“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” – Lao-Tzu
Simplicity in the context of mindfulness is engaging one-mindfully and intentionally in activities that nourish mind and body. Simplifying could mean eliminating activities from the calendar that are not priorities. It could mean decreasing time with electronics, and increasing activities where you are present. Both of these are goals of mine for 2018. My mind and life usually feel clearest when I am meditating, doing yoga, or playing tennis. These are the times when I am present in my mind and body, and everything comes into focus. My goal is to spend more time in these activities. I am also interested in living more simply – reducing food waste, shopping less often, and being more intentional about my purchases. In a Western capitalist culture, these are lofty but important goals. I am a serious bargain shopper and, in spite of my better judgement, am not ready to give that up just yet.
Patience is the essence of mindfulness; when we are impatient, we live in the future, rather than in the present. Patience is being in the present, and knowing that some things cannot be hurried. I tend to be a fast-moving and -thinking person, to whom patience does not come easily. As a kid, my dad would often say, “Patience is a virtue!” As an adult, I feel I finally understand this, and am trying to change my mindset. Each moment of waiting is a gift, an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the now.
In the context of therapy, patience is essential for everyone involved. Change does not come easily to anyone. Therapists must hold clients accountable, and at the same time, we need to be cognizant of pushing clients too far, too fast; we do not want to push people away. Same goes for any relationship. Part of your responsibility as a family member or friend is to speak up when a loved one is hurting themselves or making poor decisions. But if that loved one perceives you as judgmental or impatient with their changes, you run the risk that they will shut you out.
Compassion is the love and understanding you feel for another person or for yourself. Most folks believe that compassion is part of human nature, and cannot be learned. I’m not sure, but I think that if compassion does not come easily to you, it is still worth trying to practice and learn it like any other skill. Compassion is the foundation upon which relationships thrive. Compassionate people have the best career opportunities, because they will most effectively interact with co-workers, supervisors, and customers. Compassion is the reason I became a social worker; it gives me motivation and a meaningful life.
Of simplicity, patience and compassion, which is your highest priority? Which is most difficult for you? Let me know in the comments.