Did you know that patience is the key ingredient to living a peaceful life? Last year NPR interviewed author Allan Lokos. One of the outcomes was this excerpt found on NPR’s website. It is from his book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living.
Any methodology for developing patience requires a multi-tiered approach. As discussed earlier, we need skills that are immediately accessible for those moments when life is intolerably inefficient, unjust, unfair, or abusive; those moments when impatience or anger quickly arise within us. Concurrently, we need an introspective practice such as meditation so that we can gain a greater understanding of our internal experiences, i.e., thoughts and feelings. This part of our practice is not so much about the actual events happening around and within us, but rather about how we relate to those events. Through this type of introspection we become more in touch with our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise so that we don’t react while in the throes of impatience or anger. This objective, nonjudgmental, nonattached awareness is the practice of mindfulness and it is the ground for becoming a truly patient person.
In the Satipatthana Sutta (The Discourse on the Establishment of Mindfulness) specific instruction is offered for practicing mindfulness. One should go to a quiet place, sit down in the cross- legged (lotus) position, and gently but firmly establish mindful awareness. Specifically, “Having gone to the forest or the root of a tree or to an empty place, one sits down with their legs crossed, keeps their body erect and their mindfulness alert.” One would, over time, come to see that mindfulness keeps the mind from wandering and dispels confusion. We all experience mindful moments fairly frequently. The development of mindfulness as a practice involves knowing when mindfulness occurs and learning to encourage more frequent mindful moments.
It is significant to understand mindfulness as a wholesome quality (to use the Buddhist terminology) and to understand what a wholesome and an unwholesome quality (such as greed, hatred, or delusion) cannot exist on a conscious level in the same moment. It can appear as if they do because there can be many factors at play in the mind (motivations, intentions, and so forth) but in the exact moment of commencing an action only one intention can be at the fore. The practice of mindfulness offers us a clear and accurate reading of our “state of mind” before we act in a given situation. As taught in the Satipatthana Sutta, mindfulness meditation is developed by becoming aware of when mindfulness is present and when it is not. For the person working on developing a level of patience that is deep and easeful, this is an invaluable practice.
That doesn’t mean perfect, saintly, or one who can walk on the waters of the Ganges, but one who remains calm and dignified in the most trying of circumstances. Impatience or anger can still arise, and undoubtedly will, but we have learned to be mindful of our feelings as they arise so we can calmly observe them rather than react to them. In that way we don’t exacerbate what may already be a difficult situation. When we undertake this type of introspection, mindfulness is necessary because it is the quality that helps us maintain awareness of the specific occurrences arising in the moment. Developing true patience is therefore accomplished through quiet self- examination combined with integrative experience with others. This is the development of patience through insight, wisdom, and compassion. This is the art of peaceful living.
Excerpted from Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living by Allan Lokos. Copyright 2012 Allan Lokos. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Group.