“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
The duck and her ducklings were not too fussed about bringing heavy road traffic to a halt. They’re just trying to go from point A to point B safely and at their own pace, regardless of any red-faced, honking drivers who are raising their blood pressure in outrage at being inconvenienced for five minutes or so … by ducks! The wiser attitude would be to smile, enjoy the scene and take that five-minute opportunity to sit back and relax. No car can move on until the ducks make their way across the street, anyways. So, isn’t it a pointless waste of energy to be angry and impatient?
When we are impatient, we act irrationally. Then, we appear ridiculous (to others … and even to ourselves, if we’re really being honest).
Take, for example, the number of times we engage in a war of words (via email), where we receive an email that makes us angry and we immediately write a response and press “send.” This has happened to me a few times and I always, always regret having responded so quickly. The end result is never what we want it to be. It would have been smarter to chew on it for a bit and then respond sometime later, when rational thinking and proper perspective has kicked in.
When we are impatient, we make mistakes that we can’t take back. Then, we’re forced to do damage control. Patience is the antidote to anger and aggression. Seethe and then breathe. You can sit in the energy of your anger, feel the anger and then slowly let it go.
Did you ever stand in the check-out line at the supermarket and, fifth in line, you’re waiting and waiting …. and then you see the cashier having a nice chat with a customer? Oh, they’re laughing and talking, impervious to the long line of now highly annoyed people. Does it really hurt to share a few pleasantries? Are we so important (in our own mind) that we need to be served immediately, chop-chop?
When we are impatient, we forget to breathe. Just inhale slowly and, then exhale slowly … and repeat.
Patience is all about self-mastery and control. We cannot control what people say or do to us, but we can control how we conduct ourselves and how we respond.
In Buddhist thinking, the perfection of patience (ksanti) has three essential dimensions:
- The ability to endure personal hardship.
- Patience with others.
- Acceptance of the truth.
1. Enduring personal hardship: Personal hardship encompasses a wide spectrum of issues, such as illness, financial problems, the death of a loved one, devastation from a natural disaster … and so on. Patience, in these instances, comes with the acceptance that there are times in our lives when we are faced with trials and tribulations, that they are most often temporary, and that we must not let ourselves be defeated by despair. To face difficulties constructively, rather than destructively, is to endure personal hardship with patience. Think of the expression “This, too, shall pass.”
2. Patience with others: Anger is a very destructive energy. It can explode or (if we allow it to) it can fester. The way to nip anger and impatience in the bud is by cultivating a sense of equanimity (calm and balance). And to treat others with kindness, even if our knee-jerk reaction is to throttle them. Think of the expression “kill him with kindness.”
3. Acceptance of the truth: In Saint Augustine’s words, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” It peels away the layers of arrogance, ingratitude and judgmental thinking. It allows us to accept the things we cannot change and to accept our experiences as they are — suffering and all — rather than how we want them to be. This translates to people, as well as experiences. We must be patient with people and accept them for who they are, not who we want them to be.
The lessons that we learn from Patience will have an irrevocable, positive effect on our lives. It will lift our spirit, cultivate good character, and we will receive that end-of-the-rainbow treasure that we all seek: not a pot of gold, but something much more precious …. Happiness.
I’ll leave you with this really sweet commercial video, called “Patience …pass it on.”
Image (ducks) via bookerpetcare.co.uk