India has taught me so much about patience and humility. Primarily, that I have none!
Okay sure that’s an exaggeration. But really, India has been an incredibly harsh teacher into just how impatient and arrogant I can be. Many people have psychotic-like breakdowns while travelling in India. I am one of them. I believe that shedding layers of one’s limited identity is part of the process of liberating the soul, so I kind of revel in these breakdowns. It is often said that either you love India, or hate her. I think usually it’s those of us who have under developed patience and over developed pride that fall into the later category. My experience of India is a kind of love/hate relationship, like a lover who pushes you to the brim of your capacity to meet challenge and then whisks you onto the counter top for crazy wild sex. Perhaps not the most balanced lover. A lover I am finally seeing I do not desire to marry and introduce to my family. Metaphorically speaking of course.
The chaos of India provides endless opportunities to practice the virtues of patience and humility. And for this, I am sincerely grateful. Albeit equally sincerely exhausted. Everything from booking a train ticket, to buying a piece of clothing, to explaining to a rickshaw where you want to go (and hopefully actually getting there) can serve as an exercise for building these virtues. “No ticket here, this counter” says the lady at the ticket counter while pointing off in some ambiguous direction. “Best quality for you” says the merchant holding up a sun bleached pair of pants sprinkled with literal bird shit. “Yes, definitely madam” says the rickshaw driver obviously having no idea where you are asking him to take you. Rarely in my experience does anything go according to plan. So much so that a cliche when travelling India is that you are essentially doomed if you try to make any plans in the first place. You are best to “go with the flow” as they say in the new age circles.
I used to really love this quality of India. Finding it freeing to live without timelines, or plans or expectations. These days I am finding it a lot less glamorous. Perhaps I have become more impatient? Maybe I simply value my time more, feeling the preciousness of this incarnation. Or maybe I am actually just a lot more grounded and thus see more clearly the dysfunction of this society. Perhaps all are true.
Patience, who are you? What do you feel like? What do you bring with you? Patience to me feels like letting go of the mind’s desire to hold and trap expressions into molds. Like releasing the need to control circumstances, and to have circumstances conform to your ideals. This is where I have so much to learn, and where India has so much to share. I live in a world of ideals. Being a dreamer, a perpetual visionary imagining how things could be, how I would like things to be, I am continuously met with disappointments. Sometimes things go according to my mind’s projection, but often they do not. In India they mostly don’t. And so I see with more and more clarity how my desire to control reality inhibits my experience of freedom.
Patience, with his cousin humility, provide the antidote to this tiresome point of narcissistic perception. But like all real qualities, they are conditioned over time. I have seen so vividly how the lack of culturing of these qualities has impacted my experience of life. And I long for the day when these virtues are integrated in my experience. Perhaps this is why I am blessed with so many opportunities for practice! Perhaps this is why I again and again am drawn to India to have my plans shaken out from under me, swept into the madness here, to cultivate an underdeveloped skill.
Like any learning, culturing virtues such as patience and humility is not always easy and sometimes lends to growing pains. I have largely been the kind of person who when something doesn’t come easily gives up and moves on to something else.With many natural talents I have lacked discipline in culturing anything that doesn’t come effortlessly. But I am beginning to see that with these virtues I can’t avoid integrating them any longer. It will actually be more painful to continue to try to bypass this teaching than to simply buckle down and focus upon it.
I have come to see that impatience and pride (the kind of pride that inflates the limited perception of self) are often fodder to the fire of my anger. Anger manifests in me not as an obvious outward expression of rage, but as an internal festering force that eats away at my insides and tries to escape through my skin, clogging my pores with it’s stagnant heat. It is the kind of anger that hides and sneaks below the surface yet which is felt intuitively and leaks out in the form of passive aggression. I have come to see that my impatience is intrinsically linked to my pride, and together these two forces create senses of failure which reinforce a deep-seated belief that there is something wrong with me.
Let me unpack this. Often my pride takes control of my perspective. When I fear being wrong I plod forward in my planned direction even when my intuition tells me to change course. To try to save my pride, and appear “right” or “clever” I defend a position that my mind has decided is right, regardless of new information and intuitive awareness. This leads me to defend my actions/plans etc and force my reality into my limited idea of what life should look like. Then, when naturally the forces of life beyond my control push against my limited belief I become impatient and resist the natural flow life wants to take. This resistance is essentially impatience, as it reflects an internal dis-ease with what is so. This resistance then wants to come out as anger, but the initial pride in being “right” inhibits the expression of this anger, and thus the anger goes underground to fester and boil. Literally manifesting as pimples. So afraid of evidence that I am wrong, I defend a position that obviously is not serving my happiness. A paradox indeed.
What a vivid realization this has become! This discomfort I’ve been experiencing in India has helped me to really see clearly one of the most poignant patterns of my conditioning. In Tantra, they refer to these conditionings as “Vasanas” or “samskaras”, and teach that the clearing of these conditionings is vital to one’s liberation. Being so stuck in the subconscious, they are often quite difficult to bring into the conscious. This is why life’s mystery manifests endless challenges. They are experiences to help you unearth your vasanas and thus free yourself from the traps of your ego-mind that has you identifying solely as your limited experiences.
The discipline comes in that even after becoming conscious of the unconscious, the programming for this pattern is still running in my “operating system” shall we say. So it is not easy by any means to actually clear the pattern. This is what I am experiencing now. India continues to bless me with patience challenging situations, and I have to practice consciously choosing not to feed my demons. It is hard work! And requires what I lack; the very patience I am working on. I suppose no one said that the path of Spiritual liberation would be easy.
I hope this inspires you to look at your own programming, and do the work to become conscious of the unconscious scripts that are running your life. What it might be like to live in a world where the average person takes on this challenge! Where we have adults who are patient and humble raising children from this perspective. This is a dream I am dreaming into being! Patiently. Humbly. Dreaming. Praying.