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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Patience, Practice and Paying Attention!

By Lori Cangilla, PhD - Licensed Psychologist

I recall learning as a child that Advent was to be a season of preparation for the coming of Christ, a time of joyful and patient waiting for change. Joyful and patient? Personally, my natural tendency is toward impatience. How can we develop a spirit of eager anticipation during these times of waiting, both in Advent and in other seasons of preparation in our lives?

Create Routines of Practice. You can prioritize the process of preparation by establishing routines of practice. Thus, waiting becomes an active, constructive process. Many people benefit from daily exercises like meditation or devotional reading. Make an effort to create and sustain a routine of practice to avoid quickly falling out of the habit. (Above photo: These sisters created a routine of practice with family members of dressing in silly PJs and playing board games around the dining table on Christmas Eve. Their spouses, grown children and family friends join in the fun!)

Make Waiting a Communal Experience. Imagine waiting alone in a slow-moving line for entry into an event you eagerly anticipate. Now imagine that same wait with friends who are equally excited. Through your relationships, you can encourage one another to face the challenges of patient preparation. While living with a host family in Germany, I joined them very Sunday to gather over tea and pastry, light the candles of the wreath, and share our journeys through Advent. This routine of practice was a cherished time for all, young and elderly alike.

Pay Attention! Preparation is best done mindfully, not on autopilot. Reflection, discussion, journaling and other means of contemplation can help us gain perspective. By stepping back from the immediate moment of waiting, we can contextualize our experiences and focus on the reason for our preparations.