A Fundamental Attitude

Along with Patience, the quality of perseverance provides the grounding and support that the Hridaya Attitudes encourage us to cultivate. By developing this attribute, the practitioner creates a solid foundation on which to build all the other important factors.

Talking about perseverance in our spiritual life isn’t so complicated; we must look at it in the same way as in any aspect of our lives. If we want to succeed at something we really need to stick with it, having the diligence and discipline to continue even through difficult times.


The Challenges of Practice

Big life changes can lead us away from spiritual practice or make us lose our faith in the path we are on. Small factors can recur and lead us away from the true essence of the teachings by frustrating and upsetting us.

For me, I sometimes found that something as banal as not quite getting the right cushions in the yoga hall could leave me distracted during meditation and unable to reach deep states due to being uncomfortable. I would reach a point where I would decide this was never going to work and resign myself to an unproductive meditation. Then I read this story about Milarepa.


Milarepa’s Bottom

One day, Milarepa warned Gampopa that the time had come for him to depart.

He told Gampopa, “You have received the entire transmission. I have given you all the teachings, as if pouring water from one vase into another. Only 1 pith instruction remains that I haven’t taught you. It’s very secret.”

He then accompanied Gampopa to a river, where they were to part. Gampopa made prostrations to take his leave and started across. But Milarepa called him back: “You are a really good disciple. Anyway I will give you this last teaching.”

Overjoyed, Gampopa prostrated 9 times, then waited for the instructions. Milarepa proceeded to turn around, pull up his robe, showing Gampopa his bottom. “Do you see?”

And Gampopa said, “Uh…yes…”

“Do you really see?”

Gampopa was not sure what he was supposed to see. Milarepa had calluses on his buttocks; they looked as though they were half flesh and half stone.

“You see, this is how I reached enlightenment: sitting and meditating. If you want to reach it in this life, make the same effort. This is my final teaching. I have nothing more to add.” 

His buttocks have been an inspiration against my own self-cherishing ego ever since.


The Joy of Practice

There are as many things that knock us off our path as there are people. We all have our own little distractions that can take us out of the present moment and into a story of shoulds; of something more important than the practice at hand.

Perseverance implies regular practice, to try our best in spite of challenges that arise. If we can joyfully stay with our practice and not become distracted by outside factors, then being aware of our commitment to perseverance will lead to strengthening our aspiration.

I’d love to hear in the comments about what challenges yogis reading this blog and any remedies that you have been able to apply to increase the levels of perseverance!


Perseverance and Patience


“Never give up.

No matter what is going on, never give up.

Develop the heart.

Too much energy in your country
is spent developing the mind instead of the heart.

Be compassionate.

Not just to your friends, but to everyone.

Be compassionate.

Work for peace;
 in your heart and in the world.

Work for peace, and I say again, never give up.

No matter what is going on around you…

NEVER give up.”

-His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama


Patience - Trust

When I was growing up I was always told that “patience is a virtue” and that “good things come to those who wait”. This was a piece of advice from my parents that I found useful and I was able to practice it from an early age. I found waiting for things happily to be a somewhat natural state for me.

It wasn’t always easy though. Living in London for 10 years with the big city pace of life and the pressure of working in industries like finance and TV sometimes took me away from my awareness and centre into the culture of frustration.

One particular example of this I noted was using the London Underground, travelling to work or going home after a busy day. Entering the tube network involves going down escalators, along corridors and eventually arriving at a platform where there is an indicator which tells you when the next train is due to arrive.

Normally this displays 1 minute, 2 minutes or maybe 3 minutes. Sometimes though there can be delays and the sign can show 5 minutes, 7 minutes or even more. In these situations people get extremely upset and it is interesting to note the reaction. I have caught myself doing it as well, the stories that begin to run through our minds – how can this be happening to me, 7 whole minutes just waiting for the train! My day/evening/life is ruined!

Of course, from a distance, from the witness perspective, we can see that this is a nonsensical, psychological suffering that we are imposing on ourselves. It makes no real difference in the big scheme of things if I wait 3 minutes or 7 minutes, so why worry?

Allowing ourselves to react from the heart in times of irritation or distress in daily life mean that we are moving away from the patterns of conditioned response. By taking time and allowing ourselves to view negative emotions from the witness consciousness we can be more in the present moment and respond to life’s challenges with greater compassion and empathy. The first step in mastering patience is in awareness. We have to acknowledge when we are becoming impatient, when we are frustrated and when we begin to get irritated in situations. Then we can begin to act by focusing, breathing and not reacting in our usual way.


Patience - Yoga

As we move from a grasping approach towards self­realisation into surrender and trust in the best outcome of the universe we can try our best but without judgement over the results.

If we practice from the heart then transformation will occur; there is no guarantee when it will occur but being relaxed about the outcome both helps our practice and is also  enhanced by our practice.

This is something which is true of all of the Attitudes recommended in Hridaya yoga. By practising we naturally come into resonance with these characteristics but at the same time by observing them in our lives we become mentally purified and our practice is enhanced.

Patience is a theme which is prominent in all major religions. In Christianity it is considered one of the most important virtues.

In Judaism it is taught that we should wait for God and in Proverbs it is written ­ “The patient man shows much good sense, but the quick­tempered man displays folly at its height”

In Islam, sabr or patience with belief in Allah, is considered one of the greatest virtues;

Buddhism contains patience as one of the paramitas or perfections practiced by Bodhisattvas in order to attain enlightenment and in Hinduism patience and forbearance are considered essential attributes. The practitioner should be able to endure unwelcome conditions in a happy frame of mind with the understanding that it is karma playing out in the universal scheme of things.

So take the time to observe your frustration and anxiety and let go of any desire to change it. In daily life, begin to take these moments of impatience and observe them without judgement. Slowly allow yourself the time to observe these things arising and then go beyond the limitation that they are presenting.