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Reflections on Patience

Ant card from Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals

Patience is not a quality that I have usually thought of as an antidote to anger.  As I looked at patience in terms of a solution for anger I examined my relationship to patience, diving back in to early days of childhood and my worries to “get it done” – “figure it out” whether I was figuring out the right answer in school, learning to tie my shoes or what the heck I was supposed to be doing with my life, I was a ball of anxiety.

In my early adult years I stumbled through life driven by fears and anxieties that I wasn’t consciously aware of. The internal driver was to get to the next steps, get them done and get them over with.

A mystical experience captured my attention in my early 30’s and brought me to greater consciousness causing me to become more fully present with myself. Once waking up, the trick was how to stay fully present in the moment. The desire to stay present brought on the realization that I would need tools to maintain and strengthen that ability.

At that point my mind, controlled by fears, was in the driver’s seat not quite ready to let go. Trying to settle into meditation was challenging with the ‘monkey minds’ habitual behaviors of worry and distraction.

Garnering wisdom from practitioners and Spiritual teachers I began to find tools that would help me stay present and consciously thinking.

I found wisdom from the animal kingdom with the help of the Medicine Cards deck. Each animal totem in the deck represented an insight or wisdom that, when chosen, surprisingly was consistently something I needed to hear.

The premise was simple: you take a moment to center with a few deep breaths, think of your question and pull a card from the deck, connect with the animal and read the explanation in the book.  After I while I noticed that the mind would jump to conclusions rather than read and digest the wisdom of the card. One such totem that caused me to jump to conclusions and ultimately learn deeper wisdom from was the Ant – Patience.

I would see the Ant card and immediately feel deflated, thinking that whatever I was looking for would never happen. I began to realize that I associated patience with a “put off”, in other words I would never get it, or get there, or get it done.  The word patience would trigger old feelings of failure or fear of angering the teacher or parent if I didn’t ‘get it’.

Eventually I realized the purpose of these cards is to learn something and truly I was learning how easy it was for the mind to jump to conclusions! I realized I needed a little patience to read and contemplate and digest the information before I could integrate the wisdom of the Ant. There are many lessons we can learn from Ant, for me the biggest lesson was my lack of trust in myself and in the universe. Ant opened the door that helped me learn to trust in Spirit, myself and the process.

40 years later I am still using the cards and spiritual books as part of my daily practice to draw the mind towards conscious balanced thinking. Daily I either pull a card from one of my favorite decks or I choose a book from my bookshelf, hold it to my solar plexus and ask what I need to see today.

Today’s book was Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron. The page I opened to, Chapter 71 on page 137, was titled Patience. In Buddhism Patience is one of the 6 paramitas or qualities that take us beyond our habitual ways of seeking solidity and security. Patience, she says, is the antidote to anger and a way to learn to love and care for whatever we meet on the path. “In any situation instead of acting suddenly, we could chew it smell it and open ourselves to seeing what is there.”

She goes on to say the opposite of patience is aggression “The desire to jump and move, to push against our lives, to try to full up space.”  Patience is not about enduring with gritted teeth, it’s not a “put off” which I thought it was so long ago. It is rather a journey that involves relaxing and opening to the moment and the world around us with curiosity and acceptance.

Patience something to chew on this month as you move through these sultry summer days. Please feel free to leave comments on Facebook or Instagram and share your experiences.

You can find Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, by Jamie Sams and David Carson, at your local bookstore or on Amazon here.

Melissa Halsey

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It is a time of purification–tears bring new growth. You are healing now.