Patience: Letting Things Unfold

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Photo by Tyler Milligan

Patience is one of the seven interdependent fundamental attitudes of mindfulness that are consciously cultivated during practice, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn. In his book Full Catastrophe Living, he calls these attitudes “the soil in which you will be cultivating your ability to calm your mind and relax your body, to concentrate and to see more clearly.” He defines patience as the understanding and acceptance of the fact that “sometimes things must unfold in their own time”.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy

Impatience is low tolerance for people (including ourselves) or things that get in the way of our desires.  This leads to feelings of frustration and restlessness – even anger.  In this fast paced world of instant gratification, we can be quick to become impatient and frustrated when things don’t happen right away the way we want them to.

Unpleasant or unwanted things that happen to us occur for many reasons – though its often impossible for us to directly know the myriad specific causes coming together over time to create them.  Since we can’t always understand the complicated network of conditions that caused our misfortune, perhaps we can instead learn to see suffering as an opportunity to rise above. Accepting things as they are is a radically different way of looking at things than we are accustomed to in this culture.

When we notice impatience arising, we can refrain from immediately reacting to any related urges and just observe. In the space that is made between stimulus and response there is much to be learned. Through this process of allowing things to unfold in their own time, we often find that our interference only serves to increase suffering and obscure reality. Why not discover this for yourself by experimenting with patience in your daily life? You might be surprised by what you discover!

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