Twenty some years experience with meditation has surely taught me about patience, right? Yet I still find it one of my biggest challenges. If anything, it's helped me to witness the impatience within me. Every little thing helps! I've especially been feeling impatient (or more a mixture of restless, scared and excited all rolled into one) about the pub. date of my book that is coming in four short weeks! While meditation has certainly been helpful, I find it also helpful to surround myself with books and people who shed an enormous light on what I need at any given time in my life. Sometimes these books and people uncannily appear at the exact moment I need them to appear. Allan Lokos's book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, was like that. I highly recommend his book for anyone who has struggled with being patient, whether with kids, family, co-workers or life situations, or for anyone who could just use a little more patience in their lives. I was so fortunate to be able to interview Allan on the subject of his most recent book. Here he is to talk about patience:
1. What made you decide to write a book on patience?
I've known for a long time that I wanted to write about patience. I have been teaching about patience for several years and the response always indicates that people are concerned about their impatience and want to do something about it. It happened that my editor and publisher at Tarcher/Penguin had been thinking about doing a book about patience just when I presented the idea so the timing was perfect. The actual moment of propagation was one evening when a dear friend said, "Just about every mistake I have ever made and every unkind word I have ever spoken might have been avoided if I had been more patient." I realized the same was true for me and I sat down at the computer and started writing.
2. Have you always been a patient person, or did you learn about patience over time? Please describe your journey to patience.
No, I was raised in a difficult and rather harsh environment where patience was rarely evident. The practice of meditation, which I began almost twenty years ago, was the key to my learning about, and practicing greater patience.
4. In your chapter on Patience with the Self, you write about how anger or irritability with ourselves can lead to impatience. How can we learn to be more patient with ourselves and others the moment anger or irritability arises?
For me the vehicle has been meditation because we learn to become aware (mindful) as thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise within us. As we practice we see that these phenomena, and all phenomena that arise, will always die away if we let them do so, meaning if we don't cling to them they pass. As we learn about the true nature of things, which Buddhists call wisdom, we see that we don't have to react to every thought or emotion that arises. We can allow a pause during which we observe what is going on and in that pause patience has an opportunity to arise.
5. Anticipation can also cause impatience. Currently I'm in the process of getting a book published. This is all new for me and all the details of what needs to get done often seem overwhelming. I'm scared and excited at the same time. I'm sure others feel this way before weddings, the birth of a child and before buying a new house or getting a new job. What are some ways to bring patience into our lives in the midst of big, life-changing events?
Some big events are indeed life-changing although, in my experience, not as many as we might think. Whether a book enjoys great success or not it changes very little in one's life. It certainly doesn't change who we are. The birth of a child will likely cause changes in a family's dynamic but a second child usually causes little change. Again, when we understand that patience and impatience are feelings we see that we don't have to get carried away by every feeling that arises. The feeling is going to pass away because it is its nature to do so. Seeing this can allow room to simply be with the joy of our approaching publication date, the birth of a child, or our up-and-coming wedding. Sure, there can be lots to do but why not enjoy the preparations for these wonderful life experiences?
6. I know many people these days feel stress. It seems like life is moving much faster than it ever did before. Perhaps this has to do with how we are able to connect to the world through technology. We can get worldwide news instantaneously and can communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime. What can people do to bring more patience into their lives when they feel overwhelmed at work or at home?
Yes, things are happening faster and our technological devices seem to become more incredible every day. The important point is that all this technology is being experienced by human beings whose core needs and desires are the same as they were thousands of years ago. Five hundred years before the Common Era the Buddha taught about suffering, stress, and unhappiness. There were no computers, smartphones, or jet planes back then but sentient beings experienced the same emotions we feel today.
Bringing more patience into ones life requires allowing the spaciousness for patience to arise. That means learning to become aware of when impatience is arising and realizing that patience is an essential quality in the development of enduring happiness. Then, as intelligent beings we look to make intelligent decisions. There are no shortcuts. It takes patience to develop patience.
7. Many of my friends tell me that raising children tests their patience more than anything else. How can parents learn to have more patience with their children?
Friends of mine have a pillow embroidered with the words, "Insanity is inherited. You get it from your children." The only thought I might add is to never lose sight of how much you love the child you have brought into the world. That can be enormously challenging at times but when things get rough, it might be all you have. I was a single father raising a daughter in New York City. Once I learned to deal with drugs, sex, and crime things got easier.
8. In this fast pace world, so many people are struggling to have their opinions and ideas heard. How can patience allow us to become better listeners and help us effectively communicate with others?
My research revealed that the single greatest cause of impatience was when a person feels (s)he is not being heard. Realize that, like you, the other person wants to be heard. Observe your mind when you are listening. Are you truly listening or are you busy preparing a response? Has the agree/disagree mind kicked in? A person with real listening skills is rare and admired for their patience and wisdom.
9. What is the greatest lesson you have learned in bringing more patience into your life?
I'm happier; life is more joyful; things flow more easily.
10. Thank you for answering my interview questions. Is there anymore information you would like to add?
When we become impatient we tend to look outside of ourselves at what we think is causing our impatience. Your impatience can only exist within you. Look within to make meaningful changes.
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 Stagenewspaper, 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.