Challenge Day 13- Yoga is Patience
I am not a naturally patient person. In fact, I would say that my resting state of mind is rather impatient. In Sanskrit, patience, called Kshanti, also includes the attitude of forbearance and forgiveness. In Buddhism, patience is one of the paramitas, the six perfections that are evident in enlightened beings. Yoga has taught me patience, but I still have miles yet to walk on this path.
There were times that I wanted to do a yoga pose so badly that I forced and pushed my body. Rather than listening and being patient, the practice became almost punitive. When I was learning the forearm balance, called Pinchamayurasana, I remember trying the pose almost 20 times in a row one day without any break. With each try, not only did I get more and more frustrated with myself, but my physical performance deteriorated. The result of which was not proficiency in the pose, but a feeling of embarrassment. Later in the day, as I reflected on the immature impatience that I inflicted upon my body, I made a decision never to do that again. Baseball has a three strikes and you’re out rule, which I now apply to asana practice. Three good tries right in a row, then you’re out. I never try more than three times in a row.
Patience in yoga practice often means learning to listen to the body’s time. Just as a flower has its season to bloom and a fruit has its time to ripen, some things cannot be rushed. Patience requires trust in a greater power, a kind of faith that things are unfolding exactly as they are meant to and that you are doing what you need to be doing. Fear is the opposite of patience, just as fear is the root of many obstacles. If you worry whether or not you will ever succeed in a yoga pose or if your dream will come true, then the type of practice and actions you engage in will often be somewhat incoherent or even slightly antagonistic. But if you operate from the paradigm of faith, then you have both the patience and strength to wait with a full, happy and expectant heart.
Infinite patience often brings immediate results, but the results are not always what you think. When you are willing to put in the work and then wait for the results, the immediate effect is a deep and lasting peace. You may not see the results of your effort. The impact you make may only be evident years later. If you practice a yoga pose or work diligently on a new project, it may take decades before you see progress. There is an ancient story of a mason who sits near a giant rock and hammers 999 times with no result. But then, on the 1000th try, the massive stone splits in two. It is clear in hindsight that it is not the 1000th blow that matters, but the cumulative impact of 999 hits that laid the foundation. The yoga practice can sometimes feel like you are that mason hammering away at the stone of your body. Your job, however, is not to actually break the stone, but to cultivate the patient mind that is willing to stay the course with a happy disposition.
Patience means being kind to yourself and your world when things go wrong. Even if you find yourself taking steps backwards, losing ground gained, repeating old mistakes of the past, a patient heart accepts the reality and is willing to pick up the broken pieces and start again. The hidden secret of patience is great strength. When you choose patience, you walk on a path of deep, profound power. Patience is something you can learn with practice. Today, in your yoga practice, ask yourself how you can be more patient with yourself. Today, in your life, notice moments of impatience and ask yourself if you can choose to be more patient with your world. Notice the change in your heart when you decide to trust that things are happening exactly as they are meant to, that, no matter how annoying the world may seem, all is well. If it isn’t good, patience says, it isn’t over yet, so keep waiting.
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