A More Conscious February – Practicing Patience

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 “Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” ― Molière

Patience, as they say, is a virtue. Patience allows you to be  more peaceful, more kind, more understanding, and more joyful. Patience allows you to slow down and enjoy the moment you are in. According to Essential Life Skills, cultivating patience reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person; results in better decision making; helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion; and helps you to understand and appreciate the process of growth.

Of course, there are times when patience is not warranted, such as in emergency situations, but often so much of what we perceive to be an emergency is really not so urgent in the larger picture. I’ve had moments when I’ve been rushing around trying to get everyone out of the house on a self-imposed time table, only to find myself angry when no one else was even remotely upset and there was really nothing to be angry about.

But I don’t want to do that any more.

Which is why this month, I am going to work on cultivating patience (For a beautiful story on another mother who made a similar decision read, Hands Free Mama’s post, The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up).

In her article, Cultivating Patience: A Practice That Becomes Its Own Reward, Ker Cleary, a practitioner of contemplative psychology, explains that the practice of patience involves a shift in our perspective. She explains that “Patience comes from having confidence – born of awareness, practice, and experience – that the storm will pass, and that if we ride it out, all will be well again.”

She notes that, with practice, patience comes more easily.

And so this month I will practice.

Week 1: Determining When You are Impatient and Why

In her post, 6 Pointers for Practicing Patience, Dani Dipirro of Positively Present, suggests noticing reoccurring situations that test your patience and then asking why you are impatient at those times. While we can’t always predict when we will become impatient, we may be able to notice that we have less patience in certain situations such as driving in traffic, juggling multiple responsibilities at work or during dinner time at home, or when we are running late.

Once we become aware of these situations, we can more consciously cultivate patience by taking deep breaths, repeating helpful mantras, practicing mindfulness, or any other technique that works for us. In the above referenced post, Dani also suggests asking yourself why you are impatient, so that you can address the reason or simply acknowledge it as a way to bring more mindfulness, and patience, to the situation. Before beginning the week, I can already think of a few regularly occurring situations that will be great opportunities to practice patience.

Week 2: Releasing Attachment to the Outcome

In her post, Four Steps for Cultivating Patience, spiritual teacher Barb Schmidt, advises readers to “release the expectation that everything will go as planned or that people will do what you expect them to do.” In order to cultivate patience, she also recommends that we “make an intention to begin letting go of your expectations and replacing them with preferences.”

As a part of small children (or perhaps a parent of children in general), I often find myself wanting my children to do something that I’ve asked them to do right when I ask them to do it. While I’ve started being more conscious of the need to acknowledge what they are involved in and ask if they can do whatever it is that needs to be done when they are finished with their current task, I still expect them to follow through.

But as I was researching the topic of patience, I remembered something that had resonated with me from a book on conscious parenting – when children are growing, it is not realistic to expect immediate compliance, but instead practice expressing your preference (for them to do something) and let go of your attachment to the outcome. If whatever it is really needs to be done, I can either do it myself or try to change tatics to help them want to comply, instead of becoming frustrated or impatient.

Week 3: Using Mantras for Patience

In the same post, 6 Pointers for Practicing Patience, Dani Dipirro also suggests using a “patience-provoking” mantra to remind you of the need to be patient in a stressful situation. One of my favorite mantras is “Enjoy This.” As I mentioned in a previous post on Developing Mindfulness Cues, my 4-year-old child moves at her own slow pace. I’ve begun using my rising frustration at times when our chosen speeds conflict to remember to be mindful, and “Enjoy This,” allows me to slow down and do just that. Another, “Radical acceptance,” reminds me not to try to force my will or judgement on a situation, but simply to accept what is and move forward.

Week 4: Practice Conscious Preparation

While preparing ahead of time isn’t necessarily a tactic to cultivate patience, I find that I am typically impatient when I am late for something and I am typically late when I haven’t prepared well or planned my schedule ahead of time. I hope that by getting into the habit of thinking ahead each evening to what needs to be done the following day, I can avoid situations where I have to rush, leading to impatience on the part of anything standing in my way.

What about you? Have you found practices that have helped you cultivate patience, or do you think could use a month to focus on cultivating more? Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

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