Notes on Patience

It comes from the Latin "pati" which means "to suffer".

Dictionary definitions:

  1. bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; able or willing to bear;
  2. manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain;
  3. not hasty or impetuous;
  4. steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity;
  5. good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence.


Patience permits us to mindfully and calmly accept hardship, thus enabling us to see things as they are, unclouded.

Dalai Lama



There is nothing that does not grow easier through habit.
Putting up with little troubles will prepare me to endure much sorrow.

Shantideva



Those who cause me suffering
are like Buddhas bestowing their blessings.
Since they lead me to liberating paths
why should I get angry with them?

"Don't they obstruct your virtuous practice?"

No!
There is no virtuous practice greater than patience;
therefore I will never get angry
with those who cause me suffering.

If, because of my own shortcomings,
I do not practice patience with my enemy
it is not he, but I, who prevents me from practicing patience.

From "Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" by Shantideva, translated by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso



"One can only be patient in response to a visiting stress." Therefore for there to be patience, there has to be dukkha. Practicing patience is testing the second Noble Truth: "wanting other than what's happening is suffering." Patience is the movement from the second Noble truth to the third: "Peace is possible, right now."


In any stressful situation, turn the focus on your own experience. How are you reacting? Is it skillful? Being able to be with whatever arises is Mindfulness. When it's difficult, Patience is the quality that allows us to stay with it until it passes and not react further.
To develop patience, we need a commitment to maintaining a peaceful, benevolent heart.


Methods for cultivating patience may require a reframing of the situation: If there is impatience, there is resistance to what is.

  • Focus directly on the resistance - in the body, mental state; investigation; refocusing, turning the attention to it: what is this? There is always restlessness in impatience.
  • Use it as an opportunity to develop wisdom (it doesn't last, my reaction to the situation is causing further harm (dukkha), it's here because of conditions which will pass)
  • Focus on kindness - kindness to myself (not supporting thoughts that cause further suffering), kindness in viewing others if applicable - seeing their suffering. Inclining towards kindness is enough.
  • Focus on the bigger picture - e.g. gridlock on the Golden Gate bridge - it's beautiful here; I'm sitting here waiting for tech support - I have food and shelter, etc, and time to practice!
  • Humor - Cheer the mind with humor. E.g.Jack Kornfield said: "I'll be the first meditator in America to die of restlessness..."