Word of the Month: Patience

In the book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes patience as “a remembering that things unfold in their own time.” In some situations, the unfolding takes longer than we would like. For example, when we’re traveling and a delay arises, we might feel impatient because we are eager to get to our destination. While that’s understandable, we can try to bring awareness to the situation and realize that when we’re impatient, we’re usually not appreciating the present moment. If we try to make the best of a delay by focusing on something fun like reading for pleasure or something productive like getting caught up with email correspondence, that can lead us to feel more present, more patient and more peaceful.

On some occasions, when we feel impatient, we’re able to take reasonable steps to try to shorten a delay or waiting period. When we’re stuck in a traffic jam, we may be able to find an alternate route. Or if it’s been a week since we sent an email to a company and we haven’t heard back, it can make sense to contact them again. But in cases where there is no good alternative to waiting, patience can make all of the difference with regard to the quality of our experiences.

It’s interesting to consider how technology and patience interact. On one hand, we can find ourselves expecting instant replies to emails and texts and expecting packages to arrive at our homes in a day or two—those expectations would seem to lead to less patience. On the other hand, because of technology we have so many ways to occupy ourselves while we are waiting, such as by using smartphones and tablets, and that would seem to make it easier to be patient. In our 21st century lives, impatience seems to have the edge in many situations. By remembering how valuable patience can be, we can appreciate how things unfold in their own time and we can appreciate more of the moments of our lives.

See more features from the May 2014 issue