The Art of Patience

(As published on Elephant Journal)

I am not at all what anyone would – or could – call a patient person by nature. At the age of 17, my ego’s desire for speed, intensity, and ultimately, immediate gratification, led me to New York City: the fastest paced city I have ever lived in, visited, or even heard of. A “New York Minute,” after all, is widely known for being the tiniest measurable length of time in the world. Johnny Carson once explained it as ‘the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the cab driver behind you honking his horn.’ Everything in my life in New York, from traffic to meetings to meals to time with friends and loved ones could best be described by one word: FAST. Even the Yoga classes I used to attend in New York could be most accurately characterized as both quick and intense. The same practice of Yoga, which was originally designed and intended to help one slow down enough to relax and connect with one’s inner Self, was something I, in part and unknowingly, used to fuel my addiction to speed.

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On Solitude and Renunciation

I think this Wednesday’s passage on “The Fallacy of Togetherness” really required some deeper reflection on the meaning of solitude and renunciation and their role in spirituality to have true value. There is, on the one hand, something so beautiful the Swamiji, for example, from the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala, South India, who renounced his wife and career to move to India to pursue a path of deep solitude and spiritual growth. He couldn’t speak a single word of the local dialect in India. At that time, nothing was written in English the way the language has become widespread these days. So this Swamiji befriended the birds, the monkeys and the trees of the jungle in Kerala. I think it is wonderful to have that kind of opportunity to be that close and connected to Mother Nature.

In our culture, both the western and Indian ones, as well as the European, and, I imagine, Middle Eastern and Latin American ones, we are inclined to feel great regard for those who walk a path of renunciation, by becoming Swamis or monks, priests or imams. Because we imagine that we could never live without the things these people have given up, it is natural to feel a lot of respect for renunciates. There, is however, at the same time, a darker side to renunciation of the traditional sense (as there is for all things in the dualistic world we inhabit). Continue reading