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PATIENCE, MY DEAR WATSON, PATIENCE!

Sherlock Holmes cartoon
from Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Rosenblatt and Sonnenschmidt

The Sherlock Holmes dieter is a patient person. He or she doesn't bend toward the next bite. Instead, he or she savors what is in his or her mouth.

Many of us live our lives trying to push the present, to cram more and more into it. We are always rushing, eating fast, hurrying our steps, and talking fast. (At the other end of the spectrum is trying to put the brakes on time - suffering from the past, resurrecting regrets, and worrying about what we did.) Could it be that it is possible to keep pace with time, not trying to cram more and more into it and not trying to keep the past alive? Maybe we can take time to savor the moment. We can sit at the table before eating. We can observe a friend before speaking.

The idea of paying attention to our present lives is important. The Buddhists call it mindfulness - experiencing life as it comes. It is the experience of being current, of being engulfed by the present moment. It is a mood of trusting our inner nature to deal with present circumstances, not pushing and not forcing ourselves, not craving and not clinging but, rather, just being. Sherlock Holmes was a good detective because he had respect for what was under his nose in present time.

Patience - keeping pace with the movement of time, living in the present without pushing, without clinging, and without overly anticipating - can be practiced. Pascal knew it when he wrote, "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." At another time, he wrote, "I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room."

Choosing patience is within the reach of everyone. We can all learn to be less troubled by unwanted thoughts and feelings. When we do, we are, as the Buddhists would say, more awake. We experience what really is, without the usual distractions that have dogged us. The more significant our present is, the less significant our past becomes. Furthermore, we are more equable, steadier - we are less disturbed by the many challenges that we encounter. Lastly, we are more accepting - we learn to take what we get, and we listen for our inner wisdom. In all, we learn self-respect.

Simplifying consciousness comes about through practice. We can practice paying attention to what we are doing to the exclusion of unwanted thoughts and feelings. Paying attention is being awake now. We are right in the middle of what we are doing and we pay attention only to what we are doing. It's not that we don't know everything that we know - we do, of course. It's just that we take existence as it comes, here and now, in the present. We give it our full attention.

It is choosing alertness - the condition of, for the time being, abandoning the fireflies or ripples or will-o'-the-wisps that appear unbidden in one's mind. Alertness is, for the time being, apart from worrying and apart from random thoughts and feelings.

In summary, learning patience is choosing life. It is seeing that life only avails, not the having lived and not the intending to live. It is seeing oneself as a living organism functioning in the present - we see, we hear, we smell, we taste, we feel. We do what is called for by circumstances. Our minds provide insights. We are awake . . . here . . . now. We float in the current of the present.

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