Patience is…

…second to simplicity, according to sage Lao-tzu, sixth century B.C. author of the Tao Te Ching (Tao). Some sources cite the Tao as the second most translated work in history, preceded only by the Bible. As always, second place may or may not impress but what is impressive is that each of the Tao’s 81 sections (or 5000 Chinese characters) provides us with the constant contradictions inherent in life and then, most generously, offers us strategies within the Tao’s three central teachings–simplicity, patience, and compassion—for every moment we live.

That simplicity precedes patience is not difficult to appreciate. Before we can be, we must separate the strands of our life, acknowledging each strand unto itself as well as its relationship to every other strand. Patience emerges from the untangling but “the place of waiting is always trying and very difficult to live out…fear wants us to act too soon…patience, hard as it is, helps us outlast our preconceptions” (Mark Nepo).

If we practice patience rather than relying on a conditioned response—that which we have always known or done—our perception of what is possible changes completely. Within patience, the moment is fresh and free as in Moksha, a Sanskrit word meaning freedom or release. Deepak Chopra has referred to Moksha as “choiceless awareness,” in which the moment is emotionally free from the situation surrounding it.

In the freedom of Moksha, every moment is free because it is now, completely and fully present. Just as the strands separate to reveal simplicity, in Moksha, the present moment is removed from any future or past situation. The moment is free of any complication, of any condition. The moment is.

Like the moment, how we respond is free and fresh, separate from any situation that has established itself in the past or in the future. As long as we are completely present, we are as emotionally free as the moment. Essentially, we are not attached to the situation’s outcome– a central tenet of Buddhism—as yet another ancient tradition reveals itself within the practice of patience.

Yes, I am weaving in and out of the Vedas of Hinduism and the Tao of Taoism along with the Zen of Buddhism, an intricate weave of no beginning and no end. Continuously, I am startled by similarities—as if I were following the strands of the weave for the first time rather than following a familiar pattern—there is such crispness, freshness to this wondrous weave’s undulating eternity. There is such life in these traditions and thus, freedom.

Yet, the moments from my previous meandering among these traditions show themselves from time to time. There is unraveling yet to be done but the strands sort themselves as only memory can. It takes time but I wait for I know every moment I have is free as long as I have patience. It is rarely easy but with practice, patience increases.

“… When feeling urgent to find your place on this Earth…wait…and things as you fear them will, more often than not, shrink into the hard irreplaceable beauty of things as they are…of which you have no choice but to be a part” (Nepo).

And buried therein are the seeds of compassion.

(All Mark Nepo quotations are from The Book of Awakening

16 thoughts on “Patience is…

  1. Hi Karen – you have a delightful way with words, and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and journey with us. There is much, I think, that we can learn from these philosophies. They carry a wisdom and depth which, I fear, is often lost to us in the west. Patience. Simplicity. Kindness. Acceptance. All things that, if we have them, also allow us to understand – and then focus on – what actually matters about the human condition. And which, I fear, is too often forgotten by our busy societies. Even in the east, if my last visit to Bangkok is any guide!


    1. Hi, Matthew!

      I am dismayed at your Bangkok news for I suppose I do look with misty eyes to the east, although I am not now nor ever have been a world traveler yet as a reader, I have “visited” the planet. Eastern philosophy has always fascinated me.

      I agree that what we need to improve the human condition is in these ancient words and always has been. They are as relevant as they were when they were first written for in any age, we are humans no matter what new gadgets we think up or how many wars we fight. We live and we die and we wonder about both.

      I so admire your writing, Matthew; your generous words about my writing mean a great deal to me. Thank you.



  2. Lovely post, Karen! I really like the way you weave these different wisdom streams together. Simplicity, patience, and compassion are at the heart of so many wisdom traditions. I would do well to pay more attention to incorporating each one more intentionally into my daily life.


    1. As would we all, KJ. You remind that intention has such organizing power. Thank you for that.

      In reading the ancient traditions, I am constantly reminded of how easy it is to remove myself from my own consciousness or being but then, it is just as easy to be when I remember simplicity.



  3. Lovely, Karen. Your post reminded me of my beautiful step-dad, a Norwegian dock-builder from Brooklyn who used to cheer me up by reminding me “This too shall pass.” Yet he tailgated anyone traveling the speed limit, and was known to dump the contents of his dashboard ashtray in parking lots.

    Have you ever wondered why knee-jerk reactions are so often in conflict with what our hearts know?


    1. More and more, I appreciate what it requires of us to live just one day–physically and spiritually–let alone all the days of our lives. When I remind myself of this, it helps me to keep my head under my heart but it’s not a sure thing. Thanks for your kind words about the post.



  4. In this moment first light is coming through the trees. Moo is sleeping on her pillow. The fans are bringing in the outside air that is, for now, cooler than the inside temperature of the house. I am acting like a human and lining up the moments to follow, the things I have to do. Thanks for the gift of a pause to be right here, right now, in this moment.


  5. I'[ve read about this, wow – years ago now. I thought then “be patient – all goodness will come” and it after losing my brother, my dad and my mind for a while there, it did. I met my husband, who (sorry for the cliche) saved me. He knew (knows) little of patience, but I learned its lessons. No it’s certainly not easy, but it is exquisite – eventually. A kind of faith for non-believers too! Great post. X


    1. Hello, Shah!

      Glad you enjoyed the post. As you say, all happens in its own time, which is not easy to remember. It is interesting what stays with us no matter how long ago we experienced it. I suspect patience may play a role.



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