Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Patience

Patience! How we hate the unexpected delay, meeting such events, or non-events, with a sinking heart and a desperation to escape. We fall totally under the domination of time, allowing the clock to drive us, rather than calmly living in the richness of every moment. We fret and worry about "wasting" time in line, in a traffic jam, or in some other unwanted situation, but the worrying itself wastes the time. We hurry to save time, but the hurrying itself kills our time. Patience, on the other hand, enriches time, allowing us to breathe, appreciate our surroundings, and open to the inner depths.

Patience both emanates from and increases a calm, steady will. And calm builds presence. And presence builds soul. The practice of patience directly challenges our egoism and identifications. When we find ourselves delayed or our desires thwarted, the act of deliberately seeking a peaceful calm exposes our attachments, as they dash themselves against our intention to be wholly here and now. Thus, the practice of patience brings us right to the front lines of the work to release the core entanglements that block our way. Here you are, directly confronting your own impatience, whose source lies in your illusory "self." Instant by impatient instant, you let go of your insistent, time-bound, self-centered, in-your-face urges and allow yourself to wait in peace and presence. Of course, patience does not preclude moving calmly but quickly when necessary.

Time passes inevitably and everything in the material world changes. Our bodies grow old and eventually wear out. But the practice of patience opens us directly into this moment with all its depth. The more we can relax and let go of all that drags us into slavery to time, the more we live in this eternal moment, the more we live in all our moments, and the more we live our life. Hurry, worry, and impatience eviscerate this moment, depriving us of what really matters, stealing our precious time. But patience overcomes the forces drawing us into the shallows of a future that does not yet exist and lets us be in the reality of here and now instead.

Boredom and resignation entice us as false substitutes for patience. We grudgingly stay or feel trapped in an unwanted state of affairs. Or we hurry through a task we find boring or distasteful. We lapse into ennui, feeling slightly self-satisfied about how good we are to stay with the undesirable event. Yet in boredom and resignation we do not really accept the situation. Patience does not reject our life in that way. The patient heart opens to greet each moment in full awareness.

The unpleasant behaviors of other people often cause us to be impatient with them. We lose ourselves in emotional reactions rather than patiently being with the other person. In this context, patience means accepting the other person, warts and all. This does not preclude taking measured, tactful action to point out the person's shortcomings, but that depends on the situation and on our relationship with them, and is usually inappropriate. A much more effective approach lies in working toward our own transformation and taking other people as they are.

On the flip side, our own shortcomings and destructive emotions often cause us to be impatient with ourselves. Again, we lose ourselves in this second layer of impatient reactivity, rather than patiently being ourselves and allowing the storm to pass. This calls for self-acceptance. On a deeper level, our spiritual practice leads us to see that there is no "self" that has shortcomings or does not accept those shortcomings. That self is illusory. Then the whole basis for impatience with "our" problems weakens.

Impatience can become a red flag for us, awakening us to let go, to practice patience, and to be present. When you see yourself in a fit of impatience, look for that peaceful calm within and move with an easy heart. It takes will to develop patience and being to live in it.


     

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