"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead. "
Mac McCleary

Have you noticed how much suffering is generated by impatience? A kind hearted friend who has dedicated her life to helping the poorest people becomes enraged when the person in a car ahead of her holds up traffic to pour a cup of coffee for a beggar at a freeway onramp. People in line at a grocery store become upset when the people ahead of them are slow getting out their checkbook. A teacher becomes impatient and ultimately disheartened when the students don’t learn. The patient becomes impatient when the doctor can’t find the trouble. Impatience feeds anger and habitual anger means habitual unhappiness.

We have our schedules and agendas, and we don’t like them to be messed with.  Sometimes impatience arises out of our judgment of others. We think they should do things as we would. When we experience impatience, we may be having a compassion deficit. The other person with whom we are impatient may have different values, abilities, and goals than we do, and we don’t know what stressors they may be dealing with. Would we be so annoyed if we could see through the eyes of that slowpoke ahead of us?

Often our impatience occurs when our goals are frustrated.  We want to be somewhere other than where we are. We want in and out of the store quickly because we have someplace else to be that is better or more important.  We want out of line, we want out of the doctor’s office, we want off the freeway, off the phone, out of the conversation. We are interested in being somewhere other than in the now.

We can reduce our suffering and that of those around us by observing our tendency toward impatience.  Start by noticing when you feel impatient. You might notice increased muscle tension or physical movements like finger drumming or shifting of your weight from foot to foot.

Notice the thoughts that go with the impatience.

Notice the judgments you are making. What would happen if you just stopped judging other people? It takes practice. Try going to a public place and suspending  judgment of the people you see or interact with. Let them be without your stamp of approval or disapproval.

When you catch yourself judging others, remind yourself that you don’t really know their circumstances. You don’t know what challenges they are facing in life. Who are you to judge?

When the impatience arises, ask yourself what rule is being broken that is causing your dissatisfaction. Is it a rule about the importance of speed, or about competence, or about fairness? Is there some unrealistic rule that you are holding others to?

What do you notice that you are lacking when your impatience rears up? Is it time? Money? Love? Is there a fear that something is being taken away from you?

You personally may be an efficient being with unerring judgment and catlike reflexes, but many around you are less so. So slow down. Enjoy wherever you are at the moment. Turn off the self-talk and take the moment of inconvenience as an opportunity to practice quietude.

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© 2008 Tom Barrett