Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How To Develop Patience

A friend wrote to me yesterday and asked "How can I be more patient? I am so impatient all the time"! With this revelation I am surprised she didn't want a response immediately. Her question reminds me of a prayer I once read. It went like this."O God, give me patience....and give it to me right now"! Patience is a great virtue. As with most virtues, it is also counter cultural. We are not a patient culture. We are a culture that expects instant gratification in all things. We are a culture that values speed and productivity. We want everything yesterday or before. We no longer write letters. We send emails and then are annoyed when we do not receive an immediate reply. We no longer cook real food. We microwave flash frozen items or drive through McDonald's for "fast food". We don't even take the time to get out of our cars. We don't finish one task before starting another. Problems that developed over a period of days or weeks are expected to be solved in a day. We multi task ten things at the same time and usually don't finish all of them or we do a less than quality job on most of them. We don't stop and smell the roses because most of the time we are moving so fast we walk right past them. How can we be more patient? First of all, stop the madness! Slow down! As Gandhi once said, "There's more to life than increasing it's speed". Take the time to notice the details of life. Quit doing so much and taking on so many tasks. Practice mindfulness and introduce some calming rituals into your life. ( A calming ritual is not happy hour at the local bar.) Empty your life of unnecessary demands and allow some space in your day. I have a friend that can never go to lunch because they are always too busy. Many of us have lives that are so busy and so demanding that it is nearly impossible to not be nervous wrecks as we run around from sunrise to sunset and even into the night looking at our wristwatches , cell phones, and Blackberry's every five minutes. Why do we do this to ourselves? Some of us are driven, ambitious overachievers who feel like we must be involved in everything. Sometimes I believe that people who are voluntarily overextended are on some kind of a power trip or perhaps think all the activity gives them some kind of control. They want their fingers in everything. Other types of people fill their lives up with activity so they don't have to face their own loneliness and emptiness. Their activity is an escape. It hides their pain.So what does all of this have to do with being more patient? Well, I think in order to be more patient a person needs to have some sense of contentment in their life. A patient person usually has a sense of balance and centeredness. A patient person is usually a calm person. A patient person is like an oak tree in a windstorm. A patient person is someone who responds to life appropriately and without an emotional overreaction. The landscape of their inner self resembles a placid lake rather than the rapids of a white water river. I don't see how you can develop yourself into a patient person without some calm and space in your life where you focus more on being rather than doing. This is not always easy. Some of us have hyper personalities. Admittedly, there are others who seem patient when they are just lazy. Being patient doesn't mean you are unproductive. As the Bible says, there is a time for everything. Sometimes we act. Other times we wait. We can all hope for the wisdom to know when to be assertive and when to be patient.

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