"Whenever you are in a negative state, there is something in you that wants the negativity, that perceives it as pleasurable, or that believes it will get you what you want."
-- Eckhart Tolle, Oneness With All Life
There's a thick fog hovering over the island today, providing a quiet backdrop for the tree that fell from the opposite bank and somehow floated through the channel to land on our beach. The small log floating by stands as an appreciative audience for the branches dancing above the tide and the graceful reflections on their watery stage.
Without the calm backdrop of the still water and the fog, these branches just look like clutter on the landscape; it is the stillness that allows us to see their beauty, grace, and playfulness. The irritations in our lives, I think, contain that same possibility: they can be perceived, when our minds and lives are busy, as clutter to be removed, problems to be solved, frustrations to be whined about.
But if we can create a stillness around them, there's a chance we might be able to see the gift in them; see also that it is the attitude with which we surround them that adds that irritating quality.
So when you find a situation is really irritating for you, see if you can create a stillness around it. Ask yourself, "What am I doing to make this worse? What am I getting out of staying agitated about this? And where is the gift in this situation?"
There are no magic answers here: no guarantees a tide will come along to carry the irritation away (and even if it did; who knows what new challenges that tide will bring!). But it might be that this irritation -- like this tree, which now seems permanently mired on my beach -- is becoming a home for a host of new possibilities. It's all in how you look at it.