Wait. Wait. This is not what it sounds like. Gandhi is not telling us to refrain from acting, he is talking about what attitude to cultivate once the wheels of nonviolence are set in motion: be patient. However hard it may seem. It’s like cooking a pot of soup because the family is hungry. If no one makes dinner and everyone says “wait,” no one will be fed. Waiting without action does nothing. But when you have already moved, the soup pot is full of water and it has not yet boiled, you wait for it to boil. That’s not to say you don’t start cutting your veggies or setting the table–similarly, in nonviolence, there is always something you can do while you are “waiting” — often what he called Constructive Programme. None of it alone completes the meal. It’s comprised of a number of ingredients all taking place at the right time in the recipe.
No movement can succeed by inaction, but Gandhi testified that no nonviolent action can really take hold without patience, for oneself and for others. (After all, one of the Arabic words for nonviolence is sabr, ‘patience, endurance.’) Patience is really a kind of mastery. The cultivation of patience can begin with one single, powerful practice that maintains the nonviolent attitude: one pointed attention. Try your best not to split your attention. Do one thing at a time; avoid the ever-present allure to multitask. When someone is talking to you, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. If you are not able to, tell them you will give them your full attention when you have finished, and then return to giving your attention to what is in front of you. This ability to offer one pointed attention is a kind of daily training in the spirit of nonviolence. Wait. Wait. Things are not what they seem. Let’s figure it out.
Try to reduce multitasking today, including, if you dare, while driving. Refrain from asking others to multitask, too.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org