Is Patience Still a Virtue?
I have made an intention to write about how we can take yoga practice into our daily lives. The topic today is Patience as a spiritual practice.
Yogic philosophy reveals our true essential nature as calm abiding presence. In these modern times of efficiency and speed as an outward sign success can patience still be considered a virtue and be revealed Soul energy? Could I calmly abide the present moment... when things don't work out the way I was hoping for in the time I had planned?
In yogic terms the answer is a big... Yes!
Let's look closely at the benefits of slowing down and growing our inner wealth of clarity and wisdom. Accepting things as they unfold. The ability to say, "this isn't what I planned for but it is what is here, so I will make the choice to be calm in the face of change and uncertainty." Being patient manifests as tolerance in our lives. Yes, please! Tolerance and in a world of mounting uncertainties and feelings of fear. Let's dive in and drink from the fresh mountain stream of knowledge and choice. Here is a quick overview of this magic art of releasing and the yogic path.
Patanjali (200 C.E.), is known as "the father of yoga." He wrote the Yoga Sutras, a very well studied scientific textbook that brought yoga practices to the regular householder. Before this, yoga practices were passed from teacher to student and rarely were these in depth teachings written down. Patanjali taught yoga as the 8 limbed path. These eight limbs on the yogic tree include: Ethical observations, such as not causing harm to self or others, not telling lies, not stealing; Cleanliness in body and mind; Physical poses; Mind control; Breath awareness; Withdrawal of sensory pulls; and Honing our body's intellectual energies to refine inner clarity and soul capacity. With practice, we can see through the veil of our conditioning, uncovering our true nature, that which is all abiding peace, everlasting.
So, how do we slow down the pace of our mind when the wheels have been given such strong momentum?
Yoga practice offers the skills and opportunity to cultivate tranquillity within the present moment. Wise concentration in this moment leads us to wise understanding. One calm moment in the mind leads to the next moment of calm. This is karma in action, we can experience our own mind loop of energy. By recalling the possibility of peace, in the middle of it all, we can change our course of conditioned responses.
Let's use an example. In child pose (balasana - Sanskrit) we relax our muscles to compress the connective tissues in the lower body, using cue words like "surrender", "passive" and "relax." Compare this to our plank pose (chataranga- Sanskrit), which is a high push-up position with muscular engagement. We use cue words such as "firm", "power" and "active." Which pose do we consider more challenging? Do I feel that one pose is better or stronger than the other? Could I open to the possibility of equal benefit, depending on the circumstances?
Enhancing curiosity towards our tendencies can open windows of awareness into our solidly held ideas that may not serve our physical health or our spiritual growth.
Discovering the practice of yoga at a time in my life that was quite fast paced was a wake up call... "Ella, you are causing stress in your life that is avoidable."
Immersion into the practices of yoga and meditation, studying yoga texts and beginning to understand the principles underlying teachings, my unhealthy patterns were revealed to me. I was upholding an unrealistic and unhealthy pace in my life. Eureka! I felt ready to change my striving to calm abiding! However, not surprisingly, my patterns were securely established. If I was going to get off my current status quo, it was apparent I would need to truly adopt a patience practice for myself. I began paying close attention to the quality and pace of my thoughts. If my body started tensing, I would turn inward to discover the particular thoughts that fed that stress and consciously bring in more spaciousness and calm to my inner landscape. Adopting the wise teaching that patience is needed when there is tension... more stress, more patience practice.
What a fresh concept for myself! Understanding "this will pass in its own time." I began to let go of the hurry. Choosing to relax in the midst of stress as skilled way to steer the mind away from fretful thinking, even for a short refuge.
Experiencing for myself the shift from my tense thoughts to the ease of a peaceful mind, validates by direct experience, the possibility to end suffering in the mind. Feeling the joy of practicing wise speech, wise action and wise concentration keeps my energies up so that the resolve to change harmful habits of mind becomes spontaneous (wise understanding and wise intention).
Patience is a wonderful, intelligent virtue. It helps everyone. Saying with sincerity "It's okay. Take your time, I'm in no hurry." Those words can change someone's day. It can change our day. It is like a super power for easing a stressful situation, it has a ripple effect, for the benefit of all beings. Imagine, inner patience as being the road to true happiness. Let's take a moment, taking one complete inhale and full exhale. What is the rush? The Yoga Sutras warns of our outward seeking. Wise mindfulness returns us to steadiness & concentration, our ever-present soul, witnessing our breath and body sensations.
Today, could we attend to our souls natural joy and peace through patience. This means calmly abiding the present moment, just as things are. When we are enjoying natural contentment (mind and body clear and at ease), this is the state of Samadhi or natural bliss - the 8th limb of the yogic path.
Thank you for your kind attention.
"Relaxation begins from the outer layer of the body and penetrates the deep layers of our existence"
~ BKS Iyengar, Path to Holistic Health