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A Plug For Patience


photo Unsplash Duane-Mendes

Reading the word "patience" can often elicit eye-rolling and the familiar refrain, "I know, I know." Patience has a bad rap, yet it is considered one of the "six perfections" in Buddhism, leading to liberation. Patience is also a virtue in Christianity, Shamanism, and our broader society. In this blog, my intention is to highlight its necessity.

Why It's So Hard Sometimes

It is not entirely your fault if you sometimes lack patience. Our society is geared towards speed: "I’ll be right back," "Just give me a second," "I’ll get back to you ASAP." Psychologist Chelsea Wald states, “Slow drivers, slow internet, slow grocery lines—they all drive us crazy. The fast pace of society has warped our sense of timing. Things that our great-great-grandparents would have found miraculously efficient now drive us around the bend. Patience is a virtue that’s been vanquished in the Twitter age.” 

Our culture isn't just driving faster; we are walking faster too. The Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale measures "sidewalk rage," defined as passing slower pedestrians in a hostile manner, thinking badly of others, feeling stress and impatience, muttering, bumping into others, and having thoughts of violence towards other pedestrians. Psychologist Richard Wiseman found that worldwide walking speeds had increased by 10 percent between the early 1990s and early 2000s. We must be moving a lot faster now!

Fall into the Rhythm

Stepping outside reveals the unhurried and natural rhythms of nature. The seasons take their time to produce gifts like flowers and fruit. Roses can take three to four years to fully mature. In winter, trees and bushes show no evidence of the delightful offerings they will produce. According to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in the Bible, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Why, then, do so many of us lose patience with the alternating seasons of joy, grief, inspiration, and heartache in our own lives?

Fear Could Be Running the Show

According to Jose Stevens, author of "Transforming Your Dragons," impatience comes from the fear of being restricted by time or circumstance. There is even an anxiety disorder called chronophobia, which is an extreme fear of time or the passage of time. People with this anxiety disorder feel intense discomfort or dread when they think about time passing. 

How Much Control Do We Have Anyway?

This is a question I often ask myself when I am stressed. Wayne Dyer says, “I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” We all know this, yet I’ve certainly had my fair share of hair-pulling experiences when pressed for time. There were times I was flustered driving in LA traffic (ironically on my way to teach meditation). Unable to change my outer circumstances, I experimented with my internal response. I started playing a game with myself when I was late, purposely letting people in front of me and saying, “I’ll get there in perfect time,” just to calm myself down. Inner composure often arrived before my destination, and I was rarely late.

Expectations Don’t Help

Have you ever thought you had no expectations, only to later feel disappointed? Often our expectations are so unconscious we don’t realize we had them until an emotional response erupts. When we are less attached to outcomes, we tend not to have strong emotional reactions and we tend to have more patience as well.  

Consequences of Losing Patience

- Stress, frustration, and anger

- Lack of intimacy in relationships

- Health issues

- Carelessness and accidents

- Less life enjoyment

5 Patience Practices - No Technology Required

1. The Breath: Simple long deep breaths can work wonders.

2. Schedule Non-Doing Time: Some of my most enjoyable days involve activities without time restraints or a tight schedule.

3. Meditation or Mindfulness: Ethan Nichtern, a senior meditation teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, says, “Meditation provides a technique for meeting the present moment as it is, without trying to change the situation.”

4. Time Games: Consider Einstein’s quote, “Time is an illusion.” Experiment with shifting your perception about time. Try the mantra, “I have all the time in the world to do what I need or want to do today.”

5. Trust life and what is happening.

Next time you find yourself in knots, steam blowing out of your ears and impatient, breathe, slow down, fall into the rhythm of what is happening, let go of needing things to go a certain way, and play some time games in your mind. You’ll most likely experience more joy and relaxation in your life, and we will ALL be better for it. Thank you for your patience!

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