02. Patience: To cultivate a calm and spacious mind

What would you do?

Patience isn’t just about not being angry with others, but also not being angry with yourself: about being able to keep a cool head and persevere whatever the obstacles. Despite an impoverished childhood, only three months of formal schooling and early deafness, the nineteenth century entrepreneur Thomas A. Edison was responsible for a series of important 19th century inventions such as the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the first long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work” Edison once remarked. “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” 

The benefits of patience

The benefits of patience:

  • strengthen our ability to control our reactions, accept differences, and retain our peace of mind
  • enables us to make a calm and effective response to a challenging situation
  • prevents others getting hurt, when we are tempted to lash out in frustration, anger or pain

A 16 Guidelines view on patience

Some people seem to be born patient, just as others seem to have a tendency to get angry. However, it is also possible to cultivate patience. We can remind ourselves of the damage that is caused by uncontrolled anger. We can accept that an injury may not have been intended. We can remember that the situation will change. Patience is a learning curve that lays the foundations for a happy life.To practise patience is to taste the power of the mind. Life is full of uncomfortable experiences, from minor niggles and irritations to major confrontations and setbacks. When they happen, we have a choice about how to respond. We can either become agitated and upset, or we can stay calm and relaxed. Patience is the ability to control our reactions and retain our peace of mind.

Patience gives us the flexibility and strength not to be a victim of circumstance. It is like having a protective suit of armour. It doesn’t make us passive or resigned, or take away the ability to respond appropriately to difficulties and harm. On the contrary, patience makes it far more likely we can respond in an appropriate way, because we retain the ability to think clearly.

16 Guidelines resources and training for developing patience


Did you know?

In the ‘Stanford Marshmallow Experiment’ researchers tested pre-school children. Each child was given the opportunity to have a marshmallow right away or to wait and then have two marshmallows later. Researchers then scored the children at 18 years of age on a range of social indicators. Higher ability to delay gratification as children was linked to higher academic scores. They also had an increased ability to cope with frustration and stress compared to the children who showed less impulse control when choosing marshmallows.


Shoda, Y., Mischel, W. &Peake, P.K. Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification. Developmental Psychology, 1990, 26 (6), 978-986.



“Many people think that to be patient is a sign of weakness. I think that is a mistake. It is anger that is a sign of weakness” says The Dalai Lama, FDCW Patron. 

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize thirty years after he fled into exile from his native Tibet, in recognition of his efforts to consistently seek a peaceful and mutually beneficial resolution with the government of China. His argument is that even if violence seems to have a positive effect in the short term, it leaves a long-term legacy of bitterness and hatred that is hard to undo. 

The Dalai Lama also speaks frequently on the personal benefits of developing patience and avoiding anger. He considers the Chinese to be his greatest friends, because they have helped him develop his own ability to be patient. 

For more on The Dalai Lama, see:

  1. www.dalailama.com, his official website
  2. His book Ethics for the New Millennium, which shares his vision for inner and outer peace
  3. ‘Kundun’, directed by Martin Scorsese, released on DVD by Buena Vista in 2004


A short reflection on patience from '16 Guidelines: The Basics' book

Find a quiet space where you can relax. Sit comfortably. To help you settle, focus your awareness on your breathing. Let go of any thoughts, images or feelings that arise. Whenever you become distracted, bring your awareness gently back to the sensation of the breath going in and out. Spend a few minutes enjoying the experience of coming to rest.

Allow yourself to connect with the patience and compassion that exist deep within your heart. Imagine your heart overflowing with these qualities and taste the peace that they bring.

Identify someone with whom you are having difficulty at the moment. Imagine that they are standing in front of you and gently accept their presence. If this is hard to do, go back to watching your breath for a few minutes until you feel relaxed again. Be gentle with yourself and with them. Can you maintain a sense of patience and compassion in your heart?

Now remember a time when they spoke or behaved in a way that you found challenging or disturbing. Imagine the agitated emotions that were running through their mind. Allow yourself to explore the suffering that they were going through. Proceed slowly and gently, in a spirit of patience and compassion.

Recall a time when you felt anger, jealousy or any other disturbing emotion towards this person. How did that feel in your heart? What effect did it have on you? What impact did it have on them? Did either of you learn from that situation?

Now imagine that the person is trying to have an argument with you. As an experiment, decide that you are willing to lose the argument, that you won't answer back, score points, or attempt to control how they behave. Do your best to be genuinely kind, open, patient and compassionate.

Trust in and enjoy the process. How did it feel? 

Close with the wish “May all beings be happy!”


Quotes on patience

  • For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • An outside enemy exists only if there is anger inside. - Lama Zopa Rinpoche
  • I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to. - Source Unknown
  • If you kick a stone in anger, you'll hurt your own foot. - Korean proverb
  • If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher. - PemaChodron
  • Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself? – Lao Tzu
  • If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished? - Rumi
  • Things that you cannot face in yourself you will hate when you see them in someone else. – SatguruSivayaSubramuniyaswami


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