Pithy Places for Practicing Patience

November 24, 2014

Going up the stairs to my house with my arms full of groceries and eager to spend the afternoon cooking, I suddenly found myself sprawled out on the stairs, food strewn across the wet garage floor, the dog confused and frightened. I heard the sick tearing crunching sound of my ankle rolling beneath me as I fell. The pain was searing and it took a long time before I could get up. There went my afternoon, and here I am five days later still icing, elevating, barely walking and trying not to be too grumpy.

 

I’ve been extremely busy the last couple of months, unsustainably busy. I’ve known this was the week when everything would begin to settle and I’d start to catch my breath. But I didn’t anticipate going from overload to splat in an instant. A friend sent me a note the other day saying she, too, needed a break. I encouraged her to make the time now before God did it for her.

 

Sitting on the couch for long periods opens up lots of time for noticing pain, boredom, discomfort, frustration, helplessness, appreciation, quiet, contentment and even happiness. Hanging out with all of this has given me ample opportunity to work with last week’s practice of RAIN.  Here’s one rendition that emerged:

 

“I can’t walk. My ankle hurts. I feel impatient.” – Recognition

 

“I fell. I cancelled a lot of commitments. I need time to heal.” –Acceptance

 

“The pain is throbbing. Asking for so much help is challenging. Being taken care of is comforting” –Investigation

 

“The floor was wet. The groceries were heavy. I lost my balance.”  -Not Taking it Personally

 

This sounds simplistic and rational, I know. But implementing the practice is not always easy or accessible. I’ve had many moments of impatience and self-pity over the last few days, and still do. Each time that almost whining voice comes out, I find it a little easier to hear, especially when it’s accompanied by that look from my husband. If I can just take a breath and relax, my look back to him says “Okay, okay. You’re right. I know. Thank you for reminding me.” These pithy places for practicing patience have a way of showing up just when we need them. And it helps to have a few good movies around, too.

 “Every day, at the moment when things get edgy we can just ask ourselves ‘Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?’”                   Pema Chödrön