“I just don’t have time to wait in line at the post office.” “Every time I’m in a hurry, I get stuck at every single red light; life just isn’t fair!” “I wish when I ask my partner or kids to do something they would do it right away.” Does this sound familiar?
We all would love to have more patience, but what is it exactly and how do we do it? Just why does it sometimes seem to be so difficult to practice? Patience is being willing or able to suppress restlessness or annoyance when faced with delay. It is keeping a clear head when confronted by opposition or difficulty.
This being said, when we’re restless or annoyed, it’s very difficult—actually impossible—to have a peaceful mind and to be in the moment, enjoying our life. And, for me, living my life in the moment, enjoying everything that life has to offer, is my highest ideal. So for me, being patient, learning to be patient, and practicing patience are absolutely key! With this in mind, I offer you these four steps that I have found invaluable for cultivating patience:
1. Don’t waste your precious moments.
When we feel impatient, our minds get so caught up in how things and other people should be that we take away our power to be present to life as it is. We simply don’t have the ability to respond to events and others with a clear mind in a loving manner. In other words, we are losing our precious moments to stress and circumstances that are completely out of our control!
My advice to you: Keep in mind that every moment of your life is precious. Give up the “should” for yourself and others, breathe, and return to the calm place inside where you have a deep knowing that everything is as it should be.
2. Go easy with your expectations.
Some days there are plenty of opportunities to lose our patience. This is especially true when our expectations of others, situations, and even ourselves are not being met. “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” says William Shakespeare, and I think he is on to something. We could easily say here that expectation leads to our impatience of life the way it is and takes away our ability to feel happiness and security—this is heartache!
My advice to you: Release the expectation that everything will go as planned or that people will do what you expect them to do.
3. Widen your perspective.
Sometimes in a moment of frustration, we forget that we can stop, take a step back, breathe deeply, and tap into our inner source of understanding and compassion where we are better able to see the truth of a situation. When we regularly practice being patient, we uncover a new level of awareness that allows us to see more possibilities than the ones we have become accustomed to. Our perspective widens; we truly become more open and receptive in all areas of our life.
My advice to you: Be willing to look at frustrating situations from a higher perspective. Stop and try to see the situation from another point of view.
4. Make a subtle shift in language.
As we become more mindful through a regular spiritual practice such as The Practice, our expectations start to become preferences and anticipation becomes choice. It is simply a matter of changing our vocabulary. This subtle shift in language reduces the sense of entitlement the mind often gets hooked on. Instead of taking the position that “We want or need this to happen,” we take the position of preference: “We prefer this or that.” If we end up with what we prefer, we are grateful. And if we don’t, well, that’s okay too. In acceptance lies peace and deep meaning.
My advice to you: Make an intention to begin letting go of your expectations and replacing them with preferences.
I know that patience can often be an elusive feeling; it truly is something that comes and goes, which is why I continue to practice it daily. I find it so important to go easy on myself when I lose my patience, knowing that I am human—not perfect. What has helped me greatly for over twenty years is this comforting prayer by St. Teresa of Avila.
As always, please share your thoughts with me, as I wait here so patiently.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you;
All things pass away,
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things;
He who has God
finds he lacks nothing,
God alone suffices.
—St. Teresa of Avila