Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cultivating Patience on Your Spiritual Path

I'm sure that plenty of people are resonating with this topic already. You're like, "Why isn't what I want here already?" That's exactly what I'm thinking! Why can't I have what I want right now? All the time.... Hmm, sounds pretty needy, doesn't it? What is this insatiable wanting? What is this continual desire? Is it ever really happy?

One of the things about cultivating patience is that you get to watch your desires. You get to see what they're really after. If some goal or pursuit is what you really want, patience will enrich it. It will allow you to appreciate the journey you are on instead of doing 100 mph in the school zone and potentially hitting someone along the way. So much of our lives can get lost in this impatient rush to get some place, and then when we're there, how long are we really satisfied anyway?

Discovering Your Answers and Your Patience
Creating your questions is important. If anything, I hope this blog post is an inspiration to question. For some of you, this may be the first time that you've ever really questioned your life. Some random Hippie friend of yours emailed you this blog, and you're like WTF? Who is this guy? What is a spiritual awakening process.com? I know. It's weird. Just go with it. But since you've made it this far, have you ever questioned why you're in a hurry? Do you know what you're trying to get? Do you know what you really want? How can you be in a hurry to get somewhere if you don't even know where you're going?

I know. It's an unsettling list of questions. It will only get worse from here.

Patience Shows Up to Force the Issue
Well, it's not really that patience shows up to force us to learn how to be patient, it's that we break down. We get in a car wreck; we get severely ill; we end up in some position where suddenly we have to be patient. We have no other choice. We're just sitting in a thrashed car on the middle of I-80, and there's nothing to do. The paramedics are on the way. Your car doors are smashed shut, and you're going to need the jaws of life to pry you out. That's what happens when we don't cultivate patience beforehand. We get to cultivate it when we don't want to. We have no other choice.

This is also when the spiritual path usually starts for someone. Only when most people have been smashed to bits do they ever even think that they might be the cause of all the pain and suffering in their lives. I wrote about the path of pain and suffering in a previous blog, and this can be the turning point for many people. It's not the end of pain, but it can be the turning point when someone realizes that they are far off course. For others, it can be so painful that a brief glimpse of awakening can happen when someone finally lets go of everything to really see life and what's real. This is mesmerizing and overwhelming because you see so much beauty, and your mind is screaming in the background that everything is a mess. The reverse side is when someone dissociates and becomes a complete zombie because they can't handle their world. That requires deep psychological treatment. The awakening part usually turns people into amazingly alive, passionate, kind, and loving people. It's a pretty big difference.

Speed and Patience: The Relativity of the Mind
Of course, life already moves incredibly quickly these days, so you have to consider the subjective judgment going on with the mind. In the 19th century, it would take several months to get a letter out to California from Virginia, I think. Now, I can get an email from a friend there in--well--whatever amount of time my friend decides to reply. It can be within minutes, maybe seconds. That's amazingly fast. But the mind is a finicky thing, so it can find ways where it's still impatient for a reply, completely discounting the whole fact that it used to take months to pass messages. I would encourage you to question where you think parts of your life are going to slow. Are they really going slowly? Or do you have unreasonable expectations about how fast things should go? Why do you need them to go faster? Why can't you be comfortable with this pace?

Furthermore, the ego mind is always trying to control stuff. Lack of patience is often very much a frustrated form of control. A part of you is saying, "This should work the way I want it to work." Yeah, right. How often has that really been the case in life? Life doesn't work the way we plan it to or want it to. Sometimes things seem to go our way, and then we build stories around that, which lead us to believe that we're in control. And then you're in a wreck on the freeway and that illusion of control is exploded--and possibly your car too.


Help on the Spiritual Path
I think that we all need help on the spiritual path. Myself most certainly included. Friends, well-wishers, supporters, long-lost relatives, spiritual teachers, spiritual community, and whoever else we can string together can all play an important role in developing our path and developing our patience. There's really no where to go. All you've ever needed is within you, so STOP! See what is around you. See what's following you and what's been trying to catch up to you. Sometimes, we kind of outrun our lives, assuming that we're not actually running away from our lives.

The honest truth is that no one can give you patience. You simply practice letting go of the outcomes that you want. You let go of where you think you need to be and who you think you need to have in your life. As I always like to stress, this doesn't make you a dormant monk sitting alone for hours waiting for God to knock on your door. The spiritual path asks us to take appropriate action for what we want in our life, but what we want is different from what we are. And what we are is already perfect. Sometimes having a little bit of patience gives us space to realize that and let go of the things that we wanted. Sometimes, we realize that wanting was never anything more than trying to get what we already have.
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