“Nature does not hurry, yet everything gets accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu
It’s been a lifelong challenge of mine, this notion of patience. Yet I’m happy to report that I’m finally making real headway with this phenomenon, resulting in all sorts of interesting changes in my life. And what perfect timing, as we head into the holiday season with lots on our plates and what often feels like a time-crunch fitting it all in.
For years, overwhelm was my nemesis, easily sending me reeling. Life seemed to be constantly throwing me fastballs that were way too intense for me to catch, let alone juggle successfully. Determined to gain some bit of personal mastery over these crazy-making experiences where overwhelm took center stage, I committed to developing some serious patience muscles.
Taking regular morning walks in nature while contemplating how I might become a more patient human was phase one. A baby step, really, although one that carried me far. One day, as I climbed, huffing and puffing, up a path in a wooded ravine near my neighborhood, I was struck by the powerful realization that nature really does show us how to set a decent pace. Seasons come and go. What is supposed to happen each season will happen — gradually! They take time. And the “taking time,” each slow unfolding — buds to flowers, seeds to vegetables, leaves turning color then dropping, temperatures dipping til snow falls — makes each season rich and wonderful. I wanted some of that perfect pacing to grace my life, too. I felt determined to learn how to show up in a similar fashion — taking my little seeds of inspiration, patiently growing and transforming them, all the while tolerating whatever time it took see my ideas burst into bloom. Here’s what I discovered along the way…
The Urgency of Doing
The urgency of doing is an energy that is so pervasive in our culture. It is also an energy that many of us don’t think twice about; instead, we often charge mindlessly toward action. In doing so, we feel productive, accomplished, powerful, and valued. And indeed, sometimes we are! Hastiness or pushing actively for desired outcomes can, however, also yield detrimental results. Impetuousness can rob us of insights that might actually serve us well. Hurrying past self-reflection with an aim toward efficient completion of a task or experience can sometimes, as we all know, seriously backfire.
Trying to avoid the pain of having to wait for something to develop, or having to trust that time will bring a good outcome, can be downright uncomfortable. Often such discomfort is something we try to avoid or want to skip over. Yet, as I regularly remind my coaching clients struggling with these types of issues, the incredible sense of mastery that comes from learning to contain either the impulse to act precipitously or the urge to flee from a difficult emotion is invaluable. Effort put toward developing patience only serves to help you become even more so. The ability to endure a challenging or difficult situation employing a slower-paced, step-by-step approach can prove empowering on multiple levels.
One empowering perk of practicing patience is that the longer we can stay with something, waiting for results, the more we can learn. Realizing that the gift of time often provides us wise counsel can motivate us to become even more patient. We gain greater clarity and insight when we build in time to reflect or consider before acting or expecting something to happen. And then, too, there are some things that simply force patience, demanding we slow down.
The urge to flee a difficult relationship, for instance, or even a tough relationship moment, can hit us hard. The burning, intense desire to exit fast is a typical one. Yet, for many reasons, unless one is in a truly unsafe or dangerous situation, incredible power and understanding can be the delicious fruits of taking pause.
Fortified Emotional Muscle
Imagine you’ve just been deeply slighted or hurt by someone close to you. You feel, all at once, flooded by sadness, anger, and embarrassment. Taking immediate action seems like it will bring relief from the acute stress of sitting there in your painful and uncomfortable emotional stew. Yet this, perhaps, is exactly the time for No. Sudden. Movements. Jumping too quickly away from emotional relationship distress can rob you of better understanding both yourself and the other.
On the other hand, vast landscapes of rich personal growth can evolve if you stretch yourself to feel into what happened. The key word in that last sentence is, of course, feel. It’s about really dropping down into those uncomfortable emotions. When we can experience rather than flee our feelings, we magically transform them — and ourselves. We discover that tolerating moments of distress won’t destroy us. In fact, brief surrender into a feeling actually then lifts us up, through, and out of that state more quickly than impatiently trying to push past the discomfort.
Rolling with (and even into) uncomfortable feelings, and seeing that you can manage doing so, will — I guarantee — empower and strengthen you. Developing your capacity to patiently stay with feelings, and tolerate a full range of emotional moments, fuels personal resilience and confidence. Additionally, when we can sit with and endure difficult feelings, we are less likely to impulsively react, and much more likely to thoughtfully respond. And thoughtful responses, as you can very well imagine, make for a much more grace-filled outcome!
So, my fellow friends on the path, I challenge you to gently shift your energy into patience mode. Concentrate your intentions there, especially heading into this holiday season. Work those muscles! Your spirit will shine brighter — that I promise — as you experience pride in your patience self-mastery. You will be amazed at the personal breakthroughs you will leverage in many areas of your life as you do so. Can’t wait to see what you’ll discover!
This article was also published in The Brick Magazine