The Patience Discipline
Patience has never been my strong suit.
About 8 or 9 years ago, I reached a point where I began to realize that my lack of patience was not a virtue. Furthermore, I'd begun to realize that I was approaching every situation based on my needs, my wants.
In other words, I had been making most everything all about me.
Around that time I was reading The Rule of St. Benedict and similar books, so maybe my realization was triggered by St. Benedict's philosophy and teachings.
Or it may have been due to a certain dog and cat that had recently come into my life. They had already changed my outlook in ways I'd never anticipated.
In any event, I distinctly remember standing in one of those endless lines at Walmart—not a store that I enjoy shopping but the town I lived in at the time had limited shopping choice and so a weekly trip to Walmart was a necessity.
It was taking forever. One of those times when you're in line with a check-writer and someone else who needs a sale override because some item didn't ring up at the anticipated price and then another someone else who held up the line because we had to wait on a friend to come back with one last item. Stuff like that. Those situations happened so often at this particular store that once I'd put my items up and left without my purchase, just on principle.
But this time, I suddenly realized that my impatience was saying a whole lot more about me than about the shortcomings of these others who were not performing according my wishes.
Something prompted me to ask a silent blessing on the person in front of me who was “inconveniencing” me.
And so I did.
And in that act of asking that this stranger receive a blessing, the whole situation changed. I changed.
Love is patient.
And so began my discipline of seeking a blessing for each person or situation that triggered impatience or annoyed me in some way.
This discipline brought me into the moment and forced an awareness and acceptance that my response was the issue, not the other person's “perceived” shortcoming.
Turns out it WAS all about me, but not in a good way.
At first, I was asking for a lot of blessings on other people. But my ability and willingness to extend patience increased rapidly. I found that I no longer felt annoyed at others when the situation wasn't working out according to my expectations.
I'm still not perfectly patient, and I abhor wasting valuable time. But now, even when I'm in a time-sink meeting I'll often stop and force myself to ask a blessing on the meeting perpetrator. And that's usually enough to allow me to turn my mental energy toward something useful or meditative, even as I sit in the meeting.
I've made immense progress and right effort is what it's all about. What's cool is that I've found that I'm rarely losing my patience with others. So now I try to remember to silently ask a blessing on some other person I encounter, at least once day.
We're all in this together.
And it starts with love.
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