Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Little Thing that Will Change Your Life

The big things... We sure do worry about the “big things,” don’t we? We ask, am I successful? Am I a good person? Am I a good parent or spouse or friend to the ones I love most? Am I good enough at work or at school?

And in the hustle and bustle of our concerns for the big things, we tend to lose sight of a small thing (that really is a big thing) that should be present in every exchange we have, in every deed we commit, in every journey we venture on, and in every relationship we forge…

In today’s hyper-connected, get-it-done-NOW society, we surely lose sight of this small thing... When we’re in our cars, we zoom lane to lane in the chase for a green light. And we forget about the danger we’re putting ourselves and others in. When we’re in an argument, we are so intent on having OUR point of view heard. And we forget to listen. When we’re in school, we can’t WAIT to graduate. And we forget to enjoy those short years when everything is new and the possibilities are endless. When we’re at work on a Monday, we can’t wait for the weekend. And we end up sleepwalking through the week.

We might have the best job, the nicest things, a solid marriage, and healthy relationships with our kids. We might have a nice house, a pristine yard, and exotic vacation plans—the list can go on and on... But what we DON’T have is piece of mind. What we DON’T have is PATIENCE.

This culture and our wanting bellies demand it all NOW, and in that obsession with the “next big thing,” we are squandering the here and now. We are not mindful of the very moment we dwell in and all the beauty it has to offer.

Think of it like this: If we are always chasing after what comes next, how will we ever really live? When we get to where we’re going, we’ll arrive, take a quick look around, and be onto the next thing before we can ever experience that present moment fully. The whole pattern facilitates a sleepwalking kind of life, but in a fast-forward kind of way since we are all quite impatient.

In Whenever You Go, There You Are, the author Jon Kabat-Zinn eloquently explains patience like this: “[Patience] is a remembering that things unfold in their own time. The seasons cannot be hurried. Spring comes; the grass grows by itself. Being in a hurry usually doesn’t help, and it can create a great deal of suffering… Patience is an ever present alternative to the mind’s endemic restlessness and impatience. Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it is anger.”

The idea of patience is sometimes seen as a little thing, but in many ways it is a very big thing. Patience allows us to embrace higher understandings and emotions that we would never achieve if our knee-jerk reaction was anger or haste.

Jon Kabat-Zinn depicted his vision of patience by asking this: If someone hits you with a stick, who are you impatient and angry with? The stick? The arm? The person who did it? Or what about the parents that failed him? Or better yet, what about the world or culture that was harsh to his parents when they were children? Aren’t you of that world? Aren’t you then connected? And in that understanding, can’t you find patience? Love is patient first.

Now that doesn’t mean that what that person did wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. But what it does mean is that patience and understanding will help you cope with the experience and perhaps, in time, you will be able to show compassion.

When the Dalai Lama was asked why he was so patient with the Chinese, even though the policy of the Chinese government at the time and for many years was to practice genocide on the Tibetans as an assault to their beliefs, he offered this highly enlightened response: “They have taken everything from us; should I let them take my mind as well?”

This response, as Kabat-Zinn explained, was “…a remarkable display of peace… the inner peace of knowing what is most fundamental, and the outer peace of embodying that wisdom in carriage and action. Peace, and a willingness to be patient in the face of such enormous provocation and suffering, can only come about through the inner cultivation of compassion, a compassion that is not limited to friends, but is felt equally for those who, out of ignorance and often seen as evil, may cause you and those you love to suffer.”

We must have patience.

It can be small... Someone cuts you off in traffic. Will you curse them? Will you grow impatient? Or will you think about where they may be trying to go? Perhaps there is an emergency in their life? Perhaps not. But will you still be patient?

It can be big… Someone betrays you or hurts your dearest loved one. Will you curse them? Will you grow impatient? Or will you wonder about why they did what they did? Or worry about what need in their life isn’t being met?

Patience doesn’t make a wrong right. It doesn’t mean the wrong won’t hurt.

But what it does do is offer up a promise. A promise that you will be enlightened. A promise that you will be mindful. A promise that your actions will be right and just.

If we could just do this one little thing, we could CHANGE our lives! And though we may miss the target on some days, it’s surely worth the attempt.

“The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” ~Ralph Marston


  1. "Patience doesn’t make a wrong right. It doesn’t mean the wrong won’t hurt.

    But what it does do is offer up a promise. A promise that you will be enlightened. A promise that you will be mindful. A promise that your actions will be right and just."

    I REALLY needed this today. When there is something wrong, I am the person who wants to fix it right away. I'm still learning that certain things need time to unfold in their own way.

  2. Karen Ann MatthewsFriday, April 16, 2010

    Thank you. I need all the inspiration that I can get in my life right now. I agree with Fearless, I also needed this today.

  3. I agree. Patience is such a tricky thing. We have to choose it everyday in every circumstance. I am so glad you ladies enjoyed it, and that the words lightened your load today.

  4. wonderful post and I so agree.. patience is something I think we all need to work on. Life comes to us in its own time.. and we hv to be ready to accept the many blessings, when they arrive.


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