After our sitting meditation to start the evening, we moved into an exploration of patience as a practice. Zen teacher Norman Fischer writes the following about working with difficulty in our lives:

  • When difficult things happen in our lives, we have to turn toward the difficult thing, whatever it is, and accept, this actually did happen; at this point, there’s no one to blame, I’m just going to take it on, I’m going to practice [patience] and see what I can do.  And here again, the sitting practice pervades and really, really, really helps. Because now because of your sitting you have the inner space large enough to hold your feelings and you have the possibility that you can be with your anger, your fear, your dismay, and not try to make them go away, be with them without getting so hooked onto them that you become the victim of the very anger, fear, frustration.  As the famous saying of Shantideva goes, “If you can fix a situation, why complain?  Fix it.  If you can’t fix a situation, why complain?”

The text covered some new terms that could be summarized like so:

  • Bodhisattva: a person who places compassion and concern for others at the centre of their life.
  • Kshanti: an active and engaged form patience, forbearance, and tolerance.
  • Paramita: literally "gone beyond" or "the other shore", it describes a perfect form of practice, a way of cultivating our higher or best selves.

The main point is that patience in this sense means turning towards and being willing to experience our frustration, aggression, anger and pain. Why? Because they are unavoidable and by meeting them we discover that suffering belong to all humans, not just to us, and that we are intimately connected by that fact.

You can learn more from Fischer by reading the Kshanti Paramita article on this page and then listening to the related podcast.

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