standing still while waiting……



    as i see and hear never ending tales of agony, mayhem, and extremely bad behavior – all associated with the infamous ‘black friday,’ i am always surprised, for i see it from a totally different perspective.  each year, i look forward to the phenomenon, have a wonderful time in the process, and this year was certainly no exception. 

     filled with lots of turkey and family thanksgiving cheer, i flew into a store in the wee hours of friday morning and quickly found what i was looking for – a prized pizza stone, heavy enough for my son-in-law to put on his grill. somehow it seemed much too easy.  with this early and painless success, i looked for the checkout line and walked to what i thought was the end, only to find it had taken on a life of its own, and actually snaked all the way around the interior perimeter of the store. now this felt more like it!  let the adventure begin –

     in front of me, was a woman, with her mother, discussing the merits of waiting in line vs. abandoning the idea and moving on, hoping for less wait time somewhere else. as we were stuck in close proximity, after just a short time together, we banded together suggesting that mom could perhaps walk around the store, looking for one last thing, while her daughter held their place in line. early crisis averted, we continued to stand together.  as more time passed, i also noticed the amazing strategy of the woman behind me.  she had a store cart without much in it, yet as we continued to stand, she came and went, every 3 minutes, and over time, found everything on her her entire christmas shopping list, all while we stood in line, still waiting. at this point i also had to laugh at myself for choosing, of all things,  a heavy ‘millstone’ to stand in line with for such an extended period of time. 

     as still more time passed, people shared pictures of children on their phones, along with coupons and stories and tips for other ‘deals’ at other locations, people made coffee runs for new friends in line, and phone calls were made to reassure those waiting in other places. 

     as yet even more time passed, and in the perfect gesture of what  it must have felt like to be a child waiting so long, i noticed set of legs, just laying on the floor, sticking out into the aisle, from underneath a clothing rack ahead. my new friend in front of me let me borrow her phone to snap a shot of this, as i loved the visual. this child had clearly reached his limit and was expressing it the only way he knew how.  

    when he emerged, he asked me 2 questions:

  1. how many millimeters are in 1 mile?
  2. why have i been waiting here for 1 trillion years?

     i smiled and told him i had no idea, but knew he was at the point where time and space must have lost all meaning and he was beyond tired of waiting.   

Perhaps there is no agony worse than the tedium I experienced waiting for something to happen. 

Lance Loud  

The important thing about learning to wait, I feel sure, is to know what you are waiting for. 

Anna Neagle  

Chinese practitioners have understood the concept of standing still/waiting for many years: We’re so used to the idea of ‘doing’ to be effective that standing still and doing nothing sounds rather strange. But, according to zhan zhuang qigong therapists, simply ‘stand like a tree’ qigong is that the less physical movement you make, the easier it is for your chi (or life force) to circulate freely round your body.

‘Standing meditation is one of the fundamental training methods of internal Chinese martial arts,’ says Yang Yang, founder of the Center For Taiji And Qigong Studies in the US and author of Taijiquan: The Art Of Nurturing, The Science Of Power. ‘Practitioners hold standing postures to cultivate mental and physical relaxation, tranquillity, awareness and power. The Chinese call it zhan zhuang or standing pole, while the t’ai chi form is called moving standing pole.’

There are various theories about its origins, but one of the earliest descriptions of standing pole comes from a Chinese medical textbook written sometime around 403 to 200BC. ‘One theory is that it is one of the oldest exercises in human history,’ says Yang. ‘Prehistoric man had to stand perfectly still for long periods when hunting. It is an interesting thought. I have had deer, coyotes, birds and foxes pass close to me while I have been standing.’ ‘Standing meditation flies in the face of most of our ideas of how we think exercise ought to be,’ says Sam Moor, who teaches t’ai chi in Brighton and Chichester. ’According to t’ai chi practitioners, standing meditation teaches the body to use muscles in what he calls a ‘postural’ way (to hold a posture), rather than a ‘phasic’ way (when a muscle is used for movement).  It may be hard to believe that all this could come from simply standing, but, in the words of the ancient Chinese, ‘If you do not practice stillness, you will never truly know the miracle of movement’.

     what a bonus! i had unwittingly completed an intense round of martial arts training! in the end, it wasn’t the joy of moving to the front, checking out at last, and knowing i had saved $10 on a pizza stone that really made me feel good, no, what really made my day were the human encounters and experiences i had while standing still and waiting. 

upon arriving home and sitting down, i read my newspaper horoscope:  ‘in spite of the bustle of the world, you feel a human kinship. you regard your fellow travelers as partners, whether they happen to be family, friends, co-workers, or total strangers. ‘ 



20 responses »

  1. When I was a young teacher, steeped in meditative practices usually involving sitting, I discovered the standing meditation while in line at a bank – in those days there were no cash machines and, believe it or not, smoking was allowed – everywhere. Anyway, I thought that if I was going to have to standing in line I might as well try to chip away at my inner notion that movement meant success – so I learned to find a still place inside while standing. It was a good lesson then and still is. Thanks, bethkennedy.


  2. Peaches
    As always an uplifting and informative piece masterfully written.
    I wish I could participate in the wonderful Chinese art but with the new knee a more horizontal pose is being adopted.
    Look forward to more and least forget the meal and movie next week.
    Take care



  3. Learn and live, hey, Beth? Did you find the good deal on that 100-pound bag of cement for your favorite contractor? Seriously, thank you for bringing this back from 2012 because this is the first chance I’ve gotten to read it. Nice.


  4. mark – i know, perhaps not the best choice of items to stand in line for hours with, but who knew? the good news that i developed incredibly strong forearms and core as a result of this ) glad you enjoyed it, it was a bit heavy to carry around for a year, and i wanted to show another side of the black friday mayhem, the human side.


  5. One of my favorite things about Black Friday is that at one point or another you make friends. Some people can get aggressive when trying to find the “hot item” but when we are all in those long check-out lines we all sort of start banding together. Even for this awkward social butterfly, I had numerous conversations and laughs with strangers in lines.


  6. No Black Friday here – but Boxing Day Sales would be similar I would think – love the photo snap – well caught…standing pole huh? Possibly when I was younger and as far as your stars are concerned – how bang-on are they 🙂 x


  7. LOL it’s a terribly British thing to queue – any proper Brit would do it without grumble. And those are two awesome questions! Hilarious. It reminds me of a newspaper clipping I kept for years – the headline read: Don’t be so Zilly… A man handed a note in a daft attempt to hold it up, requesting a zillion dollars! 😀

    He failed.


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