Notes on Patience

These notes are compiled from four discussion sessions on the topic of Patience.

There are four modes of practice:  Impatient, Patient, Taming, And Calming.

For example, impatient is when one scolds another who is scolding him.

Patient is when one does not scold another who is scolding him.  When we return negative things in kind, that is a form of impatience.

Patience includes the virtues of forbearance, forgiveness and tolerance.  The group talked quite a bit about the difference or similarities between tolerance and acceptance.  Tolerance appears to contain somewhat negative connotation.  Acceptance could also contain a negative connotation but dictionary definitions indicate this is not the case.

Patience is the foundation of metta (metta meditation).


The source of being impatient can be internal or external.  The group identified some issues and perspectives including familiarity with people, i.e. family members, co-workers can make being patient more challenging. We can become impatient with ourselves due to high expectations or encountering things we do not like.

To address a group member’s observation that she is too patient to the point of being taken advantage of, Thay Thanh likened patience to balance, similar to walking the middle path.  He used the metaphor of watering trees.  Some trees need little water (thick trunks, hard wood) and others need a lot of water (soft wood).  If you water too much or too little depending on the tree, we will kill it.  We need to learn to recognize to “water” trees just right.  We need to know who or what we are dealing with and adjust our mindfulness accordingly to keep in balance and not become impatient. 

Thay Thanh told us the story about a young boy who failed first grade three times. He was taken to the temple and failed at being a novice monk.  He was taken to a forest temple where the Master encouraged him to concentrate only on his breathing.  The novice grew into a master monk through his practice of concentration on breathing and meditation.  Through his practice, he remembered how to chant, etc. from his past lives. We learn from this that people have various capacities to learn in this life.  We need to recognize this, accept them and be patient when dealing with them.

When dealing with familiar people, family, co-workers, neighbors, fellow temple members, the human nature is to forget the 99 things that people do well.  We have a tendency to focus on the 1 thing not done well. We need to learn to focus on the good things, not the bad things in our interactions with others and with ourselves.  We also have a tendency to dwell on our own mistakes rather than on the good things we have done.

“Familiarity breeds contempt.”  Expectations lead to frustrations.  A group member shared that he feels we structure what we accept and approve of based on our values. We create our structure of judgment and acceptance for our own actions and the actions of others. (Sam)

Listening and caring are key attributes of being patient.  Sometimes, the best response is no response at all.  Sometimes, a non-verbal response such as a touch or a smile, is more appropriate and powerful than words.

When we ask ourselves “why do I not have patience” the answers are what we need to address to control our impatience.

Discussion opened with going around the room asking for our examples of impatience. One person described being impatient with her slow and methodical sister while they were vacationing together.  Another speaker described growing frustration and impatience with a car repair shop.  A third speaker described her impatience with herself in taking care of personal legal documents before traveling overseas. 

Thay Thanh responded to our examples with the advice that we should not be in a hurry to get anywhere, because we already are where we are.  We only exist in the moment.

We should not cling to any notion.  Patience is acceptance.  We are programmed for impatience and have to train our minds to control our own expectations, to accept things as they are, and to move on.

No matter where we are, we are still who we are.  Our mind is always with us as we move about in our daily lives.

Patience makes us more mindful in the moment. Right now is the time to practice.  We may not ever have a second chance.

We spent a lot of time on the observation by Thay Thanh that we can only help or influence people we are connected to, both in this life and the next.  We observed that connections in this life have been influenced by connections in our past lives.  Connections we make in this life will influence those in our next. In terms of giving and providing assistance to others in this life, we already have or will develop a connection with the people we engage with in this manner.  The connection is key to giving in a mindful way, and to receiving in a mindful way.

Patience can be calming.  Thay Thanh reminded us of the 16 steps of breathing and that step number 4 is calming the body.  (Read the Anapanasati Sutra, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.)

We reviewed the readings from the Books of Fours, Fives and Sixes that Thay Thanh shared with us at the beginning of this topic of discussion.  The readings focused on the patience of endurance.  What should one practice enduring?  Patiently enduring forms, sounds, odors, tastes, tactile objects and mental phenomena.  In essence, we must be patient with our own sensory experiences. Only we experience our sensory perceptions, so only we can deal with them.  Why complain to someone else who may not be experiencing the same thing we are?

This concludes the topic of patience.

Here are some other reminders from Thay Thanh on various topics:

-       We should use this life to get ready for the next life.  Dying is like the last act of a play.  We should applaud and welcome the next play.

-       Merit is our best armour, our best preparation for the next life.  Do something good for the sake of doing it. Don’t worry about the merit that will be derived from the action.

-       Make your own decisions in life, not what someone else decides for you.  Choose only what you need, not everything that is available. For example, when you are ill and go to the pharmacy, you will only take the medication you need, not every medication for sale in the pharmacy.

Mark Palamara

February 11, 2015 

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