We live in a society where we can get things quickly; within minutes Uber gets us transport, Deliveroo gets us pizza, Airbnb gets us accommodation, Tinder gets us a date. In London, I am often rushing around to get things done and get to where I am going quicker. In a world where Faster equals better, who needs patience?
My mother, a keen gardener, has a gift for saving plants. She often finds abandoned wilting orchid plants in her apartment’s communal area – people mistakenly think that if the plant is not flowering, it must be dead. My mum saves the abandoned plants by giving them nourishment, and being patient. Each time she proves that with these ingredients the plant will blossom again.
I’ve always thought of myself as a patient person, but recently I’ve considered how patient I really am, and which areas of life could benefit from nurturing this virtue.
So how can patience positively impact different areas of your life, and how do we practice it?
Being Patient with Situations
At the end of Notting Hill Carnival, I wanted to get my tired feet home as quickly as possible (me along with thousands of other revellers!) To manage the crowds, police set up barricades in front of the tube station, letting through a trickle of people at a time. Waiting to get into the station felt like hours (it was minutes) and my growing impatience was making me increasingly annoyed; “what’s happening” “when are they going to open” “urgh! I just want to get home”.
My companion, cool as a cucumber, turned to me like Yoda to Luke Skywalker and said, “Charlotte, Be Patient”.
Within 10 minutes we were safely through the other side and on our journey home. I thought about how my impatience created unnecessary tension and stress in the situation. You cannot control the situation, but you can control your own reaction to it. And therefore, the opposite, patience, could create calm, peace, and ease.
Next time if you are like me and your reaction to a situation creates tension and stress, can you slow down, take a deep breath, and practice patience?
Being Patient with Strangers
Have you ever been rushing to get to work and come across “slow walkers”? Or a tourist not understanding the train tickets causing a build up behind the barrier. Or a couple chatting away but blocking the doorway. If you’re from a busy city, you can probably relate.
I am certainly guilty of hurrying around London, trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible - and at times feeling impatient with strangers. But the strangers are not the problem, my impatience is.
Being patient with strangers is intrinsically linked with compassion and humility. You and your journey is not more important than anyone else’s. Does it really matter if you miss that train if the next one is only minutes later?
How would it feel next time if instead of being impatient you slow down, even stop to help that tourist? Or simply smile at that “slow walker” or anyone else in your way? When you practice then you are cultivating compassion and humility for others.
Being Patient with Your Passions
I’ve always envied people who know what they want to do with their life from a young age. A lot of us either don’t know or take much longer to figure out what our passions are.
Fresh out of university and in debt from travelling, I began a corporate career in media which financially made sense, but conformed to what I thought I should be doing.
In the background, I discovered yoga and over the next 12 years I nurtured that passion simply because it was something that brought me joy. I did not know at that time that my passion would become my career. Over those years my joy for yoga turned into one I wanted to share with others, I eventually would quit corporate life, complete 6 years of studies, and teach yoga full time.
Regardless if your passion is or isn’t your career, take time to nurture the things you do that give you energy, and bring you joy.
In a different scenario, my good friend is an artist. And like many artists the amount of time and effort she dedicates to her art, is not always reciprocated in financial stability. Her dream to be successful, including financially, is important fuel to drive her ambition forward. However, sometimes I think desire to reach the next goal can overshadow just how much has already been achieved.
Cultivating patience for my friend could mean taking more time to pause and really taking note of her achievements. Not being so hard on herself – just because you haven’t reached the highest peak doesn’t mean your climb isn’t worthy of celebrating.
Are you nurturing your passions? Can you slow down, celebrate how far you've come, and have gratitude for what you’ve already achieved?
Being Patient with Yor Healing
We know that broken bones take a long time to heal. With a broken leg we’d be told to rest, tending to that area of the body with the greatest care, and taking time out to heal from our usual fast pace lives. Even once the bones have fused back together you would still treat that part with a new tenderness.
But do we give ourselves the same patience and tender loving care when healing from emotional events in our lives? Being busy can sometimes be an avoidance tactic to not feel those unpleasant feelings - it could be pain, sadness, grief, anger etc....
But what you resist, will persist.
Instead, can you slow down, and spend more time being quiet. In this still space perhaps you can begin to feel whatever it is that's there.
Sometimes healing can be a lifetimes work, and that's OK, that's your healing journey. Everyone's experience is completely unique.
Being Patient with Your Mind
But how can we can experience patience in a practical and tangible way?
In mindfulness meditation, we practice becoming aware of the physical sensations in the body, and then the sensations of the breath, and then the fluctuations of the mind.
Sooner or later (and usually it's sooner) in meditation your mind will wonder. You may find thoughts plans daydreams coming up. That is what the mind does, it thinks. Simply acknowledge your mind has wondered and gently escort your mind back to your body, back to the present moment. Your mind wondering could happen over and over again - it can be very frustrating that the mind is so disobedient.
So, no matter how many times you have to escort your mind back, can you cultivate compassion for you for your mind. See if it's possible to view the repeated wonderings of the mind as opportunities to nurture greater patience within yourself.
So how can patience positively impact different areas of your life?
Patience reminds us that we have control of our reaction to situations. If we can remember its power in times of annoyance, then perhaps we can create feelings of calm and ease rather than stress and tension.
When we practice patience with strangers we are being humble and being kind. What about patience with your loved ones - can your relationships also benefit from greater compassion from yourself?
Being patient with our passions means taking time to nourish the things that bring you joy. Much like mum tending to the orchids, nourishing your passions over time will make them blossom.
You can practice patience in any moment with mindfulness meditation. Your wondering mind becomes your great ally in your practice. You may even discover that being patient with your mind creates a quality of kindliness towards yourself.
And lastly, being patient to how life unfolds. We don't know what is coming next, and although these days we can get material things quickly, the things that matter will not happen in an instant. Instead can you slow down, practice patience, and experience the glory of life in the here and now.