In a world of fast pace with expectations of quick responses and immediate access to knowledge, it is very easy to find ourselves being impatient. Of course there are many parables around this topic like the child who becomes impatient and breaks open the chrysalis in hopes to see an emerging butterfly. There is also the Taoist story from Chuang Tzu:
“Let us not be like the man of Sung. There was a man of Sung, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and so he pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very stupid, and said to his people, ‘I am tired to-day. I have been helping the corn to grow long.’ His son ran to look at it, and found the corn all withered."
Indeed, let us not be like the ignorant child or the man of Sung in our practice of mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness takes patience so that we can address the tendency for us to want things to be different than they are in this present moment. If you want to find the source to feelings of being agitated and frustrated, look no further than impatience. Mindfulness requires that we give ourselves enough space to experience each moment in its entirety. But, why would we do that? Because when we are busy trying to have another experience other than the one we are currently having, we are living life somewhere else other than here and some time other than now. This is where your life is occurring, not in some other place and time. No wonder we get anxious and agitated when we expect the present moment to deliver on demand. No other time has this been more evident than our current situation where we have access to things promptly and at lightening speed.
When we take on the practice of mindfulness, we may easily find that the mind can easily get carried away in to thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future and when the present moment gets compared to memories (past) and wishes (future) we lose the very essence of our lives in this moment. Another thing that happens when we are consumed with thoughts of the past and future is that they are, after all, just thoughts. Thoughts are just mental events which may or may not be true. We do not always have control over our thoughts nor the contents of our thoughts. The mind secretes thoughts just like the body secretes hormones or the stomach secretes digestive juices. It is just doing its job. Yet, we end up believing all kinds of things our thoughts tell us only to find out later that these thoughts may not have been 100% accurate...and we based our reactions to ourselves and to others on partial or incomplete and faulty information.
How we perceive each moment will require us to be patient so that we can see the fullness of the moment not tainted by thoughts of past or future (even thoughts of the present, if they are based on our own opinions and beliefs about something rather than what is actually happening right in front of us, can pose a problem). If you do not believe me, imagine what it looks like outside of your window and then get up and go look out of your window. What do you see? Is it different from your thought? More than likely, yes. This is because a thought is not the direct experience but a representation of that experience. The thought serves a great service, but it can also take us out of the present moment and into painful thoughts of the past or anxious thoughts of the future. Nothing wrong with daydreaming or fantasizing. The danger becomes when we do not realize it is a dream and the body reacts to the thoughts as if they were real.
Therefore, patience can be a great practice to employ especially when we are agitated or anxious. When we settle down in to the present moment we can see things for just how they are without needing them to be any different in this moment. Then we can be completely receptive to the fullness of this moment. After all, this is the ground of your own being. Best not miss it.
The great 13th Century Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dogen is quoted saying:
“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”