Life unfolds in spite of our impatience. The misfortune of it is that because of our impatience we don't fully appreciate the joy and beauty of watching it unfold. And then there's all the stress and discontentment along the way.
"Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience."
Especially today, with the rapid pace of modern life, lowering the level of impatience could help reduce a lot of the world's stress. It is fortunate then that many of life's experiences teach us that patience is possible. The impatience of youth, for instance, at last becomes patient because adulthood finally arrives. The impatience of the artist becomes patient because art is created. Driving in traffic becomes patient because the destination is finally reached.
Impatience, however, can have great costs. How much has impatience in people's lives led to things that could have been but never were: a true friend lost because five minutes of conversation could not be spared; poor marks in school because of a lack of attention to instructors and instructions; immeasurable and uncountable opportunities gone by the wayside because judgment, anger and anxiety among other byproducts of impatience prevented people from ever knowing they existed.
In contrast, how much is there in our lives that our patience has benefited us? Our true loves, cherished friends, close confidents and other rewarding relationships nurtured through mutual listening, empathy and unconditional acceptance; a finished project at work whose success is owed to perseverance and attention to detail; a major breakthrough with a withdrawn child because of unwavering parental love, understanding and patience.
'The Art of Intelligent Waiting'
Impatience, it is clear, is not an emotion that befalls only an unfortunate few. It may be true that there is a lot of impatience in some people, but there is a little impatience in all people.
HeartMath Institute Founder Doc Childre characterizes patience as "the art of intelligent waiting" — waiting with purpose, positive intention and a sincere belief that waiting is an important element in the unfolding of all things.
"Patience is the practice of maintaining a state of inner ease and resilience when you are tempted to be impatient," Childre said, "especially when the mind wants to force results, rather than remain in flow.
"Impatience is an invitation to frustration, shallow discernment, and faulty choices. With a little heart-focused intention and practice, we can effect a makeover by replacing impatience with patience — the secret sauce in the recipe for flow. When our hearts truly commit to becoming patient, then our minds will cooperate, surrender their resistance and take purposeful steps to manifest it."
Although we may not always consciously acknowledge when we have slipped into impatience, this emotion certainly is not an involuntary one. There is no reason we cannot opt to be patient or impatient in myriad situations throughout our busy days. Here are some common examples:
- Encountering a neighbor, colleague or other acquaintance while on our way to the office, store, a meeting or other place.
- Driving in stop-and-go highway traffic.
- Waiting on that seemingly endless spinning wheel on the computer screen.
- Listening to someone tell a long story about something that happened to him or her.
- Fidgeting or clock-watching near the end of the work or school day.
Think of a time when you grew impatient in any of the situations above. Did you tell yourself, "I don't want to be here," or "I don't have time for this." How much effort would it have taken if you had gone to your heart instead and told yourself, "I have a choice. I don't have to be impatient. I can make peace with this situation."
Patience Through Inner Ease
Even individuals who meditate and use heart tools still may experience some impatience, but these are practices that can diminish our impatience to a mild or hardly perceptible feeling that we can simply acknowledge and let go.
A primary goal of such practices should be to access your personal space of inner ease, where choosing not to be impatient comes more naturally and quickly.
"The state of ease is a refuge," HeartMath's Doc Childre writes in, The State of Ease, "a refuge for action in our hearts and minds. In ease, instead of reacting in the same old ways to the stresses and challenges of our harried world, we can take a little time to connect with the qualities of our hearts — love, care and compassion — and our hearts' wisdom." (Go to The State of Ease to download a free copy of the e-booklet.)
The state of ease can be achieved within minutes with HeartMath's Inner Ease® Technique any time you feel at risk or are in the grip of impatience. When you practice Inner Ease on a regular basis, you can add more flow to your life and greatly reduce episodes of impatience.
Developing Patience Tool
- If you are feeling impatient, acknowledge your feelings as soon as you sense that you are out of sync — experiencing feelings such as impatience, frustration, anxiety, being judgmental or mental gridlock.
- Take a short time-out to do heart-focused breathing: breathe a little slower than usual, and imagine you are breathing through your heart or chest area.
- As you do heart-focused breathing, imagine with each breath that you are drawing in feelings of patience and inner ease.
- Anchor these feelings of patience and inner peace in your heart. Do this throughout your daily tasks, interactions and challenges.
Adapted from the Inner-Ease Technique. Go to The State of Ease e-booklet for complete instructions.
Remember, the presence of sincere patience means the absence of so many byproducts of impatience: negative emotions like anger, disappointment, frustration and blame among others. Rather than draining yourself and creating negative energy, you can increase your energy and resilience. Sincere patience means approaching situations with a positive attitude, care, understanding and genuine allowance.
The long lines at the store, traffic jams and slow computers won't instantly disappear as you practice Inner Ease. However, the state of inner ease helps us attune our mental and emotional nature to the most reasonable and effective way for responding to each situation that life brings us.