Yesterday, I sat down at my easel to paint something, but I had no idea what. I’ve been feeling restless all week and I needed to get some of that mental energy out. I wanted to create something beautiful and satisfying, but instead I just squirted some paint onto my palette and scraped it around on the canvas with my palette knife, as if I were painting the feeling of restlessness, but that’s not what I wanted.
I struggle with the same thing in my yoga practice, wanting to rush through the poses and achieve an end. The problem is, it’s hard to achieve the desired result if we lack the patience to do what it takes to get that result.
I need to develop patience. Most of us are patient with other people and maybe with one or two of our activities, but what other areas of our lives need patience?
- Are we patient with our bodies? Do we wait until we are hungry to eat? Do we accept and work with our bodies’ limitations?
- Are we patient with gaining knowledge, or do we stop reading before we reach the end of the book, or decide it’s not worth learning because we don’t get it right away?
- Are we patient with learning new skills, or do we quit when it gets too hard?
I’m the first to admit that patience isn’t my strong point. I’ll stop reading a book if I don’t like the first four pages, I tend to multi-task a lot and I often find myself rushing through one task so I can move onto the next task, which I also rush through. It’s hard to live a peaceful, creative life when you’re rushing through things instead of giving each task the attention and care it requires.
I realized that without patience, we will never reach our potential because we’ll give up before we get there.
How can we develop patience?
The same way we develop any other skill: Practice.
I feel like the best way to develop patience is to take baby steps, by applying it to an activity that really requires patience and slowness, to have a “patience practice”, just like a yoga or meditation practice.
Here are a few ideas for activities that help us cultivate patience:
- Yoga or tai chi
- Playing a musical instrument
- Needlework or any other craft
- Drawing or painting
- Dance or martial arts
- Art: I’d like to tighten up my drawing skills and go back to some mediums that I gave up on before I really gave them a chance, like charcoal and ink and brush. With drawing, you really have to look at something and learn to render it as it looks and not how your brain thinks it looks. I always struggled with this in my first drawing class when my professor made us draw doorknobs and light switches, but I think drawing is something I need in my life again.
- Yoga: My body needs more yoga, badly. My stiff muscles really need to be stretched and yoga helps my mind slow down too, but only when I actually give all my attention to my breathing and the poses instead of rushing through a few sun salutations, a couple forward bends and totally skipping sivasana. For the next few weeks I want to focus on holding poses for longer, giving more attention to my breathing and using props to get a deeper stretch. Slow down, don’t rush. Enjoy being in the poses.