Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Patience, impatience and present(s)

‘Tis the season... For impatience! Children are impatient, eagerly anticipating Christmas morning. You might be impatient in those long check out lines, or the lines snaking through airports, or the getaway traffic jams. But what is impatience, and what can you do about it?

Merriam-Webster defines impatience as “the quality or state of being impatient”. Lots of help, huh? (I’m impatient with these self-referential definitions!) So how does it define impatient? Here’s how:

1 a : not patient : restless or short of temper especially under irritation, delay, or opposition
b : Intolerant 1
2 : prompted or marked by impatience
3 : eagerly desirous : Anxious

But what I see as the true nature of impatience is preferring to be in the (imagined) future, rather than in the present. So the antidote for impatience is internal peace and a willingness to stay in and enjoy the present.

How do you stay peaceful, stay in the present, and enjoy it?

Here are a few ideas:

“Be here now” in Ram Dass’ words. Just neutrally observe the situation.
Look around you and notice what is good about the situation. Perhaps you can enjoy the department store displays while you’re in that checkout line, or chatting with people in the airport lines, or noticing bumper stickers you appreciate.
Remember a time and place you felt very peaceful, and call that to mind.
Set up a self-anchor for “peace” and use it when you are tempted to be impatient. You set up the self-anchor by doing a little preparation in advance:

First, pick a physical position that you will use for the self-anchor (I like hand positions, because you can do them any time, any where, without anyone else noticing).
Next, remember a time when you were very peaceful. Really get into it by stepping into that time and place, and when you feel it powerfully, put your hand in the position you’ve chosen. Hold that for a few seconds, and let it go.
Do this a few times.
Now test it by just doing the hand position and seeing if it creates the feeling. If it does, you’re done. If not, repeat the process of getting into the emotional state very powerfully and then doing the hand position. Eventually, the hand position will be so linked to the emotional state that you can call up the state at will by doing the hand position.

Distract yourself with a book or magazine or video or radio or ipod or journal. Distract the kids by singing Christmas carols or telling stories or doing crafts. No, it doesn’t really foster internal peace, but it does bring you into the present and get you out of any negative thought patterns or feelings associated with impatience.

Enjoy the season!

(image courtesy of its designer, Marcia Wood)