The Pain of Impatience
Dear Friends, I am a very impatient person. Maybe you are too. I don't like to wait for the hot water to boil for my tea, so I often take it off early and drink lukewarm tea. I've been known to decide a room needs painting, buy the paint, and complete the job in one afternoon. I find waiting for anything to be quite a challenge.
Through the years, my lack of patience has been helpful in some regards, but as time goes by I am starting to realize just what I miss when I do things without waiting for right or auspicious timing. And I am learning, often the hard way, that when I do push my own agenda forward, I cause suffering to myself and others. When the timing isn't right, it doesn't matter what I want or what I am trying to accomplish, because things happen in their own time, without any help from me.
I am learning this lesson most clearly in the difficulties that my family is going through right now. One of us is going through a very challenging time, and her suffering is obvious. But no matter what I do, I can't make her suffering stop. I want to try lots of different techniques to help her, but no matter how much I want it, her suffering will end when the time is right, and not when I say so. Much like the rain which has been falling for two days straight, no matter how much I want it to stop, it's not going to stop until causes and conditions in the universe come together to allow the rain to stop and the sun to shine again. Even if I spent every moment trying to stop the rain, I would be about as effective as I have been in trying to change my loved one's pain-inducing behaviors. I can't stop the rain, and I can't stop the pain. But I can have an effect on my own attitude toward both. This is where my patience comes in and offers me the only opportunity I have to contribute positively to the situation.
Our impatience with what hurts creates more suffering than the original hurt itself. Suffering lessens when we trust that the rain will stop in time, the pain will let up in time, and that we can tolerate our pain with the help of our practice, our teachers, and our community. We may even grow as a result of staying with the pain, rather than pushing it away. I might as well enjoy the rain while it falls, instead of wishing it away, since it's clear that my wishing won't change anything except my own suffering I might as well be patient for the tea water to boil so that I can really enjoy the gift of delicious tea that is in front of me. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life."
May we patiently experience and enjoy each and every moment of our lives, and may we remember that we have each other to share our pain and our joys with - we are not alone.