The Lesson of Patience
For the past couple of months the lesson of being patient continues to appear in my life. I’m not sure I’m learning the lessons of being patient very well, but I’m sure trying. In a culture where instant gratification is readily available it is hard to wait and reap your rewards from hard work without losing your patience.
Recently in a guided meditation I focused my attention on a new project I was about to embark on and allowed the guided meditation to help me focus on my inner guidance and wisdom about how to proceed with this project. In the meditation I was guided to meet and talk to my future self and asked her what lesson I needed to learn in this process. My future self simply said, “Patience.” She smiled and walked away. "Seriously?!? I need more patience," I thought to myself.
After the guided meditation I leapt up and got to working on the project. As I was working I realized I was just spinning my wheels like usual, leaping from one task to another. Ugh! Why is this so crazy? Then I just paused for a few seconds, reconnected with my breath, and in my mind’s eye saw my future self smiling at me and saying, “Patience.”
I just laughed at myself, as one can only do in that situation. I looked up at my laptop screen, and realized that I was jumping around and had little focus, because I skipped some very crucial and foundational elements when starting a project. I realized that I had just catapulted myself into this project without taking the initial steps such as, setting my intention for this new work, my goals, or even a timeline. I wanted to be at a place in this project that was simply impossible to be. I wanted to be three months ahead and as a result I rushed right into building a website, choosing fonts, and colors without even having some of the basic outlines of the project. I saved the work I was doing and opened a new page and focused on these initial steps.
I started this post wondering if I’m learning the lessons of patience, and looking back in my life I’d say that I am. I’m obviously not perfect at it. I lose my patience if there’s a long line at the supermarket, if there’s unusual amounts of traffic, but mostly I lose patience with myself. However, meditation and mindfulness practices have helped me become more patient or at least notice when I lack patience in a certain situation. The story I shared above is a perfect example of my lack of patience sometimes, but a few years ago I would have continued pushing through, spinning my wheels and forcing this new project to mature at a rate that was humanly impossible. The old me would have become frustrated and even had a mini-temper tantrum.
Meditation and mindfulness practice provides me the space and awareness for me to notice my thoughts, actions, feeling, and sensations in less time. What would have taken me hours, days, maybe even weeks to realize about the way I was tackling this new project just took me 30...maybe 40 minutes of working on the project to realize. And the more I practice the less time it takes for me to be aware of my feelings, bodily sensations, thoughts, and my situation.
So, once I was aware that I was rushing and wanted instant gratification and rewards from this underdeveloped project I paused. I remembered my meditation and the word patience. This simple word was the solution to my very real problem. Not only did mindfulness cause me to pause, to be aware of the reality of the situation, but it also brought levity to the situation. When I realized what I was doing, which was returning to an old pattern of mine, I was able to laugh at myself. There was no punishment. There was no screaming or negative thoughts towards myself. It was simply a realization of what was going on, knowing the solution to the problem, and immediately being able to recover from these old patterns.
Mindfulness helps facilitate the practice of patience towards myself, which then extends outward when I’m in a long grocery line that’s going slow, in traffic, or helping a child understand his/her mistake on a math problem. So, the next time you find yourself becoming impatient notice how long it takes you to realize that your patience has changed. Notice how impatience feels in the body? What emotions arise? How do you react when you become impatient? Do you pick up your smartphone and check Facebook, emails, Twitter? Or do you start tapping your foot or sigh audibly? There is not need to judge how you feel, the sensations you have, or your instant reactions. Just notice with loving-kindness. You can continue the mindfulness practice and focus on your breathing or listen to the sounds. Do whatever helps you anchor and focus on the moment as it is right now.
So, you’re still stuck in the line, but at least you can take this opportunity to have a mindful moment. See this inconvenience as a gift. As an opportunity to slow down, be still, and to focus on your breathing. Ahh, what a gift patience can be.
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