Patient: How do we practice patience in a pandemic?

Patience is apparently a virtue but that’s something I’ve never been gifted with. And for the past year, in the social-distance and isolation, everyone’s ability to get things done quickly seems to have taken a second seat. Not to mention all the parents out there doing an incredible job juggling work and home life.

So how do we manage patience at a time of a pandemic?

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Allan Lokos speaks on his YouTube channel:

Dr Judith Orloff on PBS in 2009:

Qaas Shoukat hosting a TED Talk in 2016:

Books looked at this week:

Allan Lokos: Patience: the Art of Peaceful Living

Dr Judith Orloff: Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to episode 15 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

They say patience is a virtue but that’s something I’ve never been gifted with. And for the past year, in the social-distance and isolation, everyone’s ability to get things done quickly seems to have taken a second seat. Not to mention all the parents out there doing an incredible job juggling work and home life.

So how do we manage patience at a time of a pandemic?

Before we begin, I want to try this this experiment. Listen to the next speaker, Qaas Shoukat, a Nova Southeastern University graduate who was born to two cultures. Here he is speaking about patience in his 2016 TED Talk.

QAAS SHOUKAT

So how many of you were able to sit still at the beginning of that? I couldn’t!

Onto our first book by Allan Lokos, founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center in New York. He’s also the author of Patience: the Art of Peaceful Living. He speaks here in 2013:

ALLAN LOKOS

Using Buddhist teachings, Lokos says to become a truly patient person requires effort, and it will be difficult to sustain that effort unless you are genuinely motivated. This means daily practice, sitting quietly and contemplating how impatience affects you and your relationships.

The next part is practicing patience with self, our pride, personas, and ego can feel disrupted and threatened every time we feel we have done less than our best. When this happens we can so easily rationalize that we deserve our own annoyance. We speak to ourselves with a level of disrespect that we would rarely, if ever, inflict on another. He recommends a daily practice of meditation, with no distractions, and this can even be a walking practice. Observe and accept whatever arises and know that everything is as it needs to be.

He says understanding that everything is impermanent, we don’t need to react with our usual craving for more of what we find pleasant, or with desire to push away or escape from that which we find unpleasant.

Basically happiness, inner peace, and patience begin with taming the mind. The mind’s incessant tendency to jump from thought to thought, feeling to feeling, can be brought under control. He says while ultimately patience is practiced in the company of others, the starting place is in your own mind through mindfulness.

In terms of patience in relationships, he says develop your listening skills. When conversations are becoming heated, stop and ask the other person if you have heard them correctly, and repeat the words you heard as accurately as you can. This creates a situation in which you must focus on what has actually been said and offers the other an opportunity to evaluate whether they actually said what they intended to say.

Lokos recommends regularly, throughout the day, stop for a few minutes, close your eyes, and do a detailed body scan starting at the top of the head, proceeding down to the toes. Then bring your awareness to the sensations of the breath and just observe for at least five breaths. Remind yourself that your mental and emotional health are important.

Don’t speak or act while in the throes of anger. An essential part of the development of patience is learning to sense distress at its embryonic stage so that we can cool the flames before they gain strength. As is often said: in life pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Lokos makes a good point here: “We become workaholics so that we can send the kids to the best schools, only we never get to see the kids, except perhaps for a few minutes when we are exhausted.”

He also suggests not to compare yourself to others in order to alleviate or avoid suffering.

Patience practices include envisioning times when you feel angry and impatient such as calling up your TV company, or a time when someone lost it and consider what they look and feel like in that moment to avoid doing so. And never neglect yourself including your health, food, and sleep.

The second book is actually a part of psychiatrist Dr Judith Orloff’s Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life book. She has a whole chapter on facing frustration and disappointment, whilst building patience. Here she is on PBS in 2009.

JUDITH ORLOFF

Dr Orloff says we need a new bumper sticker: frustration happens. You can drive yourself crazy or you can learn to transform frustration with patience.

She says patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power. It’s a kick-ass, emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act. While frustration is a feeling of agitation and intolerance triggered when your needs aren’t met; it’s tied to an inability to delay gratification. Disappointment is a form of frustration that occurs when our expectations are dashed.

She issues a frustration quiz, which asks:

Am I often frustrated and irritable?
Do I typically respond to frustration by snapping at or blaming others?
Do I self-medicate letdowns with junk food, drugs, or alcohol?
Do my reactions hurt other people’s feelings?
When the frustration has passed, do I usually feel misunderstood?
During a hard day at work, do I tend to lose my cool?
When I’m disappointed, do I often feel unworthy or like giving up?

Answering yes to between five and seven means apparently you have a high level of frustration. So why is patience important? Patience is a victory of the reasoning brain over the impulsive one, an emotional coping mechanism with an evolutionary rationale.

Dr Orloff explains when early human behavior increased in complexity, the neocortex in the front grew larger to comprise most of the brain; it’s responsible for planning ahead, judgment, and intellect. Patience was adaptive for our ancestors—it aided stalking prey, hunting with a slingshot, tool making, and creating intricate cave paintings. Our present-day superenlarged neocortex also encompasses a more expanded role for patience in relationships and to counter stress.

Princeton University researchers identified the neocortex as a region in the brain associated with patience. Researchers found when volunteers chose immediate rewards, the emotional center of their brain was activated, while opting for future rewards lit up the neocortex. Two entirely different anatomical structures were operating. Hence, delaying gratification is a master skill that lets you harness your brain.

Researchers have also discovered that some people who are less prone to frustration have larger regions in the neocortex, which are associated with feeling this emotion hence some people just are more patient. However, Dr Orloff believes it can also be learnt as well.

She recommends the following practice which will be useful for after lockdown. To turn the tables on frustration, find a long slow-moving queue to wait in, empathise with the workers, smile at others in the line, and tell yourself “I’m going to wait peacefully and enjoy the pause”.

She adds ask a question and wait for your intuition’s response. You can confer with intuition about any frustration. Disappointments build patience and self-compassion. To further spiritual growth, begin to deal with disappointments in a freeing, patient way, without berating yourself. Whilst with rejection, frame it in a positive way. And remember no one is perfect, so don’t get mad at others disappointing you.

So sum up:

The Art of Peaceful Living” is indeed an “art” that can be learned through mindful practice — a valuable lesson to all who seek surcease from the stress we bring, often unconsciously, upon ourselves.

And in Emotional Freedom, Orloff suggests ways to take charge of your frustration is to use humour, focus on the positive, and go with the flow. If something frustrating happens, focus on a joke or something funny to get your mind off it.

It’s definitely a learning curve for me, probably one of the worst alongside confidence, but trying to reframe aggravation may he helpful.

How about you, how will you practice patience?

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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