Patience: A Spiritual Discipline

USS COWPENS (CG63) Chaplain Monya A. Stubbs reflects on the practice of patience to strengthen one’s emotional, spiritual and physical well-being in the New Year.

I recently visited with a Buddhist monk, and in our discussion on the concept of patience, he reminded me that patience is not the absence of engagement or an indifferent attitude. Rather, the monk explained, patience means maintaining a commitment to the “causes of your practice, no matter how long it takes to get the results.” I did not really understand, so I asked him to elaborate. “Patience,” he further explained “means sticking with the task – slow and steady.” In other words, I replied, “patience requires endurance.” “No,” he said, “patience is endurance.”

Patience means that we stick with things even when they take a long time to show the preferred results. We do not get frustrated or sloppy. Patience is always an efficient use of our emotional energy, but seldom fast. “A farmer knows,” the monk stated, “that you cannot plant the rice today and expect to have the grains ripened tomorrow.” It takes time and during the time between the planting and the harvest, it is going to require work. We must tend to the soil.

Life can be cruel and sometimes just messy when we are intimidated or stifled by the weight that stress brings into our world. At the same time, life provides us space to create and experience moments of immeasurable joy that enrich the lives of those with whom we work and live. Life offers us a myriad of opportunities to imagine and build products that advance the human condition. Life also pokes and prods, hoping to stimulate us to confront injustices that oppress the human spirit. But, we live in an impatient society; when we engage the opportunities and difficulties that life brings, we are often overwhelmed, irritated, and disappointed if desired outcomes do not come at the pre-determined allotted time. Everything has to be done fast, and we expect fast results. We fail to appreciate the transformative power of patience and endurance.

As we enter this New Year, I invite you to reevaluate your pace. When you engage a problem that comes to your attention, tackle a task placed under your charge, or confront the challenges involved in interpersonal relationships, do so with patience – proceed with care and attention. As you work throughout the year to meet your career goals, to grow your personal relationships, and to strengthen your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, know that you will encounter obstacles. Do not become discouraged by the natural delays that obstacles bring. Avoid internal dialogues about when the results are going to come, what they are going to be like, and how you can speed up the process. Rather, focus your creative genius on the generosity of the moment and the assignment at hand. Tend to the soil. Be Patient. Endure.

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