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Self-Kindness and Patience


JUNE, 2016


Last week I had a horrible cold. I was sick on Sunday and Monday, so cancelled all of my sessions on Monday to recover, planning to be well enough to teach again on Tuesday. I woke up and taught on Tuesday without listening to the parts of my body that were saying, “Hey I don’t actutally feel so hot you know.” Since I usually only need a day to recover, I ignored all the signs. Then Wednesday rolled around and I was in trouble. Flat on my back for three days before starting to feel normal again.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had taken that extra day off right away, I maybe would have bounced back sooner? I was being a bit impatient with myself, and it ended up holding me back even longer. You can probably feel that in areas of your own life: sometimes we need to back our thing up to move forward with greater ease and freedom.

Your impatience is holding you back.

To me, this can come down to self-aggression vs. self-kindness. We often put massive pressures on ourselves to get shit done, not now butrightnow. For me, I was feeling some scarcity about the self-employment thing: a day of missed classes and personal training sessions can mean a day of deferred income. Certainly it’s not a zero-sum game, but it’s tempting and easy to look at it that way.

What to be done? Start with patience. It can feel really, really tough to slow down and take your time with something, but this can yield massive benefits in the long run. It’s a total paradox, and seems counter-intuitive. If I do more, quickly, won’t I get more done? One of my favourite quotes fits in perfectly:

“Especially when in a hurry, slow down.” – Gretchin Rubin

Are you in a hurry to learn something new? A new yoga pose for example? Go back to the basics. Practice them more slowly. For a long time. And then see what happens.

Often what happens is we will build deeper awareness, and reveal layers of weakness in the foundation. If we continue to hurl ourselves forward without ensuring our base is strong, things will fall apart rapidly and we may experience set backs. Sure, ebbs and flows are normal (the wave is the natural motion of creation). In the end, though, if we rush it can take more time than starting slowly.

Another simple example is this: when I’m in a big-ass hurry to get out the door, I always, without fail, spill coffee on my shirt, requiring me to take even longer to run upstairs and change. If, in the moment, I had become aware of my rushing, and slowed myself down, I would have made it out the door in less time.

Patience can feel aggravating sometimes, but it’s kind to give ourselves lots of space and time to figure things out. When we motivate ourselves with kindness, compassion and understanding, it becomes a joyful experience. Instead of beating ourselves up and expecting to get there faster, we settle in, and enjoy the ride. And then like magic, we do end up there (and often faster!).

You can practice this now (I will too!). Stop what you are doing and take a few slow breaths. Don’t rush. Notice the pace of the breath – is it even, or choppy? See if you can smooth it out, lengthen it, and soften it. Pause for a heartbeat or two at the turnover place: at the top of each inhale, or the bottom of each exhale. Tune in. How do you feel now?

Nothing is as it is by itself, so there are always going to be instances where you need to just get things done. But if you keep coming up against roadblocks, it can be useful to take a look and see, is your impatience what’s holding you back?

All of this takes practice, so the last thing to do is to beat ourselves up when we’re impatient (there’s a mind-bender for ya, being patient with your impatience). We have to remember that self-compassion is not about letting ourselves off the hook. It’s about becoming aware of patterns that help with betterment, and moving towards them. Knowing that we don’t have to figure it all out at once. The journey never ends so we can’t get it wrong.