Patience is defined as the capacity to accept (or tolerate) delay, trouble, or suffering, without upset.
Suffering and annoyance are very old concepts, and both have been around for as long as humans have existed.
One of mankind’s oldest sacred texts is the Vedic hymns. They were written in Sanskrit, and they mention samsara. Samsara means ‘wandering’ or ‘world’ and relates to the aimless drifting of people in life. Suffering is a persistent characteristic of existence in the realm of samsara. According to these ancient texts, one of the reasons we suffer is due to karma.
Karma is another Sanskrit word. It means ‘action, word, or deed’. Good intentions and good deeds result in good karma. Bad deeds and bad intentions result in bad karma and suffering. Karma is thought to extend the consequences of what we do into the future, both in our current and future lives. We suffer because of what we did in the past.
But what if we can’t remember? Somehow, the universe judges us anyway.
My own take on suffering is slightly different.
We would love to fly through the air like a superhero, but we cannot. The actions of our bodies are constrained by the laws of the universe we inhabit. In our minds, we can imagine doing anything, anything at all, but there is a difference between reality and our imaginings. Reality always points out the difference between fact and fiction, the possible and the impossible. Our imagination says differently and is our greatest blessing and our greatest curse. We can even imagine the two worlds are the same, and that can lead to madness.
I believe we can make our dreams come true, but not all the time and certainly not immediately. There is a lag between the conception and the reality.
How we deal with this gap determines in many ways our successes, our failures, what we believe, and whether we suffer, or at the very least get annoyed at the persistent trailing of reality behind our aspirations. To endure that lag we need patience, but how do we learn patience?
To answer that question, I would like to tell you a story.
A man had a jet-black quarter horse who was very restless. She moved off when he mounted, took off at a gallop rather than lope at an easy canter, and had to be ridden into the ground before she’d listen. She was very smart, very good to look at, but very impatient, very nervous, and very stubborn. The man wondered what to do with her and decided to get some help from a cowboy that he knew.
The cowboy, more a vaquero as he was from Mexico, worked the mare in a corral, dismounted, and gave his recommendation: she needed to learn patience, and for a horse, there was only one way that he could suggest.
The vaquero told him to hitch the mare to a thick low-hanging branch of a large tree using an all-rope halter so that when the mare decided to pull back with all her strength, the halter wouldn’t break, and then leave her there to ponder.
The man heard the plan, looked down, scuffed a boot in the dust, and asked, “How long’s this all gonna take?”
The vaquero didn’t answer right away. He looked at the horse, took off his cowboy hat, examined the rim, put his hat back on, gazed up at the sky, sighed, and said after a long but thoughtful pause, “A long time, my friend. A very long time.”