During our first few days in Costa Rica, I experienced some gastrointestinal upset. What followed was not patience and kindness, but irritation and blame. Instead of appreciating the lush rainforest rich with biodiverse species of flora and fauna, my mind was fixated on problems. My body wasn't behaving the way it should; my tween daughter was moody; I should be snapping out of this funk faster than I was.
Eventually, I could find some balance with a little help from mindfulness and self-compassion practices. Though the forecast called for sunny skies on the latter half of our trip, a small gray cloud still threatened to unleash a torrent of judgements if I wasn't careful.
Stop being so anxious! Never mind that your sleep schedule was thrown off from day 1 of this trip and that your body is slightly dehydrated from diarrhea and this weather.
Who cares that your gastrointestinal issues started in residency with call and sleep deprivation years ago. So what if your digestive system is still sensitive when your sleep schedule is thrown off. You should be over this by now!!!
On our flight home, I listened to an insightful dharma talk on patience. It reminded me to ask the right question. Instead of Am I behaving like a mindfulness master right now?, Is kindness here? might be more helpful.
Sylvia Boorstein writes, "Patience is more the moment to moment adjustment to unpleasant circumstances done in knowing they cannot be any other way. This is wisdom."
In Costa Rica, I was making moment to moment adjustments to unpleasant circumstances. I was soothing my body with food, hydration, Pepto-Bismol, and self-compassion. I was renewing my vow each day to be kind in speech to my daughter, myself, and others. My gratitude radar was on the lookout for beauty and kindness.
Maybe my mind wasn't entirely fixated on problems this whole trip. Maybe I was asking, Is kindness here? more often than not. Maybe my heart is as brave and beautiful as a Costa Rican sunset sinking in darkness to rise again.
May we all ask the right question. When we forget, may patience guide us towards wisdom.