Most of our culture is extremely impatient. We have grown up on 30 second commercials, fast food, and tylenol. If we had lived 100 years ago we would have had a very different life; waiting for seasons to sew seeds or harvest, waiting possibly weeks for letters from loved ones, waiting for doctors to travel miles to help with an illness, waiting for bread to ferment before it was baked, or waiting to hitch up horses in order to drive to a friend’s property a few miles away. Learning to wait for natural times when we will grow into who we can become is vital for maturity and reaching our potential.
‘Be patient’ is often used as a criticism from parents to children. This can be really harmful when you grow up and have negative connotations and strongly uncomfortable emotions surrounding patience. Patience is an idea that many people find difficult to even understand now. There is actually a great beauty to patience that helps with your stress levels and I would love to give you this gift today.
Think, for a moment, of butterflies and seeds. Both take a certain amount of time to mature. A butterfly cannot be rushed (as my children have found out to their dismay after trying to help speed the process by breaking open the chrysalis). A butterfly has a natural period of time needed to become the delight we all know well. A seed also cannot be rushed. There is a specific amount of time a seed takes to break the ground, then grow into a mature plant that produces fruit. These two metaphors: butterflies and mature plants that produce fruit, have been offered by many writers and thinkers throughout history to relate to what we need for ourselves. If we are willing to wait, we can realize wonderful results in our lives. I want to add another ingredient to this process, however. Waiting doesn’t need to be boring or irritating or frustrating. When you learn patience, you will learn to enjoy the process of waiting and this is a gift! Think of how precious the letters were when my grandfather was given the opportunity to wait 4 weeks for a response from his fiancee while he was living in Australia and she in Canada! He opened them with care and relished every single stroke of my grandmother’s pen. They were so precious that they exist today; almost 70 years after they were written.
Here’s a definition of patience I came across a few weeks ago in a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn: ‘The enjoyment of each moment for what it is rather than forcing it to be something else’. I appreciate this definition because of it’s focus on enjoying the journey. When you begin to enjoy the journey rather than simply waiting for the destination with impatience or filling in spaces of time with your iPhone, you will feel far more rested when you reach your destination. My family recently caught a plane to Maui. The flight from Vancouver to Maui was 6 hours and my children enjoyed almost every minute of it. They noticed every little aspect of the plane, both inside and out, the movement of the seat backs and the fold-out table in front of them. They enjoyed the small treats (pretzels) and the kindness of the flight attendants. They were thrilled with the feel of the take-off and landing. For my wife and I, we enjoyed a lot of uninterrupted time with our children. So often our phone will ring or someone will knock on the front door. We didn’t have the ability to be distracted from life with any of the normal routines that day. While there was a chance to watch TV or movies, I chose not to spend even one minute on distractions because I had way too much fun enjoying my kids, even when they drifted off to sleep on my lap. It was a gift to enjoy the process of spending time with them for those few hours. They will grow up quickly and I want to enjoy them in all their 7 and 5 year old glory!
Patience brings with it anticipation, growth, wisdom, maturity, and rest. I encourage you to discover the beauty of the world around you: relationships, people, nature, humankind’s growth and development, technology, or whatever else you come into contact with. Resist the addiction to distract yourself with whatever comes across your desk, email folder, or TV. Enjoy each moment for what it is and you will quickly realize that every moment is quite precious in itself. Get a great book on mindfulness and begin practicing getting to know yourself. I promise you that you will fall in love with yourself if you take the time to do so.
One word of warning when it comes to patience. Don’t blame things on the process if you haven’t followed it through (don’t find fault unless you’ve tried). I can see some people potentially reading these words and saying: They sound nice, but they don’t work for me. I challenge that statement. If you have the desire, you can seek out research on mindfulness and you will discover that I have under-promised what patience, and mindfulness in general will offer to those who take me up on their development.
Learn to enjoy the moment. You will be so happy you did.