Sarah La Rosa

the waiting room

Sarah La Rosa
the waiting room

It seemed to be telling me, without words but with perfect clarity, that my natural state was not hunger, but fulfillment. More than that: this power yearned, longed, ached to nourish me, as intensely as I needed to feed my child. The only obstacle... was an impaired ability to receive.

-Martha Beck


I spoke with a friend recently about a word that I kept circling around ~ allowing ~ its role in daily life, big questions, and real struggles to control our environment and decisions.

She agreed- there are life direction decisions she is working to become more clear on, and struggles with impatience, as do I, for the arrival of answers that would end, or at least simplify (we'd like to think, anyway) the need to know-right-now.

But there is something about the waiting room that has more to do with holiness than imprisonment- though at times it may feel exactly like a holding cell with no window to the outside "real" world that (we think) awaits us.

Too many of us have spent the vast majority of our conscious lives (thus far) driven- to accomplish, succeed, reach the top, and be all things to all people along the way. Any time spent in the waiting room is an interruption to growth, the journey, and "the" goal. Nothing is the sweetest right here and now because it stands in the way of what-comes-next, the next possible sweetest moment we have not yet attained.

This kind of sight is myopic. Ultimately leading to blindness of heart.

At a fundamental level, I believe this to be, as Martha Beck puts it,

 " impaired ability to receive."

We sit to meditate, and await a lightning strike of inspiration, or a wash of deep, satisfying inner peace, or overwhelming sensations of joy, or maybe an emptying sense of nothingness that connects us with the Universe. When it doesn't come to us immediately, or after minutes/days/weeks of practice, we may feel deflated, depressed and angry. At least, that has been my experience in the past.

Feelings of failure would assail me. What's WRONG with me?  

We try so hard to balance, sometimes feeling it's more of a terribly awkward juggling act- (think floppy felt hats and pointy shoes with bells on the toe tips)- work, family, and spiritual lives, only to feel these aspects of ourselves as fragmented, rather than the beautiful tapestry of talents and pursuits that make up the 'you-ness of you', as my mother likes to say.

For myself, this can look like waking at 4am, journaling, meditating, creating altared space, then having to switch to meal prep and washing dishes, feeding and diapering the little prince, rushing out the door to work, and trying desperately to integrate my Priestessing-the-Goddess-life with my Human-going-into-the-"real-world"-life, and feeling, many days, that I am botching it. Mothering, wifing, working, family-ing and living leave little room for me-ing.

We are faced with making terribly important decisions so often- about money, relationships, jobs, changes, stability, conflict, and on and on. Sometimes the "right" answer appears to be obvious, only to backfire horribly later on, leaving us feeling dizzy with self-doubt and reticence toward future decision making.

Or, the answer seems obscured, hazy- hidden behind some mystical veil of enlightenment that we sense is good- big and fertile and life-affirming...alas, we cannot grasp it! It evades our grip, seeming almost to laugh delightedly as we try to snatch it, slipping through our fingers at the last possible second, and it's out of reach once more.

But, all of these uncomfortable unknowns are at their peak while we wait for them.

Even unpleasant outcomes are a relief, of sorts. At least you have more concrete information with which to react, plan, and ACT. There is a definite sense of power that comes along with action. We are skilled at forward motion, at progressing, at fixing and mending and do-ing.

But where is there power in waiting?

It is unpleasant. It is the between time, sandwiched at the center of our past mistakes and our dreams for the future. It is quiet, uncomfortably so, in the waiting room. It makes no promises, no guarantees, not even a time frame to relax into. How long will we be here? Who knows?

As long as you need to be.

And I promise you this- you will remain there until you let go of your need to escape it.

If you somehow manage to flee that space, don't think it won't find you again, likely sooner rather than later.

Because the truth is, we all spend a great deal of time there. This is not a one-time visit in between seasons of life. It is a sacred space we return to over and over to debrief, breathe, and just plain STOP. It the place of humility.

But there is more. It is where we can take the time to pull out all the beautiful treasures we've already been gifted with, and turn them over, studying them, enjoying them, their use, the fact that they are ours- tailored to our very own life purpose and need. The waiting room is a gift to us- perhaps the biggest of our lives when it comes to learning how to receive. The waiting room is where we are introduced to grace.

So, here's how I am Making Friends with the Waiting Room:

(and how you can too)

 1. decide, right now, that it is OKAY TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.

Yes, it is.

You can feel the 'I don't know' inside yourself. That is a great place to be.

Years ago I opened a fortune cookie that contained a message that said: "Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom". I have no idea who may have said that- but I totally agree with them. That tiny little (now browning) scrap of paper has followed me through 8 homes and the same number of refrigerators, where it is posted as a reminder to me that not understanding, not knowing for sure- is really okay. So, feel uncomfortable. Go ahead. It's really not that bad. Really.

2. Recognize and remind yourself that you are in the best of company.

Really? Who else has gotten themselves well and truly stranded in the waiting room? Well, here's just a small few of my favorite soul-savvy superstars I view as being FILLED TO THE GILLS with wisdom- well and truly stuck themselves:

  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who wrote (among other things) Gift From the Sea, and whom I have quoted frequently. Waiting humbly is a theme of hers. She is a great teacher.
  • Sue Monk Kidd- read any of her books, really, and you will see that waiting and a sense of unknowing is foundational to her spiritual questing. (and I quote her work a lot. Alot.)
  • Carol P. Christ- feminist thealogian, who wrote that a sense of nothingness is pivotal as precursor to a woman's truest and most powerful spiritual awakening.
  • Thich Naht Hanh- Zen Buddhist monk who has traveled the world, meditator-extraordinaire, talks about (at length) being okay with not knowing, not striving to know, and generally just being-ness-as-happy-ness. See his book: Peace Is Every Step. He washes dishes, too.
  • Martha Beck (whose lovely words grace the top of this post)- life coach, author and bonafide wisewoman, writes a book that contains a very simple prayer to the Divine for communion, grace, answers, connection- through 7/8 of her book, Leaving the Saints. It goes something like this: please, please, please, please.... You get the idea.

And finally,

3. Find the Goddess in your waiting room.

I found Her, or rather, I realized She had been staring at me until I decided to look up and see Her, just recently, when a dream my husband had became clear to me suddenly.

In it, we were in my grandparents' house, emptied of all belongings. My husband returned to the main room to discover that everything and everyone had left. He was alone, but saw that I had created an altar in the center of the room, with ocean-colored glass pebbles, candles, and a glass mermaid gracing the table top.

It felt powerful to me when he shared it, but I really wasn't sure what the message could be. It has taken its own time to reveal itself to me.

I won't share everything it means to me, but I will say that the mermaid, for me, is a very powerful symbol of the Goddess.

In Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, and even the USA, she is worshiped as Yemaya, Yemanja, Oshun, La Sirene, Mami Wata, and La Diosa del mar, among other names and varying attributes. Sue Monk Kidd (see?) wrote about this archetypal Great Mother aspect in her book, The Mermaid Chair- (which, by the way- has a lot of uncomfortable waiting in it...)

Shortly before my husband had this dream, I had begun hearing a name in my heart that followed me around for days and days... everywhere I went, everything I did- it was like a mantra, this name- or like one of those pieces of music you get stuck in your head and cannot get rid of.

Stella Maris.

Star of the Sea.

Another name for the Black Madonna, Mary, the Holy Mother of God, as well as the more ancient Sumerian Mother Goddess, Inanna. Imagine my reaction when I discovered that Stella Maris is yet another name for Yemaya- this same watery goddess of fertility and protection, life-giver and creatrix who hails from the sea, as Venus is born of the foam of those waves.

The mermaid's element, naturally, is water. Flowing, receptive, slowing our bodies, even while giving us a sense of weightlessness while we float, unencumbered by the burden of gravity.

She is part fish, part woman. bridging both worlds- rooted in her sensuality, with the sensibility of a human heart and mind. She is separate from the world of men, but sings to them to join her.

She teaches us the fine art of swimming in dark, unknown waters- when to be carried away by a stronger current, when to float on a still surface, and when to power-stroke like the dickens to escape a predator, or to reach the shore.

In her underwater realm, sounds are muted. There is no clear conversation. There is only the intuition of the soul to give any sort of reliable direction when you are lost. We may not hear Her 'speaking' to us in the way we are accustomed to hearing spirit speak to us.

She waits with us. Her long hair touches our shoulders and hands and gets tangled around us. She sings, but under the water, where our human ears are untrained in mer-speech. We can only understand her with our hearts.

There is a very deep, Big Wisdom here that has to do with the holiness of waiting, of being uncomfortable, 'out of our depth', and being okay with that anyway, trusting that our loving Mother will not let us drown.

This is Opening to Grace- the first and most important principle I learned in yoga practice. The second being- yoga is a practice. You do not ever "arrive" in yoga. You merely practice. You grow, certainly, you become stronger, yes. But nobody perfects a practice- otherwise it would be called a perfection, not a practice.

Even doctors 'practice'. It is ongoing, the learning, the experiencing, the education, the un-education, and so on forever. The oceans of Stella Maris have no starting point or end. They continue on.

We can let go of the need for a controlled environment with everything in its place. We can.

We can let our arms out to our sides and allow the waters of Yemaya, of Stella Maris to support us from underneath. In fact, it is necessary to do that if we are going to float at all.

We can let deep, slow breaths fill our bellies, and we can let them be soft and nourishing to our heart.

We can be okay with not knowing. For however long that takes.

It's okay if it takes a long time.

We can Open to Grace, we can wait, we can allow holiness to infuse our discomfort, our confusion, and let those feelings be transformed into something that feeds life in us, sustains us, and moves us closer into the spiral, or further out, following a sacred current.