Sunday, April 19, 2015
Patience, young grasshopper!
Cain. His teacher, Master Po called him "grasshopper" as a child, emphasising patience as the ultimate martial arts skill.
But we live in an era of high-speed, same-day, cutting-edge, first-to-market, fast-food, get-it-now, snap-judgement. If we're told we have to wait, we get irritated. If we can't come up with the right answer right away, we get upset. if someone or something gets in our way, we get angry.
Why is patience considered one of the most powerful martial arts practices?
Because patience is the antidote to anger, and anger represents the most terrible and destructive manifestation of self-driven desire. When we're angry with someone, we're estranged form them and from the true core of our being. We end up losing the very thing we believe we're fighting for.
Patience is a discipline. It takes practice to overcome the knee-jerk reactions to external circumstances, to recognise anger as a danger signal and to subdue it before you wind up hurting others. With patience you have choice about how to respond. If you can do something to change external circumstances, then take action. But if there is clearly no way of influencing what's happening to you (being stuck in traffic is a good example!), then choosing tolerance, forbearance, or patience can be an intelligent, energy-efficient, calming (and often courageous) response.
Whenever we're impatient with someone who matters to us in our lives, we need to recognise that the fundamental problem is our own. It is we who are deciding, consciously or not, to react to the other person with impatience. We make ourselves impatient through our expectations and demands, through our fixations, fantasies and stuckiness.
Here is a step-by-step patience activity to practice with someone in your life who triggers your impatience:
1. Accept it as a given that your impatience is the problem and that you need to take at least one step toward being more patient.
2. Ask: "Who is this person? How can I identify with him or her? Why is he or she so deserving of my patience?"
3. Decide on - and commit to - at least one specific step you can take toward this person to demonstrate your active patience.
Of course this is easier said than done, grasshopper!
You know there are people who just press your hot buttons, and you know it seems so unfair to just let them get away with whatever they're doing that so offends you. How do you broaden the gap between stimulus and response so that you can make a wiser choice?
This takes clarity, commitment, and practice. But the Six Steps of Anger Management might help you:
1. Recognize: Note the familiar stimulus - like particular words or phrases - that push your hot buttons.
2. Recollect: Remember the disadvantages of returning anger with anger, and the advantages of practicing patience, forbearance, tolerance, and acceptance.
3. Reframe: Try to see things from alternative viewpoints; consider how this person presents you with a perfect opportunity to develop patience.
4. Relinquish: Let go of your habitual reactivity and impulsive urges.
5. Recondition: Remind yourself of how far you've come in your understanding, and how you've substituted a healthier response for your old knee-jerk conditioning.
6. Respond: Now face the person or the situation patiently, appropriately, intelligently, and proactively.
Patience is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength which arises from a deep ability to remain steadfast and firm. The gift of patience is truly the gift of yourself. You share your strength with someone and become stronger yourself in the process.