Practicing the Patience of Voluntarily Accepting Suffering


Since it’s impossible to fulfill our desires or to stop unwanted things from happening, we need to find a different way of dealing with the frustration and anger that inevitably accompanies what we judge to be negative. Anger is the most common reaction for dealing with anything unpleasant we encounter in our lives. We would be far more peaceful if we practiced patient acceptance instead.

If we practice the patience of voluntarily accepting suffering, we can maintain a peaceful mind even when experiencing manifest pain. If we maintain a peaceful and positive attitude through the force of mindfulness, unhappy minds do not arise. However, if we allow ourselves to dwell on unhappy thoughts, anger, frustration, and suffering are certain to arise.

Patient acceptance doesn’t mean we surrender to life’s challenges without taking action. If we can improve a bad situation, we should do what needs to be done without the distracting negative judgments of who or what caused our circumstances. If we have a way of rectifying a difficult situation, we should take action and accept the difficulties as a temporary condition soon to pass; thus we have no need to be unhappy about our current circumstances. If we can’t do anything to rectify a difficult situation, then there is also no reason to be upset because our unhappiness can’t possibly help. Without patience acceptance, it’s easy to get caught up in ruminations about negative situations for days, weeks, months, or even years at a time waiting for some magical day in some distant future when the condition changes.

Most of our emotional problems arise due to a failure to accept things as they are. We instinctively believe changing the external environment will solve our problems, but in reality, patient acceptance – changing our internal environment – is a more effective solution. There are many difficult circumstances in life we can’t avoid. We will all grow old, get sick, and eventually die. These unpleasant realities can’t be avoided. However, we can avoid the unhappiness and anger that accompanies any negative situation with the practice of patience.

Patient acceptance is often considered a weak, passive, or even defeatist approach to problems that we lack the power or the courage to solve. In reality, being patient requires great emotional strength and steadfast mental training. There is nothing strong or courageous in reacting to hardship with anger, insults, or violence. Those reactions are a true sign of weakness as the person exhibiting them has given in to the delusions clouding their mind.

Circumstances or other people have no power to make us feel bad. In fact, they have no power other than the power we give them. Circumstances or people can trigger the potential for painful feelings we already carry in our minds, but we are ultimately the ones in control. Our task is to vigilantly observe our minds, and when anger arises, intentionally apply the opponent force of patience to quell our anger.

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I am Anattā. Not my real name, of course, but that’s the point. I selected the moniker Anattā because in Buddhism, my primary spiritual practice, the term anattā refers to the doctrine of “non-self”. In more practical terms, I chose the name Anattā because by writing anonymously, it’s far easier to be completely candid and honest. Further, there is no danger of my writing becoming tainted by any desire for self-aggrandizement. I write primarily to improve my own understanding of these topics, but my deepest desire for writing on this site is to help others.