Our world is all about instant gratification. Whether in careers, relationships or spiritual development, the need it now mentality has permeated our very being as well as the relationships we have with one another. Information is literally at our fingertips. We have the ability to reach out and communicate with loved ones in an instant, access to a never-ending news cycle and social media to dictate our relationship cadences. All together it equals a rushed and forced reality. Slowing down is not even on the radar. To function in this environment, constant streams of disconnected thoughts zoom around in our brains. It is akin to a ramble that never ends or rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon. Unsettling for even the most balanced and mindful and downright disruptive for most.
“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.”
Creating space for quiet contemplation, creativity and spiritual growth is a challenge as witnessed by the anxiety and discontent of our population. Without attention, these very important life practices are left by the wayside and a life can become shallow and less meaningful. This dizzying pace is the result of the neglect of a character trait that is extremely important on a life journey, patience. The greek word for patience is hypomonḗ (υπομονή). There are two separate words for patience in the Greek language, but for the purposes of this piece, I am using this version as it speaks to me more directly. The definition of hypomonḗ is as follows:
“a remaining behind, a patient enduring, endurance, steadfastness, patient waiting for”
My favorite part of this definition is the word steadfast. Steadfast reminds me of another word, resolute. To be resolute is to be purposeful. A patient and purposeful commitment to mindfulness is necessary to find a semblance of space in a busy mind. Hypomonḗ can be found in many early spiritual texts and was understood as an important element to an examined life. Picture yourself in a long line at the store or caught in rush hour traffic, all fertile ground for exercising patience. I am sure that you can recall examples of those that choose to sink to a lower self, using harsh words, furious insults or simply decide to rudely ignore those around them. It is so disappointing and shameful that the primary interaction we have when harried is anger. What if we all took a moment and choose to remain steadfast within our spirits. Standing firm and choosing loving kindness with all whom we interact. What a different world this would be for it.
“Inner peace is impossible without patience. Wisdom requires patience. Spiritual growth implies the mastery of patience. Patience allows the unfolding of destiny to proceed at its own unhurried pace.”
In my work, I have found that interacting with loving kindness catches people off guard. They simply do not know how to respond. I have even had men think I am flirting with them simply by being kind. Is that really where we have come? Kindness is the exception not the rule? Patience is also important when beginning a relationship. To really understand another, much time must be directed towards that end. If we are rushing around, energy cannot be given to this important job. To love another soul is one of the most important things that we do in our lives, yet it is given such little priority over other life milestones. It is distressing and with lasting consequences. Young people jump into relationships like they are trying on clothes for size. The depth of the process has been lost in this rushed world and the relationships that result can be just as superficial.
“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.”
Similarly, patience in vocation is essential. From a young age we are asked what we want to be when we grown up. Children list a litany of job descriptions, but one never hears nice, kind or loving as goals to aspire to. Upon reaching adulthood it is not uncommon to become dissatisfied with life and unsure of which vocational path to follow. Why must we choose just one? If we are living authentically a path will unfold, as it should. Divine timing is not negotiable and patience is required. We must continually stand steadfast in the unknown until the answers we seek are reveled. As long as we are true to ourselves we are living the best life that we can in that moment. That is enough.
The practice of patience holds such great meaning for me, I have at times considered getting a tattoo of the word in a place that I can constantly gaze. Sometimes a visual cue is all that is required to remember to return to that place of a calm and gentle spirit. Whatever your method, try to continually practice patience with yourself and all that you encounter. Perfection is not the goal, but continued effort is. If we place greater importance on this character trait, the busy mentality might finally begin to abate, the result being space created for the meaningful life work that remains.