Notes on a Buddhist path

Dear Patience

November 18, 2012 By | 11 Comments

Patience is the companion of wisdom. ~ Saint Augustine

Welcome to the inaugural post at DHAMMA scribe. Ta-da! Its inception, gestation and birth have happened so quickly, I barely had time to think about what I would write once it was up and making its way over the viral waves of the blogosphere. As is most often the case of my posts I see what arises on writing day and there is my subject. Today was no different.

I spoke with a friend this morning and the subject of patience came up. Or more precisely, impatience.  Alright, it wasn’t just any impatience, it was mine. I’m impatient in so many areas of my life I get impatient just trying to sort them out. I want to get all my questions answered now as to what the Dhamma says about this, what it says about that, what it means if my life is going sideways and why can’t I get enlightened on a 10-day meditation retreat? I feel the pressures of work ramping up again and grow impatient with my resistance to dismiss feelings of irritation or temptations to sink into a vat of smooth, sticky, venomous gossip. When it came to my website I wasn’t in that big of a rush at first to get it up and humming, but then I found myself shifting into overdrive busily sorting out what to have on the home page, on the interior pages, finding the perfect photo to get across the message I was trying to convey, which was…what? Oh, right, a tranquil sea of presence in the cyclone of this suffering life. Well, I’ve got the cyclone part whirling like a blender. As for presence…

My biggest teacher right now is my cat, Jack. Less than a month ago he was my spy, vocal, voracious, 17 1/2 year old lover boy. In just a few weeks his health has taken a sharp turn for the worse. He’s stopped eating, drinks very little water and has lost a great deal of weight. Coming so closely after the death of my other cat, Clause, just three months ago, this has been a teetering lesson in not only patience, but letting go of any and all outcomes. With the challenges at work, the new website, my writing and editing duties, and Jack’s decline in health, I knew I was slipping off the tender edge of fortitude. When I got an email at work that read “Your mailbox is almost full”, I just about started to cry.

When I can find a sliver of quiet in my meditations, I witness the patience that allows for my love of Jack and my release of him. More than even my sense of pulsing grief and sadness is finding the patience to offer myself loving kindness through the process. I want to let go of Jack and I want to keep him alive until I’m ready to say goodbye. I want to move to the other side of this mired bridge of my suffering and witness his death with compassion and joy, knowing that with his end of life comes the end of his suffering as well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” The trees and clouds and birds ride the current of patience that asks nothing more from them than to be, to exist in this realm as elements congealed into thousands of brilliant forms. Patience asks us to move as nature through the emotions and stresses of the day, holding onto to nothing, asking for nothing as we float with the current of our life.

I’m happy about this new website. It feels like an opening; a bigger room to share the Dhamma with more people and at the same time a place for quiet conversations in the corner of our caring humanity. My desire to leave the work-a-day world and venture off to a cushion-hopping existence will find its tempered hunger quieting in the calm arms of patience. Jack’s death, whenever it may arrive, will mark a transition towards a keener binding with solitude, melding with my life in ways I cannot yet explore.

Now if I can just unplug that blender.

The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts

by Mary Oliver

For a long time
     I was not even
        in this world, yet
           every summer

every rose
     opened in perfect sweetness
        and lived
           in gracious repose,

in its own exotic fragrance,
     in its huge willingness to give
        something, from its small self,
           to the entirety of the world.

I think of them, thousands upon thousands,
     in many lands,
        whenever summer came to them,
           rising

out of the patience of patience,
     to leaf and bud and look up
        into the blue sky
           or, with thanks,

into the rain
     that would feed
        their thirsty roots
           latched into the earth—

sandy or hard, Vermont or Arabia,
     what did it matter,
        the answer was simply to rise
           in joyfulness, all their days.

Have I found any better teaching?
     Not ever, not yet.
        Last week I saw my first Botticelli
           and almost fainted,

and if I could I would paint like that
     but am shelved somewhere below, with a few songs
        about roses: teachers, also, of the ways
           toward thanks, and praise.

“The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst. © Beacon Press, 2006.

Image credit: Jack by the Fire, © Tess Wixted

Comments

  1. Such joy in seeing your very first post cross my screen. Saint Augustine said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Your wisdom will give birth to patience all in good time, my dear friend. How generous of Jack to be your guide.

    • Thank you, dear Michaelene, for your wisdom and for being my first DHAMMA scribe commenter. I’m grateful Jack deemed me fit to share this life with him. He is indeed a generous teacher.

  2. Patience and writing! Two of my favorite tools…and thanks for the lovely poem.

  3. Thank you for the post. I am in that stage of my life when I am learning to be patient and to look at things slowly. Sometimes I fail and I rush into actions. My wish is to fail as seldom as possible.

    • Thank you for your words, Lavinia. I know for myself it is in my failings where I learn the most, but the patience to love ourselves through it all is the greatest gift. Blessings to you on your journey.

  4. Hi Tess, I didn’t know you were new at this site. I just started following you here a couple of days ago because it’s a beautiful website.

    (I’m in the middle of transferring over into my new blog site myself over at blogspot, and I added you on my reader there.)

    I love your combination of Buddhism and poetry, two things together, both of which I love. [Did I just say love twice? oops…] I hope to import to my blog many posts on dhamma and poetry I’ve written, but for me they are rarely in such synchronous union, more jumbled-up like life itself.

    Namaste!

    • Thank you so much, okei, for your kind words. I just launched the site this past week so I’m delighted you found it. I transferred all my posts over from my former WordPress blog so I know how exciting and inspiring it can be to find a new home for your words.

      I’m glad you like the mixture of Buddhism and poetry; they’re two of my favourite subjects. And thank you also for including DHAMMA scribe on your reader list! I’ve checked out your website as well; beautiful words and images.

      With Metta,
      Tess

  5. Congratulations on your new website! The more people who can read your wise musings, the better, I say!

    It is amazing how quickly a patient mind can turn into an impatient mind. For myself, I find this is often when the object of my impatience catches on one of my life-issues. It’s a real red flag that when this happens, I have descended into the muck of my own stuff. Compassion, both for ourselves and the thing we are impatient with, can often be a salve in these cases. Except in a “10 items or less” line when the person at the front can’t remember their PIN. Then they are deserving of my righteous wrath (Hey, I’m in a hurry here!).

    Regarding instant enlightenment, the Dalai Lama is reported to have been asked why there are 4 stages of enlightenment; why we can’t become fully enlightened in one step. Apparently he replied that if we were to make the great leap all at once, the shock would make us go insane. That’s the excuse … ahhh … reason I use for my own slow pace. Unless it’s the reason for my insanity. Hmmm, a win either way.

    • Thanks for your kind words, David. From your typing fingers to the search engine gods.

      Patience does have the see-saw quality of back and forth rocking between peace and desire. Especially in the 10 items of less line. And aren’t we glad there are 4 stages of enlightenment while we waiting .

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