Patience is a virtue, it is what you have always been told. But it is a challenge for everyone because we are still highly reactive in our behaviour. In the beginning, practising patience is not easy, but there are many ways to start.
Patience and tolerance require a great deal of thought and understanding. It’s not easy to be tolerant in the face of things that go so acutely against our own values, what we believe to be right versus wrong, good versus bad or when people behave in a manner which doesn’t fit in with your view of the world.
Our exasperation at such moments mirrors our levels of tolerance. But there is no reason why you can’t take evasive action or steps to protect yourself from the classical syndrome of impatience.
This isn’t a message about giving up, about doing nothing while someone keeps on abusing you and being nasty.
The message is that with patience in yourself you become more developed without giving up, without losing courage. You no longer let these things totally overcome and control you.
You stop asking ‘Why me?’, you stop asking what more suffering will come tomorrow and instead ask yourself what you are going to do, how you are going to develop. It is not easy, but if you start with compassion, then you will begin to see.
For example, if someone is very nasty to you, there must be a reason. You should look to have some knowledge and understanding of this person, and why he or she gets so irritated.
Maybe he is very weak, maybe he doesn’t understand you, or perhaps you did something to upset him.
If you can understand the cause then you can defuse those burning emotions you feel.
Even if he is acting very badly and all you can do is to walk away, you don’t need to be attached to the situation, you don’t need to carry it with you.
You have to be honest with yourself. When others speak ill of you, if what is said is not true and is just malicious or ignorant gossip, you don’t have to feel pity for yourself, let go and move on.
If what is said has some truth to it, you can reflect, correct and look to make improvements, and after that let go of any regretful feeling.
Learning to leave things behind is one of the best practices to develop patience, and in turn, compassion and wisdom.As you spend time contemplating your day-to-day life, you will begin to think about how you deal with things. You can learn from your experiences and think about how you might be in similar situations in the future.
Thinking things through in your head will help to shine a light and slow things down, creating that space you need in which you can gradually develop your patience.
It is also very helpful if you can bring these thoughts down into your heart and see how you really feel.
Someone may have truly annoyed you today and you felt you couldn’t help but snap. At the time you felt they really deserved to know just how angry you were with their actions, their words or their selfish attitude.
But perhaps letting out that anger didn’t feel so good after all and so you contemplate how you might approach a similar situation if it arose. You don’t want to be passive, a pushover, but you want to get your message across calmly and with strength.
As you develop your patience, people may call you a very understanding person. By this I mean a person who understands the situation around him or her.
You can take it all in quite easily, smoothly and gently, without making a big fuss out of small things or raising your voice high up to the sky—in other words, without being short-tempered, which is just a lack of practice.
Through contemplation and meditation, it is possible to stretch the temper so it can become as long as a mile. This is a type of meditation that is becoming intimately familiar with your experiences and your feelings, and those of others.
The thing about spiritual growth is that it brings all your faculties to develop. Patience will transform your personality; you will feel more courageous, more proactive, more successful if you practice patience. Today, maybe, you find this difficult, but gradually, if you keep practising, even after a week or two you will definitely be a bit better.
After a month or two, patience will come more easily and by the next year you will see things completely differently to how you see them now and you will do things differently too. Your patience has the power to transform yourself—and everyone else around you.
The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas