The Power of Patience--by Sharon Salzberg (Feb 10, 2014) Click HERE for the Audio Reading by Liz Helgesen
If we can be quieter, more in the moment with what is actually happening, a world of perception opens up for us based on where we are, not on where we one day hope to be. "Nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small," said artist Georgia O'Keeffe. "We haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time." If we learn to take a little more time and be more fully aware of just where we are, we might see many new flowers and have many more friends.
One way of describing an ability to hold our convictions without drawing premature conclusions, feeling automatically defeated, or losing sight of what goodness life might be offering us today is the old-fashioned virtue patience. Despite the common misconception, having patience doesn't mean making a pact with the devil of denial, ignoring our emotions and aspirations. It means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than yanking up our carrots, ripping open a budding flower, demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with.
True patience isn't gritting one's teeth and saying, "I'll bear with this for another five minutes because I'm sure it will be over by then and something better will come along." Patience isn't dour, and it isn't unhappy. It's a steady strength that we apply to each experience we face. If the situation calls for action, we must take it - patience doesn't mean inertia or complacence. Instead, it gives us a courageous dedication to the long haul, along with the willingness to connect with the multilayered truth of what is right here.
Are those of us not naturally blessed with patience doomed to yell at our children or our forgetful parents, litter our office floors with disemboweled computer parts (or at least threaten to), or berate ourselves each time we fail to live up to our own expectations? Or can we cultivate a new way of responding?
Anytime we're waiting - for the checkout person to ring us up, for the doctor's office to call, for a friend who has hurt us to apologize - we can remember we're alive right now. We can be determined to use this moment as a vehicle for paying attention, for growing, for opening.
Whenever we're pushing against what is, as though if we tried hard enough we could force the tempo of change, we can take a breath. Whatever our vision for how things should be in the future, we can make sure we do the very next thing we need to do today. And whenever we're in a fury of impatient resentment because our companion is walking too slowly or the mail came too late or we're being ignored or we can't concentrate or we can't name what we want - or any of the countless everyday things we find hard, we can remind ourselves of what is good right now. Then, as we work to redress what is wrong, the belligerence, agitation, and frustration will drain out of our "now," and the word can become a declaration of purpose and strength, supported by the gentle, developing power of patience.
Pablo Neruda's Greatest Lesson from Childhood--by Lewis Hyde (Dec 09, 2013)
Click here for the Audio Reading by Liz Helgesen Download this file (right-click or Control-click) Playing in the lot behind the house one day when he was still a little boy, Neruda discovered a hole in a fence board. "I looked through the hole and saw a landscape like that behind our house, uncared for, and wild. I moved back a few steps, because I sensed vaguely that something was about to happen. All of a sudden a hand appeared---a tiny hand of a boy about my own age. By the time I came close again, the hand was gone, and in its place there was a marvellous white toy sheep.
"The sheep's wool was faded. Its wheels had escaped. All of this only made it more authentic. I had never seen such a wonderful sheep. I looked back through the hole but the boy had disappeared. I went in the house and brought out a measure of my own: a pine cone, opened, full of odor and resin, which I adored. I set it down in the same spot and went off with the sheep.
"I never saw either the hand or the boy again. And I have never seen a sheep like that either. The toy I lost finally in a fire. But even now...whenever I pass a toyshop, I look furtively into the window. It's no use. They don't make sheep like that anymore."
Neruda has commented on this incident several times. "This exchange of gifts---mysterious---settled deep inside me like a sedimentary deposit," he once remarked in an interview. And he associates the exchange with his poetry. "I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvellous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that come from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses---that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.
"That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all humanity is somehow together...It won't surprise you then that I have attempted to give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood...
"This is the great lesson I learned in my childhood, in the backyard of a lonely house. Maybe it was nothing but a game two boys played who didn't know each other and wanted to pass to the other some good things of life. Yet maybe this small and mysterious exchange of gifts remained inside me also, deep and indestructible, giving my poetry light."