My new reinforcement word for instances of mindfulness, self control and (especially) anger is ‘patience’.‘Patience’ echoing through my head can initiate an instance of mindfulness towards a particular sensation, encourage the broadening out of the field of perception to ensure that negative feelings are not hunkered down upon, or simply refresh a jaded or tired attitude. It seems to be one of the more powerful qualities one can muster in contemplative practice but also the one that flies out of the window so easily. It can be replaced by its near enemies of bloody-mindedness, dissociation or fake cheerfulness so easily. Ajahn Sucitto of the Forest Sangha says that patience is not saying ‘this too will pass’, which I used to say to myself, but in fact becoming comfortable with unpleasantness as it is now in order to be in the present with it in a more radical way than the psychotherapeutic ‘let it be for now’.
Patience in the last few days has been helpful in dealing with the backlash that always come when I stop any kind of frantic dealings that accelerate the generation of stress, have a breather from a more task-based time that doesn’t allow a lot of reflection, or simply any time that I renew my commitment to contemplative practice (it is hard to recall the right way to be committed to it, after all- accepting and quietly consistent). Anxiety rolls in as anger energy dissipates, confusion arises as the desire to do something to fix this grows in the face of knowledge that there is nothing to be done. All of these – anxiety, confusion, desperation – need a lot of patience because they run contrary to my usual angry problem solving.
Patience that accepts what is going on in the name of something greater (the wordless, thoughtless beneficial goal that is replacing the paradoxical concept of ‘a state of enlightenment’ in my head nowadays) is a bit like a magick spell, from the Western Magickal Tradition. You invoke it, you settle into it, and then you carry on with what is in front of you. You can’t sit internally meditating on patience when you have things to do. It is especially useful as a split-second decision maker when dealing with challenging behaviour. It sounds like an obvious thing to do in the world to live well, but it’s very different to gritting your teeth to get a good outcome from a situation- it’s a contemplative practice of surrender that I find rather hard to do. There has to be faith that training yourself in moments of mindful patience will continue to unknot maladaptive patterns. There has to be a patience that every act of awareness can open up the world – your world – to unconditional kindness and richness.