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Patience vs Presence – Cultivating Patience Through Presence

My teens years were full of angst. I didn’t necessarily hold back those feelings, even with those I cared about. Once while visiting my beloved grandmother I got upset, as I often did, about something not going my way. I still remember to this day how she addressed me in those moments… lovingly, yet firmly she placed her hands on my shoulders and said, “Amy, you have got to learn some patience. It will help you in your life.” Suffice it to say I have been working on it ever since. 🙂

As a young mother, I often wanted to be patient, but didn’t really know how to be patient. Often my experience of patience was more like endurance – of the worst type! Patience equated to trying to be nice and loving while inside I felt frustrated, then I’d pop with anger. Didn’t work so well. The example I set didn’t work so well either. I didn’t feel right asking my children to be patient seeing as I hadn’t even come close to  mastering it myself.

Along with that, I read an article written by a mother who shared an experience that really hit me. She left her toddler in a high chair while she went to another room. When she returned, her daughter had her face all scrunched up and her fists were squeezed tightly. The mom asked her daughter what she was doing and she said through clenched teeth, “I am being patient.” Her daughter’s experience of patience, like that of many humans, was not a relaxing sense of all is well – it was the endurance of some sort of inner torture (or at the least some sort of stress).

It dawned on me that part of the reason I had not mastered patience was because I had a completely skewed idea of what patience really is.

To me, patience is not patience when it’s all full of turmoil. That’s something else. Pretending to be patient, maybe? An attempt at patience? A grasping at what one has been taught about patience? Anyhow, when I feel into the what patience really means I feel a sense of calm, a sense of acceptance, a sense of appreciation, a deep reverence for whatever the moment is bringing.

What gets in the way of such an experience of patience?

Thoughts, specific thoughts, get in the way of an actual experience of patience. About where we need to be, about how things need to be, about who we are, who the other person is, who the other person should be, who we should be, what the other person thinks, and again – what is coming next and how quick does this next thing need to occur.

A potential solution? Presence. I know the word presence may be kind of thrown around these days, but we all have the ability to be present with what’s going on within and around us in the way we choose. That is at the heart of true patience. Choice.

For me, cultivating patience through presence looks like choosing very clearly to rest in a more broad awareness than any stream of thoughts which may threaten to shake my inner choice to be calm, accepting, appreciative, reverent of life itself. Is this always an easy process? No, but it has become easier through practice.

Here’s an example… say my child is upset and kicking around or screaming. An initial response a few years ago would have been to try and stop what she was doing, fix the situation, and be just about anything but patient. As I have grown in my mothering role, being patient through such an experience comes through presence – noticing my breath, allowing myself the space to tend to my inner experience of my mind, body, and emotions before or as I respond to my daughter, allowing my breath and body to relax, choosing to see thoughts which are not helpful (i.e. ugh, she’s doing this again or come on, really? or I can’t deal with this) and choosing to transition such thoughts to something more helpful (i.e. she’s obviously upset and could benefit from some understanding or this may be tough for me, but it’s probably tougher for her or I can deal with this, all I have to do is love her and listen to her, we’ll go from there).

Through presencing myself to the moment I choose to calm my body and mind, I choose to accept what is because fighting against it is anything but patient, I choose to appreciate all facets of the situation – even those I initially do not like – and I choose to revere life. If nothing else, I can be grateful that I have breath in my lungs.

Too simple?

No. I really am grateful to still be breathing and walking on this planet! 🙂

How do you experience patience and what gets in your way?


Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.