Being that my new year’s resolution is to be more content with living the questions in my life versus rushing towards the answers, I found useful the advice in Allan Lokos’s new book, “Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living.” Lokos is the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center in New York City, and the author of “Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living.”
Here are the three themes that I found most helpful in his book.
1. See things as they are.
In the Buddhist tradition, wisdom is said to arise when we see things as they really are, not as they appear to be. Yet to transform our usual views, opinions, and perceptions so that we can see the true nature of things can be a challenging process. It is a part of our journey that can require great patience both with ourselves and with others. Wisdom is all too often painfully earned. As Confucius said, “By three ways do we attain wisdom. The first is by contemplation, which is the noblest; the second is by imitation, which is the easiest; the third is by experience, which is the bitterest.” Seeing things as they really are, rather than through the distorted lens of conditioned perception, can be challenging to the intellect as well as to our patience.
2. Give up control.
Yeah …. right! But I found his words really do help you breathe a sign of relief … as if your job to control everything in your world has been lifted and assigned to someone else, so that you don’t have as much responsibility and don’t bear as much weight in your daily stuff. Per Lokos:
We have much less control than we might think over causes and conditions that converge to bring about the ever-changing circumstances of our lives. The events of every moment come about from the contingent factors that precede them. Nothing exists by itself; everything is interconnected. We can often see the short-term connections, butt the bigger picture, the universal law of cause and effect … is often obscured to the untrained, unfocused mind. With practice we can learn to put full effort into our actions without our happiness being dependent upon the ensuring results. To do this requires a clear understanding of our intention as well as insight into the connected nature of all phenomena.
3. Forget power, fame, and money.
This one was refreshing for me to read because it ties into a reflection by spiritual author Henri Nouwen that I read every morning to set me straight:
Somewhere deep in our hearts we already know that success, fame, influence, power, and money do not give us the inner joy and peace we crave. Somewhere we can even sense a certain envy of those who have shed all false ambitions and found a deeper fulfillment in their relationship with God. Yes, somewhere we can even get a taste of that mysterious joy in the smile of those who have nothing to lose.
If you’re lucky, you have a few friends like that. I do. And when I read this meditation every morning, I picture their faces, and suddenly the need to get promoted at work or acquire some recognition for my blog disappears, and I feel okay with me even if I stay in a cubicle and take orders as best I can. I don’t need to be a queen to be happy. In fact, that responsibility could make me miserable.
Lokos’s work was just recognized by the New York Times in an article right before Christmas that concentrated on coping with travel stress. I found that he five pointers he lists for anxious travelers also work for mundane tasks throughout the day. Here they are:
Q. What are five things travelers can do to self soothe while en route?
A. 1. Accept the reality that most of what causes stress in travel is out of your control. In fact, you have much less control of things in general than you might like to believe.
2. Feeling rushed is one of the leading causes of stress. Go to airports and bus and train stations extra early. While others may be rushing frantically, you can be strolling leisurely.
3. Check in with yourself. Notice what you are feeling in a particular moment. If it’s annoyance, frustration or fatigue, don’t get all caught up in it. Don’t cling to the sensations.
4. Travel lightly. When I arrive at my destination for the holidays I announce to everyone, “I hope you like this sweater I’m wearing because you’re going to see it a lot.” And mail rather than carry gifts. Even one shopping bag is a nuisance.
5. Those around you are doing their best. Offer a smile that says, “Yes, I know it’s difficult, but we’ll all get there.” Perhaps a little later than scheduled, but you’ll get there. Let someone go ahead of you; it’s part of the holiday spirit.