Are you patient?
I frequently meet people who tell me—“I am not a very patient person”. They are being honest. They find themselves rushing around, interrupting others, finishing their partner’s sentences, irritated with older drivers who are going too slow, rushing through tasks they don’t enjoy, and often, feeling annoyed with others. They feel a sense of time pressure, no matter how much time they have. They are constantly thinking about the next thing they have to do while they are doing something else.
“Why can’t he hurry up? Come on move a little faster!, Why is it taking you so long!, OMG! This line is so long! Can’t you make that latte a little faster!” thinks the impatient adult.
I admire adults who can slow themselves down in response to what’s happening around them. They always seem to take their time. They never seem to be in a rush. They have a big space between their eyes.
In the 1950’s, two cardiologists Rosenman and Freidman, noticed that the chairs in their waiting room were worn away at the front edge. Their cardiac patients couldn’t sit still! They formulated the concept of the “Type A” personality. These individuals are time-pressured, competitive, aggressive, stressed, and hard driving—almost all of the time. Several of these traits are associated with greater risk of heart disease. Type B individuals are just the opposite—seemingly always calm. So it may be that impatience (and aggression) may not be so good for your health. It certainly doesn’t improve your well-being!
In our high tech society, we want a chill pill that works right away! No wonder so many adults use drugs or alcohol to relax. We are living within an epidemic of stress and impatience.
The high speed of our society is largely outside of our control. But patience is a trait that we can cultivate—just like a beautiful Northwest garden. It does require time, attention, thought, and intention. It is necessary to get your hands into the soil of your life. Just like your plants need light, cultivating patience requires awareness.
Be warned! This garden grows slowly. It is very easy to fall back into old habits.
Here are some techniques for nurturing patience:
- Live the moment. This takes practice. When you are washing the dishes, feel the soap and water on your hands. Take your time. Notice and enjoy the sensations. Take pleasure in doing something that benefits you and your family.
- When you are eating—slow down! Taste the food you are eating, notice the textures and sensations. When you are preparing food, put all of your attention into what you are doing. This exercise, called “mindfulness”, trains your mind to be in the here and now.
- “Now I am breathing in, and now I am breathing out” When you notice you are feeling time pressured—stop. When you breathe in, say to yourself, “Now I am breathing in!”. When you breathe out, say to yourself, “Now I am breathing out!”. Then when you breathe in, say “In” and when you breathe out, say “out”. Do this for several breaths, and you will come back to this moment.
- Think of delays as opportunities, not as obstacles. Standing on a long line? Take this as an opportunity to breathe. Stuck in traffic? Take this as an occasion to listen to music. Waiting for the barista to make your double tall? This is your chance to smile. Is the bank teller taking a long time to process your transaction? Now you have time to count your blessings.
- It’s all about changing your attitude. We can’t change what is happening around us. But we can change the way we think about these experiences. How we approach them defines whether we see them as possibilities or hurdles. Barriers create opportunities to nurture serenity.