Lessons From India: Patience


Growing up in a fast-paced environment, I want everything to happen now, or at least, when it’s supposed to. So when the bus is late, plans get changed, the professor doesn’t turn up, lunch is delayed, the wifi isn’t working, it’s too hot, you’re too hungry, you need a cigarette, the washing machine is never available, and no-one seems to know what’s going on, it’s too easy to get irritated and lash out on others. Here in our health lectures, I’ve learnt that impatience causes mental tension and 50% of bodily ailments today, such as heart-diseases, blood-pressure, stomach ulcers, a feeling of weakness, insomnia, depression, etc, are caused by the effect of this tension.


Here in India, at times it’s like time has no value: “Time is Money” just doesn’t exist. A lecture might supposed to start at 10, you’ll wait, hang around, an hour later it’s tea break- “What happened to the lecture?” you’ll ask, and they’ll tell you “yes yes, after, let’s take tea!” And you’ll get frustrated about all the time you’re wasting.

Then, very, very suddenly, you’ll be told -commanded even- to go, go, GO! Suddenly that bus arrives, the professor is here, the food is ready. Even at the River Ganges, where we sat so peacefully unaware of time; watching the candles, celebrations, the people bathing- we were then rushed out, even told to RUN across the bridge- it was madness!

Quite ironically, whenever we were sat about waiting for something, I had no patience. Then when I was suddenly told to – Go! Run! Sit! Come here! – I took my time, wondering why the heck they’re rushing me around, thinking they ought to have more patience!

There needs to be a balance… as we know is very difficult to find in our hectic lives. I’ve learnt that we must look inwards, try and change our outlook and find it within ourselves.

The bridge 25+ of us ran frantically across

Change of thought

Whenever a session was supposed to start, or we were supposed to leave, or meet someone, or go somewhere, I made myself productive while having the feeling of patience. Instead of ranting and sighing due to delays, I busied myself in the depths of a great book, practiced some asanas, or simply listened to the birds, watched the butterflies play. I found that idle time decreased dramatically (I felt I was ‘doing’ something constructive) so I had more patience and less anger. After the first week, I’d only be half way through a page and then what was supposed to happen would actually happen! I realised I’d managed to change my reaction to the situation so that it never bothered me anymore.

This is what my meditation teacher Norbu would call “Rough Level”. I needed to be doing something in order to feel productive and calm. Ask P, there’s nothing that grates on me more than wasting time. Eventually, through meditation practice and so on, I might be able to reach a level where I don’t need to do anything at all and still remain patient- an unlikely thought coming from the girl who should have “if you want something done right, do it yourself” as her tagline.

“I want, I want”

Since I have little patience with just day to day things, it’s no wonder that when serious stuff happens I just lose it. It’s just so hard, waiting things out. When things took a turn for the worse earlier this year, I knew I could just stay and freedom would soon come, but I just couldn’t. I wanted things to change right then, so I made it change. I flew home the very next day I decided I wasn’t living the life I wanted. This isn’t too awful, but it was really unprofessional. Life can’t be lived like that, constantly moving and changing, hoping for something better. I need to work at it. I need to work hard to have patience with my students, my mother, other people, myself.

B.K.S. Iyengar, a very respected yoga teacher from India, used a lovely metaphor, “If you put a seed in the ground today and say, ‘In ten days I want fruit,’ does it come? The fruit comes naturally, does it not? When the tree is ready to bear fruit, it comes. Even if you say, ‘I want it, I want it!’ it does not come any sooner. But when you think that the tree is not going to give you any fruit, all of a sudden you see the fruit grow. It has to come naturally. So work, and let it come or let it not come…”

This could be talking about our yoga practice, learning a language, building a relationship, selling a painting, getting published, opening a business, success in life, happiness… Anything you struggle to have patience with. Whatever it is, just wanting it to happen isn’t enough! You have to let it come or let it not come. Patience. Be completely open, nurture it. Just like fruit, when it’s ready to come; it will. If the fruit never arrives, perhaps the seed was sewn wrong- in the wrong season, the wrong timing. The conditions weren’t quite right. Have patience, start over.




Hi! I'm Sarah. I dropped out of university tired with the mundane life I was living in England. Now I'm an aspiring ex-pat of the world, having already lived and worked in Vietnam, Italy and Maldives. I'm using this blog to document my experiences and hopefully inspire others!

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