Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Talk Thursday: Selective Patience

Oh great, I thought when the topic for this week's Talk Thursday came over the topic-o-meter (fixed! Thanks, Captain Tight Pants, for the spare parts!). A blog post on a virtue I do not possess. Actually, I must have said it out loud, because Joan, who was sitting right next to me with her laptop (a pair of laptops; it must be a marriage) said, "Oh, you do too. I've seen you bead."

She has a point. Anybody who spends large quantities of time
lining up row after row of eleven-to-the-inch tiny round glass
things and arranging them into patterns that not only make sense but are pretty darn nifty (if I may say so) definitely
qualifies as a person with patience. I'm patient about other things, too; I've been known to sit outside,
absolutely motionless, for long periods of time so that the external cats (shy little things, for all their ferocity) can sneak up on me, with their tails out and their paws primed for hasty departure, and give me a couple of exploratory sniffs. (Huh. A human. Interesting. Okay, back to the food.) I also meditate, which tends to involve sitting around, doing nothing and staring at the floor for at least twenty minutes or so at a time. I guess that requires patience. And there's always swimming, which requires nothing but patience; let's face it, you go back and forth in the same lane. The scenery never changes, unless you're doing an open water thing.

Why, then, if I'm blessed with loads of patience in situations like those, do I have none whatsoever in situations where it would be really frick'n nice to have a few drops? Like, say, today at lunchtime, when I was trying (and I do mean trying) to get from my doctor's office back to my office before, oh, say, 5:30. Okay, I exaggerate a tiny bit, but in all seriousness, I've never seen such a passel of things go wrong in such a small geographic area. From road construction to unfortunate light changes to guys deciding to stop in the dead center of my lane for no apparent reason and, I dunno, fish their cell phones out of the ashtray or something, it was like the entire world was blocking the way. In Buddhist parlance, the proper response to this would be to take a deep breath, chant something soothing and remember that everybody else on the road is experiencing his or her own private drama, and imagine that they're all late for the birth of their first child or on their way to a bar mitzvah or something like that. Do I actually do that, though? No. I seethe instead, which not only doesn't improve matters but also makes me drive like a wretched idiot. Just what Dallas needs, one more idiot driver. In case you did not know this, the drivers that are too bad for Los Angeles get imported here in batches.

Another situation in which I have no patience whatsoever is when I see a little guy getting picked on by a big guy. It doesn't matter what particular arrangement of big guy/little guy (cardboard box) we're talking about; I get equally impatient if we're dealing with a skinny little kid vs. the schoolyard bully, an auto accident victim vs. a Big Insurance Company, or a first-term Democratic representative vs. the powerful seven-term Republican head of the Finance Committee. It. Makes. Me. Crazy. I'm lucky I wasn't born a couple of hundred years ago or I'd have probably galloped around with a sword, getting into fights on behalf of this or that person until I finally tackled somebody bigger and meaner than me. Given the level of stupidity I sink to when I lose my temper, I can't imagine it would have taken very long.

Luckily, since becoming a Buddhist I don't lose my temper as often, I am a lot calmer and seething at other drivers is an exception rather than the rule. But lack of patience - that's an ongoing problem. I'm pretty sure I've actually said that prayer about "Lord, grant me patience and give it to me NOW!!" in so many words. And actually meant it, failing utterly to appreciate the irony. Another thing I lose when I'm out of all patience is my sense of irony. Which is a shame, because it's a darn fine sense of irony, if I may say so.


wolfwhosings said...

Yes, in mystic circles it's an old chestnut to be wary about asking for patience, for the universe will make you practice until you get it right.

Jen said...

Darn universe.

Cele said...

Ah the universe. hmmmm.

Jen said...

In one of the sermons I transcribed recently, Br. ChiSing said, "God loves everyone and everyone gets to go to heaven. How many hells you go through to get there, though, is up to you." It's that kinda universe.