Patience is a virtue – so the saying goes. But have you ever thought that being patient might be good for your health? Patience can lead to a well-balanced, successful life. It’s all a matter of finding out how to maintain this health-giving quality in the hurly burly of everyday life.
For many of us, being patient while juggling family, work and personal pressures, is quite a challenge. Have you ever wondered why? David Shenk, author of The End of Patience, sheds some light on this. He says, “We’re packing more into our lives, and losing patience in the process. …We’ve managed to compress time to such an extent that we’re now painfully aware of every second that we wait for anything.”
I can identify with that. At my local bank and post office, I often stand in a long queue waiting to be served. It wasn’t always like that. I remember when there were more staff employed in these places. Now, one certainly has to have patience.
Then there’s the technology we love and can’t live without. Mobile phones, Google, and Twitter. All of these drive our inability to wait. Such ‘instant information’ seems to be available wherever we go. You can pedal at the gym and surf the web at the same time, keep entertained at the airport, and now one hotel chain in America even has news monitors installed in their lifts.
You’d think that such advances in technology, would mean more time for us to relax and do other things. Wrong! All this wizardry just seems to perpetuate our need to do things faster and faster. Because of this, we find that there’s no time to wait, think, connect to other people, or ‘stop and smell the roses’. “The real danger”, according to Shenk, “is the potential vanishing of spirituality”. He thinks that, “It’s difficult to feel the richness of being alive when you’ve got these distracting electronic impulses [interrupting] your thoughts.”
Rachel Harris, PhD, author of 20-minute Retreats, echoes these thoughts. As a psychotherapist, she believes that we need to incorporate patience into our daily life for our emotional and spiritual maturity. The consequence of not doing so, she says, means “we are likely to suffer from anxiety and frustration.” Having patience, according to Harris, “shifts our perspective, allowing us to open up to what is actually happening in the present moment”.
So how do we gain patience? For some people, staying calm and composed seems a breeze. But what about those of us who struggle to maintain our equilibrium – especially when our indispensable technology breaks down? While there are loads of suggestions from experts, including taking a deep breath, or going for a walk, one that I’ve found helpful is meditation or prayer.
Over the years, spiritual thinking has helped me develop the quality of equanimity – evenness of thought. When situations arise that threaten my peace of mind, having a spiritual base has helped me measure my reactions and responses – even when provoked.
Provocation can be tough to deal with. It’s so easy to react and lose patience. During a particularly difficult experience, a friend told me to ‘hang onto my goat’. Apparently the ‘goat’ she referred to, was a metaphor for my state of peacefulness. You keep your ‘goat’ when you stay patient, calm and collected. You lose your ‘goat’ when you let a person or thing annoy you to the point that you become impatient, upset or angry.
My friend’s mention of the ‘goat’ on that occasion, made me slow down, stop and think. Instead of reacting, I took a moment to prayerfully meditate. Right then, I reminded myself that a divine Power had created me to be cool and restrained. Self-control wasn’t beyond me. I had the ability to remain calm and get my thought back on track. And I did.
Having to approach frustrating situations in daily life with patience, seems to be part-and-parcel of modern living. When we master this powerful quality, or at least embrace it more fully, the spinoff is a better balanced mental state and attitude to life. This benefit to our thinking process, in turn leads to a healthier body. We‘re able to move through stressful and anxious times with poise, and find ourselves able to stay mentally and physically well.