“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.“
~ Joyce Meyer
Do you believe that patience is a virtue? Is there ever a time when impatience serves you well? How is patience related to mindfulness?
Patience is one of those things that’s easier to talk about than it is to learn. Of all the life skills that we endeavor to instill in our young ones, it seems like patience is one of the most underrated.
In today’s world of mass-marketed instant gratification, the art of biding your time and waiting patiently can seem especially quaint and outdated. Vast swaths of our society and entire multibillion-dollar industries are devoted to shrinking the wait times in our lives to the vanishing point.
You’ve probably heard the old saying “good things come to those who wait.” Well, Amazon and the entire online shopping industry certainly don’t seem to think so. We used to pick up the phone and speak to a real human being in some faraway place when we wanted to order something that couldn’t be purchased at a local shop.
Then we knew we could expect to wait for at least a week to 10 days before the said item would show up on our doorstep, delivered by a friendly smiling postman or woman. For extra-large items or things coming from overseas, we might have expected to wait up to a month or more.
Admittedly, once such temporal barriers are overcome, very few of us here in the USA would want to go back to the old ways. We’ve become used to clicking the mouse and receiving our goodies by the next day, or two at the most. But obviously that’s not good enough, it’s fascinating to watch the industry endeavor to make same-day delivery a reality.
I suppose that once we get there, it won’t be good enough until it gets to the point that our package is on the doorstep by the time we’ve stepped away from the screen. Rest assured they’re working on it! Autonomous delivery robots are now in action in Seattle and Orange County.
I just spent 10 days in Melbourne Australia, and one of the things that struck me was the proliferation of small, independent retail shops. Perhaps it’s on the way out, or perhaps it’s just the culture, but people are still in the habit seeking out specialty retailers who do one thing well and supporting them in person.
Our musical listening habits are another area where we can put this phenomenon under the microscope. Spotify and other streaming services are vexed by the problem that many listeners fast-forward to the next piece of music within the first 30-to-45 seconds of a song. The entire digital music industry is designed around speed, compression, and rapid consumption.
Yet vinyl is stubbornly slow. An LP record plays out in precisely the time frame and sequence that the musician intended. The up-to-a-half-mile-long groove microscopically carved into the surface will only reveal its treasures by a tiny diamond stylus traversing the actual soundwave in real-time. Aside from lifting the needle and skipping tracks, a record demands to be heard at its own pace.
For whatever reasons, people just seem to have a problem with patience. From toddlers with tablets to teens with screens, grownups of the world seem determined to eliminate any of the ‘in-between times’ that used to be part of growing up. It often seems like people are conflating the concept of boredom with the practice of patience.
Engineering all of the empty moments from our lives instills the message that patience is a problem. And yet ask any artist, without blank space on a canvas or the empty moments in a musical score, there is no context for creativity to emerge. Recent studies have shown that overscheduled kids wind up suffering from anxiety rather than becoming superstars or standout scholars.
My current working hypothesis is that patience is the flip-side of mindfulness. I’ve recently tested it out by doing a little thought experiment in my day-to-day life. Like many of you, I’ve got one of those miraculous little slabs of silicone and circuits designed by Apple to fit in my pocket and entice me with its shiny screen at the touch of my finger.
Apparently, I’ve got more computing power in the palm of my hand than it took to fly the Apollo spacecraft. But last time I checked, standing in line at the supermarket is not the same as going to the moon. Teams of engineers behind every app and interface are determined to help me fill every moment with distraction, information, and communication. For the longest time, I simply succumbed and said ‘sure, why not’?
After all, there might be some new up-to-the-minute development in a faraway news story I’m following. What if someone commented on something I posted somewhere? Perhaps a person I’ve emailed recently replied? I realized that these are all red herrings in the race to the bottom of the well of distraction. 99 percent of the things my phone is capable of do not require my immediate attention.
Certainly, there are times when it’s responsible to keep an eye on my communications. If my daughter is stranded and it’s my day to pick her up, I want to know about it right away. But the rest of the world has no right to demand that level of urgency to my replies. But giving in to my brain’s demand for dopamine is another story. The algorithms are all too happy to supply that seductive hit, and I’m determined to defy them.
Since I had a nice break while traveling, I’ve been putting a new practice in place. I’ve reconfigured my phone so that my reminders and to-do list are at the top of the heap. Whenever I have one of those ‘in-between times’ I do my best to simply be still and patiently pay attention to my senses, my surroundings, and whatever thoughts or feelings might be bubbling up. In other words, a moment of mindfulness.
What I find remarkable in my new dance with digital is the quality of calm reflection that has become my baseline, and how out of the background of empty space I see goals, priorities, and ideas emerge. Whenever my monkey mind is tempted to subvert one of these moments by ‘checking in’ I try to remind myself that it will all be there waiting for me and that the world will keep turning and events will keep churning regardless of whether I’m paying attention or not.
We might well be heading towards a time when the practice of patience becomes a superpower. When you reframe patience as the flipside of mindfulness you’ve got a leg up on the teeth-gnashing hordes who haven’t got a moment to spare.
Dance on with delight through your day-to-day life, much love until next Monday!
Dance First Research Spotlight:UCLA’s Kelsey Laird, PhD invites you to participate in a historic conscious dance survey!
This week’s Dance First Members Spotlight shines on Postdoctoral Research Scholar Kelsey Laird, PhD! She’s a Clinical Instructor conducting research on mind-body medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Have you ever wondered why there’s not much scientifically verified information about the health and wellness benefits of conscious dance? Well, it’s because hardly anyone has bothered to do the research! Here’s your chance to help correct that, and please pass this along far and wide among your various dancing communities. This survey will stay open through the end of August, so thanks for adding your .02’s to the research and passing it along!
“UCLA researchers Kelsey Laird, PhD and Helen Lavretsky, MD, MS, are conducting a study to determine the characteristics and motivations of conscious dancers, as well as the perceived benefits of participation. It is their hope that this study will increase awareness of the therapeutic potential of these practices and serve as pilot data to inform the design of a randomized controlled trial. Please help make their vision happen by sharing your experiences!”
For any questions, comments, or suggestions, Kelsey Laird, PhD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details and to complete the 10-minute survey, go here:http://bit.ly/dancesurvey1