February 15, 2012

Meditation Month: Practicing Patience

mike taylor tricycle patienceI consider myself to be a very patient person. I'm patient with my friends, my family, my colleagues—I'm patient while waiting for a red light to change, and patient when the bank representative puts me on hold for 13 minutes. But I'm not patient with myself. If I do not learn something quickly, or I do not consider myself to be "good" at an activity, I throw in the towel almost immediately (it's why I don't play tennis or pool). This desire to improve by leaps and bounds has been challenging during meditation month. I expected that the more I sat, the easier it would get—actually, I thought the more I sat the better I would get at sitting. But so far it has been a roller coaster of good days, bad days, and worse days.

As I read through the article that today's Daily Dharma was selected from (the "The Joy of Effort," included in this month's meditation e-book), I found some helpful advice from Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

The key to maintaining your inspiration in the day-to-day work of meditation practice is to approach it as play—a happy opportunity to master practical skills, to raise questions, experiment, and explore. This is precisely how the Buddha himself taught meditation. Instead of formulating a cut-and-dried method, he first trained his students in the personal qualities—such as honesty and patience—needed to make trustworthy observations.

My goal for the next week of meditation is to take each day as it comes, without context or expectations. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu suggests, I will try to approach practice with a sense of play, an opportunity to challenge myself while also being patient as I develop a more skillful practice. It's not about being the best—there's no such thing when it comes to meditation. 

Throughout Meditation Month we'll be posting videos, audio interviews, articles, and tips from well-known Buddhist teachers. If you need more personal advice for your practice, "Meditation Doctor" and Zen teacher Brad Warner will be answering reader questions here all month. Our meditation e-book, free to supporting and sustaining members, includes 25 articles on meditation that will help you develop and maintain your meditation practice. You can download the Tricycle Teachings: Meditation e-book here.

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SSL's picture

I've found this month's Tricycle Book Club feature, "Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living" by Allan Lokos to be very helpful with the issue of meditation and patience. There is an audio interview with the author and an interesting discussion going on the book club page for "Patience".

The book has a wonderful chapter on "Patience with Self" as well as exercises and a meditation guide, including walking meditation, which I often find helpful when impatience issues arise for me.

richardson.npp's picture

I agree that the best way to go into anything, especially meditation, is to look at is as play. It is what you "get" to do, not what you "have" to. This will help anyone meditate better.

Kathryn123's picture

I think that most forms of meditation help to develop patience. I also am struggling with patience in my meditation practice. For two years I meditated about every day and I saw major benefits in my life. I was happier, more able to go with the flow and generally great to be around. Lately I've been having a difficult time sitting daily and I usually can't meditate for more than five minutes. I'm seeing repercussions in my daily life, and I was wondering if anyone has a bit of advice. I meditate primarily to reduce my stress levels, I guess maybe I need to let go of expectations and show up at the cushion.

JElfe's picture

I have an issue with being patient overall. Does anyone have a specific meditation that helps them with patience? Agreed, my practice has slacked a bit and I seem to be having more of a patience problem. Thanks for something to consider!

Sam Mowe's picture

You might want to drop by the book club discussion, where Allan Lokos is taking questions about exactly this topic. His new book is called Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living. Check it out here: