This post is a Tuesday Tip.
Related Post: Patience is Not a Virtue, It’s a By-Product
We think patience is about waiting like a good little boy or girl.
But it’s not.
Patience is the sense of peace that grows out of letting go of what we want, facing the pain in our hearts, letting the internal temper tantrum quiet down, and then listening to the redemptive whisper that is always murmuring just beneath the surface of our suffering. We know impatience does violence to our relationships, and we are desperate to find this still place of love in which we can meet the people we cherish.
Is there a roadmap for doing so? I don’t think so.
But I’m going to describe one path, and I’ll leave it up to you to tell me where it takes you…
- Schedule it. Set aside a day for patience-building. Sunrise to sunset. This is the most important step. Without a wide-open day gaping before you, the temper tantrum will not have time to go quiet. Make whatever sacrifice it requires. Get a sitter, cancel obligations, disappoint somebody.
- Get away. Choose a place that is secluded and quiet. Away from home where distractions will beckon. A place you will not run into anyone you know. Preferably, a place you won’t run into anyone at all: a bench in a forest preserve, a retreat center, a church sanctuary in mid-week.
- Disconnect. No phone. No books. No phone. No music. Did I say no phone? Just a pad of paper and a pen. None of your normal methods of distraction. I’m guessing you’re getting a little queasy at this point. That’s okay. It’s the heart stuff coming up; you’re already beginning.
- Pick on somebody. Choose one relationship to be the focus of your day. Choose someone you care about deeply but who has been testing your patience. You are going to write them a letter today.
- Listen to the temper tantrum. You will spend your morning embracing your frustration and impatience. Listening to the temper tantrum. Begin by identifying at least five negative thoughts and/or emotions that arise when you think about the person. Write each one at the top of a separate page. Spend 30 minutes on each page. Do not censor any thoughts, feelings, or sensations. Record whatever comes up in relation to that thought or emotion. Remember, it is your censoring and running from your internal temper tantrum that produces endless feelings. When you allow yourself the experience, you will discover it doesn’t last forever. You will begin to quiet down inside.
- Sit don’t flit. The key to listening is getting your mind to sit on an emotion, rather than flitting from thought to thought, as it will be inclined to do. Every time you notice your thoughts and attention have strayed from your focal point, take three deep breaths, and return your mind to the negative thought or emotion you are attending to. Do it over and over. And over and over.
- Listen for the whisper. Enjoy a quiet lunch. Then, in the afternoon, when your heart sounds silent—it will never be perfect, but you will no longer feel attached to those negative thoughts and feelings—begin to listen for another voice. It will be gentle and loving and graceful. It will be patient and peaceful and kind. Listen to what it says about the person you are attending to. It will see them as broken, human like you, fallible but valuable. It will not deny the frustrating parts of them, but it will encompass all of what they are. Your mind will flit again. This time, return it to the whisper.
- Write the letter. Enjoy a peaceful dinner. Then, in the evening, allow the whisper to write a letter for you. Literally write it down. Let the whisper-voice write for you. Make it your voice. There is no template for the letter. Simply refrain from censoring the thoughts and feelings you are having. And write.
This may seem like a strange path upon which you are embarking. It may be populated by all sorts of strange and scary things. But remember, they cannot withstand the light of your attention. And when the scary things have subsided, and you’ve discovered another voice, you will know a healing patience.
Comments? What would be most difficult about walking this path? What would be most healing? Please feel free to share in the comments.
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Tuesday Tip Disclaimer: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.