A brief case for patience
The busier I get, the less patience I have for the learning curve of others. On one of these packed afternoons, I felt so annoyed because my older daughter couldn’t figure out how to work the speed dial after I already showed her one time!
[Sigh] How often I structure my days to depend on every single thing working out, the first time.
But meditation and the Alexander Technique and parenting teaches that life builds towards something better when we stop being so results-oriented. We give up the fantasy (this is called samsara in Buddhism) that life is just a few tweaked circumstances away from perfection — a better job, an unexpected windfall, or my children quietly flipping through the encyclopedia.
In some Buddhist cultures, there is a tradition of reincarnated lamas, or great teachers, who are reborn after they die, again and again bringing their special qualities back into the world (like the Dalai Lama). (Interestingly, even though the nature of these lamas may be unique, the nurture is pretty darn strong too. These lamas train intensively for decades, starting from the earliest age.)
I don’t know where I come down on reincarnation, but I can say that it serves me well as a parent to not assume my children are reincarnated beings who should have learned how to use speed dial, hold a spoonful of soup in a level manner, or stay on task for an entire homework session. This life is new to them. We all have so many things to learn in this life. If we were ants, we’d have figured out the gist of living from about day 3. But we are humans and that means we have endless learning to do.
Like learning what patience is, and how it’s more than just not expressing how pissed we are. Patience is one of the six Buddhist paramitas or “perfections” that any aspiring bodhisattva must train in. Contrary to popular thought, patience is not simply something you’re born with or not. Just like aspiring runners who begin the ‘couch to marathon’ training regimen, you definitely have to try.
In situations that require patience — have you watched a three-year-old get dressed recently? — I notice the enormous difference between offering someone else a kind or loving wish compared to, say, just waiting until I get what I want.
Put simply, how do we choose to fill the space between where we are (or someone else is) and where we would like the situation would be?
Do you remember what it’s like to struggle with something? To feel stuck when making a decision? Do you remember forgetting something you were supposed to have already learned?
Of course you do!
We are all fumbling through it. As parents and workers and partners, we wish to shine like Broadway stars in our various roles. Yet the performance is often more like junior high theater with rattled nerves and flubbed lines.
Do we honestly lack enough material for empathy? How many small and large disappointments do we encounter each day? What if we aspired to donate them to the welfare of all beings?
Stay in touch with your body when you’re having a tough time. There are two benefits:
1) You’ll be dissuaded from believing every judgmental thought in your head.
2) You’ll develop empathy for others in a similar situation.
Here’s a simple practice:
When having a hard day or a hard minute, put a hand somewhere on your body and take a few slow, full breaths. The inhale is self-love, as if you are getting hugged by the world’s greatest grandmother. The exhale is a prayer of relief and ease for you and all beings. Try this several times.
It’s okay if you don’t feel all warm and gushy. The important thing is that you’re flipping the switch from blame and isolation to greater connection and generosity.
Inhale: I’m okay.
Exhale: I wish everyone else to be okay.
This post brought to you by Buddhism: Relaxing your sphincter since 528 BC.™
Originally published at https://www.dancayer.co on March 2, 2021.