How to Live in Simple Wisdom, part two: Patience

Photo by frefranon Flikr Creative Commons

Photo by frefranon Flikr Creative Commons

In the second part of this article series, I’d like to explore the second of the Dalai Lama’s four faces of wisdom:

i.            Discrimination

ii.            Patience

iii.           Doing No Harm

iv.           Being Joyful

I have often reflected on how much the choice to live simply, in mind, body and soul, serves me personally by creating the conditions that bring me peace.  My mind is peaceful when it has less to process and my body remains healthy with simple nourishment and exercise. Simplifying life for my mind and body frees my time and energy – creates the space necessary – for contemplation and meditation.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that to avoid being sucked back into the millstream of drama, over-indulgence and pointless busywork takes a lot of self-discipline! Wisdom, for me, would be the point where I’d feel far less challenged by saying no to the mainstream and far more at home with doing what I know to be deeply authentic for me.

I like the idea of the Dalai Lama’s Four Faces of Wisdom because they are easy to remember as a way of bringing me back to myself when I feel challenged in this way. How can we develop patience as a route to discover what it is to be wise in life?


According to the Dalai Lama, the skill of patience is about being wise without bitterness or regret. In this age of speed, it can be especially challenging to slow down enough to feel ok with waiting for something to happen, for an outcome to manifest, for information that we need to become available, for the conditions to be right. Where does the ‘bitterness and regret’ come into it? Both seem to me to be fundamentally about not wanting to wait, which means not accepting what is required of us in any particular moment that involves waiting – slowing down, letting be, allowing, simply observing. Bitterness and regret also suggests to me that there is some kind of grievance attached to a situation where patience is required. Perhaps that griavance is towards someone else: ‘Why can’t that person deal with this queue of people faster, more efficiently?’ or towards ourselves, for example:  ‘ I should’ve known not to come here at such a busy time. Why didn’t I plan this better?’

Patience might be linked to anxiety as well as non-acceptance. Anxiety can be another form of resistance to what is happening now, based on an illusion. The illusion is the belief that we should be in control. Once we understand what is within our control and what isn’t, perhaps by adopting the Anyway Principle, then it becomes much easier to develop patience. Anxiety is often a trigger for anger. So, cultivating patience can also be an antidote to anger.

Impatience can be a feeling to be grateful for, as simple living enthusiasts, because it shows us when we’re off track. I’m very familiar with that feeling of impatience – the heat, tension and urgency behind it . When it arises, I can choose to slow down, step back and observe it first. What is this telling me? Is it anger, resistance, anxiety, a grievance? Where am I out of alignment? How do I want to be with it? What will I do to soothe myself so that I’m in a more resourceful state to make a meaningful contribution to the situation?

When I’m cultivating patience, I’ve noticed that my relationship to time can transform completely. When is it ok for something to take time? When there is little in my life I can actually label ‘urgent’. When I’m engaged in a task that is not urgent, I find I can enjoy the luxury of giving it all the care and attention it deserves. A chore becomes less of a burden and more of a meditation. Then peace begins to descend. So, patience becomes a route to peace.



4 Responses to How to Live in Simple Wisdom, part two: Patience

  1. Jamie August 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Hi Sally,
    I agree with the part about anxiety. It is such a deep rooted response system.. anxiety is part mental and part physical. But it manifests itself as impatience or anger so many times. I guess fundamentally, anxiety is a fear of loss of control – the control that we don’t really have anyway. Why do we “have” to have control anyway? Maybe that is a ‘modern human’ construct, since the ancients believed in gods or fates that were in control – they seemed to have assumed they were blown hither tither. Perhaps it is more reflective of our ‘machine man’ experiences. Science, technology, factories – it is all about control of time and energy and people.

    I never really understood any of this until a few years ago. My engineer mind was so limited … I could not see the difference between stress and anxiety. I guess some of the life lessons I have experienced have had the effect of forcing a mode of patience upon me. I had a health situation that forced me to literally sit around for months… and watch. I ended up watching a tree in my yard, the little bird that came the same time each day to my porch, the bees that cam to the flowers on the rain tree. The physical healing took patience, but now I realize it was a spiritual thing as well (or primarily?).

    I just love this series you are doing. Thanks so much!

  2. Sally August 22, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Hi Jamie,

    That idea of letting go of control has proved to be material for some deep reflection for me too. Like you, I was once an engineer and what you say about the ‘machine man’ perspective resonates strongly.

    Interestingly, I’ve also had experiences such as yours where I’ve found myself, though illness, being unable to do anything other than sit and watch.I find it quite amusing now, looking back in hindsight at all the events that have happened for me so far in this lifetime that have called me to have a long hard look at just how impatient I can be and just how it gets me nowhere! I can think of phases where I realised that developing patience was going to be my only way through. I guess that’s all part of how we learn.

    For me, the sitting and watching has definitely triggered a spiritual shift. Those situations, although they seemed pretty dire at the time, prompted me to re-evaluate a lot of things and my core values changed. This was crucial, as those changes then informed decisions from that point on…and the outcomes I noticed then seemed to become much more positive and supportive of my overall wellbeing (and that of others close to me).

  3. Claire Harrison August 24, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Hi Sally
    Simply (!) wanted to express appreciation for this series. I decided to consciously take time to read Discrimination and Patience this morning. What a relief and support to hear thoughts about cultivating wisdom in simple ways. I’ve increasingly found my body a helpful guage in this exploration. When I’m aware of anxiety or tension (eg around making a decision, discerning what my reaction was about), if I can remember the vessel which contains all these mind-games, I sometimes find I’m able to take a deeper breath or lower my shoulders just a touch….and then edge towards remembering what’s important for me. A phrase from Thoreau’s Walden has been helpful…he advocated allowing “broad margins” in all aspects of living. I enjoy the image of time, space and patience this evokes.
    PS..I, too, would welcome a book by you!

  4. Sally August 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Hi Claire,
    That seems to me to be a significant observation about the role of our bodies in all of this – like an antenna, detecting and communicating to us in ways that are not always easy to decipher. For me, for example, anger feels hot, sometimes in my head, other times elsewhere. Anxiety invariably causes a contraction somewhere. Someone once pointed out to me what my hands do when I’m feeling tense – clenched fists! When it’s anxiety, I notice my thumbs are often to be found ‘cuddled’ inside a more softly closed hand. When I remember, I check out my hands for clues! Thanks for the reminder.

Leave a Reply

Website Designed by New Earth Vision