Confused by the Idea of Patience

For many years I was completely confused by the idea of patience, and was certain I didn’t have any of this particular quality, or what I did have seemed to come at a cost I couldn’t endure for long.

I thought patience was the ability to maintain oneself in unpleasant, difficult, painful circumstances without complaint or running for the hills. I thought it was some infinite form of self-denial that would some how get you into heaven and keep you out of trouble.

Ouch, it hurts just to think of this.

I thought it involved squashing all the internal news that something was amiss, something wasn’t nurturing or supportive or safe.

Thankfully, it turns out I was wrong about patience.

Patience is something else.

Patience isn’t the denial of anything, but the willingness to be with everything.

Recently I had the honor of spending time with our ancestors the Sequoias. I stooped down and ate the soil at their roots and stood inside the hollow of their trunk. I felt the reach of heights I’d never imagined. I felt my roots sink into rich earth.

Whatever misconception I’d been carrying for years about trees as separate from me and somehow less conscious than I was, were let go of here.


These trees were here: totally and completely present and manifesting a quality of patience and grace I’d not met before.

These ancestors had cultivated contentment so deep and strong over their many centuries lifetime from seed to seedlings to now ancient, enduring presence.  All I could do was stand in witness and let their patience sink into my relatively young, flitty, distracted, confused being.

Patience is a movement in this moment toward being present with the uncomfortable inside our bodies, a willingness to open toward and allow these sensations to be here along with everything

else we are experiencing.


Sometimes when we are willing to include these feelings and sensations in our lives we realize it is time to shift our outer circumstances to more deeply support what is emerging inside.

We move our bodies and discover new ways to stand in the world.

Sometimes when we stay right where we are with

what is uncomfortable without pushing it away or pushing it down we realize it is bearable, that we don’t have to leave or get a new job or scream at the neighbor.


We can live as this sensation, we can live with this experience, we can stay right on the spot and wake up.

The other spirit of patience I know is the capacity to not know,

the willingness to live in our lives without knowing how a conflict will be resolved or if it will be resolved, how we will survive or if we will survive, where we will end up or what it will all be like.

And out of this event of patience, of including everything in our experience and drawing from our center of strength—a center we might not even know exists until we come into this patience—we will grow as content and open-hearted as the great Sequoia, or better yet we will grow into our fullest selves, what ever that is for us, that we can’t imagine from where we are, but is there none-the-less inside of us taking root.

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