How fortunate I am to have met Allan early in my book writing process. I had the opportunity to speak to him over the telephone and he was gentle, thoughtful, helpful and patient with me—someone he didn't even know. Even though I've never met Allan in person, I feel like I know him through all the delightful online interactions I've had with him. He seems to embody this patience he writes about. Patience is not one of my better traits, so it is so nice to have Allan's words close by. I was also fortunate to have Allan write a blurb for my new book and to receive an advance copy of his new book Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, which I am reading slowly and patiently, savoring every moment. It's the perfect gift and it comes out TODAY, so be sure to pick up a copy. I've been so nervous in anticipation of my own book release and it's been wonderful to have a book like this close to me to remind me to take things step by step. You can find out more about Allan at Patiencebook.com. And here he is to share some of his wisdom with you. Please welcome Allan Lokos:
This is a particularly special day for me. It is the publication day of my new book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts with you about patience, what Andrew Olendzki, the Senior Scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies calls, “perhaps the most overlooked of all spiritual qualities.”
Whether or not you have a particular spiritual practice, you deserve the joy and ease of peaceful living. Whatever your chosen path, it will be challenged by the constantly rising and receding tides of human experience; the vicissitudes, disruptions, and anomalies that are woven into the fabric of life along with its joys, beauty, and delights. That is just the way things are.
We need to integrate our developing insights into our everyday activities. There are practices that can specifically support the assimilation of patience into our relationships and daily endeavors. Generosity, for instance, is viewed as having a direct correlation to patience because it is seen as an antidote to greed and clinging, which cause so much of our suffering.
When aspiring students came to the Buddha he taught them about generosity first before teaching them meditation. Living a moral life begins with a heart open and responsive to the needs of others. We can reframe our approach to generosity from “All right, I know I have to contribute, how little can I get away with giving?” to “Now I have an opportunity to be generous. I want to give as much as I can.” That shift in thinking can be so significant. It is no longer about me and my needs. The heart and mind become spacious and less constricted. You are encouraging a generous spirit within and allowing compassion to flourish more easily. Taking time to consider and respond to the needs of others is a joyful and effective way to develop patience.
One of the “Perfection” practices as taught by the Buddha is “relinquishing,” or “letting go.” It is a multifaceted practice that can be particularly challenging when we apply it to relinquishing opinions that we hold on to adamantly. Your budding practice of patience can be seriously tested when someone is challenging your views. You dig in and hold on no matter what evidence the other person presents. You offer the ancient indefensible position, “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with facts,” yet, oddly enough, the disagreement continues. When we don’t cling so firmly to our opinions, we can be open to the views of others. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily agree, but we honor the voice, the mind, and the heart of those around us. That is usually appreciated and others might be more willing to listen openly to your views. There’s no guaranteeing it will happen that way, but that is not the point. Your intention is what is important. You cannot control the results, only your actions. You honor yourself by acting with dignity and composure. You are also developing a depth of patience.
Sometimes we have been holding on to anger or bitterness related to a particular person for a very long time. We might think, What he or she did was absolutely unforgivable. Consider the possibility that perhaps nothing is unforgivable. For now, just consider being open to the possibility that maybe there is a way to find forgiveness even for what we have believed for so long to be unforgivable. Explore this mindfully. To forgive does not mean to condone. To forgive does not mean to forget. Sometimes to forget would be unwise, but to forgive is wise. When we offer forgiveness to another we offer freedom to ourselves, freedom from the unpleasant sensations of anger and bitterness.
It will come as no surprise that often the most difficult person to forgive can be oneself. Yet with patience and gentle determination, it can be done. Here is that familiar cycle: it can take a depth of patience to forgive, but forgiveness can help us develop a depth of patience.
ALLAN LOKOS is the founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City. He is the author of Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living and Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living. His writing has appeared in Tricycle magazine (for which he also led a month-long online retreat), The Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Back Stage newspaper, and the anthology, Audacious Creativity. Among the many places he has taught are Columbia University Teachers College, Marymount College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Rubin Museum, New York Insight Meditation Center, The New York Open Center, Tibet House USA, and Insight Meditation Community of Washington. Allan has practiced meditation since the mid-nineties and studied with such renowned teachers as Sharon Salzberg, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joseph Goldstein, Andrew Olendzki, Stephen Batchelor, Larry Rosenberg, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. He has also attended a number of weeklong teachings with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.