Archive for the 'patience' Category


February 5, 2016

This post picks up where the last one left off, with the issue of the willingness of students.

I suspect I’ve written about the following idea before, because I vaguely remember writing about my experience, as a babysitter decades ago, of a variation on this idea of endless storytelling — one of the children would ask me endless questions, apparently just to keep me seated at the end of her bed.  She actually fell asleep long before her parents got home and I left to go home to sleep myself, so it didn’t really matter too much.  But in other situations it does.  In those situations it’s not a matter of the storyteller averting her demise by storytelling, but the storyteller becoming drained of her life force through the incessant telling.

An unwilling student can be draining on the teacher.  It doesn’t have to be intentional for the demand for continued attention to be a problem.  The student may be unaware that they really aren’t open to following where the learning leads.

Sometimes the teacher sees the student in an unguarded moment and discovers that the student likes the idea of learning, and likes the idea of learning from particular teachers, but doesn’t actually like what the learning requires or has a negative reaction to the actual teacher who appeared when the student indicated they were ready (as in, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”).  For the type of learning the student indicated they wanted, this kind of reaction contradicts the superficial presentation of readiness.  For example, there are some kinds of spiritual learning in which any resistance, whether in the form of fear or anger or judgmentalness or anything else, will turn the enterprise into a catastrophe.

It is no high crime or misdemeanor not to be ready.  But even the most patient of teachers will be harmed by sticking around in a situation involving an unready student that is basically a dressed-up version of giving a servant a pointless and endless task.  Of course, the teacher could perform the otherwise pointless task as work being done for God, not for the student, and through that approach to the task not be consumed by it.  But part and parcel of situations involving unready students, in my experience, is that the student is claiming that they need more of the teacher’s personal involvement than the teacher’s detached approach offers.

It’s part of teacher’s challenge to maintain their own perspective and not become co-opted into the student’s perspective.  It’s also part of the teacher’s challenge to maintain compassionate detachment.  (It may not always be so obvious that the teacher is doing this second thing if the teacher is also mirroring back difficult behavior the student has engaged in.)  What the student’s challenge is is for the student to figure out — I suspect that doing so is a step towards the student’s actually becoming ready for the learning later on.




January 7, 2013

I think I’m one of those.  Actually, I think we all are, whether we’re effective at being one or not.  I think we are conduits for forces we are only dimly aware of.  Sometimes the forces mix with us and what comes out is, for example, art, sometimes it is addictive behavior or even psychosis, sometimes theoretical physics, sometimes a combination of things, including a combination of useful and destructive things.

What I have thought vaguely for a while is that I can hear some interesting things that I could never have thought of, and that I can translate them into words and try to communicate them to other people.  I want to let those interesting things come through into the world — they are more helpful than what I could come up with through my intellect.

What I think I’ve spent years doing is cleaning out my apparatus, the conduit apparatus within me.  I think someone had used it for relationships and acquiring stuff and influencing people according to what that someone wanted.  I think it had been developed well enough to do that, and that it was kind of like this person finding someone else’s fully loaded laptop and using it to pick up girls and pay off lobbyists.  It got kind of corroded and bent by being used for personal gain and attachments.  So it took awhile to get the junk and dirt out of it, retrieve some missing pieces, and get the thing up and running as it is intended to be used.

It takes a fair amount of effort for me to hear what I hear, and it often comes best as a reaction to reading or hearing what somebody else is saying.  I focus on the hearing part, including maintaining a good connection, and I tend to give shorter shrift to the translation and presentation part.  If I lose the connection, then the whole point is lost, so that’s why I put my energy there.

I have wished for a collaborator who would focus on the writing and translation part, but Gita has steered me away from that configuration — she thinks I should be doing the whole undertaking.  I struggle with the writing.  I think in parentheses and footnotes and gerunds — how to get those curlicued and nested thoughts into linear form, into short, declarative sentences, and into something that others can follow is a challenge for me.  And taking the time and having the patience to explain it all and not leave too much to be gleaned from between the lines — that’s a challenge for me, too.  Willy used to talk about how programmers get bored after figuring out the gist of a programming problem, and often are impatient with subsequent steps, including the debugging stage.  I’m probably like that.  Once I feel satisfied myself, I have to discipline myself to go further with the project after that — I either don’t hear a call to communicate it well or I override that call with some nonsense of my own (including residue from having a number of people tell me I don’t write well).

I feel somewhat better about the process of learning to communicate when I think of it as finding my voice.  That, in turn, leads me to recollecting the intentional misreading (by a friend of a friend) of the Latin phrase “cave canem” (beware of dog) into “cave caneam,” beware lest I sing.  (The friend of the friend is Debbie Roberts, who I think is a professor at Haverford College.)  I like the idea that somewhere inside of me I have a powerful voice, if I can only find it.  Again, to get back to where I started, I think we all do, it’s a matter of realizing our potential.

The surface

January 4, 2013

I’ve witnessed many people’s discovery for the first time that it is actually a known phenomenon that living in a situation in which appearances don’t match reality is stressful.  Many react with a kind of, “I thought it was just me who had trouble dealing with it.”

There’s an aspect that is related, I think, to a disjunction between appearances and reality that concerns me a lot — the development, and then maintenance, of a false self.  The false self is not connected to the soul, God, the universe, forces greater than ourselves, etc., in the way the true self is.  So, if we get too caught up in a false self, we diminish, and as a practical matter, lose, our spiritual support.

I spend too much of my time and energy supporting people with my own spiritual energy who don’t learn how to access their own.  It’s a form of enabling, not something admirable.  I find myself doing it especially when societal norms deem me responsible in some way for the other person’s behavior or well-being — it’s a way for me to mitigate the problem somewhat, a way to take some of the edge off the behavior of the other person.

It’s exhausting.  (As I said, I’m not endorsing the practice.)

That dynamic gives me an incentive to try to get people and our culture to value the true self, and not reward the development of the false self, so that they’ll access their own spiritual support.  A challenge for me in working on this is that I need to, I think, be encouraging and nurturing to the people who prefer to develop a false self — if I get impatient and show my frustration, I think I make the problem worse.  But I also need to be firm and to redirect them in their attitudes, behavior, even patterns of thinking.

I am aware that I need to work on patience kind of generally — on being more patient and also on not feeling discouraged or angry with how effective I think my work is — to develop an attitude that helps me just keep on plugging along.  I’m pretty good at reading the writing on the wall that others who have gone before me have left behind.  So I catch myself when I want to throw up my hands in despair or in disdain or in denigration of my efforts.  I would much rather do a small piece of this work well than expect too much from my own efforts.  Just as I am aware of the people who have come before me and of the people alongside of me, I am also aware that there are people who will come after me.  Sometimes trying to push something too far undermines the entire effort — like the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  I’d rather a second camel be hired.

Unconditional love

November 11, 2012

I’ve never quite been sure I understand the particular emotion to which people are referring when they talk of unconditional love.  Not that it doesn’t exist or even that I haven’t felt it or expressed it, just that I’m not sure which subset of “love” they’re talking about.

I don’t experience intimacy as having a subset of loneliness — for me, loneliness is related to loss, mine or somebody else’s, and how I am powerless to make up for it.  Intimacy with my husband, spiritual intimacy, even love for friends, relatives, acquaintances, when I’m loving with no reservation there’s no loneliness, in fact it leaves me feeling quite at peace with myself and the universe.

If I had to speculate, I’d say the piece that may be at issue is what we call altruism — loving regardless of outcome, feedback, efficacy, recompense, reciprocity, etc.  By itself, hitting that note provides the internal sense of balance and peace — loving fully is its own reward, provides its own reward.  When you love fully, you feel equally good as the beloved, I think.

There are all kinds of other loves, and I can still get caught up in them.  Some of them seem to help in certain situations, others seem to lead to difficulties.  I’ve wondered, having hit that note of unconditional love, whether I will express that kind of love more frequently and not get caught up in the other kinds so often.  I honestly don’t know, and to try to decide what would be preferable I think would be doctrinaire of me — I don’t know what expression of love by me serves the greater good.  Maybe it’s the altruistic kind, maybe it’s not.

For me, at the end of the day, all I ever have is my willingness — that’s my touchstone.  It’s a touchstone I can always get back to, I think, and once there, I can await what’s next.   (I am working on learning to do the waiting more patiently, which includes not predicating the patience on there being a particular outcome to the wait.)  As I’ve probably said before, I do at times get swamped by other people’s ways of navigating — people who don’t navigate through willingness.  But I can clean the decks and relocate my willingness after these encounters.

Showing up

October 31, 2011

I have had people in my life whom I experience as predatory.  One of them I grew up with, one of them I worked for on and off for decades.  There have been great separations and then attempts at reconciliation, but the relationship seems to founder in the same way over and over again.  I don’t know how to relate to these people in a way in which I am not harmed.  I would like to, in part because these people desire a relationship with me, in part because I feel for my own growth I should be able to figure out how to have a functional relationship with them.

It occurred to me this morning that maybe for now what I can do is to express admiration and even gratitude that these people just show up for life, given their limitations (I know they suffer, I also know their behavior and modus operandi are damaging).  For the rest, my technique, rightly or wrongly, is to ask the universe to do for them what I can’t do for them myself, including loving them as they would like me to — kind of like giving them a spiritual gift card from afar.  Would I like someone doing that for me?  Probably I would feel somewhat rejected by the refusal of personal intimacy, but on the other hand, I think I would welcome the benefits of the universe’s help and try to focus on that instead.  And I would try to find my way to acceptance of  the thing I didn’t like, in part through re-framing it and looking for what the lesson for me might be.

So, I think showing up is the thing I can be grateful for with regard to some people, that I can see their just showing up as their (important) contribution to our collective dance.   I can use my discomfort with them as an opportunity to learn greater patience, my dissatisfaction with the situations as an opportunity to practice letting go, and my concerns about what these relationships mean for my other relationships going forward as an opportunity to deepen my willingness and faith.

Promises and patience

October 28, 2011

I’ve noticed two seemingly conflicting themes in my life, promises that turn out to be empty and insufficient patience on my part.  When I feel called upon to decide in a given situation to which category in fact a new situation belongs, I sometimes come to the realization that I can’t figure it out myself — I am aware that my mechanisms for doing so have been too severely compromised by previous experience.  But I also know that this means I have the happy consequence of feeling nudged into the recognition that it is not a matter of my needing to come to a conclusion on that particular question myself anyway, but just the continuing need for me to be willing and to be open to the possibilities, to seeing what outcome will have apparently served my greater good, and to learning what the lesson for me will have been.