‘Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.’
(Kabat-Zinn 2013: 1213)
‘So patience is the ability to stay calm even when things are not moving in the way that you would ideally like.’
(Gilbert 2013: 2482)
Patience is allowing things to develop or a situation to unfold, in its own time. It is being with a situation and not pushing it along, being with a person and not hurrying them up or giving them hints or short cuts. It is doing this without getting stressed because it is taking time, its own time, to happen and without wishing it would ‘just get on with it’. It is actively waiting, being engaged with the unfolding.
In being patient, we are taking life moment by moment, as it comes, at its own pace, rather than rushing forward, playing in our mind scenarios and setting expectation of how things ought to be and trying to make them so.
Our minds like to solve and fix things, like to get things sorted out and finished, for most of us as we have grown up, this has also been part of our learning of how to deal with life. We don’t like loose ends or things being unresolved. This means patience needs to be cultivated, with patience. Cultivating an ability to ‘be’ with a situation, rather than the need to be ‘doing’ things. This can be even more difficult if we are very busy with lots to do or frustrated that things aren’t as we want them to be. We like to fill empty spaces, rather than leave them as space for growth.
Patience has a large element of acceptance in it. We can also seek to let go of our desires, bringing an attitude of being non-judgemental, an attitude of not striving to make things different, even in our own minds, from how they are or how they are becoming. It may be helpful to bring some curiosity to the situation as well.
We can cultivate patience with ourselves, with our own minds and bodies. As we cultivate mindfulness, we can run into all sorts of thoughts about whether it is ‘working’ how it ‘should be’, is it ‘making a difference’. In practice we need to wait, accepting what unfolds and welcoming it for what it is, not what it isn’t. Allowing self-compassion can help.
Try bringing the attention into the body and notice where the impatience seems to be located, how it feels or where an impulse to action arises in the body. Notice emotions associated with impatience as they arise, maybe labelling them.
Meditation practice is the practice of patience. Each time the mind wanders, and you bring it back, it requires an attitude of patience, just as you may need to have when dealing with a lively young child. Cultivating mindfulness takes its own time and practice, and practice takes patience. Mindfulness develops as a seed develops into a plant, whilst we provide nurture and patience.
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
(Lao Tsu chapter 15)
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living, Revised Edition: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation . Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition.
Gilbert, Paul. Mindful Compassion: Using the Power of Mindfulness and Compassion to Transform our Lives . Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition
Lao Tsu. (1973) Tao Te Ching. ed. by Feng, G. and English, J. London: Wildwood House