Monday, February 18, 2008


"We know that things unfold according to their own nature. We can remember to let our lives unfold in the same way. We don't have to let our anxieties and our desire for certain results dominate the quality of the moment, even when things are painful. When we have to push, we push. When we have to pull, we pull. But we know when not to push, too, and when not to pull. Through it all, we attempt to bring balance to the present moment, understanding that in patience lies wisdom, knowing that what will come next will be determined in large measure by how we are now."

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

I have been practicing the art of patience lately, and until two days ago, I was doing quite well at it. You see, my dad has been in the hospital, and I have been spending part of my day every day at the hospital with him and my family. Right after his surgery, my dad was doing quite well, impressing doctors and nurses left and right with his strength and progress. I was impressed with him, too. Just four days after having the most complicated surgery one can have these days, he was walking the length of the hospital floor several times, eating solid foods, and having a sense of humor to boot!

But then things weren't so good all of the sudden and my dad was miserable. Because of my dad's amazing progress, I had forgotten how severe his surgery had been and that inevitably there would be bumps in the road. And I also realized that the invincible qualities I tend to associate with my dad were being tested: my dad turned human again. His strength and force of will were not enough this time; he needed us (his family), the doctors, the nurses, the techs, and several times unfortunately, the hospital cleaning staff (bless their hearts!).

And I needed the Goddess of Patience to appear to me, to lay her soft hands on my head and heart, and to remind me that this journey with my dad would require strength, groundedness, and most of all patience. Instead, my partner held me while I cried. (I must say that he is a good stand-in for the Goddess of Patience.)

I love what Jon Kabat-Zinn writes here: "We don't have to let our anxieties and our desire for certain results dominate the quality of the moment, even when things are painful." This is a hard lesson, for don't I want my dad's pain to go away? Don't I want him to start cracking jokes again and walking like a pro down the hallway in his flimsy hospital gown? I do. But, I know this will come in time. In the meantime, when I sit with my father, I try to take him in and be in the present moment as his body figures out how to heal. The human body is amazing in its ability to heal itself, but sometimes this requires more time than we imagine. Patience is my teacher these days, and I imagine it is for my father as well.

Try this:

Take a "patience walk." When you find yourself feeling impatient with something in your life, give yourself even a few minutes to walk with mindfulness and patience. Notice your steps, your breath, your wandering mind. Feel how "things unfold according to their own nature" as you allow each step to carry you into the future slowly but surely. Feel how such small steps can move you steadily toward your destination.

Art piece above is the lid to a "health" abundance box by Courtney Putnam.

1 comment:

sue simpson said...

Courtney, I am thankful that you have your family, your wonderful father and that he too has you. As times must be very hard, I can not say I know your pain, but I can read it and feel through your words your strength. Yes, we must allow our spouse, partner or friends hold us and let them carry our load for awhile. This gives us the strength and courage to go on. I'm so pleased that you are able to spend this time with your dad. Although it is not pleasant at the moment, it is building a bond. It is no where near the same surgery etc. but when I had a major surgery I too was feeling awesome for about four or five days..then my body needed rest and recovery. I feel this with you dad too. Sending warm wishes, good thoughts and prayers to you all.

a gently hug,