Exercising Patience

Sometimes when I’m sitting in meditation, I become overwhelmed with the impulse to get off the cushion and do something — anything. The book needs work; I have a presentation to finish; air travel to arrange; taxes to be filed; emails awaiting response; coffee to be brewed; bladder to be emptied. What am I doing here? Get up! Go! Go! Go!

I sit and breathe.

The drive to end the session doesn’t immediately go away. However, I’ve learned that the more I focus on it, the harder it becomes to resist. I remind myself that the sitting is not wasted time; it’s building a particular type of muscle that helps with the book, the presentations, the trip, the taxes. Then I go back to the breath. After a while, the feeling subsides. These are often my best meditation sessions.

I sometimes catch myself becoming impatient when things move slowly in other areas of my life. In times like these, I remind myself of the lesson of the cushion: obsessing on the issue can make it worse. Things often need to be left alone to take their course. Patience is not an inherent characteristic, like eye color; it’s a stance to be exercised. Meditation can be an excellent workout to build this particular muscle.