“Patience is not learned in safety. It is not learned when everything is harmonious and going well. When everything is smooth sailing, who needs patience? …there is no cultivation of patience when your pattern is to just try to seek harmony and smooth everything out. Patience implies willingness to be alive rather than trying to seek harmony.”
– Pema Chödrön in Start Where You Are
Things take time. I repeat that to myself with surprising regularity. Impatience is no doubt a common affliction of ours, most certainly in my life at least. And I find it illuminating to see and understand patience as a willingness to accept discomfort.
What is impatience, really? It comprises all the things that make us uncomfortable. It’s fear. It’s lack of control. It’s the voice in our heads telling us stories of all the horrible things that might happen if this or if that. It’s the frustration that obstacle after obstacle exists in everything we try to do. All this manifests in this restless, anxiety-ridden state we call impatience.
Patience is all about accepting that discomfort, in the same way that we practice mindfulness. We are not seeking the cessation of the thoughts in our heads or sensations in our bodies — our practice is to observe them, accept them as they are, and let them go gently. In the same way, we have to recognize the uncertainty that’s causing our impatience but not latch onto it.
Patience is letting go and letting things happen at their own pace. All we can do push things forward by being consistent in our actions in the present and trusting in the weight of time to make things happen.