Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Paramita of Patience

Much of the meditation practice we did last night and the discussion afterward was about cultivating patience.  I don't find myself to be particularly patient in many regards.  I always want to rush ahead to the completion of a project, to get the most done possible, to be on to the next task. 

The discussion talked about how by following our impulses to get so much done, we are bucking the flow of nature.  If we chose what to do and then flowed with it in a more steady or relaxed way, things might go a lot better for us.  For example, when we rush we miss many small details that can lead to more interruptions, sparking more impatience, and ultimately we experience it as painful because our expectations about the event are not met or are disrupted.

I find it hard to live outside of expectations.  I prefer to imagine amazing possibilities and treat them as though they are real.  I like to think that the outcomes I have decided I want are good and perfect, and that I am going to get them.  Something that I am learning from having done this for years is that it may be true that anything I imagine can come to be, but often what I want is not necessarily what is best overall.  I still end up rather tired, discouraged, hurt or sad even after getting what I thought I wanted.

The secret to all this must lie in becoming more present and less caught up in outcomes, less attached to a future that hasn't yet unfolded.  What I wonder then, though, is how can you plan ahead if you aren't attached to what happens at all?  I think I must be missing something about the teaching.

Why would you continue to plan ahead and put forth effort into the future if you truly didn't care which way the future went?  Put another way, if you are completely content right now all the time, why would you bother to do anything at all?  I must be stuck believing that the result of non-attachment is some kind of fatalism in which the person ceases to care about actions at all.  I am pretty sure that this is not the case, and that instead the person cares a lot about actions and does them somehow without thinking that it guarantees a certain outcome.  I sometimes understand this with my own actions and sometimes do not.  It is so easy to become angry and frustrated when the result I wanted doesn't happen or is even completely opposite to what I was hoping for.  I can see why Buddhists say that desire is the cause of all suffering.

Currently I am caught up in the idea that moving to a certain location is what I really want and will be the best thing possible for me and Derek.  I then have a simultaneous fear that if we do move there, it will actually be a burden or not as good as I thought, and cause us turmoil.  There is desire for something sweet and convenient and big and bright and shiny.  There is fear that it isn't actually as sweet as I think it is and that maybe there is something rotten underneath the shiny veneer.  My mind wants to understand if it is the specific place itself that might be excellent or horrible, or if it is intrinsic in all things.  There is a fear of choosing wrong somehow, of perhaps picking a home arbitrarily that I am attached to as being "good", and it turning out to be a loud and scary place, too expensive or full of broken parts that need repairing. 

Ah!  The attachment is to having only good come out of moving and only good to come out of picking a specific home in general.  But, how is that possible?  It is unreasonable to expect that one's home will always be a source of comfort and joy.  Just as often it is a source of discontent as projects crop up that need to be done, events happen to the home or nearby that cause stress, and people and money and the elements at large flow in and out of the place.  Being attached to only the "good" parts of a home - nice lighting, comfortable furniture, space to cook and clean and play, being in a nice central location - means that I will be really very disappointed when it is hard to move the furniture in, when I have to ask help to get everything painted and set up nicely, when I have to work harder to afford new curtains or replace the deck, or when my drive to places I want to go is inconvenient.  These are things that are annoying me now about my current home, and it is best if I understand that these things will happen no matter where I go.

In this specific case, the decision to move at all or to pick a particular house will have to do with some logical and practical considerations.  And, because I am human, also with that passionate joy that comes from picking out something that I actually like and want.  Second-guessing decisions that haven't even been made yet is a waste of my energy. (Such as worrying that I am attached to a house I haven't even walked inside of yet and what that means - when it is as simple as deciding on a different house if it turns out we don't like the one I currently have in mind!)

Patience for my work will also be good to cultivate.  I cannot force clients to come in or to spend more money at my studio, even if I want or think I need more money.  It would be a better use of my energy to relax and be present for each tattoo that I am able to work on, and to relax and be present for each drawing I work on until more and more of them start happening.  Pushing toward future work that isn't even happening yet is very wasteful and only makes me feel bad.  Doing what I can right now and doing it with my full attention will be far more effective and will yield better results that I can be happy with as they unfold.  Stressing about lack when I actually could attend to something real and right now is pretty ridiculous, anyway, even though I find myself doing that a lot of the time.

It turns out patience is a difficult virtue and that I don't seem to understand it very well.  I will practice it more and see how I feel about patience in a week or a month.  Perhaps I will have changed a lot in that time.  I'll try not to expect too much though!  I'll even have to patient with myself (which I'll bet is the point of all of these practices, after all.)  For today, I will be patient towards my tendency to procrastinate about drawings.  If I can get even one drawing done well this afternoon, I will consider my day a success.  Off I go.  :)

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