Jon Kabat-Zinn

"Patience" by Jon Kabat-Zinn (excerpt) Wherever You Go There You Are

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Dalai Lama, wax encaustic painting by Sharon Sperry Bloom

Patience is an ever present alternative to the mind's endemic restlessness and impatience. Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It's the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it. This doesn't mean you can't hurry when you have to. It is possible even to hurry patiently, mindfully, moving fast because you have chosen to.

From the perspective of patience, things happen because other things happen. Nothing is separate and isolated. There is no absolute, end-of-the-line, the-buck-stops-here root cause. If someone hits you with a stick, you don't get angry at the stick or at the arm that swung it; you get angry at the person attached to the arm. But if you look a little deeper, you can't find a satisfactory root cause or place for your anger even in the person, who literally doesn't know what he is doing and is therefore out of his mind at that moment. Where should the blame lie, or the punishment? Maybe we should be angry at the person's parents for the abuse they may have showered on a defenseless child. Or maybe at the world for its lack of compassion. But what is the world? Are you not a part of that world? Do not you yourself have angry impulses and under some conditions find yourself in touch with violent, even murderous impulses?

The Dalai Lama shows no anger toward the Chinese, even though the policy of the Chinese government for years has been to practice genocide toward Tibetans, culturicide toward their institutions, beliefs, and everything they hold dear, and geocide toward the very land they live on. When asked about his apparent lack of anger toward the Chinese by an incredulous reporter at the time he won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Dalai Lama replied something to the effect that: "They have taken everything from us; should I let them take my mind as well?"

This attitude is itself a remarkable display of peace ... the inner peace of knowing what is most fundamental, and the outer peace of embodying that wisdom in carriage and action. Peace, and a willingness to be patient in the face of such enormous provocation and suffering, can only come about through the inner cultivation of compassion, a compassion that is not limited to friends, but is felt equally for those who, out of ignorance and often seen as evil, may cause you and those you love to suffer.

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