Training Your Mind: Cultivate Patience – Slowing Down
During the early days of my IT career, I could just put my hoodie up and lose myself in the code I was writing. Fully focusing on the task at hand was natural for me at that time, so I didn’t realize the value of that skill. Over the years in my quest to be more efficient and achieve more, I became an expert multitasker at work. A few years later, when my daughter was born, my responsibilities increased multifold so, of course, I applied my multitasking skills at home. To an extent that while cooking I would hold my daughter in one arm and cook with the other. My rationale: I wanted to spend as much time as I could with her, so I would feel less guilty about leaving her to go to work everyday. Even though I was good at multitasking, I never truly felt that I was spending enough time with my daughter and always felt rushed and stressed.
My perspective on multitasking started changing one balmy evening when my husband and I were out walking with our young daughter. As kids do, she was taking her time, looking at things, darting from one place to the other and of course touching everything she could. Without realizing it what we were doing, we were walking slowly letting her set the pace. One older gentleman who saw this, told us “You are great parents; you are going at your child’s pace!” At that time, being a new parent I was full of self-doubt, always second guessing my every decision. So this one kind sentence from a stranger not only made me feel better about myself, but also sowed the seed of a life lesson that I kept coming back to over the years. This is where my journey to train my mind in cultivating patience began.
Why Training Our Mind to Cultivate Patience?
Patience is our ability to stay calm in the face of adversity. We all experience so many frustrating or anger provoking incidents in our daily lives; like an unexpected traffic jam on the way to work, long lines at the grocery store, long wait times for customer service calls, your child wanting to wear a pair of socks that you can’t find in the morning, your trusted hairdresser cut your hair too short and you have a wedding to go to this weekend. We have all felt the need to just let loose of that frustration and get angry. Getting angry does seem to help relieve some pressure for the short term, but it does not give us any satisfaction. It actually ends up adding more stress to our already stressed mind and ruins relationships.
Training our mind to cultivate patience can help us respond to incidents rather than react in the moment. When we cultivate the ability to respond it takes the power away from circumstances and puts it back in our own hands; which brings awareness and clarity of purpose. The most immediate impact of this change is better mental health, better focus, better relationships and eventually true peace and joy.
The First Step in Cultivating Patience is Slowing Down.
Slowing Down does not mean becoming lazy.
Slowing Down means fully focusing on one thing at a time and taking your time with everything you do.
This is opposite to our current social norms. Social norms reward the ability to multitask. In most workplaces, multitasking is considered a valuable skill and a person with this skill perceived to be more efficient and dedicated. At one point, we are all guilty of checking messages during conference calls or taking a work call at our child’s sports event or checking social media updates at the dinner table. Our attention always seems to be fragmented.
Social media and access to information has created a culture of always being on. Our world has transformed into a global village where something is always happening. To fit into the rapidly changing world around us we learn to multitask so we can do more and know more in the limited amount of hours we have in a day, so we do not get left behind!
To succeed in this quest, we learn to live with fewer hours of sleep and compromise our health. Even though it seems like we are not stopping throughout the day, we still miss deadlines or are late to events. This adds constant frustration and stress to our daily lives and makes us impatient. Without us realizing it, this leads to gradual compromise in the quality of work, quality of knowledge, and eventually quality of life and relationships.
We have so much to do, how do we find time to slow down?
Our days are fully occupied to an extent that we keep putting off things that we have always wanted to do. When we are already putting off things due to lack of time, how can we survive without multitasking!
When I was starting my daily meditation practice, I always found excuses to stop the practice because I did not have time. My daughter was too young or my work responsibilities were increasing or my husband was traveling. There was always something happening, and I was always rushing. I did not like the feeling of these uncontrolled activities that were filling up my days.
During that time, I happened upon this book Take Your Time by Eknath Eswaran. This book truly changed my life. I recommend everyone to read this book one time in their life.
I urge you to go through the following simple exercise that I learned from this book. Remember to be kind to yourself during this exercise; be non-judgemental and truthful.
- Make a list of things you do daily.
- From this list figure out which activities are important or beneficial; the activities that add to your knowledge or give you satisfaction.
- From the rest of the activities, pick two activities and eliminate those for a few weeks from your daily life.
- For example, do not check your phone for messages or social media updates first thing in the morning. Instead of this, use this 15 minutes to take a walk outside or do your favorite exercise routine or meditation.
- Repeat this exercise periodically until you find a routine that is unhurried.
You can also start your day just 30 minutes early. Don’t fill this 30 extra minutes with unnecessary activities that speed up your mind. The goal of getting up 30 minutes early is to set an unhurried calm pace to your day. You can give yourself time to eat an unhurried breakfast or get into work a few minutes early so you can have a friendly chat with your co-worker or drive your child to school without speeding and urging your child to hurry.
An unhurried and calm pace is infectious. When you are unhurried you inspire other people around you to be unhurried. Making these small changes to slow down are big steps in training our mind to thrive in the activities that are important to us, increase focus, and improve relationships.
The journey of training our mind to cultivate patience does not end here. In future posts we will talk more about the next steps in cultivating patience.