Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living

with Allan Lokos

During the month of February we'll be reading Allan Lokos's Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living at the Tricycle Book Club. Pick up a copy at Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon and join the discussion below.

Listen to an audio interview with Lokos about this book here.

During the month of February we will have an opportunity to examine the nature of patience and learn skillful ways to develop a greater depth of this elusive virtuous quality. You will likely find that it takes patience to develop patience, but you will also find that with honest motivation, compassion, and determination, you can become a more patient person.

What is meant by “honest motivation?” It means that we take the time to ask ourselves why we want to become a more patient person. Do this for five minutes a day for a week. Don’t impose reasons on yourself because they seem right or because others think you should be more patient. Examine your personal experience. Reflect on your relationships, both personal and professional. How does your impatience affect your happiness and that of your wife/husband/partner/children/friends? Would it be worth the effort to become more patient? Just ask the question; let the answers come when they come. I advise taking this step seriously so that you become truly motivated. You will need it if the road gets bumpy; you will need it to help you get up when you slip.

Patience is not an item, product, or object; a “thing” that we have in greater or lesser supply. We therefore cannot lose patience. Undoing this misperception is important if we are to see things as they really, which is the ground of wisdom. Impatience is a feeling that arises when particular conditions come together in a specific moment. Contingent factors bring about impatience. In those moments we experience more impatience than patience. Impatience and patience are feelings and we experience the arising and passing away of feelings all the time. It is the nature of the mind/body phenomenon. When we understand that feelings are arising and feelings are not reality, we can relax a bit. We see that we don’t have to react to every feeling that arises; in fact that would be an exhausting way to live.

Using my new book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, as a guide, we will look at how to develop greater patience with self (with a look at no-self); in relationships, including our most intimate; with our children, and in the workplace. Lastly, we will explore patience as it relates to our inner peace and sustainable happiness. I look forward to our journey together.

Allan Lokos is the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center in New York City.

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soulsistashakti's picture

Yay my book came in :)

reval's picture

Hi Soulsista,
I'm not surprised that you have chosen to open your heart to a fellow being in such a warm and compassionate way.
I hope you enjoy the book.
Much love,
Allan

soulsistashakti's picture

Hello folks,

I'm enjoying this discussion very much. I'm waiting for the book in the mail (maybe it will come today :) but I have the joy of being a part of the sangha at the CMC here in NYC and also a daylong workshop with Allan at NYC Insight.

To susan.howard: I understand what you are going through. I'm currently a client crime victim's treatment program...my childhood and then person i got invloved with and married are strikingly similar to you and i'm very sorry you had to go through that. it's all real and the offenders are culpable and need to be held accountable.

this patience inquiry is of immense value to me in my healing process and the process with the criminal justice system. the obsession for revenge you speak of sounds like complex ptsd, a psychological injury that is treatable.

meditation, awakening to what really is, patience will all be very helpful as you resolve these issues and heal. i'm so happy to hear you are in therapy with someone that can assist you in this way. the crime victim's program islargely an a awareness and mindfulness based treatment for ptsd, although they don't advertise that way or even mention it. the same type of techniques are being used to treat ptsd.

i would be happy to speak with you off line to share about what has been helpful for me if you ever would like to.

the soul sista nyc

Cami's picture

Hello Allan,

I am so enjoying your book. I appreciate how much time, energy and patience must go into writing such a thoughtful work.

I wondered if you might elaborate on the idea, "When we criticize others, the faults we find in them may be a reflection of our own fear." This concept rings true for me but at the same time I cannot seem to articulate how that happens. I guess I am just looking for a little more insight, so I can understand it as it is happening within me.

Many thanks,
Camille

reval's picture

Hello Camille,
I'm glad you are enjoying Patience. May it be of benefit.
Briefly, the concept is that we can only see in others that with which we are familiar. When we see "faults" we must have experience with such qualities and we may fear that our similar "faults" show as well. Sometimes we attack (criticize) so as to divert attention from our own perceived faults. This goes deeper but for now I hope this helps.
Much metta,
Allan

Cami's picture

"Aha!"
That is very helpful. Thank you so much!

mjd13mjd13's picture

Dear Allen,

I have not yet read the book but have enjoyed reading through the discussion on patience. For me, patience is closely related to trust and being willing to let go. I believe that my impatience or pull to action is often driving by my wanting to control or influence a situation - the opposite of trusting and allowing life to unfold. I can see that I create suffering for myself in this way. I am working on spending some time just observing this "magnetic pull" to "get involved" - I am starting to find that in the end I may still need to get involved - yet other times things unfold just fine on its own.

Peace and love,
Melody

reval's picture

Hello,
If you do choose to read Patience you will find that my experience has been similar to yours. To be patient involves trust that we can take the time to look within at our thoughts, feelings, and sensations and that if we do we will be much more likely to respond with wisdom and compassion. We will also see if a response is necessary at all.
Metta,
Allan

reval's picture

Dear Roger,
My understanding of Buddhist teachings is that they do not suggest suppression or denial of feelings but rather becoming more aware of feelings. That includes so called "negative feelings." This is an important distinction and I have emphasized it in my new book, Patience.
I'm glad you enjoyed the talk in DC. What a wonderful sangha.
Metta,
Allan

jessicaasambrano's picture

Dear Allan,

I just picked up the book and have finished the introduction, and it immediately speaks to me. I appreciate that you recognize that western women are often encouraged not to voice frustrations, and that suppressing "negative" emotions can have unforeseen consequences. I am just now on the path to recovering from a lack of skillful speech (that of others and my own), and I'm looking forward to using this book as yet another teacher.

As I read, I was reminded of a story I once read (I can't remember the source for the life of me) about a retreat participant who "caught" the monk who was leading the retreat angrily berating the cooks. When the monk noticed the participant standing behind him, he turned around and immediately addressed her kindly. He then turned back to the cooks and continued his tirade, with the cooks smiling all along. In her story, the participant commented on the ability of the monk to appropriately channel his frustrations at the cooks and not take it out on others. The monk's anger was contained, and even the cooks seemed to know that the tirade was a simple venting of frustration at a situation, not blind anger. Of course, I haven't read the rest of your book yet, but this feels like a much more appropriate way of ridding ourselves of negative emotions rather than blindly lashing out or keeping it bottled up, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this story.

Thank you again. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Jessica

reval's picture

Dear Jessica,
Thank you for your kind comments about 'Patience.' I do hope it can be of benefit as a teacher.
I'm not familiar with the story you recounted and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. The image of a monk berating the cooks seems a bit strange because it makes me wonder what could go on in a retreat center kitchen that would cause such anger to arise in an experienced practitioner. But the monk was not out of control or he could not have interrupted his tirade to be kind to the retreatant. I'd be curious to see the comments of other readers.
Metta,
Allan

newyorker's picture

I am really enjoying the chapter "What Would a Sage Do?" in the book Patience. It is about the teachings of Shantideva. What remarkable wisdom Shantideva offers, and with such sensible practicality for today's world--from the 8th century! No wonder the Bodhicharyavatara is one of the Dalai Lama's favorite teachings. The sub chapters, with titles such as "Intention" "Clarity" "Finding Fault" and "Serenity and Inner Peace" helped me delve into Shantideva's writings, which previously I had found somewhat difficult to tackle in their richness. I also had never heard the charming legends about Shantideva's life--a great story.

This chapter ends with a profile and interview with Venerable Metteyya, who was that wonderful monk in the PBS show "The Buddha". I liked hearing about his issues with patience, as a monastic who devotes his life to following the Buddha's teachings. Nice to know I'm not the only one!

reval's picture

Dear Newyorker,
Thank you for your comments about the Shantideva chapter. He offers such clarity and insight while setting very high standards. I find his teachings truly inspiring.
Ven. Metteyya's straightforward comments show us that beneath the robe is still a human being dealing with the same issues as those of us leading the life of a householder.
Enjoy your path of practice.
Allan

lumbinibodhi's picture

Dear Allan,
I am very pleased with your wisdom in "Patience" as far as I have read so far. (I have a couple flights this week and hotel stays, so I should be finished it by Saturday : )

Being a fairly long-time practitioner, and also a Buddhism and meditation teacher I have much experience with this topic from student, teacher and practitioner angles, yet I find I am still gaining much insight from your new book. I just wanted to thank you, again, for sharing your knowledge on this topic. I have also found this discussion interesting, and your grasp of this topic (and Buddha's teachings overall) really come through in your thoughtful answers. I also really find the profiles useful and helpful. I will confess, when I used to read books on various topics, I usually used to skip anything like that, to get through the content faster, but now I'm much more PATIENT (maybe that was the scientist in me...)!! But in context of your portrayal of Buddha's teachings, the profiles really have added a lot more value to the reader. So I will offer another below.

One example where patience has really helped me is in my meditation practice and as a meditation teacher. As you stated in your book "we don't have to react to every feeling that arises" and what we notice in meditation is just how many feelings come up for us, both physical and mental. We would never achieve any level of quietude to observe reality and get to know the deeper workings our minds if we continually reacted to every little feeling or sensation. For a long time I battled with a horrible tickle in my throat that would cause coughing fits when I would meditate. It was really difficult to keep a quiet enough body to be able to get a quiet mind, let me tell you. But with patience, I learned to just observe it objectively without reacting. Normally I would feel it start and then my mind would tighten into: "Oh, no, not this AGAIN!" and "Why Me??" and I would try to suppress it, which never worked. I started just watching the various thoughts and physical sensations arising and with the wisdom that came with patience, recall that this too shall pass, let me just see how long it lasts. Not pushing it away or giving it any negative expression. I was able to bear the sensations, a few tears might roll down my cheek, and my face may turn red as the tickle had its way, i may even have a small cough or two, but then it surely would pass without me having to reach for a lozenge and/or get up and leave the room for a coughing fit and glass of water. Now I'm happy to report, the tickle has lost its hold over me, it knows it can't win, and it rarely comes calling anymore. (This also would happen to me often at night as I lay down to sleep, and I would always have a stash of throat lozenges and a water bottle with me. I have overcome this too.) This phase lasted about 2 years, and now its been over a year since I have been bothered.

Guruma Bodhi
Canada

reval's picture

Dear Bodhi,
Thank you for your kind words and sharing your "profile" story. I'm sure many of us can relate.
Metta and great joy,
Allan

reval's picture

Dear Susan,
Thank you for this open sharing. I can certainly relate to an abusive upbringing. My own journey has been long and challenging. One thought that was offered to me that I would pass on to you: We may have been victimized but we do not have live life as a victim. Be gentle with yourself; you are worthy of your own love.
Metta,
Allan

susan.howard's picture

Thanks so much to Allan for this book! and to Sareen here posting the thoughtful reply! Exactly - re:
the childhood primary anger issue - I am starting Buddhist based therapy right now for this very reason.

I suffered at the hands of my mother and 1/2 sister as a child - attempted murder, sold into human trafficing etc. - however I never expressed anger directly - always used physical activity like sports - threw myself into school, work - then entered an abusive marriage for 23 years which ended in what else but - another attempt on taking my life by my then husband.

Now oddly - as I enter middle age - my ANGER overwhelms me ! I am angry at all who have wronged me for the FIRST time in my life. After all these years - why? I do have a daily meditation practice for many years now, practice mindfulness, doing everything I can - but ANGER is so red hot it frightens me. I daydream constantly about "revenge" and lawsuits and all sorts of strange things.

I will read this book for sure - and work on this anger thru therapy - and also rest assured that my anger MUST come out in some healthy form I hope. My instincts tell me it must come out so that I can live peacefully and spread peace the rest of my life. Thanks for hearing my voice and for this book and discussion.

ilove2massage's picture

The other day while I was pulling out of the corner store parking lot and eating from a bag of chips I just bought, a crumb broke off and landed in my eye. I felt it, but initially no pain. Not a moment to soon I felt the burning and stinging, getting worse. It felt like a volcano rising. I began to panic, but then I stopped breathed and thought I should pull over go to the restroom to rinse it out or get a bottle of water to rinse it out if they have an employee only restroom. As I am walking and holding a hand over my eye, water is pouring from my burning eye. I asked the cashier for the restroom, he told me the way to the restroom was outside on the side door. I go only to find the door is locked. At that same time I pulled the door to open, the pain in my eye left and now I can open my eyes. To my amazement no more stinging. The thing about encountering situations that require patience is knowing that the moment or feeling will not last forever. ". . . we experience the arising and passing away of feelings all the time. It is the nature of the mind/body phenomenon. When we understand that feelings are arising and feelings are not reality, we can relax a bit. We see that we don’t have to react to every feeling that arises; in fact that would be an exhausting way to live." ~Allan Lokos

Thank you for allowing me to share!
Sonali B B.A.I.L.E.Y

reval's picture

Dear Sonali,
How often physical pain, emotional stress, turmoil, and unpleasantness become our teachers. I'm glad your eye is better. You certainly seem to be seeing clearly.

Metta,
Allan

ilove2massage's picture

Dear Allan, Thank you so much for your response! I appreciate it. This is the second time you mentioned teacher to me. lol. (The first time was at Breathe Books).

Sareen's picture

One of the ways that we can develop more patience is to liberate our primary adaptive anger(anger arising in childhood due to neglect or abuse for which there was no appropriate outlet). Buddhist practice in emphasizing the development of patience and the avoidance of anger has the possible unintended effect of suppression. This may be particularly problematic for people who had serious neglect or abuse issues in childhood. They may come to buddhism wanting to continue in their efforts to overcontrol this primary adaptive anger that occurred appropriately in childhood but had no outlet for expression in situations in which they had no possiblity of being heard and getting emotional needs met. People who learned to overcontrol their anger often have difficulty asserting boundaries to defend themselves from attack or harm. This kind of anger needs to be acknowledged and expressed.

When anger has been suppressed, we can lose contact with what it is important to us and become aliented from our own wants and needs. When we become alienated from ourselves, this can be accompanied by a sense of helplessness.

When we can access this primary anger, and express it appropriately, there will be an adaptive grief for the losses that were experienced as a result of the abuse or neglect and the secondary disconnection from our true nature. Sadness, hurt and a longing for deeper connection will arise.

When primary adaptive anger has been internalized and there is maladaptive self-blame or guilt, an appropriate externalization of blame is healing. Where there has been a serious violation of boundaries, a deep expression of this injustice and the secondary harm includes holding the other person accountable. This removes the sense of helplessness and victimhood.

Following this, we can access our capacity for a deeper expression of our true selves, but without going through the stages of liberating this primary anger we are at risk of papering over and reinforcing the childhood strategy of suppression and self-blame.

At the later stages of buddhist practice, when the storehouse of negativity has been cleared out, patience will arise naturally as an expression of our true natures. In the meantime, we can allow our suppressed anger to arise in a healing environment; in a loving intimate relationship, in therapy or on the cushion. This healing environment is a form of patience so there is no contradiction between the approach to anger that I have described and the approach described by Allan Lokos.

reval's picture

Dear Sareen,
My understanding of what the Buddha was offering is that we look within with keen awareness in a moment to moment, non-clinging, non-judgmental way. There is no suggestion to suppress but rather to gain insight and clarity into the nature of what is going on in the mind and body, specifically thoughts feelings, and sensations. The Buddha seemed to be aware of the negative potential of suppression of feelings considerably before 20th century western psychology.
Thank you for your input and metta,
Allan

kh1044's picture

Stephen Covey speaks about proactivity being the gap between stimulus and response. The gap, once perceived, can be utilized to insert your values, so that your response is dictated skilfully, rather than in a reactive sense, which even the most primitive animals can do. I'm a beginner at Buddhist practice, and have a deep impatient streak that all too often makes me intolerant with myself and others, with predictable suffering. Because I rarely display my impatience to others directly, it is I who suffers most, but if we are all one, then my unskilful actions are harming all. It's enough to tie your mind in knots. I view impatience as most related to intolerant thoughts and actions, rather than a synonym for urgency, which can be a healthy thing in motivating yourself, or taking action promptly when necessary. I'm making some progress transforming my impatient moments into opportunities for gratitude, so I suppose I'm moving in the right direction - at least I feel better when I become aware of my behavior, and turn it to compassionate thoughts. I have a problem with anger, but have begun to develop a sense of humor about it, dancing with it when it arises, giving it some space. When I perceive it as a comical creature posturing and fuming, it makes me laugh, and the phantom evaporates. I have a long road to travel, but I am trying, as Thich Nhat Hanh advised, "Not to try to arrive anywere, but to simply make peaceful, happy steps." It is much easier said, than done.

reval's picture

Dear kh1044,
It sounds to me as if you are well on your way. Anger and impatience are feelings and when we understand them as such we can calmly observe their nature rather than get caught up in the story line. I think it's wonderful that you can see things with a sense of humor.

Metta,
Allan

sharmila2's picture

I think the distinction you make between impatience & urgency is crucial. Urgency implies a basic biological response to imminent threat or opportunity that is beneficial; impatience has a self-centered neurotic streak to it. Thanks for helping make this distinction, I find it very useful!

reval's picture

Dear Sharmila,
In all of my research into the nature of impatience I didn't find anything that suggested it has a self-centered neurotic streak to it. However, I appreciate your input and I will give your comment careful consideration.
Thank you and metta,
Allan

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

My questions are a combination of Christine's and NewYorker's comments. As Christine wrote, sometimes impatience can be a catalyst for positive change. Do we always want to be patient, especially in situations in which impatience is warranted? Or is impatience never warranted?
At the same time, I tend to think of patience as slightly passive, which as NewYorker and Allan point out may not be accurate. But I do think that sometimes people let themselves become doormats for people under the name and quest of being "patient." So another question is this: how do we navigate the fine line between cultivating patience and being passive doormats?

Thanks, Allan!

reval's picture

Dear Emma,
Thank you for your questions.
First, in my view, impatience and anger can only be catalysts for positive change if they help form the motivation for compassionate and wise action. That requires time to think which reduces the likelihood of reactive behavior.
No, I don't think we always want to be patient. If there is immediate danger to one's self or another being, right action taken quickly is likely to be beneficial. Otherwise, remember that there are powerful reasons why patience is one of the paramis (perfections.)
Impatience is a feeling that arises when causes and conditions come together in a particular moment. The nature of our experience is the arising and passing away of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. The practice of mindfulness is about bringing moment to moment, non-clinging, non-judgmental awareness to that experience, not determining if the experience is warranted. The question is whether or not we chose to act while experiencing impatience. Buddhist teachings suggest letting the fires cool before acting is the path of the wise.
No one can make you feel like a doormat; only you can create that feeling for yourself. I have been asked many times about patience being viewed by others as some sort of weakness. We have no control over the views of others. When we fully accept that, we lose interest in how others perceive us and focus more on the workings of our own mind. After all, that is where we create our experience of life.
As we develop a depth of patience we see how alive and active a quality it is. It is anything but passive.
Enjoy your practice.
Metta,
Allan

Philip Ryan's picture

I automatically thought of patience, or impatience, toward myself rather than others. But how sad to not have time to hear yourself out! When we can be patient with ourselves, does it then flow outward to others? Impermanence is well and good: Every thought comes and goes, of course, but many come back, and you need to pay attention to those.

reval's picture

Hello Philip,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I don't know if we can assume that patience with one's self will make us patient with others, but I believe that without patience for one's self patience with others will not come easily. People often say that they can be patient with others but not with themselves. I would look deeply before assuming that to be the case. We are complex beings and truth can have many layers.
Metta,
Allan

fairway Linda's picture

Impatience for me seems to be closely connected with anger or avoidance. I am in a hurry because I want to get out of a situation or don't want to face something. I find when I step back and try to let some kindness into the situation, patience naturally results.

reval's picture

Dear Linda,
I would agree that impatience and anger can be related. Avoidance, however, seems to me closer to denial or suppression. To develop a depth of patience requires an acute awareness of owns experience–thoughts, feelings, sensations–in the moment. This, of course, is the practice of mindfulness.
Stepping back, as you say, pausing and creating a gap, allows space for kindness, as well as wisdom, to arise.
Thank you for your comments.
Metta,
Allan

newyorker's picture

I view patience as a deep, powerful quality, not something that is mild and used for putting things off. The teachings of Shantideva that Allan discusses in the book illustrate the Buddhist view of patience as a path to responding to difficult situations with compassion, clarity, and energy. Allan writes, "Patience, unlike popular misconception, is not characterized by passivity. It is alive, vital, and active. It is thoughtful and compassionate for one’s self and others. We can look at things, including our own impatience, with a sense of curiosity and investigation."

In my own experience, if I respond out of patience rather than my impatience, my speech and actions are more likely to embody wisdom and compassion. I have caused suffering for myself and others with my impatience.

metta

reval's picture

Dear Newyorker,
I find Shantideva's teachings on patience to be incredibly insightful. In the sixth chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara titled Khanti, he immediately discusses the devastating potential of anger. "A single flash of anger can destroy all the good deeds, the generosity, the kindness we have practiced over thousands of eons." In fact throughout the chapter he speaks of anger as if impatience and anger were as one. While this is a spacious view of patience that one might not find in a modern dictionary, his advice is well worth considering.

Thank you for your input.
Metta,
Allan

christine.arpita's picture

It seems to me though, that one needs to discriminate whether it is necessary in the moment to make an action. Perhaps it is too easy to say "oh - well, this isn't happening easily in this moment - so I better be patient and put it off for another time". Some things would never get done that way.

Impatience is a label for a stirring vibrant sort of energy that has a lot of potential to create positive change. To me, it is an energy that sees things very clearly. It is the creative impulse to move in the interdependent play. It is part of willingness. To me it is not suffering. and yes - there is a sense of tension to it - as there is tension simply being embodied, when we know that all of our actions affect the whole.

warmly
christine

reval's picture

Christine,
Thank you for your comments.
The Buddha offered his teachings with a realization that each of us must find our own way. He advised his students not to follow his teachings just because they came from him, but to learn from their own experience as he had learned from his. Therefore, if you find impatience to have the positive qualities you mention, and that it "is an energy that sees things very clearly" by all means follow the path that leads you to greater happiness, clarity, and awakening.
My own experience has been different. On page 2 of Patience, I quote a friend who said, "Just about every mistake I have ever made and every unkind word I have ever spoken might have been avoided if I had been more patient." When she said that I realized that it was true for me as well. Unlike your experience, I find much greater clarity when I allow fires to cool and welcome the arising of khanti (patience.)
It is important to understand that patience is not passivity or suppression of feelings nor is it an invitation to others to treat us as a doormat. In order for us to practice patience, we must have courage, wisdom, and a loving, compassionate heart.
Impatience and anger can have value if they motivate us to take action that is well grounded in compassion and wisdom. Again, in my experience, compassion and wisdom are more likely to arise with patience and with patience we are less likely to act in ways that will cause dukkha (suffering) for ourselves and others.
I wish you great joy in your practice.
Allan