The Spirituality of Patience

by Rabbi Wendy Spears


Everything takes longer than you think it will. This is one of my mom’s teachings, and she’ll be happy to know that I think she’s right. (Thanks, Mom!) Because I live in Los Angeles, I drive in traffic much of the time that I am on the road. The infrastructure of this city was not built to accommodate so many people and their cars. People who are not from Los Angeles can’t really understand why the traffic is so terrible here. One of the reasons is because things are really spread out; everything is far away. I read on a recent blog that Angelenos don’t really know the mileage from place to place, but can know pretty accurately how much time it will take to get from one place to another — so true. It takes a good 30-40 minutes to get anywhere in light traffic; the same distance can take 3 to 4 times as long in heavy traffic. Or there can be an accident that requires finding an alternate route around the traffic. Then it’s necessary to figure in time to find a parking space, park, get out of the car, and walk the rest of the way to the destination.

So, I wait around a lot. In traffic. Out of traffic, while the people I’m meeting are waiting in traffic. Sometimes, there’s unusually light traffic and I arrive at my destination sooner than I expected. Thus, I am once again waiting for an event to start. One of my life lessons this time around is cultivating a sense of patience. By nature, I’m rather an impatient person. I find it difficult to wait if I don’t have something to do while I’m waiting. I try to prepare and bring along a book to read or a project to knit. I find both of these to be a spiritual practice. The knitting is meditative, stitch after stitch, row by row, in rhythm. I can sing prayers to myself while I’m knitting, or other songs that I find uplifting. I love non-fiction, so the reading is usually a learning experience, a Jewish way of study to help me make decisions in making the world a better place.

I’m not one of those people who finds daily meditational practice effortless. It certainly takes work on my part. In some ways, it can be a task to check off my list. I’m impatient to finish being patient. But impatience makes me feel grumpy and intolerant of the way things are. When I’m waiting, though, my spiritual practices of learning or knitting are part of what I do to be more patient. For me, being patient is making the spiritual space that I need to be kinder, to slow down, to be tolerant, helping me face the world in a more peaceful way. The more I cultivate patience, the happier I am. That has to be better for the way things are, letting the world be how it is and not how I would have it be.

Rabbi Wendy Spears is a community rabbi in Los Angeles. Find her at

#patience  #spirituality #losangeles #traffic


5 thoughts on “The Spirituality of Patience

  1. I’m impatient and intolerant of slowness, so I know just what you mean. I also live in London UK, so your map was a bit of a mystery. Unless it’s an in-joke and you’d therefore get mad at my being so slow on the uptake, any chance of your explaining it to a stupid Limey ?

    • I get the same meditative infusion from riding transit that you get when you arrive early for an appointment. Only I find I can much better predict travel times when I take Metro. I just turn off that part of my brain that worries about how to get there, sit back and read while moving through space. Oh, and by the way, you can learn from fiction as well as non-fiction. In fact, I read an article not so long ago that reading literary fiction (as opposed to best-seller or popular fiction), helps us develop a sense of compassion for, and curiosity about, others, something I think would be of interest to you as a rabbi.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Roberta! There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. I’m happy to explain the map. This is a map of the Los Angeles city limits, and how 8 other major metropolitan areas in the USA compare in geographical size to L.A. So, if you were to combine the population of those 8 cities, it explains a bit better why there is so much traffic in L.A.

  3. Oh, my goodness — that map and your blog post (and my experience of driving in LA last summer) provoked in me a response of profound thankfulness that I have the good fortune to live in a gem of a small city called Akron, Ohio, where traffic is minimal, beautiful homes are affordable, cultural opportunities abound, and wonderful biking, hiking, and x-country skiing is only a 15-minute drive from home!

  4. Joanie, glad you’re still enjoying Ohio. Let’s get together the next time you’re in L.A. Thanks for keeping up with the blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s