Embracing the Quality of Patience, Part II
This is the final installment in a two-column series focusing on embracing the quality of patience in enhancing both the successfulness and overall quality of recovery from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. The initial installment expounded on the quality of patience and its ramifications in promoting a more in-depth experience of recovery, while attaining higher levels of both physical and mental-emotional health and well-being. This final installment focuses on identifying and discussing a variety of practical steps both you and your clients can take to more fully integrate the quality of patience into your lives.
Here are some items I have found particularly helpful in cultivating the quality of patience in my own life.
Deepen Our Relationship with Our Higher Power
This was powerfully driven home to me thirteen years ago when I retired from my day job. Losing the sense of identity, social supports, and grounding I derived from my employment—coupled with moving 1,200 miles from Southern California, which had been my home for the past thirty-five years—left me unexpectedly feeling adrift and ungrounded. At that point I had no choice but to get down on my knees each day and fervently pray for guidance and the fortitude to carry on. I also learned to lay down for several minutes when I felt particularly off balance, and listen to that still, small voice within. I also resumed going to church, a practice I had let fall by the wayside for decades, and began a serious reevaluation of the spiritual side of my life.
In times of trouble we may turn to our higher power for comfort and security. However, when things start getting better we have a tendency to go back to business as usual, while neglecting to seek day-to-day guidance from a higher realm. In doing so we deprive ourselves of the comfort, serenity, and ongoing growth that power is eager to bestow upon us, provided that we are willing to take the time to truly listen.
Practice the Serenity Prayer
I carry a card reciting the serenity prayer in my wallet, which I constantly refer to. In my opinion this is the most powerful stress management tool ever invented.
Take a Long-Range Perspective on Time
In today’s fast-paced world it is all too easy to get caught up in frantically trying to do a million and one things all at once. That was particularly true of me during the half of my life I spent in Southern California. Allowing ourselves to be seduced by that mindset is the antithesis of patience.
Shortly after moving to California from the Midwest, I began practicing a popular form of meditation. I have found this immensely helpful in calming my restless mind and have continued that practice over the past forty years.
Taking a long-range perspective on time requires us to step aside and view the present moment within the context of our entire life span. It also helps to cultivate a true appreciation of the meaning of divine order in our lives.
As I type these words, I am reminded of the haunting lyrics of two songs from the 1970s that convey to me a deeper understanding of what taking a long-range perspective on time is truly all about. The first is “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band, which begins with the refrain “time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future” (1976). The second is a two-track 1970 rendition of “Nights in White Satin” by Eric Burdon and War, originally by the The Moody Blues. Despite the turbulent tone of much of the first track, which to me has nothing to do with “Nights in White Satin,” the track ends with a truly haunting soliloquy based on the theme “I live in an ocean of time” (1967).
Along these lines, the following analogy provides an image I like to turn to when I am obsessing over all the things I believe I need to do right now. Imagine observing a postal clerk facing a very long line of customers, as he calmly focuses on the one customer he is currently assisting, patiently dealing with each person in line, one customer at a time.
Throughout the ages, breath has been equated with spirit or life. The calming effect of deep breathing is a folk remedy that has stood the test of time (Axinia, 2008; MacKinnon, 2016). We all have been admonished many times to take a deep breath when we are stressed out.
A recent article on Time magazine’s website claims that deep breathing is the fastest way to calm down, and discusses findings that shed light on how deep breathing can indeed induce a profound sensation of calmness and tranquility (Park, 2017). Briefly stated, research conducted at Stanford has discovered that “a group of nerves in the brain that regulates breathing has a direct connection to the arousal center of the brain” (Park, 2017). Quoting from lead researcher, Mark Krasnow, “This liaison to the rest of the brain means that if we can slow breathing down . . . these neurons then don’t signal the arousal center . . . So you can calm your breathing and also calm your mind” (Park, 2017).
I have been aware of the calming effects of deep breathing for many years, and attempt to engage in deep breathing whenever my anxiety or irritability is getting the best of me. The following is one of my favorite deep breathing exercises, which I learned from the integrative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil a few years back: Slowly breathe in through your nostrils to the count of four, hold the breath to the count of five, and slowly exhale through the mouth to the count of six. Repeat this exercise four or more times. I have discovered that when I take the time to do this exercise when I am deeply stressed, I invariably experience a noticeable calming effect.
In essence, mindfulness entails living fully in the present and savoring the pleasurable aspects of whatever we are doing right now. For example, as I type these words I am aware of my dog resting peacefully by my side and the awesome view out the window of Tucson’s Catalina Mountains. Fully focusing on this here-and-now experience, I feel profoundly relaxed as I look forward to whatever lies before me.
Some of the more popular means of cultivating mindfulness include meditation, yoga, and other forms of moving meditation, together with consciously reminding ourselves throughout the day to simply be here now. In the context of the overwhelmingly fast-paced times in which we live, it behooves us to consciously take time out throughout the day to “smell the roses.”
I hope the above pointers will inspire both you and your clients to make a conscious effort to cultivate the quality of patience. After all, we have the rest of our lives ahead of us, so why not slow down a bit and enjoy the journey? Until next time—to your health! c
About the Author
John Newport, PhD, is an addiction specialist, writer, and speaker living in Tucson, Arizona. He is author of The Wellness-Recovery Connection: Charting Your Pathway to Optimal Health While Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. You may visit his website www.wellnessandrecovery.com for information on wellness and recovery trainings, wellness coaching by telephone, and program consultation services that he is available to provide.
Axnia. (2008). In all traditions, spirit means breath or wind. Retrieved from https://1000petals.wordpress.com/2008/07/26/sahaja-yogaspirit-means-breath-
Hayward, J. (1967). Nights in white satin [The Moody Blues]. On Days of future past [record]. London: Deram.
MacKinnon, M. (2016). The science of slow deep breathing. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuraptitude/201602/the-science-slow-deep-
Miller, S. (1976). Fly like an eagle [Steve Miller Band]. On Fly like an eagle [record]. California: Capitol.
Park, A. (2017). This is the fastest way to calm down. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4718723/deep-breathing-meditation-calm-anxiety/