They say patience is a virtue; if this is true, impatience is a vice.
The quality of patience was not something I knew I lacked, until quite recently. Or perhaps it was moving to London that ignited it. In the modern world, people are always on the move. There’s no time for delays or dawdling. The alarm goes and you rush to the tube to take you to work, then head to the gym for a high intensity class, get home late and quickly eat your dinner to go straight to bed; before you know it, the alarm buzzes for you to do the same hasty routine all over again. All this activity has left many people afraid of boredom, solitude and stillness.
We set ourselves goals, only to reach them and move hungrily onto the next without acknowledging our progress. Our focus is on the end destination, wishing we could get their sooner, speed up time, or move on from where we are, that we end up missing the journey itself.
We live in a society whose mantra is we want it now! From communication or relationships, to clothes and entertainment, we want instant results. We can order something and have it delivered the same day!! Or at least, expect it to arrive in the next 48 hours at the touch of a button.
It can seem like there’s no room, no need even, for patience.
But the reality is, to truly respect something, or to find genuine contentment, it takes time, commitment and patience. This new age of instant gratification is only a fleeting happiness. The important milestones in life, whatever they may be to you, simply don’t happen overnight.
Patience is a virtue, an art form, that can be cultivated and practiced. With constant and mindful awareness, we can make patience our natural way of being. It is through my practice of yoga that I have become to understand the value of patience. Yoga is so much more than a form of exercise. The physical postures are just one aspect on Patanjali’s eight limbed path. Every time I get on the mat, I learn something I can take away with me off the mat.
Yoga can easily become a platform for vanity or performance. Instead of a practice to still the mind it becomes a competition for who can do what. The inability to do a posture can leave people feeling inadequate completely destroying the essence of Yoga. For so long I wanted to be able to do a headstand. I would spend hours practicing only headstands and little else. Then one day, in my living room, I did it! And there was so much joy in that moment. But then it left. Already I was thinking about piping my legs or doing different variations with my arms. Nothing else changed. I didn’t feel a better person. My Yoga class the next day was just the same. No one looked at me any differently, nor did the teacher congratulate me when I went upside down.
That experience changed my practice. Yoga has returned to that peaceful space where the breath is steady and my mind still, regardless of what my posture looks like. I trust that my body will open and strengthen in it’s own time. And if it doesn’t – so what?!
This lesson has translated to off the mat as well. I would desperately want to achieve a goal in my business and when I did, my mind would rush to the next without a moment to reflect on where I was in this moment. I have started to see the same patience I have on the mat in other areas of my life. A trust that things will happen, or won’t happen, so why not enjoy the journey along the way.
The other day I had a rare moment where I wasn’t rushing to my next class or meeting and was wondering through the city. I came to a traffic light and waited patiently, without frustration, for the little green man to show. This little pause was such a reminder to me to slow down during my day to day. Instead of my usual dodging cars trying to the cross the road a second quicker, I used this moment to look around at the architecture of our city and appreciate the beauty. It reminded me of something Thich Nhat Hanh says about creating mindfulness bells in our daily life. He suggests, for instance, that when the kettle whistles or a car honks, to let this be a reminder for you to pause and be mindful for a few seconds.
So the pedestrian traffic light has become my mindfulness bell. When I see a little red man, I stop, I pause and take in my surroundings. Without changing anything else (and without being late for anything!) I feel much less rushed and busy living in this city. I enjoy the transitions and the small moments. I’ve found a bit of peace in an otherwise hectic world.
What is your Mindfulness Bell? Let me know in the comments.
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