Several years ago, when a friend who was suffering with a serious illness told me he didn’t think he had enough patience or calmness to cope with it, a reassuring thought about his situation came to me, one which I shared with him.
It occurred to me that my friend was thinking of patience and calmness as private and personal qualities. He seemed to be thinking of them as material substances which people ‘own’ in different amounts, depending on their personalities. It was as if my friend thought of himself as a physical ‘container’ which contained a very small amount of the substances called ‘patience’ and ‘calmness’. It was obvious that he felt that his allotted amount of these qualities was so limited that he would not be able to deal with the stress and turbulence of his serious illness.
As I thought about it, what I slowly realized, and what I shared with my friend, is that qualities like patience and calmness are not personal and privately owned. It sounds crazy, but it strikes me as an undeniable fact: patience and calmness are totally impersonal, simply because they are not ‘made’ by any one person, don’t ‘belong’ to any one person, and can’t be ‘owned’ by any one person. They are not material ‘things’ that can be accumulated or constructed, held onto, and then used up.
An analogy that came to me is the sky, which is everywhere above us and is freely available for everyone to appreciate and enjoy, just like patience and calmness. No one would think of saying to someone, “I don’t own enough of the sky.” The sky can’t be privately owned, and thus can’t be ‘used up’, and nether can qualities like patience and calmness. The boundless sky, and patience and calmness, are just there, always and for everyone. While my friend was feeling impatient and anxious, all around him qualities like patience and calmness were being appreciated, enjoyed, and expressed – by his friends, by his family members, by millions of strangers, and, of course, by him. My friend, like all of us, was absolutely surrounded by infinite patience and calmness, ready to help. Unfortunately, he, like many of us, couldn’t see it and feel it.
But the truth is – and this is what I shared with him – that no situation can take away any of the patience and calmness and courage and acceptance, etc that always surround us and are part of us. Qualities like these are wider and bigger and more boundless than any one person. They are with us always, like the endless sky. When we’re despondent and desperate, the sky is still there, waiting for us to appreciate and enjoy it, and so are patience and calmness and friendliness and optimism. Truly, my friend couldn’t possibly escape from these qualities, just as he can’t escape from being under the never-ending sky.
The years have passed, but I hope my friend, come what may, can always appreciate and enjoy the power of limitless, free-of-charge qualities like patience and calmness and courage and friendliness and optimism and unselfishness.
And I hope I can too.