The Dance of Patience and Persistence

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Our bi-monthly eteaching from Phillip Moffitt
The Dance of Patience and Persistence
by Phillip Moffitt

In my experience, cultivating the two paramis of patience and persistence is essential for developing a sustainable meditation practice and for making change in your life. Furthermore, the two go hand-in-hand.

Patience is the ability to abide with things the way they are. It allows you to tolerate failure, disappointment, defeat, unpleasantness, and confusion without giving up—both on the meditation cushion and in life. Persistence is the capacity of energetic resolve—the determination to hold steady to your intentions. Persistence brings into play the essential energy for directing your attention to what needs to be done right now. Deliberately placing attention on patience gives you the energy to cultivate patience; steady attention on being persistent will yield the energy to nurture new habits of mind.

The dictionary defines patience as forbearance under stress—the capacity to endure. In Buddhist practice, this translates into the ability to accept the moment as it is, right now, rather than expecting life to be the way you want it to be. In other words, it’s the capacity to not get caught up in your expectations. When you’re patient, you’re not judging or getting upset with yourself but rather you are willing to work with yourself as you are.

Sometimes we can be impatient with the world; however, I don’t recommend starting with the world as the focus of your patience practice. It is far better to begin with fostering patience toward yourself. When you are patient with yourself, you naturally become patient with others and it spreads to those around you.

Determination = Unceasing Persistence
Patience and persistence go together in many ways. Often it is skillful to persist even though you do not know the outcome, or if the effort is worthwhile, or even if you’re headed in the right direction. Persistence is not based on achieving a reward—it’s a quality that arises in and of itself. Thus persistence is a willingness to act, right now, in the moment.

Persistence gives patience a purpose. If there isn’t a goal with a set of values with which you are applying yourself to, what can seem like patience is really just dilly-dallying. You’re not really about anything. You’re doing a little of this, a little of that, and you can think, “I’m a patient person. I’m easy-going. I’m doing fine in this area of patience.” But if there is no commitment to something, if there is no alignment of persistence, then is that really being patient? Or are you simply tuned-out?

Through persistence you will eventually develop insight. But, if you’re not patient with yourself, you will not be able to be persistent. You don’t have to do anything extra. Just be patient and persistent in staying present, and the insights will come.

For your reflection:
1. Can you be patient with things the way they are?

2. Think about developing unceasing persistence. It doesn’t mean that every minute you are persistent, but you always return to it. Can your persistence allow you to stay present?

3. Think about persistence in your life. Are you able to be persistent in your values, to stay with what’s truthful, to be generous and fair?

4. How do you respond in a heated moment with another person? Do you get reactive? Can you cultivate patience to tolerate another person with a different point of view?

For further study:
Listen to Phillip’s talk on patience and persistence.
Read Phillip’s article on starting over.

Our mailing address is:
Life Balance InstitutePO Box 725
Tiburon, CA 94920

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