Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Feeling Impatient? Feel Grateful.

The trip started well. No traffic on the freeway, boarding pass printed ahead of time, no luggage to checkin,  I made it to gate 55 in record time. Then, the announcement that flight 1931 was being delayed an hour. Great, I thought, I will be able to try out the new egg chairs in the lounge. I had work to do, and did not mind the unexpected extra time. An hour soon turned into two, and then three. I surprised myself with my  lack of impatience. 

Later, standing outside terminal 4 at LAX, a series of texts from my daughter about her being stuck in traffic left me equally unfazed. When she finally arrived an hour later, I felt only gladness. It took us another two hours to reach her apartment instead of the usual 20 minutes. I watched drivers around us agitate their horns and attempt to make rash moves. Nowhere to go, but hundreds of restless minds needing to be indulged, right now.

I wondered, how come the calmness that had stayed with me for all this time?

It certainly helped that I had practiced sitting earlier in the day.

It certainly helped that I countered thoughts of dislike about flight travel with thoughts of gratitude about the fact that I could travel, and was soon to see my daughter. Thinking about my friends at the assisted living community, who can no longer venture even a few blocks without depending on the company of a willing other. Or the woman at Zen Hospice who was dying of lung cancer, and spent her last days bent over, head cupped in her hands, trying to catch some air. Thinking about this precious life, and nothing to be taken for granted, not even breath or the privilege of walking around a crowded airport. 

Gratitude is what had done away with any velleity of impatience.  

9 comments:

  1. Just reading this made me feel more calm! It reminds me of an old saying - 'It takes cancer survivors a long time before they start complaining about the weather again' as a reminder of how fragile our lives and health really are. Thanks for the nice demonstration of gratitude in action.

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  2. Thank you, David. I feel so endebted to my work with the dying and the ones with dementia. Gratitude is the greatest gift I have received from it. Being grateful for the gift of gratitude :)

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  3. ah, the fruits of practice, incarnate! Thanks for sharing it with us, such a good reminder. and what struck me, was how much more pleasant it made your day, just reminding yourself of all these things. What's the Dogen quote, "how quickly life passes away, in a moment life is gone."

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  4. Yes, Carole, that's the irony isn't it? Not being aggravated by life's small (and sometimes big) annoyances, and in the end feeling the gladness one chases after in states of impatience.

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  5. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. Yes, I am grateful for the gift of gratitude. It is very healing. In my younger days, I thought it was silly that Ann Landers would frequently offer the wise counsel: 'Count your blessings!' Now I see what she was talking about.

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  7. The good thing is gratitude like any of the other qualities can be cultivated. Do you know about Rick Hanson's 'taking in the good' practice? (From his book, Buddha's Brain)

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  8. I didn't know him, but I easily found a PDF of that title--more of an article than a book--perhaps an extract? Anyway, I agree completely with his points, based on the changes I experienced after I started meditating more consistently, effectively, etc. It's hard to know for sure if the meditation was the cause, but I was certainly building up a hard core of negativity before that.

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  9. Yes, preventing harmful buildup of negativity, and also, cleaning up all the accumulation from years of neglect in the mind. The latter is the hardest, I found.

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