Patience

Stone in creek

‘In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

  1. By the time!
  2. Surely man is in loss,
  3. Except those who believe and do good, and      exhort one another to Truth, and exhort one another to patience.’

This beautiful line, from the Quran (103, Surah Al-‘Asr), really struck a chord with me when I heard it presented by one of the Muslim ladies at an interfaith friendship meeting. To consciously encourage each other to be patient – we have become such an impatient society. Patience used to be more highly regarded – remember the saying ‘patience is a virtue’ – but now it’s often seen as being old-fashioned, an obstacle perhaps to instant and magnificent success. If we are patient, we might miss out on something! People might take advantage, and walk all over us! We might only get through 98% of our to-do list today instead of all of it plus a bit extra!

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Being happy for others

Daylesford lake

‘O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the flesh it feeds on.’
(Iago to Othello, in Shakespeare’s Othello)

Some of the most miserable times in my life have been those when I have felt jealous or resentful. These can be difficult emotions for any of us – that promotion which should have been ours, the achievement someone else got credit for, the close group of friends we’re always on the outer of. Jealousy can be a sharp pang, quickly gone, or a simmering resentment which poisons our life for years. Either way, it certainly feels like we’re feeding on our own flesh, as Shakespeare so eloquently put it – it can distort our thinking, cause us to act unkindly, and impair our ability to feel happy and connected to others. Sometimes we’re justified in feeling resentful, such as when we are the victim of discrimination or abuse. Other times, however, our jealousy has more to do with our inability to be happy for the happiness of others. Everything which goes well with the other person, all their successes and joys, only serves to remind us of our own suffering and misery.

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Jumping to conclusions

 

Bottle brush

 

You are walking along a sunny path, and suddenly see a snake centimetres away from your shoes. You leap in the air, yell, your heart is thumping, and when the snake doesn’t move you have another look. Now you can see the ‘snake’ is actually a stick, and perhaps you have a little laugh, call yourself silly, feel relieved. Yet there is no way to avoid the first, instinctive fear response. We are biologically hard-wired to make up our minds about any situation in split-seconds, jump to a conclusion, and, if we sense danger, act before we are even sure what’s happening. On a holiday earlier this year, I was walking towards a pond in a forest when suddenly a snake was coming right at me with its head raised, ready to attack. Of course I jumped out of the way, and luckily the snake went past, but what I remember from this incident is that I had no time at all to think about what was happening. I’d already moved before any thoughts came into my conscious awareness. In the case of inadvertently disturbing a snake and being attacked by it, this instinctive response can help to save our lives. I’m sure we can all think of times, however, where quickly jumping to conclusions about a situation was anything but helpful! Continue reading “Jumping to conclusions” »

Dealing with good news

Convent stained glass

 

Your heart is thumping, you can’t sit still, you try to relax but find yourself pacing restlessly around the house. When you speak your voice is high and excited, you go on and on, probably repeating yourself, and pity the person who wants to barge in with a story of their own. You try to find the perfect piece of music to express how you feel, but nothing is quite right. Your appetite is all over the place, the world is at your feet, and you’re feeling giddy. You might find yourself dancing madly around the house, or almost in tears with the emotion of it all. What on earth is happening to you?

It could be that you’ve had some good news. Perhaps hard worked-for, perhaps out of the blue. A major turning point in your life, something much less dramatic – whatever it is, it has upset your equilibrium, and you are, quite frankly, all over the place. If this is what you’ve always wanted, then why does it feel so stressful? Continue reading “Dealing with good news” »

The Rush to Relax

Flower in glass

We’ve probably all done it – rushed through something which needed to get done, such as cleaning up after dinner, in order to get to what we really want to do. The tasks we are racing through are almost seen as ‘empty’ time, of little importance to us. We feel our lives should be filled with more important matters than washing dishes, paying bills, brushing our teeth. When I saw the movie ‘Amélie’ I was impressed with her calm, considered morning routine. It looked like such a rich part of her life, something she enjoyed every day. My own morning routine seems very mundane in comparison, without the French soundtrack, the special lighting effects, the sense that, because this is a movie, every action is important.

It could be called the rush to relax – the sense that because my time doing the things I love is precious, I need to deal with the rest of my life as quickly as possible. However, there are at least two ways in which living like this is problematic.

Firstly, most of our lives are made up of mundane tasks we have to ‘get through’. By the time we’ve had a shower, prepared, eaten and tidied away three meals, got ourselves to work or school or the shops and back, ticked off the many ordinary tasks we find there, taken care of our family and pets, done our exercise, dealt with the mail, phone calls and e-mail, paid a few bills and organised ourselves for the next day, it’s basically time to go to bed. Continue reading “The Rush to Relax” »