One of the greatest challenges, even in the best of times, is developing a sense of patience and equanimity in the face of uncertainty and discomfort. Life can frequently be uncertain and changing. Things that we don’t want to happen often do, and things that we want to happen sometimes don’t. What we can affect the most in ourselves is how we relate to that ongoing experience.
Meditation itself directly urges the development of this type of patience. It’s not that we’re relaxed every time we sit to meditate, it’s often quite challenging. Our bodies or our minds can feel a sense of discomfort or unrest. And then for a few minutes, we actively practice noting that experience and letting it be. Instead of relying on our typical actions or thoughts or habits, we pay attention to whatever might trigger us and choose to let go of the hook instead. Other times we may decide that there is something skillful to be done, but for a few minutes we practice patience with whatever is causing us discomfort in this moment.
A Guided Meditation to Build Patience
A 15-Minute Meditation for Patience and Resolve
1. Find a comfortable posture to sit in now. Sitting upright and alert, bring a sense of strength and comfort to your body. Drop your gaze and either shut your eyes or leave them partly open.
2. Begin to notice that with each breath there’s a physical movement of your body. Notice the rising and falling of your belly or your chest. Or notice the air moving in and out of your nose and mouth.
3. Your mind will most likely stay busy and sensations may take over in your body—like the heaviness or charge of certain emotions. And through all of it, note whatever you observe. Then bring your attention back to the breath. See if you can bring a sense of ease and calm to the next few breaths.
4. Expand your awareness now to sensations in your body as a whole. There might be a sense of discomfort, a physical sense of restlessness, or maybe an arising itch. You may notice that there’s a sense of physical pain somewhere in your body. If something feels urgent or too painful, practice intention and make an adjustment. This practice always allows for taking care of yourself.
5. Without pushing yourself or causing yourself extra pain or discomfort, see if it’s possible to observe these sensations and let go. Practice staying patient with the discomfort in your body while staying in touch with a sense of care and compassion. If something needs to be done to take care of yourself, allow yourself that kindness.
6. Now expand your awareness to thoughts. Our mind makes thoughts constantly throughout our entire life. Many of those might feel uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking or overwhelming. As meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein often says, we frequently get on the wrong train and ride those thoughts. So for the next few moments, observe your thoughts and note them: thoughts of the future, thoughts of the past, rumination, discomfort.
As meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein often says, we frequently get on the wrong train and ride those thoughts.
7. Then with a sense of resolve, focus on the next breath or two. Either continue to note thoughts and let them go, or shift your awareness to emotions. Emotions are part of our moment-to-moment experience that’s not fully under our control. The art and skill of managing our emotions requires awareness of them. And yet, often emotions feel like triggers. It’s like we’re hooked and we must do something about them.
8. For the next part of the practice, see if you’re able to let go of that hook. Acknowledge your emotional state whether you feel happy, sad, overwhelmed, anxious, angry, unsettled. Maybe bring a sense of compassion to this part of the practice and remind yourself that all of us struggle at times. Note the emotion if it triggers thoughts or an urge to take action. Then, return to the anchor of your breath.
9. For the last few minutes of the practice, expand your awareness to take in the entirety of your experience. With each in-breath, welcome a sense of open awareness. This is how things are for me right now. Take it all in with a sense of acceptance, awareness, and clarity.
10. With each out-breath, offer yourself whatever wishes feel most appropriate in this moment. May I find my strength and resolve. May I be happy and healthy. Find whatever words capture your wishes for yourself in this moment.
11. As the practice ends, notice any tendency for your mind to leap forward into the future or any urge to jump off your meditation seat. Come back again to each breath. With a sense of intention and resolve, choose when to end your practice, and continue on with the rest of your day.