There is no evil greater than anger,
And no virtue greater than patience.
Therefore, I should strive in various ways
To become familiar with the practices of patience.
Patience can be learned.Patience is a great skill to develop; like all skills it takes practice to be able to use well.At first when you feel impatience or restless note it, move your focus to the breath, connect with the moment, shift your attention away from your impatience toward your awareness of being impatience.You may say to yourself, “I am feeling frustrated feelings with being delayed, and I am thinking magnifying anger thoughts.”Check in with yourself.
Impatience and anger go hand in glove. When we become impatient we lose our tolerance of not only being delayed but, of anyone who we perceive of delaying us from getting to where we are going. We become stressed and more likely to become impulsive and reactive. Our impatience clouds our wise mind and our ability to take actions that support our values. Impatience robs of the ability to stay connected with the moment. It is impossible to be in the moment if you are rushing it, rather than responding to it.
Our impatience leaves us unable to wait or tolerate delays. When we become impatience we experience restless and the risk of becoming short-tempered when facing delay or opposition. Impatience leaves us unable to endure irritation or opposition. It feeds our irritations and readies for an anger episode. Think about the impatience you experience everyday while in traffic or the impatience you experience while waiting in line at the ATM or for the next cashier at the supermarket. Think about the impatience you experience when your children aren’t cooperating to get dressed or out the door in the morning to school. Now, think about the cumulative effect this impatience has on your life. Do you feel rushed all the time? When you feel rushed do you hold tension in your body? Do you feel like others or even the universe is conspiring against you? We can become habituated to being impatience, hoping that the world will catch up and cooperate – good luck.
Now, imagine you are at a busy supermarket and there is a frail senior at the checkout in front of you who has taken out his change purse and begins to count out the amount due in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, more than likely you begin to think “oh this is just great, look at this old man, I’m never going to get out of here.” You may experience emotions like frustration, anxiety and even anger for being delayed. This old man in front of you becomes a target for your anger, the truth is if he it wasn’t the target of your anger another one would present itself. We can always find a scapegoat for our negative thoughts and emotions; it easier to blame someone or something else for our own personal struggles, even if that struggle is finding ourselves in a slow moving line.There are always abundant external events to project your anger at. If it isn’t the frail senior at the supermarket checkout, it will be the driver in front of you in the left hand turn lane that hesitates on the yellow light, or the sales clerk finishing up a phone conversation while you are waiting for service. These events can magnify our impatience, trigger our anger and ready us for the fight or flight response. We will always face obstacles and delay; we can either respond with patience and understand or we react in anger – the choice is ours.
The question becomes, how do we bring practices to our lives that nurture our patience and tolerance? There are three simple practices we need to become mindful of when facing impatience.
- Accept the suffering, recognize that the suffering is our own; the person in front of us at the cashier is not responsible for our impatience. Learn to accept the emotions and thoughts we are experiencing. Don’t avoid unpleasant feelings rather face them.
- Recognize the nature and causes of the suffering; again our frustration with a slow moving line at the supermarket is not someone else’s problem. Being rushed and anxious has nothing to do with the person in front of you.The mind wants to assign blame. Get beyond the blame and recognize the struggles you are experiencing is your and you like everyone on the planet struggles from time to time.See if you can bring compassion to the moment.
- Learn the patience of not retaliating; making choices to respond with your hands, feet and mouth in ways that respect your relationship with others.
It is hard work developing these skills of bringing our focus to the emotions and the thoughts we are experiencing in the moment; we have to train the wise mind and routinely practices mindfulness. Remember we are trying to change behaviours that have become habitual, this is hard work and it takes much effort – be gentle with yourself as your practice these skills.If you have a slip up observe what has happened and how you felt and move on.As we practice the skills required to become patience we it will become second nature.Next time you feel impatience take a breath and bring the focus inward, accept the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing, recognize the struggles you are experiencing and let your wise mind guide your response.
This week make a conscious effort to practice patience, bring your consciousness to situations that make you impatience, i.e., waiting in traffic, or for the ATM, or in the lineup at the supermarket. Make a conscious effort to engage your wise mind and bring your focus to the moment. Become aware of your breath, review the breathing exercises in week two if you need to; the breath brings us into the moment – it reconnects us with our bodies. Pause, give yourself some distance and observe what is happening – bringing your focus inward, check in with yourself. Dispassionately identify the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing in the moment, mindful that these thoughts and emotions are our private reactions to our experience. Recognize the source of our struggles, the stressors and conditions that trigger our impatience and anger.
Stop and accept your thoughts and emotions; recognize your impatience with the person in front of you has nothing to do with him – it isn’t his fault that you are running late and suffering a headache. It doesn’t matter what you are experiencing – just recognize that your suffering is your own. Once you have accepted and recognized your emotions and thoughts and have identified the source, the pressures and stressors your face, make a conscious choice to act. In the case of a long line up at the supermarket, maybe you best choice is to breath and do nothing more than accept what is happening and wait your turn.