Updated On — 27th May, 2021

We’ve all been in absolutely the wrong check-out line at the worst time, merged left when we should’ve merged right, lost our keys (again), or forgot to mail the rent check. We’ve all been humiliated, betrayed, dumbfounded, and overwhelmed, bereft of patience.

But have we all been patient, usually?

Or do we usually do exactly what is going to escalate the discomfort, unease and restlessness – act aggressively, even a little, with words or actions.

patience as being with mindfully

For me, patience can be a sense of just waiting: not saying or doing anything at all. But it also means mindfully “being with” what may be going on internally: revenge thoughts, confusion, feeling hurt or irritated.

don’t feed the discursive mind

Just don’t feed the discursive mind that just wants to spin a story around the experience—of blaming, then maybe even feeling bad about feeling critical. Just wait a little, and savor the current flavor of pain and confusion.

an ocean of patience

I have always loved this saying by the 17th century French mystic St. Francis de Sales:

Necessary for a contemplative life: a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.

We start our mindfulness practice with just a cup of understanding, but without an ocean of patience our ship stalls before leaving the harbor.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being patient as “able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.”

mindfulness of difficult people

Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, “L’enfer, c’est les autres” –“Hell is other people.” A lot of the ancient Buddhist commentaries on the virtues of mindful patience offer advice on how to deal with people who mistreat verbally abuse you.

Looks like we haven’t made that much progress in the last 2600 years.


Whistler's Mother as patience embodiedPin
Whistler’s Mother as patience embodied


khanti: patience, forbearance and forgiveness, as spiritual powers

Traditional Buddhist training involves the cultivation of mindful patience, khanti, the practice of patience, forbearance and forgiveness, as a spiritual power. But what can intentionally cultivating khanti look like?

It’s staying focused and centered in difficult situations as a conscious choice to actively give patience as if a gift, rather than being in a state of internal friction.

the mindful pause

Pausing, even for a moment, before reacting to a difficult situation is a powerful patience practice. A pause may give us a better view of the situation and specifically our intentions within it

Mindfully feeling, then releasing, anger and hatred, not giving them a place to settle, is an essential meditation and life skill.

patience allows space

Patience allows a lot of space for the other person to speak while you don’t react, even though inside you are reacting. You let the words go and just be stay attentive and connect with your heart.

It’s a way to develop deep courage and the inner strength to act and speak honestly and openly. Bene Brown, who has written a couple books on courage, describes this as

putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.

I will leave you this week with a few words from Pema Chodron, from one of her talks

Patience has a lot of humor and playfulness in it. It’s a misunderstanding to think of it as endurance, which involves some kind of repression or trying to live up to somebody else’s standards of perfection.

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.”

That’s patience.

~ ~

Katina and I are here to support your meditation practice in any way we can, just contact us through the Contact Page on this site. Or if you live in Honolulu, or ever visit, feel free to drop by our free, weekly meditation evenings.

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.