Patience is a Virtue

A well-known proverb states that “he who knows patience knows peace.” And yet many of us would define patience more as a minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.

Many times, patience seems to be non-existent when you’re late and the car in front of you is crawling at turtle speed or when your neighbor upstairs has a song on repeat and you’ve already heard that song 20 times. Same goes when the customer service person, who sounds like a robot, keeps on telling you that they “understand” yet there’s nothing they can do!

Embodying patience is a difficult task. And yet it is this virtue that safeguards us from anxiety, frustration and anger. Without it, we judge situations incorrectly and act in regrettable ways. It destroys our own peace of mind and infects everyone in our way.

But how exactly does one do patience? Here are some techniques and tips to keep in mind for the next time you’re about to lose it:

Recognize and surrender
So many of us are impatient because we’re spoiled, writes Life Coach Neil Fiore in his book Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage. We become rash and annoyed because we want things our way and right away; we often hurry in a bid to control our lives, or the outcomes of our actions. But by doing this we limit our identity to a small, insecure, anxious part of ourselves.

Staying stuck in this small, limited part means that we have failed to expand our sense of self. We can tap into a larger wiser self that can plan, soothe, and choose what to do in any given situation, says Fiore.

“To cultivate patience we must learn to accept the limits of our control — doing what we can but allowing the world to respond,” says Fiore. In other words we have to surrender and realize that we don’t have power over everything. And that’s okay.

Before putting yourself forward, be sure you understand your circumstances. Listen to what others have to say. And listen to your higher self. Don’t be so quick to react. Respond instead. Patience involves holding back a hasty reply to someone and accepting the differences in others. Use internal strength to calm yourself rather than let something or someone get the better of you. Really, what’s the point? If you look at the bigger picture, the situation is probably not worth your salt.

Be aware of your emotions. When you find yourself becoming impatient, angry, or irritable, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. In. Out. Breathe deep into your belly. Nice and easy. If you’ve already flown off the handle, you’ll probably need several deep breathes. Try breathing in for three seconds, holding it in for five and then letting it out for seven breaths. Tell yourself to relax. Scan your body for tension and invite it to release.

Gentle simplicity
Keep life simple. Don’t over-schedule. Give yourself room. Give people the benefit of the doubt and you can avoid complications in relationships. Tell the truth and you won’t have so much to remember. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. Do the same for others.

Negative vs. positive
Waiting is probably the biggest act that tests our patience. Waiting to heal, waiting for a phone call, waiting to mail a package at the post office. Some think patience is about grinning and bearing it. Wrong. It’s about chewing and smelling it. In other words, turning a negative into a positive.

Perhaps we have such a difficult time because we mortals rarely live in the moment. Impatience comes when we’re overly focused on the future, rushing to get somewhere or prove something. Why not enjoy the anticipation as much as the end result? It’s about the journey and not the destination. If something is going to happen later than you expected, then so be it. It’s all in divine order.

The next time you’re waiting for something to happen, turn that angst into appreciation. Give your self a pep talk and list a couple of things that you are grateful for. Tell yourself that everything is in its place and events are unfolding as they should. It’s OK to wait. Patience is not procrastination. It is releasing action only when the correct moment has arrived.

And remember that by losing your cool, you’re actually putting a lot of yucky energy out there into the universe. Let it out in different ways. Let your frustrations out at the gym or go for a run in the wilderness. 

I am sure you’ve been on the receiving side of that icky energy. Well, don’t let it infect you. Pretend there is a huge rose out there in front of you that absorbs all the muck and drains and neutralizes it into the earth. If someone gives you the finger on the road (or something like it), don’t play into their game. Give them the peace sign or smile. You are bigger than that. You know how to do patience.

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