Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On Patience

The other day a friend mentioned to me that patience is something she needs to work on because the universe keeps giving her situations which call for it. 

What exactly is patience?  We typically mean it in that there is a situation/event/thing we want now but isn't here yet (or something we want to be finished/over/through but isn't yet).  Patience is being okay with the present even when we want the future to be here.  There is an element of waiting graciously.

When we are impatient, there is an element of "things will be better when X is finally here/happened".  An element of wanting to escape where we are now.  An element of wanting to skip ahead and out of our present.

Which makes sense.  Our present might be dull, boring, hard, full of stuck, etc.  It is often no fun at all to work where we are in the present - especially when "something better" lies in the future.

Historically, my biggest source of impatience comes from uncertainty.  I can't plan/move forward/etc until I know X.  So, I get really impatient while waiting to find out X.

Patience, to me, seems like a quality that is hard to cultivate head on.  I actually think the command "be patient!" is fairly violent. 


I think instead, our work lies in getting clear on why we are 
attaching to the future to escape our present. 

If we are in a crappy situation, acknowledging it can go along way.  
"Hey crappy situation!  You are crappy and I feel down about it.  No one likes crappy situations!  It is totally legitimate that I would want this to be over."  That little acknowledgement alone can shift our attention back to the present.  Often when I acknowledge something, there is a little less "stuck" there and a little more ease.

If we are in an okay situation but the future looks better, I sometimes like to adopt an "Advent calendar" mentality.**  
Doing something different/special in the present while waiting for a future event. For example, if I'm looking forward to a vacation at the end of the month and am feeling impatient, each day I might try to do something to bring in a tiny piece of vacation.  Like, one day I might eat dessert instead of dinner because that is something I'd do on vacation.  Or I close my eyes for 10 minutes at my desk, lean back in my chair, and picture myself in a hammock by the beach.
 **Growing up, we had Advent calendars for the month preceding Christmas.  Each day on the calendar had a tab or something covering it, and you'd open one per day.  Some Advent calendars open to reveal pictures and others (the awesome ones) open to a piece of candy each day. Regardless, the mindset is of "special preparation" for the Christmas holiday.

I'm still working on the impatience in uncertainty situations.  I'm mostly working to not be impressed by uncertainty.  
Certainty is a story we tell ourselves, but we all know that certainty doesn't actually exist.  Everything can change in an instant.  Acknowledging helps.  "Hey there uncertainty! I see you there! I feel uncomfortable when I know you're around.  Someday I'd like to be okay with you."  That's been helping.  Also, I think my yoga practice has helped -being put in an uncomfortable position and learning to breathe calmly through it.  I've learned to breathe to calm down my sympathetic nervous system.  When the parasympathetic nervous system is in charge, I'm not so impressed by uncertainty.


Patience:  being okay with things taking the time they take.