The slow driver in the Prius, that person paying by check in the grocery store, that seemingly incompetent coworker, or the neighbor's small dog all bother us way less when we open up to the possibility that we don't know how things are supposed to be. Active curiosity is the essential skill.
The root, pati, means “to suffer” or “endure”. It's the same root that we find in compassion. The original meaning and intention is active. When we assume that patience means that we are passively tolerating something super irritating, we go crazy. The key ingredient to experience patience is action.
It’s easy to be lulled into the conviction that we are good, highly evolved beings when everything is going our way and we are surrounded by people who adore us. Difficult situations and people provide us the opportunity to know this is not true and free us of self limiting ideas of superiority.
With the holidays upon us, it is likely that you will be blessed with all sorts of situations to practice opening up to patience. Here are some tips and tricks to help.
Open Hands, Open Heart
The hands are rumored to be the motor organ of the heart. They are one of the primary ways we do our heart’s work in the world. When we start to feel tight about a situation, we are out of the heart’s naturally generous flow, and our hands will clench towards fists. When you catch this happening, if safe, actively counter the response by allowing your hands to soften and open. Focus your attention on the space in between the fingers and allow your hands to feel bigger. Turn your palms forward and slightly up to receive support. Say thank you when it comes.
Relaxed Face, Relaxed Attitude
The vagus nerve, the star of the parasympathetic nervous system, touches all the sense organs in the face - eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. When we are losing patience, our face will start to reflect our internal pissy attitude. As soon as you notice your face screwing up and hardening, take charge and soften everything. Let your jaw drop and mouth open, feeling your tongue heavy. Let your eyelids drop a bit, softening your gaze. Focus you attention on the area just below your nose above your lip and allow the nostrils to feel wider. With your mind, soften the tension around your ears and feel your ears get bigger. You will look like you are tripping or in an alternate mystical state, you might even drool. It will feel wonderful, and you will be way less likely to say something you might regret.
Longer Exhale, Longer Fuse
Our natural instinct to sigh when situations feel frustratingly hopeless is the body’s attempt to reduce our internal tension and create relief. But nobody likes to be sighed at! Take action before this happens and silently start to lengthen your breath using an internal count. Slowly count up to 4 as you inhale and count down from 6 as you exhale. Drawing your attention inward will reduce the hold the situation has on you and the longer breaths will help you relax and stay present.
Full Belly, Empty Mind
When we are experiencing impatience, we generally feed the frustration like a hungry fire. That fire is in our minds. One way to extinguish a fire is to remove the oxygen, or in this case, our attention. Inhale deeply, and on your exhale, let an audible fast “hah” sound happen out of your open mouth. As you do this, allow your belly to drop. Do this at least 3 times until your belly feels full and your mind feels empty. You have essentially dropped the prana that was feeding your anger into your lower body to rest. Hang out here where it's quiet.