We break open our shells and breathe new air, or we huddle inside our skin and make it thicker. Seems there is always something tapping on our shell. To be more-better takes many guises. In the development of the chicken it too must wait for ‘the right’ moment to come out of its shell, so too for the tadpole, and for the silk-worm, and for all that transforms from what was to what is yet to be. Metamorphosis and enlightenment occurs in stages, and the gradations at each moment are as essential to the whole as is the journey to the product. How else do the little turtles make their way to the sea? How else does the ugly duckling become a swan?
“Patience is its own reward.” What a statement! It takes having to be patient to appreciate its reward, if one is patient long enough. And if the implication is that waiting long enough to see the sunset, or to see the otter come up again from under the sea, or to see the calving of a mighty glacier fall thunderously into the ocean, then yes, being patient for that expected moment brings about a reward. But what if you're mired in the mud and feeling impatient to get on with the journey? What if you do not know what the test results are? What if you cannot wait for the holiday? What if you want something so badly you can taste it and so break your resistance and eat or drink the thing anyway? Remorse, afterward, clearly is insufficient in a lot of cases not to do, or to want, or to yield again. Addiction, selfishness, greed, and narcissism are the victims of impatience. How then to be rewarded while practicing, or while being patient?
Stillness takes time. The chatter of the mind (particularly our creative minds) intervenes in the moment by moment by day, night, week, month or year of having necessarily to be patient, and side-roads and sliding-metaphors and likely-similes intrude. Patience is the practice of apparent impoverishment. Apparently. We only needs be patient when what we want is not available.
One’s dear friend gets the results of the cancer tests. All concerned have been ‘patient’ for too long! And that ailing person has been ‘a patient’ for how long? Out of ‘consideration for others’ many victims ensconce themselves in a cocoon of ill health and un-reach-ability; constant coughing and bleakness of aspect and inability to speak make for quite natural self-imposed quarantines. One leaves cards and soup and cookies at the loved one’s door. And one feels otherwise helpless and ineffectual. Words can only say so much. And the patience with which all concerned have to wait for what nature itself has taught us is an inevitability; that patience appears to bring us no reward. Yet the love felt and the sympathy felt and the care given and the concerns expressed are indeed the reward. Within the patience needed to allow for time to work its ways there is a richness of the explorations of belief and hope and acceptance and projection and certainty. Between now and then there is something one can do: love! And even in patience there is breathing to do. Love. And at the very least, most of us can breathe freely.
Metamorphosis will have us be one thing in order to become yet another. The observable and concrete concept of it is so pervasive that we hardly can accept that an end to an actual life does not continue to contribute toward the whole afterward, albeit “in thousands of little atomies,” as Shakespeare would have it. Life's about me! So too for reincarnations and the mansions in heaven.
And in the meantime, patience is what we practice; moment by moment; so full of interesting observations and natural breathing such that one may hardly notice one is being a patient at all.