The Patience Pill
I used to despise being told to “Relax”. Just hearing the word would send me into a tailspin, literally short-circuiting my brain. An unhealthy rage would normally follow, especially If I didn’t think I was having a particularly out of line reaction. I had even been able to successfully convince myself that the rage was justified because I had been provoked.
Life is provocative. Your dog may lay behind you while your cooking and almost trip you while your holding a knife. Your sister in law can playfully shake you in chair, while you’re half asleep, causing you to sit up and curse in front of your mother in law. Anything can happen at anytime. It’s best that we all just “Relax,” and the best way to do that is to take the Patience Pill.
PATIENCE IS NOT JUST FOR MONKS
Cultivating more Patience seemed like an untenable aspiration. When thinking of the quintessential nature of patience the image of Monks sitting, still, and poised immediately springs to mind. Yet, I am no monk – just ask anyone that knows me.
I was sure patience was about waiting: how you wait; when you wait; and the attitude you have while you wait. Unfortunately, this understanding is tragically limited. Once I started to explore the concept more, it was clear that I had completely missed the point.
Patience about embracing your discomfort & always operating with compassionate understanding. Humans can be challenging. It is easy to become frustrated or annoyed with our behavior. Patience is the tool that can help you navigate the folly of others and your own discomfort with grace.
THERE ARE LEVELS TO THIS*
Patience is powerful. It has been described as the antidote to anger by ancient Buddhist Teachers. However, its fruits are not acquired easily. One must be committed to fearless, consistent, and compassionate efforts to employ it first and always.
The Dharma teaches us that there are 3 categories of patience:
• The patience that comes from re-framing our attitude toward discomfort
• The patience that comes form understanding the complexity of a situation
• Patience that comes form developing tolerance
THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Everything is temporary. The more you embrace this mantra the less effected you become by discomfort you experience daily. When we perceive a circumstance as an inconvenience we are likely to experience it negatively. For example, a missed flight could be a disaster. However If instead, you chose to experience it as an opportunity to slow down, then the discomfort of arriving late to your destination is balanced against this fruitful opportunity to be Present. The key is to re-frame your thinking so you are always aware of the impermanence of any situation.
When we try to minimize the complexities of other persons experience we immediately lose our sense of compassionate understanding. One can never know all the circumstances that caused a person to speak or behave in a particular way. We can conjecture, or assume; however neither creates space for Patience.
Patience is complicated. Being able to stop yourself before creating an internal runaway narrative implicating the external source as the culprit can be HARD – this is my Achilles heel. Thankfully, just knowing that the negative narrative is happening is half of the battle. No one expects you to master this overnight, the key is to remember you don’t know everything, and make every effort to keep practicing compassionate understanding no matter what.
IF YOU CANT SAY SOMETHING NICE….
You aren’t going to like every situation you find yourself in or everybody you meet. Good news – You don’t have to become friends. All Patience requires of you is that avoid speaking or acting our of anger towards that person.
While this method of tolerance may seem like a small gesture, it’s a radical act. To be aware of the minds desire to act out but refrain is a victory in and of itself. Therefore each time one practices tolerance, the foundations of patience are reinforced a thousand fold.
TAKE THE PILL
The Patience pill is medicine we all need to take. It can be a hard pill to swallow but at the end of the day the benefits far out way the initial discomfort we experience. For me, practicing patience has helped me enormously. While I have not mastered this virtue, being told to ‘Relax’ no longer makes my brain short circuit. I feel more at peace and am able to navigate stressful situations with relatively more ease – despite the ever present temptation to get angry & blindly fly off the handle.
Im glad I chose to (wo)man up, take the Patience Pill, and get to work. What will you chose?
*No Time To Lose: A guide to the way of the boddhisattva, p. 167
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