Last week in this space we talked about the principle of ‘giving out is taking in’. We first looked at the example of baking an apple pie: how the person baking and serving apple pie is the one most immersed in the essence of it. Then we looked at a parent’s presence during a daily routine such as bathing time. We saw how the attitude of allowing and accepting created a wonderful model for their child to emulate when their time comes to be patient with someone else. That example led to my promise to show you the spiritual gift patience has to offer all who dare embrace it.
Haven’t we all, parents and care givers, sighed “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me fast!” at one time or another? We all know intuitively how beneficial patience is and how much we need it; yet, it remains an elusive quality, extremely hard to incorporate and manifest. I have yet to meet a person who could claim patience as entirely their own. In order to get a grip on patience, it may be worth our while to explore it a little more.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary we find the following as one of the explanations of the word ‘patient’: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.. But there is no mention of any benefit in being patient. Let’s delve a little deeper. You may have heard the statement: “In your patience possess ye your souls,” taken from the New Testament (Luke 21:19). It is attributed to Jesus who is admonishing his friends to be steadfast in times of uncertainty and crisis. What exactly does that mean, ‘to possess your soul in patience’? How are ‘patience’ and ‘knowing one’s soul’ connected? And what is the role of the word ‘possess’ in this context?
Again, the Merriam-Webster dictionary comes in handy. The first line in the Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word ‘possess’ is: to have and hold as property; own. The word ‘own’, as in ‘your own’ is interesting. Together with ‘to have and to hold’ this points in the direction of: getting to know intimately. From this perspective the quoted expression would mean: “In patience you will get to know your soul”. It would be a gift, wouldn’t it, to get to know your soul a little better. But then, how does patience help you to get to know your soul better? What exactly is it that patience does to you that makes you get into touch with your soul more?
Let’s go back to the example of children’s bath time, the daily routine at the end of a busy day, when parents are eager to get on with it in order to have some quiet time alone. Often, being patient in this type of situation means putting your personal agenda on hold for a bit, while you go through the motions the situation demands. You may have sort of zoomed-out a bit and your half absent-mindedness allows you to be with the kids, help and assist them where necessary, and in the pace that is required, while inwardly chewing over far more pressing items on your agenda, such as yesterday’s meeting or tomorrow’s presentation. While your calm assistance is to be preferred over a hurried and irritable attitude, it does not begin to mine the gold the field of patience has to offer.
The art of identifying and receiving the gift true patience holds, requires that you are fully present in the moment – the very moment which a minute before made you decide to half zoom out and go through the motions. You interrupt the stream of consciousness that has taken possession of your mind, and instead you tune in completely on what’s going on now. There is a reason why you are at this place at this moment. And that reason has to do with what you can offer this moment. Look deep inside and identify a spiritual quality that you resonate with, such as hope, peace, harmony, gentleness, joy, beauty, love, etc. Now find a way to manifest this quality in the situation at hand. An example might clarify what I mean.
Suppose you’ve identified ‘beauty’ as a spiritual quality that you resonate with especially. How can you manifest beauty in the ritual of children’s bath time? Focus on the beauty that is a child, and on the beauty of play. Surround yourself with beauty in the bathroom, such as pretty towels, fancy soap. Engage your child and together create a beautiful soap-sud-scape on the bathroom wall. Put on some lovely music. Lots of possibilities.
Another example would be the waiting room at a pediatrician’s office. Instead of getting annoyed or zooming out, grab this opportunity to turn within and choose a spiritual quality you could focus on. Suppose this time you choose ‘hope’. In what way could you manifest hope in an ordinary doctor’s waiting room? Your child, no doubt, has been looking around the place and has found something that stirred an interest, be it a poster on the wall, or some toys in the corner. To express hope you could find a way to encourage your child to discover the world. Perhaps you could look at the poster together, fantasizing and imagining. Or you could read a book to your child or build a tower together.
In both instances, bath time and beauty – waiting room and hope, your attitude and action are connected to your inner spiritual compass that you have deliberately set. Your attitude and action have welled up from the level of the soul and are infusing the three dimensional world with spiritual light. When your hands express the music of your heart, you’ll start to understand what this getting to know your soul-business is all about. You’re no longer just a parent who’s willing to put their own agenda on hold for the sake of their child, you’ve become a truly patient parent, meaning: you’ve become an inspiration, both to yourself and your child, because the intent of your soul is shining through in what you do, for all to see and enjoy. And that is the gift patience holds for all of us, if only we know where to look!
(ps: My book A Parent’sToolbox for Spiritual Growth contains an easy to follow twelve-step system to help you identify the spiritual qualities that particularly appeal to you.)