Master Patience With This Simple Practice

“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.”

–  George Savile

I recently had a cold and cough and was lamenting the amount of time it was taking for me to feel normal again. At the same time, a mother hummingbird had made a nest just outside my office window, near our front door. I watched this mama bird sit on her nest for long periods of time, leaving only occasionally to get food for herself.

She sat so patiently just waiting. Waiting for her eggs to hatch. Waiting for her young to be born.

I wanted to embody her patience, but at the same time, I wanted to feel healthy again, feel normal and have all my energy back.

“Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”


This tiny creature had the capacity to accept that her babies could take up to two weeks to hatch, and that is a long time for a hummingbird to sit idle, or in torpor, a resting pose for hummingbirds much like meditation. But she knew she must keep those eggs warm, and safe from predators.

I wasn’t accepting that it might take two weeks to be back to my old self. I was angry and so very frustrated.

UCLA Professor of Psychology, Dr. Judith Orloff says, “Frustration is not the key to any door. Patience is a lifelong spiritual practice as well as a way to find emotional freedom. Patience is a form of compassion, a re-attuning to intuition, a way to emotionally redeem your center in a world filled with frustration.”

Patience was this minuscule creature’s friend. She wasn’t using her much needed energy complaining or getting frustrated. I knew if I could stop using up energy being mad, I could use that energy more efficiently to heal.

Dr. Orloff says, “Every morning, noon, and night there are plenty of good reasons to be impatient. Another long line. Telemarketers. A goal isn’t materializing “fast enough.” People don’t do what they’re supposed to. Rejection. Disappointment. How to deal with it all? You can drive yourself crazy, behave irritably, feel victimized, or try to force an outcome–all self-defeating reactions that alienate others and bring out the worst in them. Or, you can learn to transform frustration with patience.”

“. . . patience gives you the liberating breath you’ve always longed to take.”

Dr. Judith Orloff

“With patience, you’re able to step back and regroup instead of aggressively reacting or hastily giving up on someone (or something) who’s frustrating you. You’re able to invest meaningful time in a relationship (or situation) without giving up or giving in. In fact, patience gives you the liberating breath you’ve always longed to take.”

And once I let go of frustration and trusted the natural healing process of my body, I was able to re-attune to my intuition and invest meaningful time in all the self care tools I knew to be worthwhile for me. I was able to enjoy the liberating breath I had longed to take.

To practice patience, try the following exercise suggested by Dr. Orloff.

Find a long, slow-moving line to wait in. Perhaps in the grocery store, bank, post office. Or if you’re renewing your driver’s license, dare to take on the mother of all lines in the DMV. But here’s the switch: Instead of getting irritated or pushy, which taxes your system with a rush of stress hormones, take a breath. Tell yourself, “I’m going to wait peacefully and enjoy the pause.” Meanwhile, try to empathize with the overwrought cashier or government employee. Smile and say a few nice words to the other beleaguered people in line. Use the time to daydream; take a vacation from work or other obligations. Notice the stress release you feel, how your body relaxes. Lines are an excellent testing ground for patience. To strengthen this asset, I highly recommend standing in as many as possible.

Today I am healthy again and those little eggs not only hatched, but after another couple of weeks, the two nestlings left the only home they ever knew and are living in my courtyard beginning their own life journeys (and probably learning a lot about patience).

Now for me, hummingbirds are more than cute little creatures who flutter from flower to flower. They are one more reminder of the importance of self care and that I have the power to be a master of patience. And so do you.

For more information from Dr. Orloff on patience go to Psychology Today

For more ideas for self care tools go to Fuzzy Red Socks

If I piqued your interest in hummingbirds, check out this 3-minute video on how National Geographic filmed a hummingbird sequence for its Hostile Planet Series: National Geographic