Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cultivating patience

We started our blog a bit out of order so I wanted to go back and give the background story for the questions we’ve been reflecting on the past 2 weeks. 

At this point in the Mahabharata, the Pandava brothers find themselves in the woods hunting deer.  After an unsuccessful hunt, they are tired and thirsty. Yudhishthira, the eldest brother, sends his brothers out one by one to search for water and none of them return.  He follows closely behind Bhima, the last brother he sends out, and as he emerges into the clearing at the edge of the forest he sees a beautiful crystal lake and all four of his brothers lying dead on the shore.  An “invisible voice” speaks to him, explaining that the lake belongs to him and as each brother approached thirsty he asked them to answer his questions before drinking.  None of the brothers honored his request and so he killed each of them in turn.  The voice asks if Yudhishthira will answer the questions before drinking or meet the same fate.  Yudhishthira agrees to answer his questions, and these are the questions we have been discussing the past couple of weeks.  (Spoiler alert – he successfully answers all the questions and the “invisible voice”, who we learn is really the voice of his father Dharma, restores the slain brothers back to life.)  We’ll continue to look at more of Dharma’s questions over the next few weeks, but let’s talk a little more about this story first.

To me, this is a story about patience.  The “invisible voice” acted impatiently and killed the brothers without recognizing that they were suffering a long day of hunting and perhaps it would have been difficult for them even to talk without having some water first.  The brothers acted impatiently by putting their need for water above the needs of the owner of the lake.  The root of the word patience in Latin and Greek means suffering.  In Hebrew the root of the word means to endure.   So being patient means that it’s not going to be easy, that we have to set our needs aside for a while and there is discomfort in doing that. 

To be patient means to see another perspective, whether it is our own or someone else’s.  It is a practice of loving kindness.  When we pause before honking our horn at the car in front of us, or before banging our groceries down and muttering under our breath while the lady in front of us at the supermarket slowly writes her check rather than swiping her card, or before reading my 6 year old the word rather than letting him sound it out, we give a beautiful gift.  We tell that person I care about you and your feelings, and we reinforce to ourselves our own capacity for open-mindedness.  It works the same towards ourselves – when we let challenging poses unfold slowly and mindfully rather than forcing or pushing our bodies we send a powerful message of acceptance and self-love. 

Here are some other ways patience can help us in our yoga practice, both on the mat and off:

Open to Grace: Open yourself to a bigger picture of the world, where everyone’s needs are equally important.
Recognize that you are part of something bigger, we are all interconnected so making time and/or space for the other makes time and space for you too.

Muscular Energy: Draw into your ability to endure challenges.
Embrace the discomfort of having to wait.

Organic Energy: Extend loving kindness to all beings.