There is More to Patience than Patience Part II

I didn’t make it.

When I decided to commit to approaching every task with kindness, gentleness, and care, and to thanking each person for their contribution to my highest future to bring myself to patience, I did not think it would really be difficult…but it was! In the morning, as I was preparing for my day, I could see myself pausing a moment prior to a task, breathing, and thinking, “kind, gentle, caring…” and I could see myself just quickly saying “thank you” to someone…anyone…everyone. These things are not hard, they just require remembering to do them, right? No. Not only is there more to patience than patience,  there is more to practice than just remembering to do it.

I remembered but could not do it.  I could not bring myself to think kindly, gently, or caringly about tasks that are imposed by someone else (the nature of working at any job), or to thank the people who impose those tasks, or anyone else. After all, these tasks, these people, they are what are keeping me from the future I want NOW!  As I mentioned, these are precisely the things I am resisting. But I as remembered I had committed to practicing, every part of my body tensed up. I could barely breathe and my mind could not even convince itself, “C’mon, just ‘thank you’”… “NO! I don’t wanna”… “Acknowledge, you can do it” … “NO!”.

That’s a bit of a conundrum. What to do, when the practice to overcome the resistance meets with resistance greater than the original resistance? I could not focus; my emotions were “abuzz”. I was tense, tight, barely breathing. What’s going on here? All I could do, ALL I could do was my good old standby, the repetition of “Om Namaha Shivaya” because I knew that I had to do something so I would not remain in this new state of resistance. But it did not feel like it was helping. What was this resistance to overcoming resistance? I am usually a lot more willing. After all, wasn’t I the one who decided to overcome the resistance in the first place? Why was I fighting myself?

Even now, I am not through this resistance. I can still feel it, as tightness in my chest and difficulty catching my breath.

I did get some insight as I was driving home continuing as best I could with the japa-mantra when I had one of those “ah-ha” moments that is more like a “DOH!” than a “DUH!” The thought was, “YOU ASKED FOR THIS!”.  Yes, the thought yelled at me and I thought, “OMG, I did ask for this.”

But what was true about this? What did I ask for that I had not been seeing? And if I asked for it, why am I resisting? Why is it creating this emotional and physical stress and discomfort?

“Duh”…I’m resisting a new future.  Wanting a new future means I need to change. My life needs to change. Everything will change. For how much I embrace change, welcome change, want change, understand change…apparently it still is capable of scaring the hell out of me.

I have given my “new future” new parameters. They are freedom and peace; greater peace in that stillness and quiet of rightness beyond question; freedom that is joyful and expansive and exhilarating.  Getting there is a little scary because I do not know how to do it, I just know this is what I want; freedom and peace are my standards.

When I realized all of this, I came back to where I started: patience is about trust. The future is borne out of now. I have to trust in my Self (who Knows) the future, and when I don’t, I need to forgive myself for not doing so.  I need to wait and listen ( ) (all also part of patience).

My new practice to get through this is telling myself:

∞      I place my trust and my future in my Self who Knows.

∞      I listen for the quiet voice that directs me

∞      I forgive myself for now

∞      I wait and take no action

There is More to Patience than Patience Part I

As with most feelings or complex concepts, patience has many components; most, if not all, of which are contextual. The patience of understanding ignorance or inexperience is different than the patience of waiting for someone to count out exact change at the register when you have already been in line for 10 minutes and they are just now digging through their purse or pocket. The patience of understanding someone’s quirks or forgetfulness because of medication or physical state (like Alzheimer’s) is different than the patience of a teacher watching someone struggle to grasp a concept, but not so very different than the patience of understanding there are things a child just does not yet know.

Today, patience is about trust.

I have been unsettled—impatient. “I want the life of my future and I want it now!” I have not been trusting in that where I am, is where I am supposed to be; that where I am, is this step to getting me there. It is easy to talk about “the journey”, but accepting the steps as they come and actually trusting the process requires attention and practice.

Not accepting this step means resisting this step. I have not been trusting in that the people in my life are helping me. It has been very easy to think others do not have my best interest in mind. If they are not helping me, they are hindering me. And that has turned (in my mind) to thinking and feeling  other people are resisting and thereby preventing me from getting what I want (that future). When really all they are doing is just supporting me, in my own resistance.

But I want to trust more than I want to resist. I know that at least. It’s one thing to see the resistance and see how it plays out in my daily activities.  It’s another to stay on top of it, to deny it, to intercept it, and not let it affect my work and my relationships.

I am taking two approaches today. The first one I am projecting inward, the second I am projecting outward.

1) Every task today is enormously important. Everything I do, I will do with the care and attention of bathing a child: support (no slipping in the water!), gentleness, care, and kindness. Every task matters; every task—as a step on this journey—is so very, very important that each moment must be approached with the love and attention I want to bring to the outcome.

2) Every person I meet is my ally and my cheerleader. Today, each person I encounter will be acknowledged as contributing to my highest future and will be thanked accordingly.

Staying “in the moment”, or in Eckhart Tolle’s framework, being in the now with each task, each person, requires patience—and trust.

Picking Up Worms

Do you know this story, “A Single Starfish” by Loren Eiseley?

–One day an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide, and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish that the water had carried in and then left behind. The man began walking very carefully so as not to step on any of the beautiful creatures. Since the animals still seemed to be alive, he considered picking some of them up and putting them back in the water, where they could resume their lives.

The man knew the starfish would die if left on the beach’s dry sand but he reasoned that he could not possibly help them all, so he chose to do nothing and continued walking.

Soon afterward, the man came upon a small child on the beach who was frantically throwing one starfish after another back into the sea. The old man stopped and asked the child, “What are you doing?”

“I’m saving the starfish,” the child replied.

“Why waste your time?… There are so many you can’t save them all so what does it matter?” argued the man.

Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed the starfish back into the water… “It matters to this one,” the child explained.–

That’s how I feel about worms. You know, after a rainstorm the parking lots are filled with worms which, drowning in the soggy ground came out onto the concrete only to die in the sun or continue drowning in puddles. So, I go around picking them up. I take them to “higher ground” and cover them a bit with dirt or leaves hoping they recover; giving them a chance at recovery, anyway.

I once read of a Buddhist temple being built; the excavation was a long, tedious, process. The monks were preparing the land by hand—I picture the tedious clearing of an archaeological find—so they could gently transplant each creature in the dirt (worms!) to a new home. In the Buddhist tradition, every being is a mother, a father, a sibling, a son/daughter, or a friend. All life has value. All life is sacred…even worms.

I even have “pet” worms. Yes, I vermiculture. Worms eat my garbage. What is this affinity that I have with worms? I did not always feel this way about worms.

In a snow storm this past winter, which dumped inches-to feet-of snow on the northeast, I was walking to my back door and found a worm on the sidewalk. “What! You are quite out of place!” I said to my little friend. But I had a dilemma: snow on the ground, worm on the sidewalk. What do I do? If I put him back into the “grass” he will freeze. There was no higher ground, no safe place where I could put him outside; what do worms do in the winter, anyway? So I took him inside and placed him (it?) gingerly into the dirt of my Christmas cactus.

The following internal dialogue ensued:

“You have just made yourself responsible for this life. You took him out of his natural environment and placed him in an artificial environment. How are you going to provide what it needs to live?”

-“I have no clue, but I couldn’t leave him outside; he would have died”

“What do worms eat (I know what my red worms eat—my garbage—but this is an earthworm, they are different [or are they?]) How much water does he need?”

-“What if you put too much water in the plant and he drowns?”

“There is probably enough organic material in the dirt to feed him, but maybe I should put some organics in the plant. How do I even ‘check’ on him to know if he’s all right?”

And so on.

So I did a good deed. I saved a worm from dying in the snow. Or did I? What if he dies at my hands? I am responsible.

“But he surely would have died had you left him outside.”

-“You are giving him a chance.”

“Is the chance better than the inevitability of his fate outside?”

-“Is death a bad thing?”

Some people believe that death is a transition into a new life. Some believe that the death of the body is not “death” for the soul lives on. Some people believe that people are “born again” into a new body (reincarnation) or into a life of spirit. Some people believe that death is the end, done, finis (but since you are dead, you don’t care!). So why is death a measure of whether or not the deed is good? How do we know?

How do we know when a good deed is really a good deed? What if our intervention causes more harm than good? How do we know?

When I was about 8, I had a guinea pig. I was an industrious and caring youngster and wanted my guinea pig to be happy and to live in a nice environment. So I cleaned his cage…with bleach…or ammonia, I don’t remember which. The fumes of my eager cleaning lingered in the small glass tank; my guinea pig died.

Eagerly well-intentioned, but ignorant, I was a child. How could I have known that I was going to kill my guinea pig?

How do I know if I haven’t killed my worm-friend?

-“But you are well-intentioned.”

“But is that enough?”

We never know, do we? We never know if we create more harm than good, even when well-intentioned. The nature of ignorance is ignorance: the blind spot that prevents us from knowing everything about everything and not knowing that we don’t know. Only in omniscience can we make perfect choices. And I am certainly not omniscient. So I have to live with my ignorance…and my questions…and sometimes my guilt.

So I remind myself that I am doing the best I can. I remind myself that there are parts of me, like that child, that just don’t know any better, and I forgive myself my ignorance. I clear my head, listen to my heart, and strive for the best for all, and continue to pick up worms after a rainstorm.

The Eternal Return to the River

Heraclitus’ river can be seen as a metaphor for many things. Sometimes I think of life as the river. Life is always changing.  We are in a flow of existence, with movements and currents, ebbs and eddies, sometimes being tossed about, sometimes moving with swift purpose. In every moment that I encounter this river of life, a “new I” steps into a “new life” and the encounter forever changes both.

Sometimes I think of relationships as the river. Repetitive interactions have a pattern, a dynamic, a rhythm that I step into and out of. I am familiar with the bends, turns, lulls, and rapids of many of my frequent interactions – like with those of family, friends, and co-workers. I know the types of conversations I will have; I can anticipate the movements, inflections, reactions, and responses – both mine and the other person’s. This familiarity lulls me, not unlike watching the lazy flow of a wide, slow-moving river. In this lull, I can forget that life is also the river, and that both I and the other person are new and fresh, and the river of our relationship is ever-changing.

Sometimes I intentionally enter my thoughts as the river. I enter into a thought and move with it. I feel it, ride its energy, and see where it takes me. I start with a word—like love or gratitude or life or freedom or forgiveness. The words are only the entry. Once I am immersed, the word broadens and becomes no longer a mere symbol; it becomes a concept with meanings and variations and diverse contexts and new meanings.

How many ways are there to think of love? How many ways are there to express love, gratitude, and forgiveness? How many times does the river change? How many times do I change? Do you change?

The river is infinite.

I am infinite.

You are infinite.

We can return to the “same” river, the “same” life, the “same” relationship, the “same” concept over and over, again and again… but never really return.

For my previous post on this subject follow the short link: