works for you, try my Conscious Waiting App TM, which combines several of the above methods for turning inward.

Conscious Waiting App TM

  1. Ground: whether you are seated or standing, notice your feet or seat and drop your weight into them; relax your shoulders and your jaw; observe and surrender to the pull of gravity.
  2. Lengthen: imagine a strong thread that is holding you up; visualize this thread beginning at the base of your spine, weave it through your vertebral column, and see it exit out through the top of your skull, slightly towards the back of your head. Feel yourself being held by this thread and elongate your torso gently.
  3. Breathe: breath through the nostrils, if possible, and slow down the very beginning of each inhale and exhale. Intentionally relax your breath on your inhale, and slightly tense your lower abdomen as your exhale to expel all your breath out. Keep your breath relaxed but focused. 
  4. Shift: observe your hands, resting them comfortably with your palms up. As you inhale, fold your thumbs and fingers into your palms, one at a time, so that you make fists as you reach the top of your inhale. While holding your breath in for the space of a heartbeat, squeeze your thumbs with your fingers. As you slowly exhale, release each finger and your thumbs, so that each hand is completely open as you reach the bottom of your exhale and pause for 1-2 heartbeats. After several rounds, relax your hands completely.
  5. Release: watch the flow of your breath, continuing to breathe through your nostrils and slowing down the beginning of each breath. Let go of any tension as you exhale, allowing your breath to simply exit without any help from your abdomen. Watch the flow of your breath, rather than each individual breath. 
  6. Observe: notice your physical sensations, like tension, freedom, weight, lightness; notice sensations around your breath, like constriction, ease, depth, texture; notice sensation around your thoughts, like stickiness, fluidity, emotion, neutrality. Repeat this mantra: "Right now, I am doing something that is good for me."
Practice each step 5 or more times. If you are still waiting, go back to step 1 and repeat the app. Portions of this can be done while stuck in traffic, or waiting at the airport, or while you are in a heated disagreement with a loved one. It doesn't have to be perfect, and no one has to even know you are doing this, but everyone will observe a change in you, and may even respond to that change accordingly. Try it, the next time you feel stuck in the circle of hell we call waiting.


  • New class: Beginning Wednesday, Sept 5, Lorien will teach a weekly 11:00am-noon restorative yoga series for Kaiser Santa Clara oncology; registration is still open and we have plenty of space! This first series is open to patients, survivors and caregivers. To register, call 408-366-4284. Please, tell your friends!!!
  • Class on hiatus: Wednesday 7:30pm yin at Breathe will take a break between Sept 19-Nov 14; we'll return on Nov 21.