The Lost Art of Patience: an Antidote to Stress and Chaos
By Dorothy Wallis
As the year winds down, you may still be feeling the intensity of the tumultuous changes that have been taking place in your life and in the world. The Chaos discussed in October’s blog continues. For many it has been a stormy and uncertain time not knowing what it means for the future of the children and upcoming generations, the economy, the environment and the human species. On a more personal level, you may be anxious about your own future. There is a heightened sense of concern about matters that were once taken for granted or ignored. Major upheaval in the world is challenging to your sense of safety and security.
Anytime your safety or security is threatened there is an urgency to act. Action may mean shutting down or protecting yourself in ways that create distance rather than connection. The current challenges are pushing you toward both an internal and external purifying catharsis beyond primal reaction. The opportunity presented is for you to realize your ability to choose. You get to decide how you will respond. You can move through the initial “whoosh” of dread, fear and anger by staying present to all of the physical and emotional sensations arising and allowing them to just “Be” without acting upon them. You can choose to be with “what is” happening in the moment. Having choice enables you to move from feeling helpless, powerless and at the mercy of your experience to one of knowing you are capable of going through it. It gives you strength and authentic empowerment. Staying present requires a commitment to being aware of your experience and patient with yourself.
Patience is a skill that takes practice. It is easy to fall back into judging your ability to be still before acting or to not distract yourself from your experience. Nothing in our culture reinforces patience: quite the opposite. Being still, not talking, stopping before making a decision, contemplating, slowing down, daydreaming……any and all of these are not generally encouraged in our fast paced culture that rewards output and productivity. When were you told that it was okay for you to take your time? Just listen to our language about doing nothing: laziness, idleness, indolence, sluggishness, lethargy, dragging your feet, dawdling, dilly-dallying, procrastinating and even more demeaning indignations ad infinitum. Being called a daydreamer, deadbeat, slug, bum, slacker, loafer, lazybones, airhead, procrastinator…or any variation of these, brings with it a blast of shame. If you are not actively doing “something,” you are judged as “wasting” time or being indulgent and self absorbed. Doing nothing is socially reprehensible. We shame others and we shame ourselves. Just notice your inner critic when you are “not doing.” The closest we get to a socially acceptable mode of “not doing” is “Chilling out” and that usually happens when you are so overwhelmed or “burned out” that you have to stop doing or become ill. Meditating is an exception because it is thought of as an activity. Meditation is an intentional action, which is an excellent way to develop the stillness in patience.
Patience is not your first response to stress or chaos. Your first reaction is to quickly and as soon as possible get rid of the stress and calm down the chaos. What usually happens is more stress and chaos from impetuously reacting to external events with alarm and drama. It is an enormous task to subdue disturbances outside of yourself. The idea of calming down the external chaos is a clue to the real antidote, which is to calm down your inner experience. This is done through skilled Patience.
In order to have patience, you first have to be okay with the whole idea of being patient. Instead of feeling guilty or pressured for taking your time, not acting quickly, and being thoughtful, you must know that there is great benefit to being patient.
The Benevolent Benefits of Patience
The stillness of patience calms the chattering mind. Your parasympathetic nervous system quiets and composes the body into a harmonious rhythm. Your mental, physical, and emotional health all improve through the friendly cooperation of a tranquil and balanced physiology. When your body is working together in harmony and alignment, it functions better. You think more clearly and are able to perceive what is actually happening around you. Your ability to be informed from all of your senses is sharper. Your intuition is heightened as the higher functions of the brain engage and connect with the compassionate wisdom of your heart. Decisions you make use the entire scope of your knowledge and senses while extending your awareness to limitless dimensions. Patience opens the gateway to creativity. It is in the stillness that you are able to touch the deeper level where source wisdom resides.
It is in the stillness that you are able to touch the deeper level where source wisdom resides.
Patience is practical. You make fewer mistakes with forethought and planning. People skilled at patience are nice to be around; they are easy-going, even-tempered and generally unflappable. They respond with attentiveness to others needs and so reach out with kindness and generosity. The kindly atmosphere of patience extends to your personal well-being. Stress and depression are diminished, as you are able to face annoyances and disturbances with less anxiety, frustration and despair. You become more tolerant and forgiving of discord. As your tolerance increases, you are able to persevere through difficulty and hardship, which enhances your ability to meet and achieve your goals.
The Artful Practice of Patience
Patience means “Being With” whatever is in your field of experience. It is calmly waiting in times of adversity without the need to do or act. There is an art to practicing the skill of patience. It is both mindful and heartful. A profoundly powerful way is to lovingly and quietly connect with your body while observing and feeling whatever is moving inside of you. Your focus turns inward. Instead of judging your experience with your thoughts, you are present to the physical sensations in your body while being equanimous with the feelings that arise.
Patiently staying present to the sensations and feelings increases your emotional resiliency as well as your ability to regulate your emotional reactions. Emotional resilience is the “magic elixir” that increases your ability to handle stressful situations. You are able to adapt to crisis and adversity without lasting issues. Remarkably, this patient adaptability to crisis can allow a person to experience horrendous traumatic events without contracting PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Through the practice of waiting and observing, you develop a greater level of self-control and discernment. Your thoughts do not jump to conclusions and you are less likely to automatically blame, project onto or dramatize outer events. A calm mind and heart allows you to experience the subtle joys of life. You see life as an ever-changing fluid terrain of impermanence. Wonder and curiosity return and you experience with good humor, the mystery of life’s challenges and opportunities.
Patience is Felt and is a Gift for Everyone
The current human and planetary crises can be seen as a “wake up call” and on an even grander scale seen as an advantageous design to raise the level of human consciousness. Seen in this light, instead of contracting into isolation or allowing frustration to overwhelm you into destructive habits, with patience, you can skillfully expand into what is present and determine actions and behaviors that are beneficial for you and others. You decrease the stress and chaos in the world through your patience.
Giving the Gift of Patience brings Peace and Harmony into the World
As you gather with friends, co-workers, family or are just “out and about” in your neighborhood during this holiday season, take time to stop, breathe and appreciate. You make a difference in the world by practicing patience. Each day take in the beauty of life, observe the hustle and bustle with delight, say a kind word to the cashier at the counter, slow down and allow the car merging into traffic to go in front of you, listen patiently to your partner, your child, your friend and to those you do not know and notice how your patience influences those around you. Take time to give the Gift of Patience. It will bring you an abundance of contentment and joy.
Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice with an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is an International Spiritual Teacher at the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth. Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality.