Tolerance, a “permissive attitude”, can be a lackadaisical approach to life or it can be a philosophy and intentional approach to life. Which is it? Maybe it can be both.
Tolerance in a carefully machined automobile part is the amount of deviation from a standard that can be allowed for the part to function properly. In this example machining the part further to comply with a tighter than needed tolerance would take more time and energy and would not necessarily improve the functionality of the part. A more relaxed tolerance in this case can save energy rather than expend more energy.
Personally I can tolerate a certain amount of dust on a windowsill or a few dust bunnies under the bed; if I vacuum the rug every two weeks rather than every week I am saving myself time and a bit on the electric bill. The tolerance level here is the amount of deviation from perfection that balances the energy saved with the energy expended on accepting the deviation.
If you are a parent, how much do you tolerate from your kids? Do you have a “permissive attitude” toward their behavior? And how far do you allow that permission to extend? Again, energy can be a measure here: the energy you spend on parenting can be balanced by the energy the children spend on testing the boundaries of your tolerance. They are busy learning about those boundaries and you must be busy setting them so they learn how to be balanced, creative, socially adapted individuals.
And then there are the personal boundaries that we develop and evolve as we grow and mature, learn and expand consciously. These boundaries form the tolerances in our lives. Some are external; they involve our family, friends, community, even country. Some people choose to leave their country of origin because they can no longer tolerate the living circumstances, whether those are political, religious, social, or economic factors. And then there are the internal boundaries, the tolerance levels we set up as standards for our own behavior and how we live life within those standards, or values. It is these values around which we balance the energy we expend on maintaining our adherence to those standards versus the energy drain from letting down our guard and giving in to a lower standard.
As an example one of my standards, a practice, is to write three longhand pages of text everyday, early in the day, preferably first thing in the morning. This is a practice I adopted from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I have been doing this for years, and I find it very worthwhile. It is a way for me to meditate, to journal, to dump the cobwebs from my psyche, to rail at the Universe, to give thanks to the universe, to channel the divine. I love this practice. Do I do it every day, first thing in the morning? No. Clearly there are things that get in the way, that disrupt this practice. This morning I am writing this blog post first before my pages. Lately I’ve been eating some breakfast before my pages. These are tolerances that I can live with; energy spent obsessing about always writing the pages first is not balanced by the positive effect of the writing. On the other hand there are some days I miss writing altogether. When I occasionally miss one day it seems to be OK, I can tolerate that. But when two or more days go by and I fail to get to my pages, I begin to notice the effects: I get more irritable, less tolerant! Then the balance tips in the direction of energy drained from me that is out of balance with energy spent in writing the pages.
How do you measure your tolerance levels? Do you do this consciously? Are you aware when your boundaries are crossed and your energy drained? It’s good to think about your boundaries so you can maximize your energy levels and live fully, in the present.
Now I’m going to write those pages!