The Power of Patience: Four Steps to Move from Drama to Love
When you face a challenging person or situation, your knee-jerk reaction may be to defend yourself. But this often pulls you into dramas and away from your centre. In cultivating patience, you give yourself the space to find the cool waters of wisdom-compassion, and see a much fuller picture of what is going on beyond reactivity.
It is important to speak up about injustice. Yet, first make sure that your actions arise from a place of wholeness, not from againstness that will only lead to greater pain for everyone. In acting vengefully or impulsively, you fuel an existing fire of anger or hate. Your fight-or-flight reaction is a primal instinct that kept you safe in the jungle. But you no longer live in a jungle.
Patience provides you with extra space around your running thoughts. In the same way you can find space in each breath, patience provides an expanded view, even in constricted settings. Patience is not easily cultivated and often grows through adversity. It is like a sweet, fragrant flower that can bloom within the grit and the mud.
When you feel as though life is a battering ram directed straight at your heart and all you encounter are difficulties and obstacles, you may be called to soften, surrender and cultivate patience. Patience keeps your heart warm and open, while your mind remains cool and calm. With internal balance, you can meet the present moment more fully.
Patience is a deceptively powerful and transformative practice. Far from being resigned roadkill, or seething beneath suppression, it opens you to deeper understanding of yourself and the world, and helps you connect with the love that always is. Here are four points to help you embark on this transformative journey and embrace the power of patience.
1. START WITH YOURSELF
If you look up patience in the dictionary, you might read something like: “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like; an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner; quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care.”
You may think the slow learner you are asked to have patience for is the person who hurt you, offended you, created problems for you. It is true that patience teaches us to see all beings as evolving, however rough, unsteady, prone to err and imperfect they may be. However, is it possible that the slow learning for which you are being called to patience is also your own?
You have come this far on your spiritual path. You know there is a more balanced way to live. You want to be free from suffering. And yet, here you are again, triggered and frustrated in the face of adversity.
Too often, when we face adversity, we add insult to injury by criticizing ourselves for events over which we have no control. Not only have we felt criticized by another, we may criticize ourselves with thoughts like, “How have I ended up in this situation again? How could I have reacted again? When will I transcend these emotional reactions and live with greater steadiness?”
It hurts to be judged or experience negative moods in others. But it also hurts to judge yourself in reaction to them. If you truly love yourself and rest in a place of wholeness, the ups and downs of others’ moods, and the ever changing temperament of each passing day, will pass over you like changing weather patterns. But if you are attached to what others think of you, and hoping for approval or praise, criticism hurts doubly.
Practice humility and patience for your own folly. It is easy to point out “that person over there” who is behaving badly. But we all have our own hurtful tendencies. You know you can hurt someone. You are likely a master at criticizing yourself! You might reactively pour negativity right back at someone who pours it in your direction. We tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves.
When you practice patience for your own humanity, the way you err, the way you hurt, the way you buy into others’ miseries and take them on as your own, you evolve. You develop greater patience and understanding for the same tendencies in others.
2. IT’S NOT PERSONAL
We tend to take people’s bad moods, emotional reactions, judgment, criticism and attacks personally. Of course, toxic energy directed towards you can hurt. But it does not have to. There is tremendous power in not taking things personally. In doing so, you peel away the dramatic story masking the moment, and reveal deeper truths. You come to see that everyone is wounded, everyone needs love, and most feel deeply afraid they won’t get the love they need. Everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment.
Hurtful exchanges and nasty comments can happen so quickly that you hardly know what has gone on. When you practice patience and take a bit of breathing room from a volatile situation, you can slow down the tape of your reactive mind and see the subtler pathway of your knee-jerk reactions. You can move your awareness inward, and ask yourself, “What buttons of mine did this person push? What did I feel? Why did I react like that? What about this did I find hurtful? Is there something else I could see that am not seeing?”
Most people are just trying to get through their day. They may be carrying a whole lot of mental fog, swirling unhappiness and unresolved desires. When we are unconscious, we act selfishly. Consumed with our own wants and needs, we don’t perceive the happenings in our environment and the needs of others. Being sensitive to the world beyond your ego and the needs of others is a skill cultivated through spiritual awakening. This is why you are here.
Every drama has a hero and antagonist to keep the plot moving forward. To be free of life’s dramas, let go of seeing yourself either as the hero and others as villains, or as a victim seeking a hero.
When you next meet an apparent antagonist, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions to avoid taking their misery personally. Is it possible, for example, that your co-worker who got angry at you had an argument with his wife that morning? Perhaps he left the house fuming and took it out on the next available person: you. You may never know why he acted hurtfully. What you can know, however, is that his choice to be hurtful has nothing to do with you.
Even if your co-worker had valid points (maybe you did forget to answer his email in a timely manner), communicating those points in a way that causes pain is a choice he made. His choices reflect who he is, not who you are.
This quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sums up life relationships so beautifully: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Everyone, including you, carries wounds, deep childhood hurts that lay gaping until we inadvertently pour our own salty tears into them. We mean no harm. We bump into each other like diamonds in the rough, polished by life unfolding. It is healthy to try to see the good in others. When we do, we stop making them the source of our unhappiness. Instead, we start embracing the powerful opportunity each moment brings to take responsibility for our own lives. See that each person is doing the best they can with the skills they have at this time. When we avoid taking things personally and rest in the bigger picture, our hearts will flower into the fullness of compassion and we will no longer hurt or feel hurt by our ignorance or the ignorance in others.
3. EVERYONE WANTS TO BE LOVED
Here are some powerful thoughts I ask you to consider. Find a quiet place and allow yourself to go deeper with these:
“Everyone wants to be loved.”
Wow. Take a moment just with that.
“Everyone wants to be loved. And everyone fears they will not be loved.”
Think about that.
Think about that some more. Breathe it in. Let it resonate.
“Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone fears they will not be.”
Apply that thought to someone who pushes your buttons. Think of him or her that way, just wanting love, fearing he or she will not get it. Think of how you want to feel loved. Perhaps, you two are not that different.
Think of your parents that way, just wanting love, fearing they will not be loved. Try to feel the fear they have, and know you too feel the same. Perhaps, you are not so different. The love you seek is also the love they want. The fear you have, that you won’t find love, is the very same fear they have.
Think of your friends and other family members. See the way they hope for love, the way they feel disconnected from love, the way they do love. Where is the love in all these relationships? In which way do you love? What if it is not so much about how much love you get, but about what you give?
When you see yourself, the fears, the hopes, the desires you have for love, in others, when you see you are not that different, then love can blossom, like a lotus from the mud. You can feel connected, loved, fulfilled, even in the face of adversity.
Now think of yourself. Touch that place of “I just want to be loved, and I fear I will not be.”
This is a deep place. It has been there likely a very long time. Perhaps it was exacerbated by your mother, or your father, or someone else. But it is a wound you carry. No one made it. It is yours. If it is yours, then you can heal it. Since you are the one holding on to it, you can let it go.
4. FIND THE LOVE BEYOND THE FEAR
We hold onto wounds, feeling almost precious about them, as they form our identities and create who we are. As we grow, we must let go and move beyond these divisive states so we may emerge into wholeness. But this only happens as we understand the wounds we have, how they are born from ignorance, just as when another hurts us, their actions are born from ignorance. When we understand and have compassion for our ignorance, we will feel more understanding and compassion for the ignorance in others.
We all have a deep place within where we fear that we will not be loved. Sometimes, around that raw and fragile feeling, is a feeling of vacant hopelessness. But this will not last. Beyond all these painful, dry, and desolate places is a fountain of unending love. The goodness of life is within even the most desolate times if you allow yourself to settle in and open, patiently, to the flowering spring. The force of life emerges again and again, without compromise. It simply is.
Beyond your fear of not being loved, is love. In your fear of not being loved, is love. Around your fear of not being loved, is love. The fear itself is love, as it shows you your very humanity, your potential for openness, receptivity to that which I would simply call Grace… the force that is beyond our ego’s grasp and comprehension.
When you are willing to be patient, to rest, in stillness, quietly, without fighting, with this fear of not being loved, you find tremendous creativity. It is in some ways the linchpin of the psyche that moves you from the grip of the ego into a place of oneness and compassion. Rest there and you will find love and all will change.
Until next time,
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.