does meditation help with patience?

Updated On — 21st Aug, 2021

I think so, but the real question is how to develop patience with the meditation process itself.

The only way to fail at meditation is to stop meditating.

As long as you show up, the meditative process happens. It’s really simple: sit down on a chair or a cushion, set the timer on your phone for, let’s say, 20 minutes, then pay attention to how your body feels, or how your breath feels.

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Notice when you’ve been distracted, like for the 200th time, it doesn’t matter, and gently come back to feeling your body or the breath.

why do people give up?

And did I mention the benefits of meditation, both to physical as well as emotional well-being, are through the roof? So if the benefits are so great, and the practice so simple, why do people give up?

The three complaints I hear the most are: it’s not what I expected, it’s so boring, and I just can’t meditate– I’m always thinking.

Welcome to the club! If you experience any of those three, or a host of other complaints, it means meditation is actually working.

meditation is not what I expected

Is anything ever what we expected? Meditation is often not what we expected. And these expectations can cause needless frustration.

There is one remedy for all the above: let go of ideas of how things should be turning out and instead turn with interest and curiosity to what is actually happening.

whatever happens is just fine

Meditation involves a willingness to see what actually happens, not seeking experiences we are told should happen. Whatever happens is just fine.

Bored? Investigate how the concept of boredom presents itself. Can’t stop thinking? No problem, meditation is definitely not about stopping your mind from thinking; rather, explore the thinking mind itself.

just stay open and receptive to what is

All that is asked of you is to stay open and receptive to your present moment’s experience, no matter what that is.

Often, when meditation doesn’t seem to be going our way, we dig in and struggle. We tense up. Or when we feel bored we go off into fantasy. When you notice this happening, just get curious and interested in that.

meditation asks us to be patient with ourselves.

Patience brings a kind of self-compassion to our awareness, helping us accept our own process. A kind of compassion that melts our resistance to our present moment’s experience.

A compassion that allows us to be open to each moment as it unfolds, without judgement, trusting that the process is unfolding.

and have a sense of humor

This kind of patience is easy going. There can be humor and playfulness here. It’s not a grin and bear it kind of patience. As Pema Chodron says about patience in our meditation practice:

It’s a kind of loving-kindness–for your own imperfections, for your own limitations, for not living up to your own high ideals. Just being patient with the fact that you’re human and that you make mistakes. That’s more important than getting it right. There’s a slogan someone once came up with that I like: “Lower your standards and relax as it is.”

Or as the 16th century French Bishop of Geneva, Frances de Sales, advised:

Most importantly, don’t lose heart, be patient, wait, do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion. 

The contemporary Burmese meditation teacher U Tejaniya Sayadaw has a lot to say about how to skillfully approach our meditation practice:

Meditating is watching and waiting patiently with awareness and understanding. Meditation is NOT trying to experience something you have read or heard about. Just pay attention to the present moment. Don’t get lost in thoughts about the past or the future. Don’t try to create anything, and don’t reject what is happening. Just be aware.

Please keep going.

You are actually already there!


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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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