If you drive, you’ve probably experienced waiting at a traffic light, not moving off the millisecond the lights change and being hooted at by the impatient driver behind. For whatever reason, the driver cannot wait and we’re in their way. We share this planet with 7.7 billion other people, so we all have to wait at some point; waiting for the train, at the dentist, or the supermarket checkout. The trouble is, the world we live in today is built around pace, meeting deadlines and getting things done. In fact, research on Internet speeds shows that people start to lose patience after as little as a two-second delay. Living at a faster pace may mean we get more done, but when we’re forced to wait, we can become irritated, frustrated and even anxious, which builds up tension and stress in our body.
Patience is the ability to accept having to wait, be delayed or face setbacks without reacting. This means being more aware of what’s going on and working skilfully with thoughts and emotions that arise in our present-moment experience. If we’re unaware, our options are limited, so we’re more likely to react automatically. Practising patience is often a more skilful response.
So why is it that we find waiting such an unpleasant experience? The simple answer is that we’ve not learned to practise a deeper level of patience. Impatience is our mind’s way of leaning into the future; getting to the next moment, as if that moment is somehow more important and meaningful than our experience now. Impatience is a form of aversion, a desire to get rid of something. It’s also about resisting our experience, as we feel uncomfortable in the here and now.