Patient fortitude. Could this be the yogi slogan for modern times? It certainly is a good reminder. We spent some time digging into this tenet- titikśā- in last month’s Dharma & Satsang because I think this style of life navigation is an entire path unto itself. It certainly is a relevant one. While this particular translation from Sivananda is my favorite, here are some other definitions of titikśā to give you the flavor of this word which holds no equivalent in English:
- Patient endurance of suffering
- Tolerance of unhappiness
- Acceptance of circumstances without resistance
If we have learned nothing else in the course of our lifetimes, certainly in the past few years, I think we’re all pretty clear that the storms of life are unceasing. Just like the external weather conditions that grow more turbulent with each passing year, our individual spheres will always and forever continue to rumble with challenges of all kinds. Sometimes the struggles come in waves- one after another crashing in until we feel we may drown, and other times, more gently, just occasionally touching the shores of our lives. But there is no permanent reprieve from that which causes us pain, throws us off center, off balance, off track. That’s simply not part of the deal.
Faced with the knowledge that it’s never going to be easy and there will always be discomfort, it’s interesting to reflect on how we navigate discomfort. Knowing that the only thing we can change is ourselves, it’s certainly worth consideration.
In the teachings, titikśā is a condition of wisdom, of self-knowledge, of liberation. To proceed on the path, we must cultivate the ability to endure turbulence, and do so with some semblance of grace, strength and contentment. To be clear, this isn’t the path of morose resignation. Our starting point? We need to recognize sooner than later when we are identifying with the pain (and therefore creating suffering for ourselves and others) instead the Self: the eternal, changeless, steady center. It’s one or the other. We are either getting lost in the storm, or standing steady– even in the howling wind and driving rain– assured that the dawn will come.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna talks to Arjuna about boldly bearing up against duality, and shares the wisdom that only in finding steadiness in the storm can we be free:
“Oh best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly fit to attain liberation.” Bhagavad Gita (II-14, 15)
Enter patient fortitude: our ability, our willingness, our decision to bravely endure whatever comes our way, holding in sight that it’s all temporary. What we love, what we can’t stand, what brings us joy or leaves us with sorrow; nothing is permanent. And perhaps it’s this knowledge that can support our efforts of forbearance when our mettle is being put to the test.
The more we work with building up our reserves, gathering support, and cultivating patience for and with what is, the more we learn to see the bigger picture. Not only are the challenges and obstacles unavoidable aspects of life, they are essential to our growth. We gain a level of wisdom, clarity and strength when we emerge from the fire that we could not get any other way. The pain is a necessary teacher, not just for the lesson, and not just for the practice of patient fortitude, but the transformation that occurs in finding our way to the other side of whatever has been placed before us.
Where are you struggling right now, or with what challenge, obstacle or pain are you faced? Are you allowing the waves to overtake you, or are you (futilely) trying to run, hide, resist or fight? What would it feel like to try on the suit of patient fortitude? What would it feel like to embody these truths: Whatever is happening is happening for you, not to you. And everything is temporary. Patient fortitude, breath by breath.
One step at a time, in grace and faith.