Patience is not really my thing… which has made the Buddhist quality of forbearance tricky to understand, never mind put into practice. Tai Situpa defined forbearance  using three very practical aspects. (https://www.samyeling.org/buddhism-and-meditation/teaching-archive-2/chamgon-khentin-tai-situpa/the-paramita-of-forbearance/) The first is to refrain from hurting those who have hurt us. The second is to cope with whatever suffering we have to endure, without fighting it uselessly or developing strong feelings of resentment. The third is to have confidence in the ultimate truth.

Many of us find it hard to know when to speak up about a wrong and when to keep silent. Living with someone with Alzheimer’s has been an extraordinarily rich ground to learn about which battles to fight and which to leave be. Being in a situation where speaking up is useless, simply because my father has no memory. And no matter how brilliantly I state my case and how wholeheartedly he agrees, he promptly forgets and repeats the same action again and again. It’s brought an entirely new dimension to understanding how truly useless, uselessly fighting something actually is!

There are times when we do need to speak up and try to resolve a situation, both in the world, and in our own homes and lives. In our house, I have discovered just how many of the weird and wonderful expressions of my father’s randomly connecting brain, really can be left to be.

It’s been humbling to learn just how much of my ‘speaking up’ comes from a desire for things to be a certain way  (and here, think less of ‘a’ certain way, and more of ‘my’ certain way!). The most powerful guiding force of my action – no matter what I try to convince myself and others – is not so much for the greater good, but for my own good.

Forbearance is taking on new meaning. There is a profound quality to coping with the suffering we have to endure that has surprised me. It has nothing to do with changing the situation or making it better but more to do with being with something that is happening, as it is happening no matter what it is. Without preference.

Sjoe, now where have I heard that before?

Till next time,

Tania Potter