Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Patience was her virtue still (Elvis Costello from 'Little Atom')

Today's theme is Patience.

Paul Sweeney (no, I don't know who he is either) once asked a pretty good question:

How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young? 

 I suspect that Paul lived in a more innocent age of Betty Crocker cakes, watching Bonanza with a TV tray on his knee and polaroids. What would he make of today's instant gratification? Waiting more than a nano second for an interweb connection drives us potty.

My mother always said, "Patience is a virtue - possess it if you can. It's found in a woman, but seldom in a man".

As always Ralph Waldo Emerson has his finger on the pulse: Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.  

Ryokan (a Japanese Zen poet) wrote a simple poem:
Maple leaf
Falling down
Showing front
Showing back

The maple leaf's journey (slowly drifting) in the poem exemplifies a natural freedom (a buddhist would call this 'right action' - the fourth aspect of the eightfold path).

It is the opposite of a willed, goal-oriented action that usually governs our lives. Generally our desire, our actions, our speech, and our thoughts are geared toward bringing about some particular end product by exerting control. Then, when these efforts at control fail, we suffer.

I can hear friends of mine saying something like - what should I be? A leaf in the wind? Having no will or goals?

But we really are that leaf in the wind. We are all part of that nature that Emerson says we should look to as an example.We are the maple leaf! By all means have your goals but know that trying to exert control is useless because we never had it to begin with.

Let me use an example to show what I mean.

I have a particular problem with flying in a plane because I don't feel comfortable giving up control. I resist and I really suffer.

I have a little mantra of sayings that I repeat to myself when I feel particularly stressed in the plane and it starts with - c a l m (intake of breath) b r e a t h i n g (out take of breath). I find this helps a lot.

I then try hard to acknowledge that I never had control in the first place and that gets me through the flight.

I try to remember the maple leaf.

The wider implications of this are felt in my daily life. Problems always come when I try to control a situation.

Take a job interview frinstance.

I do thorough preparation for the interview. I research the school and analyse its data. I think of all the types of questions that I might be asked. At this point my maple leaf is still attached to the tree. It is not a question of control or not.

The second I get into the actual interview the maple leaf detaches itself and starts its drift (showing front, showing back). The interview takes on a life of its own. I have no control over the types of questions I am asked. I have no control over the thoughts and motives of the interviewers. I have no control over the outcome either.

I deliberately relinquish control and feel good and this persists after the interview. Because I know from bitter experience that if my mind seeks to control things that it can't - I am headed for longing, wanting, craving and the pain of confusion.

When I went for a recent job interview the person who was meeting and greeting applicants commented on how relaxed I appeared. I assured her I was relaxed. Little did she know it was all down to a humble maple leaf.

Love and peace - Wozza

No comments: