Wednesday, July 31, 2013


triple digit desert days

When I told my wife I was going to write today's blog post about "patience, " she just smiled and chuckled. We both know what an impatient man I am. I am hasty and I am impetuous. I find something broken or I see a problem and my immediate tendency is to rush in and fix it - control it, make it all better.

When we came out here, we moved several large houseplants from our Los Angeles home to our new desert home.  Since the climate here is very different from Los Angeles,  I was concerned that the plants we moved might not survive in their new environment. After a few weeks here, I noticed that one plant in particular (which I especially liked) was starting to look a bit wilted and frail,  so I began an intervention campaign to save it.  

Every day I would water it. I did online "Google" searches about plant care in the desert, purchased various insecticides and fertilizers - nothing seemed to be working  - the plant seemed to be dying, it's leaves turning black and falling off.

So I took a picture of my dying plant to a woman who runs a local desert nursery. She immediately diagnosed the problem: "You're giving it too much water. These plants like to be left alone. Water it once in a while, and just see what happens."  The plant is green and thriving nowadays.

The advice I got about caring for my plant is probably good advice about life in general. Some things in life can be fixed, but many times (most of the time) we just have to leave them alone, accept what comes our way and see what happens. We just have to be patient.

Every one of the great religions extol the practice of patience as a necessary virtue on the spiritual path. The Talmud and the Quran exhort believers to practice patience. In the Christian tradition, "patience" is one of the fruits of the Holy Sprit. In Buddhism the disciplined practice of patience (forbearance) is a necessary step on the road to enlightenment. 

I think that "patience" is such a universally important virtue; because when we practice patience we learn something about relinquishing the ego, and every spiritual path teaches that the ego is an obstacle to deeper peace, enlightenment - experiencing Holy Presence.

People with big egos think that they can "fix it all."  They think they are important enough and smart enough and powerful enough to shape their lives in the way they want their life to be. Usually this isn't the case. Most of the time the events of our lives are unable to be controlled. They just happen. Sometimes you can fix what is broken, sometimes not.  When we practice patience, we accept the truth that "it is what it is." 

The longer I live in the desert, the more I realize what a great teacher  the wilderness is. The desert is fierce and the desert is vast. It's a place where the "ego cannot thrive." The desert is big and it teaches me that "I" am small. The desert  cannot be controlled or tamed or harnessed - just like life itself. The desert can only be accepted with patient forbearance.  And the more I accept it, the more beautiful it becomes. 

It's going to be in the triple digits again today - not much I can do about the weather. I'll just be patient.  I'll throw a little water on the plant and see what happens. 

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