Diane Eshin Rizzetto

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

Diane Rizzetto is the Abbess and Guiding Teacher of the Bay Zen Center in Oakland, California. A dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck, she teaches extensively in Europe, as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the United States.

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

Diane Rizzetto is the Abbess and Guiding Teacher of the Bay Zen Center in Oakland, California. A dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck, she teaches extensively in Europe, as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the United States.

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"Beyond Anger" Free eBook

the Mahabodhi temple that marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment.

"Beyond Anger" Free eBook, Tibetan Buddhism, Bodh Gaya, India, Mahabodhi temple

In July 2013, multiple bombs exploded in Bodh Gaya, India, in and around the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage site, the Mahabodhi temple that marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. In response, Shambhala Publications offers this free eBook consisting of excerpts from some of our books from a variety of Buddhist traditions that encapsulate values of love and nonviolence, which we can all practice ourselves.

Beyond Anger:

How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice


The Toxicity and Uselessness of Anger

A chapter from the Karmapa points out the toxicity and uselessness of anger, from a basic, interpersonal level to the wider society at large.

How We Relate to an Emotion Like Anger

In “I Take Up the Way of Letting Go of Anger,” Zen teacher Diane Eshin Rizzetto helps us look at how we relate to an emotion like anger and, rather than suppress it, she marks a clear pathway we can follow to awaken in its presence and not let it incite us to negative thoughts and actions.

How to Bring Mindfulness and Loving-kindness into Politics and War Zones

Jack Kornfield talks about how to succeed in bringing mindfulness and loving-kindness into arenas like politics and war zones.

The Real Enemy is Anger Itself

And a short selection from the chapter on patience in the Mahayana classic The Way of the Bodhisattva highlights that the real enemy is anger itself, not something or someone external.

For more information:


Shantideva was a scholar in the eighth century from the monastic university Nalanda, one of the most celebrated centers of learning in ancient India.

According to legend, Shantideva was greatly inspired by the celestial bodhisattva Manjushri, from whom he secretly received teachings and great insights. Yet as far as the other monks could tell, there was nothing special about Shantideva. In fact, he seemed to do nothing but eat and sleep.

In an attempt to embarrass him, the monks forced Shantideva's hand by convincing him to publicly expound on the scriptures. To the amazement of all in attendance that day, Shantideva delivered the original and moving verses of the Bodhicharyavatara. When he reached verse thirty-four of the ninth chapter, he began to rise into the sky, until he at last disappeared. Following this, Shantideva became a great teacher.

H.H. the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the spiritual head of one of the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The 900-year-old lineage of Karmapas has included some of Tibet’s greatest spiritual masters.

Born to nomadic parents in rural Tibet, he was identified while still a young child as the heir to this leadership position. In 2000, the Karmapa’s dramatic escape to India from Chinese-ruled Tibet at the age of fourteen propelled him onto the world stage. Since then, he has emerged as an international Buddhist leader and environmental activist, founding Khoryug, a region-wide environmental protection program.

The Karmapa has been dubbed the “new face of Tibetan Buddhism,” and many Tibetans look to him for inspiration in their struggle to preserve their embattled culture. In 2008, he made his historic first visit to America. He currently resides at Gyuto Monastery, near Dharamsala, India.

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

Diane Rizzetto is the Abbess and Guiding Teacher of the Bay Zen Center in Oakland, California. A dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck, she teaches extensively in Europe, as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the United States.

Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield is one of the key teachers to have brought Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He is the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.

His books include After the Ecstasy, the LaundryThe Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace; Meditation for Beginners; and The Wise Heart.

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Practicing Patience

Kshanti Paramita

deep hope

If this present moment is lived whole-heartedly and meticulously, the future will take care of itself.
—Alan Arkin, An Improvised Life

We’ve all heard it before, these directives that suggest we could get off, or at least pause from, whatever trajectory our habits have set us on. But it’s not always so easy. There are many reasons why we want to plow through our day-to-day encounters, ignoring or denying the fact that life’s events are not on our terms. And we risk missing the precious unfolding of life as it is right now in the pursuit of an imagined future outcome or destination. What the Paramita of Practicing Patience encourages us to do is to explore more deeply what it means to rest in and fully engage in the truth of each moment. It encourages us to explore what drives us away from experiencing the reality of the present and instead ushers us into an imagined projection of something different. What is our experience as we sit in our car in the snail’s pace of rush hour traffic, or as we watch the clock when the doctor is running an hour behind our scheduled appointment? Where is our mind when we listen for the umpteenth time to the same story from our elderly uncle or grow dispirited, angry, or resentful when, in spite of the efforts of many well-intended people, political leaders around the world continue to ignore the well-being of people and the planet?

“Yes, you’re really angry, but hold off. Don’t do anything yet. Wait. Pay attention.” This was the first utterance of the Paramita of Practicing Patience: “Be where you are.”


One of my students shared the following account:

It was a busy day in the small, crowded copy shop, and I had just a few minutes to have some important documents copied before the next mail pickup. I could see that the two young women behind the counter were somewhat flustered trying to keep up, and I made a small note to myself to be what we commonly call “patient.” In other words, just wait. My turn at the counter came, and, as quickly as one in and out breath, I swept aside the actual situation in the shop—the number of people asking for help, the overloaded workers, the frenzied energy. I blocked all that out and zoned in on what I needed done. As I described to the young woman the way I wanted the copying done, within a short period of time I realized that she completely misunderstood what I was saying and was in fact taking my comment as a criticism or accusation of sorts. She lashed out that I was asking her to make a copy of something in a way that she wasn’t permitted to do. When I began to question her, she became more upset, and it wasn’t long before we both stepped out of the reality of the situation before us and into our personal domains of self-righteous anger.

Mine, of course, was subtler, skillfully delivered in my “Zen student” voice. But inside, I was furious! So, I left the shop. I even had thoughts of reporting her “unprofessional” behavior to whomever her boss happened to be. But I had only walked about thirty feet out of the door when a voice deep inside came forward and said, “Yes, you’re really angry, but hold off. Don’t do anything yet. Wait. Pay attention.” This was the first utterance of the Paramita of Practicing Patience: “Be where you are.” So, I paused for a few moments and felt the anger and disappointment at myself for letting my emotions get out of hand. I was angry with her for steadfastly accusing me of something I didn’t do, and, in truth, for stepping out of her role of “the customer is always right.” In short, “How dare her!” was utmost in mind. And in the midst of it all, I began to hear the rising sensations of guilt and the old voices of “should” and “should not.” But again, the whispered voice of Practicing Patience counseled, “Let in. Don’t block out. Lean into the parameters of the circle and let it widen.” So, over the next few days, I engaged in Practicing Patience.

And it began with bearing witness to the anger and righteousness that loomed foremost in my thoughts. It began with bearing witness to my own experience and then bearing witness to the other person. Even though it was in the past, the woman’s face came forward, and I saw the tears in her eyes and heard the quiver in her voice—both of which I had blocked out in the heat of anger. Then “openness and possibility” arose and fell away in waves. The circle of awareness widened to include possibilities of the situation she might be facing that were unknown to me. After several days of this practice, right action came forth. Not out of some external set of guidelines or rules of right action but rather from the deep-marrow knowing that the right thing to do was to apologize. So, early the next morning, before the lines of people demanding copies began to form, I went to the copy store. Luckily, just outside the shop, I met the young woman with whom I had had the encounter. I reminded her of who I was and said, “I am sorry for what took place the other day and apologize if my words were hurtful.” At first, she didn’t remember, but when I described the situation, she immediately reacted defensively, saying that I accused her of something she wasn’t guilty of. This time, I heard her. I don’t know why she felt the need to cling to that story. The point is, that was what she was doing. That was the way it was going to be, no matter how much I tried to explain my point of view in those few moments. And in bearing witness to her view of the situation, I could hold it, even though I didn’t agree with it. In that moment of practicing patience, I found words I could speak from the heart and simply said, “I understand you feel that way, and I am sorry if my words upset or hurt you. I truly wish you no harm and wish you well.” She was silent for a moment and then she smiled a bit. She left perhaps still believing her story.


Elements of Practicing Patience

Practicing Patience is often described as tolerance or forbearance. The word tolerance, meaning “endurance” and “fortitude,” implies nonjudgmental acceptance. Sometimes Practicing Patience is mistakenly thought to have something to do to with resignation, putting up with things we don’t agree with. But this paramita asks for more than a mental shrug of the shoulders. Tolerance is action, not inaction. If we’re tolerant of others’ points of view, it doesn’t mean we don’t take action.

Practicing Patience is also acknowledging that we are human and can easily get caught up in intolerance or impatience. It is a humble recognition that we are capable of doing great good and great harm. So, being patient with our impatience is also included in this paramita. And most of us live our life straddling a line down the middle. Forbearance implies a strength, a sense of “steady as you go.” It implies being solid, having both feet on the ground. Not to be confused with rigidity, forbearance is something that can be depended on. We live in relationship, but relationship implies more than us alone. Over time, and through a recognition of relationship, we find that we and other are one. And, of course, most of us don’t believe this for a moment. So this is where the practice of tolerance and forbearance supports us. It’s not always easy, for sure, but it’s an absolute necessity.

Practicing Patience also brings up forgiveness. I think of forgiveness as letting go of the past. It’s the “letting go” part that’s most important. And just as tolerance doesn’t mean inaction, forgiveness doesn’t mean we deny or even perhaps forget hurtful actions. Rather it means we let go of harboring resentment and wanting some sort of retaliation. Resentment is really interesting because we can be surprised at how it hides in the dark corners of our experience. If our mind is focused only on what this person did to us in the past, it’s very unlikely we’re going to meet them fully in the present. And unless we meet people and situations in the present, there’s little hope for patience.

But Practicing Patience is even more than this, for it leans us into what prevents us from allowing, from being open. It offers freedom from control. It challenges us to turn toward the total presence and freedom of just this.



One of my students shared the following account:

While driving home one night from downtown Oakland, a bit tired and anxious to get home, I noticed that the car in front of me came to an abrupt halt. There was no traffic light, and from my perspective, no apparent reason for stopping. My thoughts and body snapped into frustration and rising anger. Tightening my fingers on the wheel, gritting my teeth a bit, I started to have thoughts like, “What are you stopping for? Don’t you know how to drive?” Anger had hijacked my being present. All my body and mind knew was that I was tired, and I wanted to get home, and the driver in front of me was slowing me down. I was squeezed into the tiny closed circle of me—what I want, what I think I need; in short, a little self-centered view of the situation. Then suddenly, a pedestrian crossed in front of the car in front of me. I realized that I was so caught up in my own impatience to get home, I completely left out of my awareness any other possibilities as to why that car had stopped. I remember feeling like a splash of cold water had hit my face: “Hey, wake up. It’s not always about you!” Patience is what we have with the people driving the cars behind us, and impatience is what we have with the people driving the cars in front of us.

Tolerance is action, not inaction. If we’re tolerant of others’ points of view, it doesn’t mean we don’t take action.

There’s Always More Than Meets the Eye

As the above story illustrates, when we for just a few moments remember that we may not be seeing the whole picture, we enter into Practicing Patience. And over time, we come to realize that we never know the whole situation. We can only do our best, and that is enough. This alone is a great antidote to impatience. All is not as it appears. In any situation, there’s us and much more than us, as it was with this student’s car experience. But opening our eyes, ears, and mind to what we unconsciously may be blocking out takes more than simple intention. We need to practice tuning our senses to be more receptive. This all-inclusive view is how Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh describes the Paramita of Practicing Patience: “When we practice inclusiveness, we don’t have to suffer or forbear, even when we have to embrace suffering and injustice.”


Choosing an impatient situation. Choose a simple situation in which you frequently find impatience arising. For example, it could be sitting at a traffic light or waiting for your computer to kick in, your morning tea water to boil, or the elevator to arrive. It’s best to choose a situation that occurs most days. Keep in mind that the purpose of practicing any of the paramitas is not to strong-arm your way into accomplishing them but rather to lean into the barriers that keep that which is deep within from coming forth. So, each time you lean into impatience, you will probably have lots of thoughts and feelings—especially anger, which is often considered the energy that blocks Practicing Patience.

As you wait for the traffic light, or whatever you’re practicing with, give yourself complete permission to bear witness to whatever arises. Remember, nothing you experience is your enemy unless you make it so. Are your teeth clenching? Is there a tightness in the body? If so, where? Note the thoughts. Do they have a theme? Allow your breath to bear the weight of your experience. The breath, which bridges us into and out of life, is profoundly capable of carrying whatever we experience. Give control over to it, breathing in and out, with the intention to remain open to your experience. You may find that you will need to intentionally do this practice for several days, weeks, months, or depending on the situation, for the rest of your life! But if you choose something small for this introductory practice, you should notice over time that it’s easier to simply rest in the breath of the experience.

At this point, begin expanding your awareness by taking in more of your surroundings. Again, it’s very important to keep it simple. For example, if you’re sitting in your car, look through the window in front of you. Really take it in. What do you notice? Listen to the sounds around you. Really listen—openly. What do you notice? The hum of the engine? What about smell? What about the feel of the steering wheel in your hand? Again, take your time. There’s no schedule. Give yourself the rest of your life! As you practice with this same situation over days, weeks, or months, begin expanding your awareness. What else do you notice about the situation you tend to feel impatient with? What are you leaving out?

Listening patiently. Listening to others speak can be a particularly powerful method for practicing patience. What I’m talking about here is not just what might be called “engaged listening” or a kind of listening whereby we give certain verbal and gestural signals like nodding and so forth. This is a kind of listening in which we are totally present and that in and of itself gives the message that we are totally listening. You can’t fake it. Notice the thoughts that arise when you want to interrupt. What happens to your body stance? Your facial expression? Your breathing? Remember that your mouth can remain closed, but you may be screaming on the inside, so pay attention to your inner experience. Then bring your attention to the voice you’re listening to. It may be in person or coming from the TV or the radio or elsewhere. Listen closely to the voice itself and allow the sound of the words to just enter your ears. Try to keep this as immediate as possible. It will probably be a very short time before the thought about the voice and words will interfere with just listening. If you can do it for just a minute or two, you may find that you hear things that broaden your awareness of the situation—insights that are blotted out immediately when we’re focused on a retort.

Allowing Vulnerability with Open Questioning and Open Listening

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

As this Rilke quote suggests, patience can be more than simply waiting for an anticipated outcome. Patience can be a process of inquiry that involves far more than waiting. An honest question is a question that comes from not knowing. It’s not a challenge or a debate but rather a true inquiry that, even if only for a moment, originates beyond the boundaries of our safety zones. This open questioning takes courage because it asks us to stand alone, without our preconceived views of people and events. It invites a true sense of “I wonder.” And because it’s open, our view is forced to widen.

I think of open questioning as what happens when we send a space probe into dark space. When that probe is propelled into the unknown, we have no idea what information will come back to us, if any. And yet the power is in the asking, for it opens our minds to possibilities. Scientists know that the questions are as important as the answers, and it’s questions that keep scientific inquiry alive and vital. But in spite of this truth, it seems we live in a world growing less tolerant of sustained questioning. We want quick answers and quick fixes, whether it’s how to fix a broken appliance or how to make our relationship work better. I wonder what’s happening to those precious “I wonder how or if . . .” moments that give us space to not only ponder and consider various options but also to exercise our problem-solving capacities. Not so long ago, when I had a question about how to go about fixing something in my home, I would research it perhaps by asking a neighbor or friend or going to a library to look for a book on the subject. Now, I just go on YouTube, and I have a choice of videos that show me how to do it. No need for me to talk to anyone or figure anything out. Is that a blessing or something else, perhaps a loss? In Zen teaching, don’t-know mind is most precious.


Taking the Long View: The Way of Hope

Who can by stillness, little by little
make what is troubled grow clear?
Who can by movement, little by little
make what is still grow quick?
—Ursula K. Le Guin, Tao Te Ching

Practicing patience can indeed be described as waiting, but it is a particular type of waiting, one that is an essential component of hope. Václav Havel, the dissident and former president of the Czech Republic, describes a type of waiting that is related to hopelessness. With this type of waiting, there is a sense of no way out, of powerlessness. The will to take individual or group action is lost, and at best there is false hope that someone or some event beyond individual action will remedy the situation. But, as Havel points out, this is “but an illusion and is the product of our own helplessness, a patch over a hole in the spirit. . . . It is the hope of people without hope.” He goes on, however, to describe a second type of waiting, which can also be defined as practicing patience. This type of waiting includes skillful action. As we learned in our discussion of the precepts, taking skillful action is doing the right thing, that which supports life. Yes, we may hope it does good, but we are not attached to that outcome. We do it because it’s the right action, and we turn from speculating whether our action will lead to a specific outcome today, tomorrow, or ever. The strength of Practicing Patience rests in taking action because it is the right thing to do, not because it assures a particular outcome. This is deep hope.


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Diane RizzettoDiane Eshin Rizzetto is the Abbess and Guiding Teacher of the Bay Zen Center in Oakland, California. A dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck, she teaches extensively in Europe, as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the United States. Learn More.

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