Today is June 16 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you abandon impatience?” Those who leverage their mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos understand the value of abandoning impatience, especially for those things that are completely out of their control.
Thubten Chodron, born Cheryl Greene, is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun, author, teacher, and the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, the only Tibetan Buddhist training monastery for Western nuns and monks in the United States. She has published many books on Buddhist philosophy and meditation and is the only nun who has co-authored a book with the Dalai Lama entitled Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions.
Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. Chodron reminds people to abandon impatience when she writes: “When you plant seeds in the garden, you don’t dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do your daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness.”
The U.S. civil rights movement provides four examples of different groups of people who abandoned impatience as they pursued ‘causes of goodness.’ As you read each of the following four, do realize that abandoning impatience does not mean doing nothing, quite the opposite. Abandoning impatience is accompanied by the ‘planting and watering of seeds.’ When you abandon impatience, you make a commitment, and you remain steadfast without an expectation of an end date.
The first example for today is the 1955 bus boycott. Approximately 40,000 Black bus riders boycotted the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system in December 1955, a few days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white rider. The boycott lasted 382 days and took place from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, and is regarded as the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system. One of the leaders of the boycott, 26-year-old-pastor of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged as a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement.
Today’s second example involves the hundreds of students who sat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina every day for six months after four Black students were refused service on February 1, 1960. The Greensboro sit-ins triggered other sit-ins in cities throughout the South, with more than 50,000 students joining in by April 1960. The Greensboro sit-ins ended when the local Woolworth’s lunch counter was desegregated on July 25, 1960.
The third example of abandoning impatience stems from 1961 when Freedom Riders headed south from Washington, D.C., on buses, making stops along the way to protest segregated bus terminals. The riders were ultimately met with violence and arson, which drew national attention from the Kennedy administration. The Freedom Rides came to an end after 7 months, with the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawing segregation on interstate buses. ‘Whites only’ signs were taken down in more than 300 Southern stations.
The last example here for today’s reflection is when civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. joined peaceful demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, to protest its Supreme Court-defying segregation. Police met the demonstrators with dogs, Billy clubs, and fire hoses, as Birmingham jails were overflowing with arrests. After 37 days, Birmingham officials agreed to desegregate public establishments, hire Black workers, and release jailed protesters.
Those who boycotted the busses, sat at the Woolworth’s counter, joined the Freedom Riders, or peacefully demonstrated in Alabama abandoned impatience. They never set an end date. Progress for each person or group took months, years, and some would even say decades.
Given the nation’s recent history, one could easily argue civil rights and equal rights for all has a stronger need to abandon impatience these days more than ever. Much work remains to be done. Navigating the chaos involves identifying the difference between when to abandon impatience, and when not to. Either choice requires a great deal of reflection, self-awareness, and intention.
How often do you abandon impatience?
How often do you plant seeds then dig them up?
How often are you watering the seeds you planted?
How often do you grow impatient waiting for the seeds to grow?
Have there been times in your life when you were impatient? If so, how did that help you navigate the chaos?
Have there been times in your life where you wish you exercised a bit more patience?
Why do you think you do not abandon impatience as much as you might want to?