Patience vs Presence – Cultivating Patience Through Presence

Thank you for joining me in some collaborative parenting discussion.


My teens years were full of angst. I didn’t necessarily hold back those feelings, even with those I cared about. Once while visiting my beloved grandmother I got upset, as I often did, about something not going my way. I still remember to this day how she addressed me in those moments… lovingly, yet firmly she placed her hands on my shoulders and said, “Amy, you have got to learn some patience. It will help you in your life.” Suffice it to say I have been working on it ever since. :)

As a young mother, I often wanted to be patient, but didn’t really know how to be patient. Often my experience of patience was more like endurance – of the worst type! Patience equated to trying to be nice and loving while inside I felt frustrated, then I’d pop with anger. Didn’t work so well. The example I set didn’t work so well either. I didn’t feel right asking my children to be patient seeing as I hadn’t even come close to  mastering it myself.

Along with that, I read an article written by a mother who shared an experience that really hit me. She left her toddler in a high chair while she went to another room. When she returned, her daughter had her face all scrunched up and her fists were squeezed tightly. The mom asked her daughter what she was doing and she said through clenched teeth, “I am being patient.” Her daughter’s experience of patience, like that of many humans, was not a relaxing sense of all is well – it was the endurance of some sort of inner torture (or at the least some sort of stress).

It dawned on me that part of the reason I had not mastered patience was because I had a completely skewed idea of what patience really is.

To me, patience is not patience when it’s all full of turmoil. That’s something else. Pretending to be patient, maybe? An attempt at patience? A grasping at what one has been taught about patience? Anyhow, when I feel into the what patience really means I feel a sense of calm, a sense of acceptance, a sense of appreciation, a deep reverence for whatever the moment is bringing.

What gets in the way of such an experience of patience?

Thoughts, specific thoughts, get in the way of an actual experience of patience. About where we need to be, about how things need to be, about who we are, who the other person is, who the other person should be, who we should be, what the other person thinks, and again – what is coming next and how quick does this next thing need to occur.

A potential solution? Presence. I know the word presence may be kind of thrown around these days, but we all have the ability to be present with what’s going on within and around us in the way we choose. That is at the heart of true patience. Choice.

For me, cultivating patience through presence looks like choosing very clearly to rest in a more broad awareness than any stream of thoughts which may threaten to shake my inner choice to be calm, accepting, appreciative, reverent of life itself. Is this always an easy process? No, but it has become easier through practice.

Here’s an example… say my child is upset and kicking around or screaming. An initial response a few years ago would have been to try and stop what she was doing, fix the situation, and be just about anything but patient. As I have grown in my mothering role, being patient through such an experience comes through presence – noticing my breath, allowing myself the space to tend to my inner experience of my mind, body, and emotions before or as I respond to my daughter, allowing my breath and body to relax, choosing to see thoughts which are not helpful (i.e. ugh, she’s doing this again or come on, really? or I can’t deal with this) and choosing to transition such thoughts to something more helpful (i.e. she’s obviously upset and could benefit from some understanding or this may be tough for me, but it’s probably tougher for her or I can deal with this, all I have to do is love her and listen to her, we’ll go from there).

Through presencing myself to the moment I choose to calm my body and mind, I choose to accept what is because fighting against it is anything but patient, I choose to appreciate all facets of the situation – even those I initially do not like – and I choose to revere life. If nothing else, I can be grateful that I have breath in my lungs.

Too simple?

No. I really am grateful to still be breathing and walking on this planet! :)

How do you experience patience and what gets in your way?

 


Are you are struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something invaluable with you: hope. If you would like to change how you respond when parenting feels intense, I invite you to consider this challenge.

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7 Responses to Patience vs Presence – Cultivating Patience Through Presence

  1. Momma Jorje October 22, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    Wow, what an amazing point made! I think I definitely have times when I’m gritting my teeth through something, but when I’m rockin’ my motherhood role and am put to the test? Then I find that I am focusing on calming myself down while I am being present with my daughter. I am making sure to release each breath, not hold it tight. This has helped my preschooler as well. When she is upset, I’ve taught her to breathe with us. We take deep breaths together. More recently, she isn’t always ready to calm down and that is okay, too. When she refuses to breathe (deep breaths), I just hold her or hold her hands and speak calm reassuring words until she IS ready to breathe with me.

    Being too wrapped up in our own minds, our own hangups, our own upbringing can really stand as obstacles between a connection with our children in stressful moments. When we can breathe all that out and just be present… the stress just kind of disappears!

    • Amy Phoenix October 22, 2012 at 2:07 am #

      Thank you, Jorje, for sharing an example from your life. I am finding as people are willing to share their experiences we can all learn from each other. :)

      Stopping to breathe is such a transitional tool, yet it does require the choice to stop. From what I understand it takes many, many times of doing a new skill to make it stick (like around 2,000) so here’s to all of the opportunities parenting offers us to work on experiencing patience. :)

  2. Lauren @ Hobo Mama October 22, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Ah, the thought of choosing. Yes, that’s so important. Thank you for this reminder.

  3. kelly @kellynaturally October 24, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    I really appreciate the example of the child balling up her fists, “being patient”. I think sometimes (often) our faces and bodies belie our words. My husband tells us a story of his childhood (with four boys in their family), and how one of this brothers got really frustrated with the other three bickering in the car, so turned around & said, politely, “Shut up, please!”
    (which of course cracked them up)
    The point being that I think you are so right we need to be aware of how we’re feeling first, before we speak or attempt to step in & “fix” a situation with our kids.
    It’s getting easier as my children get older. I don’t know if they are getting calmer & more mature, or I am, or we all are. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

    • Amy Phoenix November 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      LOL, probably everyone’s growing. ;) Thank you for sharing your experiences, too.

  4. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen November 5, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I’ve gotten so much better at this since my daughter was born. And not because it comes naturally! I had to do a lot of reading of articles like this one before it started to sink in. Now, I try to do fewer things each day (easier to be patient when you’re not in a rush). This is probably the biggest help for me! The more I practice being patient, even when I don’t feel like it, it gets easier the next time.

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