Patience. Some initial thoughts.

The quality I’m working on today is patience.

Now that I’m mindful of it, I see impatience everywhere. This city in particular is not exactly known for its patient citizens. On any given day you can expect to be shoved at least twice just going about your business.

In other words, it’s the perfect place to hone the skill. Each instance of external pressure — an angry, frustrated client; an agigated person behind you on line — is an opportunity to both recall the importance of patience and to put it into practice.

For me, an important element of patience is how you manage your expectations. Desire gets in the way of patience. Acceptance, by contrast, supports and nourishes it.

People, myself included, are not naturally inclined towards waiting. Especially now. Sometimes when the internet cuts out even for a second my ire rises like a flame. Ugh! Why isn’t this working?!

Lately, instead of immediately reacting, I try to take a step back. While the internet is resolving itself I take some deep breaths and kind of laugh at myself. Take the opportunity for a break.

Flexibility is also related to patience. Being able to adjust your attitude and activities to suit the present moment. Like yesterday at the gym. I had a certain plan in mind for the weight machines. However, when I got over there I saw a woman and her trainer on exactly the machine I had been picturing using. I felt a moment of frustration, then happily hopped on a different machine. I imagined the irritation that would have upset my day had I not been willing to adjust my plan based on the reality of the situation.

This is just a small example. But same goes for larger goals. Things change. People change. Plans change. Circumstances change.

Sometimes what you think you want is not what’s best for you. (Maybe often. I dunno.) Of course there’s something to be said for the quality of stubbornness: that state of mind in which you are willing to let nothing stand in your way of achieving your goals.

But that requires flexibility, too. Let’s say you’ve got a 10-mile run planned out. You come to the first turn in your course and find it blocked by a tree. Do you just stop running? No. You turn and run in the other direction. Whatever. You’re still running. You can still get those ten miles in. Who cares if it’s not the route you’d intended?

But other times the universe just doesn’t want you to have that thing. Let’s say you go out for your run and it starts hailing. Three feet of snow builds up and you’re wearing, whatever, shorts. Do you push yourself through that for the prize of frostbite? Probably not. You look around you, you say, hey, today’s not the day. You go home, make some hot chocolate, and do that reading you’ve been meaning to do all week. That run can wait til tomorrow.

So there’s a certain dance, a subtlety, to the practice of patience. It ties in closely to flexibility, desire, and expectation.

For me, adjusting my attitude to be more patient is just like changing a habit. It’s a mental habit not a physical habit but the same rules apply. I try to think of what’s happening as a gift. Even if it does not align with my expectations. Like maybe when you go down that different road on your run, you find a $50 bill. Or maybe that blocked road had a murderer on it. Whatever. These are unlikely scenarios obviously but each moment is exactly what it should be. That’s the underlying thought.

I will keep thinking and writing about this. I am not quite awake this morning. (Good morning all.) Feel free to comment and help me clarify this issue in the meantime.