“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
This is the second of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for mindfulness. We all talk about patience, but what does it mean in the context of mindfulness?
It can be really really hard to be patient. It is really hard to wait in general. In fact, many of us get antsy or even angry at having to wait. For instance at traffic lights; in traffic queues; waiting at the supermarket; in fact almost anywhere. There are times, even, when we just wished time would go faster; when we hurry to make it feel like it does. But when we do have to wait for something, time really seems to slow down, and we can feel our emotions heat up, both in our minds and in our bodies. Of course, there are times when we wish time would, in fact, slow down to a crawl, as when we are filled with feelings of joy, relief, or even calmness. How can mindfulness help with our very human tendency to be impatient?
So what is Mindful-based Patience?
Definition: An understanding and acceptance that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.
Do we practice patience with a feeling of long suffering and endurance? Or can it be practised with a feeling of deep faith in ourselves, in life and trust in others to come through for us?
Mindfulness patience means that we have developed enough wisdom to accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time, in their own pace.
So what are some of the key tips that will help you to have more patience?
- Don’t try to hurry things along. Everything has it’s own time. This feels obvious, but we try so hard to force things through that we forget that for many activities, there is a natural rhythm or pace to it.
- Practice patience with ourselves. Why rush through some moments in order to get to other ‘better’ ones? Each one is you “living your life in that moment.”
- Be completely open to each moment as it happens, accepting its fullness, knowing that things will emerge in their own time.
I have noticed for instance in meetings, where-as in the past I would rush in with ideas, comments and suggestions; now I try to find the flow of the meeting. The pace of the conversation and allow myself to match it. Often, I do not even make comments or suggestions; but rather stay silent. This can feel counter-productive; but trust me, I feel more grounded and focused.
How do you practice patience?
Practising patience in the midst of a stressful situation is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it seems to be completely counterintuitive. At it’s heart, it really means acknowledging that you don’t have control about all the aspects of your life. Look, none of us do. This can feel very scary, and for some, this means they can become angry, anxious or depressed in response to this sense of “non-control”.
But by practicing patience at these times, by allowing yourself to “be in this moment”, knowing that this moment (and all of the other moments that you are going to experience) is not in your control and that it cannot be otherwise, you will be re-regulating your mind-body, and strengthening your inner self.
There is a technique I came across that does seem to help.
When you find yourself in the middle of a situation; be it at work, at home, with loved ones or friends; where you feel your impatience rising, think: S-T-O-P
- S = Stop. Stop talking. Stop shouting. Stop whatever you are doing.
- T = Take a breath. I try to breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and breathe out for a count of eight, but whatever works for you.
- O = Open yourself up to self-compassion. Realise that you in the moment. Just this moment and it will pass. Just like every other moment you have ever had.
- P = Pause and reflect on what the context of the situation is that is making you feel impatient. I can assure you, that it will feel a lot less by this stage.
Try practising, the “STOP” technique. This in turn, may encourage your brain to “turn down” the heat and adjust itself by having you feel less reactive to the stress.
Patience is about accepting “what is”, knowing that “what is” will change, that everything is impermanent; the bad as well as the good. It is about self-compassion, knowing how hard it is to acknowledge the limited control we all have in our world. It is about knowing that we really will feel better by being less reactive to the “issue” or to the “situation” we find ourselves in. Finally, and probably the most important aspect is, that cultivating patience for yourself will allow you to be more patient with others.
The video where Jon describes the Patience attitude can be viewed here:
I leave you with the following quote which is really wonderful.
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden