Khanti pāramī : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
I’m reminded of the character George Bailey in the old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Several times, he would descend the stairs in his run-down home and end up with the finial at the bottom of the handrail coming off into his palm. He’d look at it in confusion and annoyance, every time. We could look for patterns like this in our own lives. Do we keep bumping into the same piece of furniture day after day? Does someone we see regularly annoy us, just by existing? The furniture we can move or get rid of. The people are another story. There will always be people that rub us the wrong way. With patient endurance (khanti), we can turn our attention inward when irritation arises. The irritation itself can be like an alarm bell – hey! Look over here! What is it that makes this person so hard to accept? What are the words or images that appear in our minds whenever we see or think of this person? Do we know (or believe) that the person is untrustworthy, self-promoting, passive aggressive or has some other characteristic that stimulates our mental resistance?
When we feel impatient or angry, if we can bring an awareness to the contents of our minds, and the sensations in our bodies, we have a chance to change our minds so that our reactivity is reduced. We can be creative with this. One useful exercise is to remember that the things we find annoying in another person do not describe the whole person. That person has had challenges and suffering that we don’t see. He or she may also have very good qualities that we just haven’t witnessed. Or maybe we have witnessed them, but easily forget them because our own reaction dominates our consciousness. Sometimes remembering one good thing about a person is enough to soften our reaction.
Another approach is compassion. If person A really gets up my nose, chances are she also gets up other peoples’ noses, and consequently lives in a world where (inexplicably) no one likes her. Not a nice place to live. Treating such people with politeness can often keep interactions calm. If someone consistently makes unreasonable demands of you, you can consistently (and politely) say no. Finding the appropriate boundary is part of a compassionate response. So if someone has a mild mental illness, or just an awkward personality, we can take that into account. Accepting people as they are, not getting upset because we think they shouldn’t be like that, this is a form of practicing khanti that can really improve the quality of our lives.