Yesterday I was inspired by Annie's blog post on Patience. I especially loved the John Ciardi quotation, which was new to me, "Patience is the art of caring slowly."
I reflected on a couple of my endeavours about which I currently was feeling impatient. Annie's blog entry reminded me that, like babies, my projects needed time for gestation. When they came to fruition I would be rewarded very amply for any patience I had invested in them.
But, compelling though Annie's message was, it felt slightly out of focus. It seemed almost -- but not quite -- right. I wondered, "What's wrong with this picture?"
What was bothering me was the recollection that, in many instances, I had been patient. Actually, I had been too patient, for too long. I had endured situations that had felt unacceptable to me. I wondered how to reconcile the need for patience and the need for assertiveness.
After reflecting on this for a while, I realized that unrelenting silence and stillness had not always served me well. Yes, there are times when I do need to wait. But it seems to me that quiet is not a manifestation of true patience if I am stewing inside, and passivity is not a substitute for right action.
That raises the question of what constitutes right action. I'm not sure. I think that, at a minimum, it is action that is informed by respect -- respect for myself, respect for the other person, respect for the situation, respect for our planet.
I love to look up words in the dictionary, find out their roots, and unpack their meanings. Patience comes from a Latin word that means, "to suffer." Respect originates from two Latin words that mean, "to look again."
Being respectful -- looking again -- speaks to me of living in the present moment, letting go of past baggage, looking at the person in front of me with fresh eyes even if I have known them for years, asking myself what the situation is calling on me to do at this moment.
When I want to charge full steam ahead, slowing down and looking again does require patience. It feels to me like suffering.
Recently I have been noticing the importance of opposites. The letters of our alphabet can have meaning only because they are a combination of black squiggles and white spaces. If a sheet of paper was left blank, it would convey no meaning. Conversely, if the entire sheet was painted black, it would convey no more meaning. It is the combination of substance and emptiness that gives writing significance.
Bringing this back to Annie's post, I do not in any way want to suggest that it was “wrong.” In fact, I found it deeply moving. Rather it was that I needed to add another piece in order for it to make sense to me.
Using Annie's message and my own thoughts, I needed to compose a dance -- between Yin and Yang, between sound and silence, between what is and what is not, between action and inaction.
Now that I have done that, I feel at peace.