Stuck Waiting? Try These 7 Mindful Tips to Get Unstuck


I was cruising across the Burnside bridge on my bike, en route to a volunteer gig downtown. I was a few minutes late, but all was good – I knew I'd make up time as I leaned into the pedals.

Rena: "You've got this!"

Universe: "Ha, nice try!"

Up ahead, the red lights began to flash and the candy cane guard rails lowered as the *DING DING DING* alarm reverberated across the water. Drawbridge time.

I spent the next 15+ minutes watching as cars, bikers, and pedestrians stacked up like dominoes to wait. Several people paced anxiously, scowling and checking their watch every 30 seconds. Others sighed loudly as they leaned up against the side rail, arms crossed, annoyed. The guy in front of me on his bike grinned big and squinted toward the bridge as the massive slab of concrete began to float upward (what?!). A woman next to me set down her bag and began to stretch her quads. Every single parked driver I could see was immersed in their phone. Except for one fellow, who was looking contently out his window across the water.

As I stood there, this quote from Sharon Salzberg surfaced in my mind:

"The difference between misery and happiness depends on what we do with our attention."

I know we all arrived on the bridge from different walks of life, in varying circumstances, and yet I couldn’t help but recognize the valuable seconds of life that were unfolding for the 100+ commuters, myself included, as we waited. I was aware of how easy it was to squander those seconds, lost in the loud and persistent assumption that life is always happening somewhere else: across the bridge at our destination, in our office, next month on vacation, inside the shiny metal container of our phones.

The sky was blue and vibrant, the sun (yes, SUN) was shining, catching the water in beautiful cascading sparkles. The city and all of its majestic bridges stretched north to south, the blossoming trees and crisp green lawns lined the waterfront. We were all alive, breathing, on a bridge, on a giant rock soaring through space! And yet, it was so easy to feel totally stuck and annoyed. How dare this get in the way of MY agenda.

When we have no power to change our circumstances – whether we’re waiting on a bridge, standing in line at a grocery store, or delayed on a runway pre-takeoff – we have the power to choose what we do with our attention.

At first, the choice may not be accessible. When we're zipping through life on autopilot and encounter an obstacle, we may instinctively reject or resist the experience, especially when we're in a hurry. Unfortunately, this resistance only compounds our problems. Fixing attention on the obstacle (or what it's preventing us from doing) will cause the experience to intensify like a pressure cooker – further stressing our bodies and minds and getting us absolu