Faith and Patience

When I was about 20, the world was in a total turmoil of politics and racism. I looked around at America at the time of the Vietnam War and didn’t recognize it as the country that I had been taught it was. I know that might sound strange to some of you now, because you’ve grown up in an age where we’ve been constantly at war in one arena or another. When I was young, we thought war was a very unusual, unfortunate occasion, and that we only engaged in it to defend some higher truth. Now it has turned out that the highest truth war defends is profitability….but that’s another discussion. 

Faith and patience. Faith is letting go of any distress, and looking for and holding that simple good feeling that arises out of connecting to our bodies and our breath. It can be ecstatic at times, but it doesn’t have to be ecstatic and it’s not dramatic—it ’s simple. Breathing into that simple space that is beyond tension, and beyond anxiety and beyond confusion, didn’t cause me to be perfectly clear, because I wasn’t, but I did cease to struggle with my lack of clarity. I stopped wrestling with my confusion. I didn’t get tangled up in my angst. I simply established myself in the nicest, kindest, softest, most good feeling place I could find in myself, and I held that space moment by moment. And patiently, I waited for the fog to dissipate. 

It was my profound good fortune that yoga landed in my life when I was in college. Somehow I actually got the message that I needed to practice it. When I started practicing yoga, I connected with my body for the first time in my life, and it felt good. From that point, I began to understand that I needed to connect to and hold a certain mindset in order to be able to access that good feeling. The simplest way I can express it to you is that I understood that I had to live my life, every day, with a great deal of faith and patience. 

Swami Chetanananda at retreat

Faith and patience are things we all need to cultivate. Faith, of course, sounds a little bit like a religion. You might ask “Faith in what?” Faith arose in me from the experience of the change that happened in my practice. I felt the state of my muscles change; I felt the state of my entire body change; I felt the state of my heart change; I felt the weight on my heart dissolve. As I found my breath, and cultivated that experience, I felt my heart become bigger and bigger and, in the awakening and expansion of my own heart, I found peace and joy. In that state of peace and joy, I started to understand more about who I was, and I started to experience what I was capable of. Opportunities came to me to express my capacity, and I engaged those opportunities with as much faith and patience as I could. I took each opportunity, one moment at a time, step by step, not becoming entangled again in my confusion, or my insecurities, my tensions, or my imaginary fears. I stepped forward, step by step, with faith and patience that the light of my own life, which I experienced within myself unfolding, would lead me to an increasingly finer place. And it has.

 I can say to you, with total conviction, that it has. As I moved forward in the expression of my capacities, faith and patience allowed me to find respect for my fellow humans, even people whom I disagree with completely. I developed respect for humanity and the ability to see living in people that same light that is alive in me. That gave me the opportunity to stop trying to impose my ideas about the world on my own life and on everybody else’s life, and to start to allow myself to appreciate and learn from all the experiences that I was having—which, of course, I would have never had if I hadn’t had some faith and patience in the first place. That respect has matured into love, and that love has grown very deep into a kind of cooperation and sharing that endures over decades and is increasingly beautiful. How amazing! 

Even now, I don’t have any answers for anything…and I don’t want to have any answers for anything. I feel like the need to have answers is the need to limit the possibility that you’re living with. Because, as soon as you have an answer, then you impose it on your environment and that becomes the story. Well, the story is always bullshit.

 If we could hold the space of faith and patience, and walk with that openness with one another, step by step, respecting the people we walk with, what an amazing world this would be. If we could see the light of the divine shining in everyone, and see and experience our total our total interconnectedness with everyone, it would completely transform our view of the world. Our simple effort to reel our minds back from all their confusion and anxiety into a simple place of faith and patience, and a simple willingness to share, becomes a profound transformation in our vision of who we are and what life is. The simple spark within us becomes a fireworks display. 

Everyday I wake up, and I don’t know if I should read the news or not. Everyday it seems to be more bizarre out there. But I can’t really worry too much about the world; it’s always been a little bit bizarre. And there’s nothing I can do about it. But I can bring peace and joy to my own heart and extend to the people with whom I share my life, the simple peace and joy that I find within myself that has transformed me over and over and over and over again, from Bloomington, Indiana, to here, to wherever is next. 

I encourage you to think about faith and patience. Within each of us there is Unimaginable Possibility, and the first step and the next 20 steps to the realization of that Unimaginable Possibility begin with faith and patience. Have faith in the good feeling you find within yourself and patience that you will be guided from within yourself to the finest possible place you can be.