But you weren’t prepared for that. Whatever that is, it caught you by surprise. It has fouled your plans. Your ability to suffer through an unplanned experience relies on one component: patience.
Patience revolves around one concept: you are not in control of your destiny in full. While you may play many roles in shaping your destiny, ultimately some things remain out of your control. Once that simple realization is evident, then patience has a chance.
All of us are like wheels on a journey. As we are reaching different destinations, experiencing new moments, our ability to derive the most out of life is through balanced and functioning mobility. The key to this mobility is through balance in our middot (character traits).
Take a bike as an example. If one wheel has a flat or is broken, one cannot ride it. But what about a wheel that is wobbly, or has several broken spokes? Can one ride it? Surely it might be possible, but it can also be considered dangerous if one were to ride it.
If we were presented with the bike with the broken wheel, most of us would not even argue over riding it. There would be nowhere to go on something so out of commission. But what about a bike with a compromised wheel? Some people wouldn’t hesitate to hop on this bike and take a chance, or ride it until the wheel completely breaks down. Others, however, would find this bike to be too risky and unpleasant at best to even ride.
People who have an understanding of the mechanics of a wheel would certainly not take the chance on the risky bike. Since the purpose of each spoke on a wheel is not only to provide equal forces on the wheel but strength as well, a compromised wheel’s days are numbered. A wheel in disrepair cannot handle the rigors of daily riding without finally succumbing to disaster.
In this same way, the middot in our lives are represented by spokes—all equally tensioned and ready for bumps, easy riding, and longevity. While we might try riding the wobbly bike out of desperation, it isn’t long before the wheels stop turning and the bike grinds to a halt, or worse yet, careens off the road.
Patience is one of those critical spokes—when it is not tensioned to the wheel in a proper fashion, it isn’t long before other spokes, or middot, become victims. Then our wheels not only become wobbly, but dangerous to ourselves and others around us. Without patience, we find other middot in danger of becoming unbalanced. Calmness, silence and equanimity soon become candidates for imbalance when we suddenly run out of patience. To be sure, a wheel with this many broken spokes is a recipe for brokenness.
Returning back to that, the unexpected event which we are faced with that is testing our patience, we need to remember that strength of the wheel is a function of all its spokes. By using the other spokes, middot, we can bring ourselves into corrective balance without snapping the patience spoke. If we employ equanimity and rise above the situation for a moment, patience has a chance to be exercised and handle the load—just as the bike spokes handle the forces of the wheel as it turns at various moments.