Is Patience Really A Virtue?


I am the kind of woman who likes to get stuff done. When I have an idea, I sprint into action. But when my idea doesn't manifest as my reality right away, I often get frustrated and upset.

Recently I saw this attitude permeating all areas of my life.  I found myself asking questions like, "Why isn't my business growing faster than this?" "When will I ever be able to buy a house of my own?" and "Will I ever get married?" 

Sound familiar?

Then I was invited to a friend's house for a meditation. I did the best I could to stay present with my breath through the hour we practiced, but often found my mind wandering into the future.  Thoughts like,"Should my next blog post be about self-care or relationships?" "How do you know when it's time to hire a virtual assistant?"  and "Would I have reliable wifi if I lived in Bali?" crossed my mind.

At the end of the practice, my friend pulled a book off the shelf, opened to a random page and read a dharma teaching aloud to us.  He said:

There once was an old man who was very devoted to his guru. He had been meditating for over twenty years and just knew it wouldn't be long before he became enlightened. He went to his guru and asked, "How much longer until I become enlightened?" 

The guru looked at him and said, "It will take you three more lifetimes." 

"Three more lifetimes!" the old man exclaimed. "That is ridiculous!  I have been working so hard, meditating for twenty years, and it is going to take me three more lifetimes! I can't believe this!" 

He stomped his feet and left.

Then, a young boy who was watching nearby came over. He went to the guru and asked, "How many lifetimes until I become enlightened?" 

The guru looked up at a nearby tree and said, "It will take you as many lifetimes as there are leaves on that tree." 

The boy looked up at the tree and gasped when he saw there must have been hundreds of leaves on it.

He took a deep breath and replied, "I'm so glad to know that I will become enlightened. I can surely count how many leaves are on that tree. That means, one day, I really will become enlightened!"

He was simply in the joy and eagerness of receiving what he wanted, without being attached to it.

The boy left and the story goes, that very day he became enlightened. Because he was willing to wait and be patient, all was granted to him.

I thought about this and realized when we get what we want, we are usually excited for a little bit of time, but soon there is emptiness.  Shortly after, a new desire arises and takes the place of the old one.

I wondered, What if the joy in life is actually in the waiting, rather than the getting of what we want? What if the best part about getting what we want is the anticipation itself?

If we are willing to be in the process, to fully be present there and to be in our growth, there will be joy.

And when we are willing to be present and find joy in the process, it will be easy. There won't be  a struggle because we're not trying to skip steps and jump further ahead than where we really are.

I saw that the struggles I had recently faced were happening because I was pushing before I was ready. I didn't trust in the process. And with this new knowledge, I knew I could be patient. If you are willing to be patient in the joy of waiting, you might even get what you want right away.