Monday, September 15, 2014

The Spacious Life

What is patience? In the Reyaverse there is no such thing. There is impatience, oh my yes. Impatience is a form of anxiety brought on by rushing.

In my opinion, the antidote to impatience is spaciousness. I learned this by doing massage. During the first years of my practice, on days when I had a lot of clients, I often found myself thinking ahead, while in a session, to how many more clients I was scheduled to see that day. Doing massage is a vigorous workout. On days when I was a little off or tired or whatever, sometimes I became anxious. The urge was to push through the day of work, get it over as fast as possible. I would find myself speeding up. Clients feels impatience immediately; often they too become impatient. It does not make for a satisfying experience. I've received many a massage from chronically impatient therapists. Impatience has no place in a massage session.

I learned to identify the urge to rush after which I tried to mindfully, purposefully slow down. The moment I decide not to hurry, there's plenty of time/space. The hour seems longer than when I'm anxious. Impatience disappears, and everything works a lot better.

I've applied this valuable lesson to the rest of my life whenever possible, to my great benefit. I don't generally race down the street like most Washingtonians. I stroll, amble. This allows me to look around, to notice where I am. This is how I am able to take my pictures. I do walk fast sometimes. It's exhilarating. But too much fast walking makes me impatient. I don't want to stop for the traffic lights, people in front of me annoy me. I start dodging in and out of people, to keep up my impatient inertia. Silly, I know.

If you google "learn patience" you will come across a selection of absurd articles, like this one from Psychology Today, about practicing patience. She suggests that we learn patience in the most trying of circumstances, like standing in a long line at the grocery store or while in a traffic jam. That is absolutely the worst way to practice patience! To associate patience with frustration will not help anything. It's like suggesting that people learn to love walking by parking at the far edge of a shopping mall parking lot, then walking across the car park to the store and back. A terrible idea! Walking through a parking lot is no fun at all, and kind of nerve-wracking since someone could pull out suddenly or come wheeling around the corner. Ridiculous! If you want to learn to love walking, take a walk in a park or along a beautiful street with nice sidewalks. What are these people thinking?

If you want to practice patience, start with experiences you enjoy, but rush through habitually. If you like to cook, take extra time so you don't have to push and hurry. Turn on some music, pour a glass of wine, take your time. It completely changes the experience for me. Start with the small things that give you pleasure. I take my time putting on makeup, for instance. Self adornment is an age old art. I think about it that way, slow down, and enjoy the process. I only have to add 5 minutes to the time I spend with make up. It changes the experience.

In this way I reduce my impatience.

Emotional impatience arises as a result of intolerance for strong emotion. In a moment of strong emotion there can be an urge to rush quickly through it, get it over with.

I could write a long post about enduring strong emotions, something that is taboo in my society, with the exception of anger and happiness. An entire range of strong emotions is meant to be ignored or discouraged. Emotion is a physiological event that begins long before we are conscious of it. Once we identify the sensation, it becomes a feeling. We judge our feelings as if it's possible to control something already underway. These judgments are not rational.

I understand why we try to squelch sadness, fear and such. These states of being are not comfortable. They aren't fun. The practice of tolerating powerful emotion builds character. It isn't easy, especially in my society. We are shamed when we allow ourselves to fully feel. It causes so many problems.

Stuffing emotions creates a kind of impatience that's harder to address. I use the idea of acceptance to create a little space around these difficult emotional states. Sometimes I ask myself, "Can I be in a place of acceptance?" When I can, I'm more patient with myself and others. I can't always say yes, though, unfortunately. Just like others, I try to cajole myself out of my emotions sometimes, deny them. I try the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach, too of course. Occasionally it works.

Besides tolerance, there is breath. Slow, deep breaths help me tolerate strong emotional states. Nothing I've tried seems to make the experience spacious, though. How does one stroll through strong, unpleasant emotional states? You tell me.

Life is short but we can be spacious, we can take our time. The impatient life is a waste. We don't have to do it all. Believe me.



Kerry said...

Right on.
Must say, I have practiced something-or-other in grocery lines, but it is not patience. I've practiced... gratefulness... when the clerk is kind to a fumbling immigrant or confused old person. Wouldn't I want everybody to be that way? I can wait while they figure it all out. Wait! waittt. Wait. It's not frustration, but gratefulness if I can just see with clarity.

Effie said...

Lovely, Reya. I will aspire to patience through my lifetime. When I catch myself swearing at people in my head, I know I've gone to far! I laugh at myself and take a breath.

A Cuban In London said...

Beautiful thoughts. It's been a while since I've read you and I'm glad to see that your essence remains the same.

Greetings from London.

Elizabeth Rudwick said...

Love this article. Especially the end about being with strong emotions. Funny even when I read the word anxious I felt anxious! I think therefore I feel. It's instantaneous.
My therapist has spoken to me about creating space around strong emotions.
When I had my last panic attack - which latest hours. I was able to pull myself through and out by feeling the space that was outside and around. I felt my brain my head was light and larger than the fear.
This I found consoling reassuring and then came compassion and space. And that all grounding breath.