As we face today’s fast-paced, turbulent world, many of us yearn for a sense of inner peace.
Even when all the pieces seem to be in place—good health, good relationships, good career—it can still feel like something is missing, unsettled, not quite right. We yearn for there to be meaning to our lives, balanced with a sense of inner peace and joy.
As we ride the roller coaster of life, with its ever-changing shifts from pleasure to pain, gain to loss, and praise to blame, we find that one of our most valuable allies—which Buddhist scholar, Andrew Olendzki called “perhaps the most overlooked of all spiritual qualities”—is patience. In fact, we need patience to develop any of the practices that help us build a life of meaning and equanimity.
Those who dismiss patience as a weakness and see anger as strength may find they lack a peaceful life. As we practice patience, we come to understand its noble and valiant strength. We begin to address disagreements with intelligence and thoughtfulness. When life is coming at us like a freight train, it can be enormously helpful to have developed the patience to help us think, speak, and act wisely under pressure.
Patience is light, responsive, and powerful; a great spiritual practice that holds both the immediacy needed in our modern world, as well as the wisdom of the ages. We learn to develop patience when we create a pause between our immediate reactions to life’s annoyances and assaults, and our response to the feelings that arise within those instances. Within this pause lies the possibility of mindfulness. If we spend time with our experiences—the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise—we gain insight. As patience steps in, wisdom arises and we can see things more clearly. We have the chance to accept, and even forgive. We can offer the world the best part of ourselves, with dignity and graciousness.
We see that patience is wise and compassionate. We see the benefits of developing greater patience within all our relationships, including that all-important relationship we have with ourselves. On this journey we must be patient with ourselves. If we are to be happy, and a welcome presence to others, it is essential to learn to accept our own slip-ups. We are spiritual beings experiencing life in human form, and we will slip up—often. As one Zen master put it, we are perfect beings and we need a little work. When we practice patience, we gradually create for ourselves a life of inner peace, a gift beyond all others. We discover that if we want to live in a more peaceful world, we must develop a more peaceful world within.
Allan Lokos’ latest book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, was released on January, 5, 2012. He is also the author of Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living. Allan is the founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tricycle Magazine, The Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Back Stage, and Audacious Creativity: 30 Ways to Liberate Your Soulful Creative Energy. He has taught at Columbia University Teachers College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Marymount College, The Rubin Museum, New York Insight Meditation Center, The New York Open Center, Tibet House USA, and Insight Meditation Community of Washington. For more on Allan, please visit his website, Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.