THE WISDOM OF PATIENCE
Patience is the ability to accept and tolerate delays, problems or suffering without anxiety or annoyance. Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment, all of which require the passing of time.
Many people around me, especially at work, sees me as an agreeable, “patient” sort of fellow although I don’t feel that way at all. My wife complains that I am like the “slow mo” version of her, and my sister gets all worked up because she says I am too tolerant of things.
The funny thing is that I have never considered myself to be a patient man despite all the feedback that I get. Maybe I’m selectively impatient; or maybe I’m impatient but I keep it all bottled up in me. Or maybe I have high expectations of myself.
What I hear from people about my patience and what I feel inside don’t sync for me. I still feel I’m still kind of impatient although I have improved tremendously since I started practicing meditation.
Here’s a list of what used to my pet peeves when it came to triggering my “impatient” switch and with it, how meditation practice has helped me realize important things about waiting, patience and myself.
Traffic Jams That Never End
I can still remember the tension, and even anger, that I felt as I sat there in the car waiting for some movement – any movement – so that I could get out of those traffic jams and back to my life. Why the jam? Why did the entire city population have to come out and drive when I was driving? Why did life have to have so many obstacles to where I want to go?
What meditation taught me about patience in traffic jams:
- Waiting forces us into the present moment. The zooming in of our attention on how we are “wasting” precious seconds now actually makes us mindful of the moment, which is something we should take note of.
- Waiting patiently is practicing peace. Patience is the peace in our hearts regardless of the external situation. Where there’s peace, anger finds no space to occupy.
- Reasons are not needed to be patient. In fact, reasons hamper patience because reasons seek to justify. Patience, like love, needs no justification for someone or something to be there with us.
- Patience is unselfish and generous. Everything and everyone around us have the right to exist just like us, sharing the same space with us. We should acknowledge and honor their presence.
- Obstacles in life do not block us but take us higher. The destination is really not as great a reward as the journey itself because it’s the journey, with its wonderful obstacles, are what makes us grow to be bigger and stronger. And that’s the true reward.
I was never been a fan of sameness. I found sameness boring, like watching television re-runs. I liked the excitement and freshness of the new. Why repeat? Why did it have to be the same day after day? Why did life have to so boring?
What meditation taught me about patience in repetition:
- Meditating in itself is repetition, repeating moments of “doing nothing”. And that’s what’s so contradictory about it because meditation has shown me that in that nothing is everything. Questions have been answered, noises have been quietened and peace has been restored.
- Repetition is learning. The process of repeating something over and over is how we learn. When I first started to meditate, I had the problems that almost all beginners have: restlessness, can’t concentrate, unable to sit cross-legged for long, etc. But through repetition I had overcome all those difficulties and today I can sit for hours meditating without problem.
- Repetition disciplines and refines us. Doing something repetitively somehow disciplines us. It helps build mental and emotional strength and endurance thereby shaping character. Repetition refines us into the perfect diamond that we can be.
- Repetition changes us. To make a change in attitude or behavior, we need to repeat the emotion, thought and action over and over until our old attitude or behavior is replaced by the new one. This is why it is not enough to do something once to change (there are however exceptions in the case of very wilful people). If we are serious about making a change, then we must repeat the attitude or behavior until the new one becomes ingrained in us.
What in the end was I impatient about? Did I have so many things going in my life that I didn’t have time to stop and smell roses or give time to other people? What was I saving time for? Was it to do the same thing that I had been doing for years? In the end, isn’t time being in the moment with people and events, with love in my heart, time well spent?
Patience never rushes, neither does wisdom. Wisdom is the aggregation of all that we have experienced in time and with time. Like patience, wisdom is a child of time.
Patience is a great teacher. Like wisdom, it changes us. And great patience can change not only one individual but the whole of humanity. This is its wisdom.