Morocco is hot in the summer. And as much as I love warm weather, 110 degree heat is pushing it in a busy city where the air-con exists only in one KFC. I was used to the local people hassling me and begging for money at 5 minute intervals, but I wasn’t ready for one guy to overstep the mark. The man held his hand out to my girlfriend and I as we were sitting and enjoying the day, but he lingered for too long. He edged closer and tried to reach into my pocket without me noticing. I stood up and moved away so as not to cause a a fuss, but the man stood up and started shouting as though the contents of my pocket were his to take. Then he spat on me.
Without elaborating, I lost my patience and it ruined the entire experience.
If you don’t learn how to be patient…
…all sorts of negative things can happen to both your mind and your body; we can become stressed and anxious, or start wishing ourselves into the future.
The human imagination is so good at what it does that we can think ourselves into a preferable situation that might not even happen. When we do this it makes us want to jump forward into this imaginary future to escape the stressful present (which is stressful in itself, because such a thing is impossible to do).
When we let impatience turn into stress and let that stress gather momentum, it becomes crazily hard to return to balance. We can start to feel our muscles tense, experience shortness of breath and feel our limbs become restless – all of these are physical manifestations of our negative mental state.
Impatience is no good for our minds either; our thoughts become scattered and any trace of our ability to stay focused turns to goop. If this goes on for even a moment too long, we risk heading into the abyss that is anger, and you sure as hell don’t want to go down that road.
Worst of all, if we don’t learn how to be patient we can begin to feel isolated, and isolation can make us feel very sad and lonely. We feel cut-off and alone because rather than accepting that we’re being impatient, we assume that the fault lies with the other person or situation. The feelings themselves spring from the realisation that there are some things we just can’t control.
And so, we must learn patience.
How to learn patience
When people suggest that you should take a deep breath and count to ten, they’re not all that far off the truth (as annoying as that statement may be).
The below is by no means a definitive list, but there are some simple points to get you started.
Step one: breathe.
Before you announce that you’re already breathing, let me explain: actively paying attention to the breath in the body can bring focus and clarity to your present experience even at the worst of times.
Spending a few moments focusing on the breath can loosen the grip of impatience like a Chinese finger trap; the more you relax, the easier it is to escape it. Breathing is probably the easiest thing ever, so it’s amazing how dramatic the effects are when we pay it even a little bit of attention.
The best thing is that you can do it anywhere; in a long check-in queue; at an unhelpful immigration office; with that one travel buddy who drank too much and can’t make it home without you; anywhere.
- See the challenge
The next time you notice impatience creeping on, silently say the following three sentences to yourself:
“I am intelligent enough to realise that this response is not beneficial.”
“It’s completely normal for me to respond this way, but it is not productive.”
“From this moment on I will breathe, pay attention to my breath and observe my feelings mindfully.”
The moment we see situations that cause impatience as challenges, we’ve already shifted our focus away from losing our cool. This takes a lot of practice, so don’t be disheartened if you find it completely impossible the first few times.
There are plenty of opportunities to learn this skill while travelling, as life on the road presents us with frustrating challenges almost everyday. For some of us, personal growth is why we travel in the first place.
Teaching requires incredible patience. If you find the above point too difficult, try and teach someone something. It gives you more control over the situation as you’re going in prepared to feel frustrated.
Teach someone local three reasonably complicated phrases in your native language and see how you get on. Judge your mood before, during and after to see what the patterns are and which triggers start the frustration and make the feeling of impatience worse.
Next time see if you can accept frustration and be with it by being kind to yourself and focusing compassionately on the needs of the person you’re teaching. You’re there for them just as much as you’re there for yourself.
Daily meditation is an irreplaceable ally. There are many forms of meditation and they all have their own individual benefits, but for simplicity I recommend mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation helps us to become more aware of the present moment rather than dwelling on the past, or wishing ourselves into/worrying about the future. It hones our ability to drop into the present – just what we need when a little patience is required.
- Ask your friends
Our friends and family see a side of us that we do not.
If we want an honest opinion, we must ask for one – it’s no good roping in a relative unless you’re going to tell them to be brutally honest. Ask them if they recognise anything that causes you frustration and compare that with self-assessment.
Write a list of everything you learn and try to take one item each week and look out for it. If you notice frustration arising from any item, refer to points one and two, rinse and repeat.
The most challenging thing about this process is that it requires persistence, which is in and of itself a challenge. Fortunately, next week’s post is all about the benefits of persistence, so subscribe to the mailing list if you don’t want to miss it.
You’ll start to notice that many of the things I talk about are interconnected and dependent on one another. The best way to nail them all is to chip away piece by piece – take baby steps and don’t lose hope.
If you’ve got any stories about a time you managed to keep your patience instead of switching on the rage, please let us know how you did it in the comments below.