Sunday, April 18, 2010

Practicing Patience in Stressful Times


I have to admit that patience has never been one of my virtues.

Life seems to move at a very fast pace and this makes patience even harder to practice. Yet, the ability to tolerate delay without getting upset is a must-have quality that contributes to our greater sense of well-being.

Patience creates feelings of peace and calm, as opposed to the anger and frustration that often arises with impatience. And finding a way to be at ease mentally while waiting in a doctor’s office or sitting in a traffic jam can also help us stave off a slate of stress-related illnesses, including high blood pressure and autoimmune disease.

M.J. Ryan, author of The Power of Patience, talks about how to muster patience when it goes against every fiber in your being during a moment when things aren’t going your way or happening fast enough.

In his book he explains that patience is made up of three things. One is persistence. That’s the capacity to keep on going even though you can’t yet see the end result. It's what keeps us moving toward our goal and thus helps us make our dreams come true. Two is acceptance. Accepting that whatever is happening right now is the way it is. The third is a sense of peacefulness or serenity or calmness in the face of what is.

Why is patience important? Well, in order to understand this, we have to ask “What is impatience?” Impatience is on the anger continuum. First you have irritation, then impatience and then anger and, at the far end, rage. So, besides helping us reach goals, what is important about patience is that it keeps our anger turned off.

Ultimately, patience allows us to act more mindfully and wisely. You get peace of mind when things are challenging, and you also have better relationships with other people — parents, kids, co-workers, spouse. Lord knows, patience is a quality we most need for high-functioning relationships. It allows us to hang in there and keep going, whether with a person or with a process, or in a business.

The more patience and compassion we have for ourselves, the more we can and will learn. Also, we can only be as patient with others as we are with ourselves.

What you really want to do is create more space between impulse and action. This is how we build more patience. Counting to 10 — or even 100! — really works for creating that space. Pausing and just taking an inhale and exhale (breathing) works as well! Think pranayama or breath work!!

Blessings and Namaste,
Anna