I was waiting up the other night to witness the meteor shower that was due. The sky was clear and I stood by the open window at 1am, waiting. I waited, nothing happened. Then out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash across the sky. Damn, missed it. I’ll wait for another. I wanted to see a spectacular event. Fifteen minutes passed before another glimpse. Always looking in the wrong direction. Hmmm. Waited. Then a meteor shot right in front of me, in a beautiful arc across the sky. That’s better, wow, amazing. Right where’s the next ? This went on for two hrs though the time sped by. I was so caught up in the concentration of watching, so as not to miss a single one I didn’t notice time. Sometimes they came in groups and some times I just caught their tail, but all the time I thought it would get better, more spectacular, so I waited.
It seemed to me I have been waiting all my life for something spectacular to happen.
I have read and re read John Tarrant’s book ‘Bring me the rhinoceros.’ And in there he talks about a Zen koan called ‘Count the stars in the sky’. He calls it a boring koan because you just count.
Watching the stars the other night reminded me of this koan. I wasn’t counting stars, but I was counting waiting. The Tibetans have a word for being between things ‘Bardo’. Between life and death, between death and life. I seemed to be always in bardo, waiting for something, between things happening. So I started counting my waiting.
Waiting for the sun to come out. Waiting for a friend to come for a drink. Waiting for paint to dry. Waiting for someone to come home. Waiting for legal matters to be tied up. Waiting for my tea to be cool enough to drink. Waiting for my stomach to stop churning. Waiting for someone to answer an email. Waiting for the very slow girl at the check out. Waiting a very long time for some one to tell me they loved me, in the end someone else did. Waiting to move house. Waiting to move country. Waiting for the man to come to read the meter. Waiting for the wind to die down. Waiting for my life to get back on track. Waiting for my mind to settle so I can meditate properly !
What if, in all those between times I came back to my breath ? What if I used those bardo moments to come back to the still place and be quiet and aware ? What if those waiting moments weren’t wasted at all but the most precious of gaps? What if those precious gaps were in fact the ‘spectacular’ ?