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