It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.
— Hilary Mantel
I like to think of myself as a Buddhist-y individual. Some will pick on my aspiration for zen, but there’s a lot more science to it than magical thinking and karmic cycles. Patience is one of the biggest take-aways from a zen teaching.
I seek to be patient, compassionate, and guided by focus. Patience is most important in all of this because one who is patient with their eyes can focus on an object far away. The object of my focus is to help.
Today, I received the news that another transgender woman was murdered by someone unable to properly cope with shock, fear, and anger. Who hasn’t been there? Were you never afraid of the dark?
We can’t make a survival plan without proper intelligence, information, and understanding of the problems ahead. Fear is common when staring down the dark tunnel. Trans panic is being in the dark tunnel, when the lights begin to wave and flash to life, blindingly bright to the adjusted eyes.
Her murderer chose to turn out the lights, rather than allow their own eyes to adjust. Anxiety, nervousness, maybe even excitement drew their focus on the lights alone, making the tunnel longer. Without patience, they went through the common phases of confusion, a panic:
- The search for answers
- The lack of answers
- The upset, the anger, the worry,
- The fear
- Fight or Flight
It’s not fair. There’s no answer. That makes us angry, and the unknown leaves us fearful.
They lashed out to an excessive degree. Slitting her throat. Stabbing her over one hundred times. The moment of pandemonium inside them never left, even while the intensity was likely lost over their face. They didn’t stop to recollect themselves, they weren’t patiently allowing themselves that patience.
In Buddhism, marvelously taught by the likes of the Dalai Lama,Pema Chodron, and practitioners of meditation across the planet , patience starts within as a small seed of compassion. That’s the Buddha in us, the gift left by Christ, or the basic cell of interconnectedness created by our ancestral DNA, regardless of what you believe in, the science of psychology and the Buddhist teachings within all religions hold true that the ability to do the right thing is inherent, but like a freckle upon one’s elbow, could be missed, due to not practicing patient self-observance.
Some cultures practice fasting. Self-discipline such as the practice exemplifies is another word for patience. This patience is in tandem with a focus, and that is how to start. Building our habits and speaking with patience of others can start us on a better path of treating each other.
For me, I would like to know what others are feeling. I patiently observe their faces. My favorite linguist diligently and tediously made a science of this, tracking emotions and facial expressions across cultures and species.
Dr. Paul Ekman,renowned for this, has been hard at work to breed patience in communication, even educating the Dalai Lama and working alongside the Tibetan Buddhist to create an Atlas of Emotions in order to educate people on what emotions we tend to have, where they come from, how they are expressed, and what hopes we can have of better being together with them.
I am a patient person, but I too need to practice. Please help me do this work by practicing with me. I ask that you begin with visiting the Atlas of Emotions and researching the Facial Action Coding System, and getting to know your family, friends, and neighbors.