Patience

(Apologies to subscribers for the repeat. It is due to my imperfect technological skills.)

From “Bearing with Life: Khanti Pāramī” by Ajahn Sucitto:

The Buddha famously declared khanti (patience) to be the supreme purification practice….The mind/heart (citta) habitually creates suffering and stress through reacting to, holding onto or getting caught up with what life throws at us….the specific quality of patience is to carry the heart through the turbulence of existence so that it no longer shakes, sinks or lashes out.

We often hear people say, “I have no patience” or “If only I had more patience”, as if this were an unalterable component of our personalities. Both patience and impatience are learned qualities, and we are all trainable. Let’s start with the understanding that we can strengthen and increase whatever level of patience we have right now.

Patience has the gut-knowledge that recognizes that a problem or a pain is not something to run away from, get flustered by or be self-pitying about. It has the wisdom to know that we have to prioritize the steps through which we can resolve suffering. It’s true that it may be possible to find an alternative route to the destination; it may well be that more negotiations are needed to resolve the problem; it may be that there’s a medicine that will ease the pain. But the first thing to do is not to react – not to rage, despair or mentally proliferate. Our first effort is to draw a line around the suffering , take a step back and know ‘that’s that.’

Like the Buddha, Ajahn Sucitto says that before we try to resolve a problem, we need to identify it, to articulate it clearly, and to put a boundary around it. The problem is what it is; it can be viewed apart from our reaction to it. We can look at whatever is trying our patience as if it were happening to someone else and think, “Hm, what is this? What might be best to try first? If that doesn’t help, what alternatives are there?”

This approach depends on our willingness to look honestly and openly at what is happening. Only then can we separate our direct experience from our reaction to it. We have to start (again) with the Buddha’s first truth – the truth of dukkha – which must be acknowledged. Very little progress can be made if we are unwilling to face life squarely, but our movements towards freedom start here.

2 Comments

Filed under Causes and results, Dukkha, Patience, Perfections

2 responses to “Patience

  1. Jenny

    One method that I learned from Ven. Prattaya Sotthi is, that when an emotion comes up like impatience or even anger, he says, “First, just observe.” When I have practiced that teaching from him, it distanced myself from the impatience, just like putting a boundary around it. The more I practiced his teaching the more I found the problematic emotion dissolving. Then I have been able to lessen the effects of the reaction towards the cause of that emotion and resolve.

  2. Pat wrote:

    This post reminds me of the adage: Charity begins at home.

    If I can first have patience with myself it is easier to be patient with others and with situations. And “drawing the boundary” is such a good way of expressing my efforts to first define why I’m feeling so impatient. Once I realize why I feel anxious or impatient and actually can describe the apparent cause, it is much easier for me to take that proverbial deep breath and allow patience to take the lead.

    Thank you for this insightful post.

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