- At the Desert Retreat House -
Yesterday, a large crowd of “Black Friday” shoppers pushed and shoved each other while waiting in line for the “blowout holiday sale” on big-screen TVs. As people became more and more unruly a few fistfights broke out and the security guards at the entrance to the store kept begging the crowds, “Please, please be patient!”
I think perhaps that this is good advice for any one of us to hear at this busy and chaotic time of the year - Please, please be patient!
The Talmud as well as the Quran exhort believers to practice the virtue of patience. In the Christian tradition “patience” is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Buddha says that patience is the best prayer. And yet, I don’t really think most of us really quite understand what patience really means and why it is such an important virtue across religious traditions.
We often imagine “patience” as something you do that sort of “fills the time” while waiting for something else (often something bigger and better) to happen. We wait patiently for the doors to open up for the big sale, we sit patiently in a doctor’s office waiting for our name to be called, many people patiently “put up with” their current job in the hope that one day something better will come along.
But I don’t at all believe that this is what it means to be patient. The practice of patience is not “biting the bullet” in the present in the hope of a better future. I believe that patience is the practice of the disciple of mindfulness. We practice patience when we are awake, alert and present to “what is” rather than looking for something that yet may be.
Priest and teacher, Henri Nouwen, once described patience in this way:
A waiting person is a patient person.
The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are
and live the situation to the full
in the belief that something hidden there
will manifest itself to us in the moment.
My life out here in the desert teaches me a great deal about being patient. When I get up in the morning and sit in my garden to greet the rising sun, I am never even tempted to make any lists of what I hope to accomplish during the coming day or what I hope may happen - the stunning pink and blue skies of dawn as the sun rises on a crisp early winter morning are far too spectacular to do anything except to bask in the beauty and the splendor of the moment.
When I sit in the garden each morning, I stay where I am in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to me in the moment.” I am being patient.
I think about all those people yesterday jostling and fighting with each other to get at those bargains and buy a TV they maybe don’t really need in the first place. In their eagerness to get something bigger, newer and better, I wonder how much they may have missed standing there in that line had they only been patient enough to be aware of it all.
Yes, the words those security guards spoke to the unruly crowds waiting for the big bargains offer great wisdom to all of us as we wait for the arrival of the next big holidays yet to come.
Please, please be patient!