Patience in One’s Pocket
Shopping at Monterey Market in Berkeley is a delight with its tasty fresh fruits and veggies. Everything looks like it was just on a vine, a branch, or had roots in the earth. But, as most shoppers know who drive there, parking can be a hassle. The other day I found out that half of the parking lot was getting resurfaced and was closed. Oh no, double the parking trouble! The problem became that I didn’t bring twice the patience that would be required. I waited for someone to leave. A pick-up truck squeezed past my car and slipped into the space ahead of me when it suddenly became available. A flash of anger rose through my mind, and with it an impulse to stomp over, fuming, ready to hurl some loud accusations.
If we look more closely at this mad feeling, we discover that there is an injury underneath. Painful feelings are stored in our memory and when a similar issue arises, those past wounds fuel the anger in the current story. In this case, I was reminded of other occasions when someone pulled a fast one on me, took something that belonged to me, or treated me unfairly. Recalling these other instances adds to the knotty feelings of powerlessness and upset, and it seems really hard to let go of this sense of having been wronged.
Later in the day, I applied some Strategies for Practicing Patience to soothe my upset. Looking back at it now, having gained some perspective, I find it easier to consider some alternatives. The other options available to me weren’t awful. I could have waited 5 more minutes for another space to become available, or drive around the block and park a bit further away. A short walk by Berkeley Horticulture, even with some groceries, on a sunny day wouldn’t have felt like a punishment. This event reminds me to bring an extra dose of patience and self-compassion for when I encounter challenges throughout my day.
Strategies for Practicing Patience
Recognize you are feeling angry
First you have to name the feeling. If you don’t know what ails you, you don’t know what medicine to take.
Step aside from the situation
If you engage aggressively with the person you are angry with, he or she is likely going to be defensive, and you will get more mad. Engaging with someone when you are quite mad doesn’t create better understanding, but usually quite the opposite.
Take some deep breaths
Breathing deeply helps to calm your mind and nervous system.
Look inside for any vulnerable feelings that were triggered
Name any painful feeling you are sensing inside, for example helplessness, fear, hurt or sadness.
Bring a sense of loving kindness to these primal feelings
Say to yourself: “I know that under this anger are some painful feelings. I am going to take good care of them.” If this is difficult to do, imagine a wise and dear friend or a kind mother figure being with you, someone who knows exactly how to help you feel better.