The Buddha described patience as the highest spiritual practice.
Khanti, the Pali word for patience, derives from the word khamati which means approval, consenting, letting be,giving space, not wanting things to be different. So khanti means agreeing to whatever is the reality of the present moment, even if it is disagreeable. Making peace, being kind, being gentle. Allowing the situation to be. This amounts to changing our attitude, our perception. We don't stab ourself with the second arrow. (The first arrow is unhappiness, if it has arisen. The second arrow is our fussing about it.) Accepting, "This is part of life."
Yes, there are times when we can do something to change the reality of the moment.
And the Buddha asks us to do this when unskillful mind states arise. But of basic importance is how we respond to the reality of the present moment. We respond with loving friendliness (metta), compassion (karuna) and renunciation. These are the three aspects of the second step of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Intention. Ajahn Brahm translates these as make peace (renunciation), be kind (metta), be gentle (compassion).
[To be precise: The Buddha listed Right Intention as non ill will, non harmfulness and renunciation. The first two intentions are phrased in the negative because we are not always feeling metta or karuna. We may be in a neutral/equanimous state. But the important thing is to not be intending ill will or harm.]
So, if it rains on our picnic or distracting thoughts arise during our meditation practice, our response is one of kindness and gentleness. We feel at peace with the reality of the moment: it's raining or these thoughts have arisen. We don't rail against the weather Gods for sending the rain and we don't criticize ourself for thoughts arising. For the rain, we seek shelter, if available, without adding the negativity of disappointment or irritability or criticism of others for forgetting tarps or umbrellas etc. For our thoughts, we substitute more skillful thoughts. We can think, "It's not my thought.....I didn't ask for it. So, it's none of my business! It's not mine." If this isn't sufficient, there are more suggestions from the Buddha in the article on The Wandering Mind.
This is one aspect of khanti. Another is accepting pleasant feelings.
Accept enjoying ourself. Some people feel it's wrong to be happy when so many people in the world are suffering. But it's important to consent to happiness, to allow it in. "The door of my heart is open to you." This is a wonderful mantra from Ajahn Brahm. We accept things rather than controlling them. When happiness comes, we agree to it. When it goes, we agree to it. We agree to everything, as the reality of the moment.
Another aspect of khanti is letting things work out in their own time, instead of to our schedule.
If sloth and torpor arise during meditation , we agree to it, we let it be, we open the door of our heart to it. We don't try and get rid of it in a negative way.....trying to get rid of it with ill will is the problem. Let the brain dull out if it needs to do that. Be agreeable to that. Because this is a natural process, agree to it. It's a natural process if we've been busy and then sit down to meditate. Our mind may need a rest. It may need some adjustment time, to switch from responding to intense stimulation to responding to the quietness and peace of mediation. Since we agree to this phase of dullness, the energy starts to come back and we become clear. When we let things happen rather than trying to make them happen, things go much more smoothly.
We need to learn how to wait in the correct way for our meditation practice to blossom. The incorrect way is waiting in the future, waiting for something to happen. This is the wrong kind of khanti. It is a form of desire, craving, wanting, control. This messes up our meditation practice.
The opposite is waiting in the present.
We have no idea what will happen next. We have no concept of what we will do next. We are just being here, in this moment and consenting to this moment to be what it is. (We're talking about our meditation here.....not our daily life.) This is abandoning/renouncing any sort of desire. We now have the ability to develop stillness as we are not agitating anything.
The Emperor's three questions are, "What is most important to focus on? What is the most important thing to do? What is the most important time?" The answers are, "Whatever you are aware of right now, is the most important thing to focus on". Giving something importance produces strong mindfulness. The most important thing to do is to make peace, be kind and be gentle...i.e. khanti. The most important time is now.
Following the Emperor's answers is putting in the causes for future deep meditations; future peace and stillness.
Fear is not waiting in the present. Fear is waiting in the future, expecting something negative. Excitement is not waiting in the present. It is waiting in the future, expecting something positive. Fear and excitement are two big hindrances to the jhanas.
By waiting in the moment we are making good kamma, that we take into our future.
Right Intention: making peace, being kind, being gentle is also part of Right Effort.
Based on a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm.