Patience Therapy

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati, Australia

True power comes with patience. Waiting is not something most people can do, yet it is one of the best ways to cure illnesses of many kinds, because by inculcating relaxation and removing tension it chops them at their roots. Patience or waiting is synonymous with complete relaxation and implies the alertness that grows when awareness is primed to its optimum, waiting for just the right moment.

Patience requires control and abandon. When we gain control over the different compartments of our life then we are less likely to get sick in the first place, and when we have abandoned, we can enjoy. Patience implies acceptance and surrender to the forces around us. Instead of trying to manipulate according to our selfish motives, we try to see what is the best action in terms of what is going on around us. To achieve this we require the balance of control and abandon, disciplined self-control versus the ability to let go in an inspired and intuitive way. Of course, for most people to achieve such a balance on the tightrope of life requires time, practice and hurts from many 'mistakes' and 'errors'.


Many people suffer because their actions are uncontrolled, uncoordinated and out of tune with their surroundings. Their perception is misty and unclear, perhaps due to an excess of introversion or extroversion. They do not really get inside their actions with complete awareness, but pull out before completion or enter in before the event really starts. Their minds are preoccupied with the worries and anxieties of yesterday or tomorrow and they cannot involve themselves in the present. As a result, the 'present' situation suffers, giving rise to more problems for the future and thus more cause for worry in the 'here and now'. A vicious circle starts to build up.

The development of patience requires a solid, peaceful centre. We must be free from anxiety and tension, from the worries of life and stable in mind and body. Very few people can actually wait for the right time and place, for just the right moment to act. If we can we conserve our energy, then at the moment we need it, we have a reserve force that surges forth in just the amount required for the job. Without this control and reserve we may over or underanticipate, and generally feel things going wrong in the pit of our stomach. The following phenomena can occur:

Offensive behaviour occurs when we jump in too early, with excess enthusiasm and not enough planning. Usually these people do not have enough steam in their engine to power their action properly. This can be disastrous, especially for those who have to jump over a precipitous situation. Misjudging our strength results in falling short of the mark. The best remedy is to wait one second more, to ensure that the action is the correct one, and is necessary.

Defensive behaviour is seen in underconfident individuals who are insecure and thus need to prove themselves to others. These people may indulge in offensive behaviour, but they still use it as a defence. Patience results when confidence develops.

Explosive behaviour results when a lot of suppressed energy is released at one time and may be caused by excess energy, anger, frustration and so on. Patience helps to release the energy smoothly and appropriately and to see into each situation clearly, thus preventing the build up of an excess in the first place.

Overtalkativeness is a habit of those people who would rather talk about something than actually do it. Energy escapes through the safety value of talking and the ratio of talk to skill is huge, talking compensating for the lack of skill. These people usually indulge in boasting or gossip, unproductive forms of talking which may result in an out-of-tune, disharmonious environment.

All these ploys are aimed at avoidance of the real situations of life, of the 'here and now'. They tangle the fine webs of life and make our lives complicated. When we can see that such contradictions arise because of a lack of patience and are a real waste of energy, we can remedy them.

The remedy

The way is simple. Life goes on and we are within it. Patience is the key to a relaxed healthy life. Without it we wander the world in circles of our own making, powered by anxiety, desire and ambition. When we walk a straight path with a definite aim, be it spiritual or materialistic, we come into closer contact with the things of the world and of the spirit.

The analogy of the speedboat will make this point clear. At fast speed we are not aware of the world per se, we are not in real contact with the scenery. It is just passing us by, and we are more concerned with the speed, the noise that encapsulates us, the waves, maintaining our balance on a choppy sea and so on. The noise of the motor scares away many fish, and other craft must maintain a safe distance. When we stroll along, the experiences of life have a chance to impress themselves upon us. If we have the patience to wait, the right experience will come along at the right time, and there is no need to create situations for ourselves. There is a 'right' speed for life, for playing the game.

To regain contact with our body and mind, yoga provides one of the best and most systematic approaches to regaining our patience. Asanas bring us back in touch with the physical body. We begin to feel again. Pranayama helps to tame the energies of the body that make us restless, overactive, overanticipative. In meditation we become more intuitive and relearn to listen, to see, to feel, to taste and to smell. We begin to understand our place in the world and our handicaps, limitations and potential. When we experience the calmness that results from these practices, we become more centred, satisfied and patient. Patience gives us a calm solid centre on which to base ourselves while we transcend limitations. It ensures a slow and steady pace, a safe speed to undertake the work of improving oneself.

Yoga is especially useful in regaining patience because it provides powerful practices, such as are found in kundalini yoga, to rebalance the body's forces. For example, a stable manipura chakra allows us to have enough strength and willpower to hold back or push forward when the right moment comes. We can then make the most of every situation. Nadi shodhana pranayama rebalances the energy circuits so that manipura chakra can start to function more efficiently. These practices give us weight and a solid stable base on which to stand. When we push into the deeper recesses of the mind, it allows us to become disengaged, detached, unidentified from the thought process so that we are not held at the mercy of the forces of the mind, and then patience develops spontaneously.

When we have patience, we act with precision and skill. We listen and talk at the right moment, say what we want and have a higher degree of freedom within our thoughts. Patience helps us to blend with the obstacles of life so that their strength and energy is not rejected but accepted. By blending into ourselves and into our environment, we turn every situation into a positive, growth enhancing moment.

In the final analysis we either inculcate patience as a positive virtue, in which case we gain, or we don't, in which case only we lose. When all is said and done we don't have any choice in the matter of when our goal is reached; human beings do not make the final decision. Whether we succeed or not, patience helps to make the way smoother, healthier and more enjoyable. Having patience is like the person on a train who puts their bag on the luggage rack and enjoys the scenery and the ride. The impatient person, however, carries their luggage on their back and paces up and down the carriage trying to get a better view of the destination ahead. Both arrive finally so what does it really matter?