I was asked a question the other day that had me pondering.
I like to ponder.
I'm going to tell you what I came up with in response to the question, and I'd like to ask you what your answer would have been.
What is at the core of patience?
I was asked this by a young staff who was unburdening herself to me, speaking of some real frustrations working with someone who uses every form of aggression as a means of keeping themselves safe from closeness with others. He seems afraid, deeply afraid, of any kind of human attachment. He'd rather have people fearful of him than let people get close to him in any way. She understood, given his history, why he might feel this way, but she genuinely likes him, genuinely cares about his well being, and genuinely fears that he will live his live alone in an anger bubble. She said, "I know I need to be patient."
I nodded sagely. This takes more skill than you might imagine.
Then she looked at me being all sage-like and said, "What do you suppose is at the core of patience?"
Suddenly I lost the sage look and, forgive the pun, tried to buy thyme.
Yesterday I asked her if I could put my answer on my blog. She agreed instantaneously.
What is at the core of patience?
I think I would have answered this differently when I was younger. Though I've never asked myself this question outright, I have thought about the issue, and I thought about it mostly when in situations like you find yourself in now. As a younger man I would have said that 'kindness' was at the core of patience. And I see how I might have thought that. Kindness implies a kind of compassionate caring for the well being of another. Kindness asks us to push aside all impulses except the impulse to compassion. Kindness makes us better people and makes us better at being present with others.
While all those things are true about kindness, and while I think kindness is a great part of what it is to be patient, that's not what you asked me. You asked me what's at the core of patience. As an older man I think that patience comes from an appreciation of, simply, time. In my sixties now I see time flying by at such a rapid pace, I see that everyone is caught up with the rush to keep up with time. People are so busy and feel such pressure to be busy that they must do all at once, talk on the phone while lunching with a friend while making notes for a meeting later. Thinking about supper for the kids while driving to work while figuring how to organize the day. Even when at dead stop, people that rush down sidewalks not seeing anything other than their watch and their destination, are rushing inside. You can see it as people sit over a cup of tea, their minds are rushing about, pinging ideas and worries and pressures around in their heads. BUSY.
Patience requires grabbing hold of time and slowing it down. Patience requires the skill to recognize that in any give moment you control time, you control how it flows inside of you and you control how it flows around you. Patience means putting the rush aside and simply being where you need to be, doing what you need to do and sharing the sense of calm that comes with that with another person. Patience means losing frustration, because it doesn't matter that it takes time; it means losing annoyance, because you have time breathe, really breathe; it means losing anger because when time is slowed down, when breaths are taken you can see what's really needed and what's really going on. It is when we rush that we make assessments that are based on emotion not fact; it is when we rush that we rely on assumption and therefore ask no questions; there is a reason we say that we shouldn't 'rush to judgement.'
So I think at the core of patience is the practised ability to slow down time, to take control of a moment, to let yourself simply be and breathe and become.
I look over my life and my list of regrets come from those times when I rushed, without thinking; rushed without compassion; rushed to pull the trigger of my temper ... and I feel the losses that came because of those actions.
So, for me, this is at the core of patience.
I'd love to hear what others think.