What is the role of patience in our closest relationship?
Gail was attractive, bright, and articulate. There was nothing to indicate that she was any different from the scores of folks we all know, except for the fact that when she was thirty years old, she had killed her husband. It seems her husband, while mostly loving and thoughtful, could also be harsh and critical. She felt he was never quite satisfied with her as a partner. One day she told him that she wanted to talk about starting a family. His response was that they shouldn’t rush into it. He didn’t think she was ready to be a parent. She felt a cold shiver go through her body and she lashed out at him verbally. He called her outburst a perfect example of her immaturity. Things quickly escalated. He grabbed her wrists, insisting that she was being ridiculous and should grow up. They were both shouting as she pulled away, and he grabbed at her again. She swung at him, almost unaware that she now had a heavy vase in her hand. He fell to the floor and was pronounced dead that evening. She was convicted of manslaughter and died in prison three years later. How easily a disagreement can become a disaster.
Impatience, anger, and fear are all natural feelings.
It is how we relate to our feelings and how we respond to them that is so important. Often a major event, such as a life-threatening illness or the loss of a loved one, opens the door to greater awakening. Such life-altering events are often accompanied by thoughts like, Why did I need this frightening experience to get me to wake up? What can I learn from this? What should I do now? These are significant questions and we would do well to sit with them and contemplate. What are you doing that is so important that you can’t devote a few minutes each day to developing greater self-awareness?
Listening to be heard.
If we want others to listen to our views, we must be willing to listen to theirs. If your views tend to be liberal, you won’t become infected by a conservative opinion, and vice versa. We can become so convinced of the validity of our views that we can’t hear those of the other. You can be sure that will try the patience of others just as it does yours. You might instead say to the other, “So, did I hear you say . . . ?” Then say what you heard and ask for confirmation that you heard correctly. Try to repeat the exact words you heard and not your interpretation.
Watch, listen, and learn.
Watch carefully what goes on in your mind as you listen to views that are in opposition to your own. Thoughts and feelings arise and die away constantly according to a complex matrix of causes and conditions. When we see this truth in relation to our impatience, we can become more willing to release views to which we may have been clinging for years. Even absolute, unquestionable fact has been known to become more obsolete than absolute. When in disagreement, it is simply wiser to listen with the grace of patience and use your intelligence to work out acceptable solutions.
The first step to becoming a skillful listener is remembering that you care about the other person. You may have to negotiate, and you want to do so fairly. If you are always winning, chances are you are losing. Listen, listen, listen. Don’t keep explaining your point and expect your loved one to remain patient. Just like you, they want a fair chance. Think of their happiness and you will be more patient. Think of their happiness and you will be happier. Play fairly with patience, caring, and compassion.
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 hiswebsite, Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.