So what exactly do we mean when we say that someone is patient? There can be two men waiting at an airport, and both wait the same amount of time for the same flight to depart, but one man is considered impatient while the other is patient. What are they doing differently?
Let’s imagine the check-in desk where they first learn they will be delayed. Nick approaches the desk with an angry look on his face because he’s still thinking about that guy from 20 minutes ago that took the parking stall that Nick thought was his. Because of those thoughts, his brain chemistry has reacted naturally and it’s caused the cells on his face to contort into an angry expression which actually puts the Airline Clerk, Adele, on guard so there’s a slight tentativeness in her voice which Nick finds even more irritating.
Of course the reason that Adele is on guard is because she’s had a lifetime of experience with faces like Nick’s and she knows that expression often means experiencing a lot negativity. And Nick helps maintain that pattern by getting immediately angry, when he quickly attaches her news to his recollection of the two other times in the last three years that he was delayed. Of course, the only reason those delays were agonizing was because Nick did the same thing on those trips that he did on this one: he expected perfection.
So for the next hour, Nick engages fully with his own irritated, angry, victim-based story. It causes him to snap at Adele, even though it’s not her fault and she’s already having a challenging day. Nick can’t tell by looking at her, but Adele’s worried about the fact that tomorrow, her daughter goes into the children’s hospital for her next round of chemotherapy. But Nick thinks today is all about him.
Nick then calls his wife to complain and tells her his agonized story—which is only agonizing because he keeps telling it to himself. He tells her the plane should not be late even though that idea is insanely implausible. He calls a co-worker to tell him how bad this airline always is. He finds another angry passenger impatiently waiting at a coffee shop and for the next hour, they sit and trade horror stories about past flights or seatmates or coffee-shops.
It’s angry, tense and they check the clock every five minutes. By the time Nick does get on the plane, he’s approaching the Flight Attendant with an even angrier look than he approached the Ticket Agent with. And 100% of his mood is blamed on the airline and its staff. At no time does Nick take any responsibility for his own thoughts.
Meanwhile, Simon has gotten to a parking stall at the same time as someone else but he has offered it to them with a wave of his hand. Feeling pleased he could help someone else’s day out, he happily finds another stall and heads into the airport noting the clear blue sky. He realizes he will get a great view out of the plane that day. When he gets inside he also learns the flight is delayed, but he accepts that this is a reasonable experience at airports considering weather and safety and security, so he doesn’t think about that part of it anymore. He doesn’t do like Nick and compare what’s happening to perfection. Instead he takes a look around to see what his consciousness might enjoy, and he chooses to invest his life energy into that.
So Simon notices a book store and he remembers that he just finished a book by an author he really enjoyed and so he wants to see if they have another book. In the store he gets talking to another person who’s holding a book by that author. They two readers end up sitting together talking about their favourite books and before they know it, Adele is paging them for their flight. They end up trading seats so they can sit near each other and by the end of the flight both Simon and the other reader are linked up on facebook.
You are not where your body is. You are where your consciousness is. If you are on sharp, difficult terrain with your mind, you will be off balance and sharp yourself. But if you relax into a fluid, flexible headspace, you will have room to adjust to events as they arise. This is what Bruce Lee meant when he quoted the Tao and said, Be like water.
If you act like Nick and continue to blame bad days on other people or situations, you attract other angry people and you hand away all of your power to affect your life. But if you anticipate an enjoyable day but stay open as to how that plays out, then you can be like Simon who doesn’t expect his plans to come true. He just believes that he can always find something good about a situation—like making friends during a flight delay for instance.
So when they get home to their wives later that day, Nick will go in and help to ruin his wife’s day by telling her all of the bad things that “happened to him.” Because she loves him she will care that he was apparently treated badly and she will be likely to start thinking painful thoughts herself. Meanwhile Simon’s getting home to happily tell his wife that his new friend will be joining them for dinner in a week and she’s excited to meet this person her husband liked so much.
That’s reality. That’s how simply it plays out. You create your day. So stop blaming clerks, and other drivers, and other voters, and other professions (etc. etc.) for your troubles. Because the only trouble anyone ever really has is trouble with their own thinking inside their own heads.
Keep your mental landscape clean. Then you can’t help but enjoy your day.
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.