I’m sorry, but a lot of you are not going to like the very healthy message in today’s blog. The reason you won’t is because it will remind you that your spiritual health, your enlightenment, is not an achievement or title, it is a practice. It requires vigilance and dedication and persistence. Your spiritual health does not happen by accident it is a conscious choice. So we’re not talking about just posting some 4000 year old Chinese quotes on your facebook wall and having some books on Buddhism in your bookcase. One of the easiest ways to test your own actual spirituality is by how patient you are. A wise person can still behave impatiently, but if you’re consistently impatient then you can’t be a wise person nor do you understand true spirituality.
The reason a wise person can be patient is because they understand. Not necessarily why they are waiting in any given instance, but they know from experience that it is common for many reasons and so the wise person does not live with the expectation that there will be no waiting. The ego-self doesn’t live in reality it lives in the world of its own egocentric thoughts. So because they made a plan for how they wanted the future to go, they acted like that actually was the future. When reality met their expectations, a conflict ensued and their emotions, from anger to disappointment to sadness, emerge from that.
People whine about waiting in lines. A sociologist I heard calculated that the average urban North American spends 3 years of their life at stop signs and red lights. You can use that time to get angry or worry or think uncharitable thoughts about someone your don’t like, or you can use it to meditate. Work with what the world gives you. If you’re sitting in traffic frustrated then don’t see that as a problem, learn to see that as a gift. How is that different than a martial artist who pays money and invests his time in a place that literally beats him or her up?
All you do when you go to martial arts training is have someone boss you around to do difficult and sometimes painful things, all toward you getting into a ring to have someone try to hit you. Why is this okay? Because you see it as an aspect of your development as a person. Even violence toward you is okay if it is in a context of bettering your life. Same with patience. You have to see patience just like that. The person that is challenging you mentally is liked the sensei who sneaks up behind you and pushes you to test your balance. You can see it as an attack on your life, or you can see it as a rock around which you must learn to flow. Resistance is what you do with people who test your patience. Flow is what a martial arts student has when they volunteer for the challenges of training.
Driving, at the office, with your kids, with yourself—more patience. More tolerance. Less expectation that everything goes perfectly. People are imperfect, all of us included. So we need other people’s patience and they need ours. We don’t need better people, we just need more tolerant ones to help release the best in the people we already have.
Prove your spirituality. Live it as often as you are able. Humour, patience, compassion, love. These are signs you are being spiritual. And a sure sign that you are locked in ego is when you start thinking things should be different than they are. Accept things as they are. Quiet your argumentative mind and instead be aware. You will discover far more than your suffering mind could have ever wanted.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.