If a bee keeps smashing into our kitchen window, we’re wiser to open the window than try to capture something as flighty as a bee. If our phone keeps buzzing, rather than responding by getting more and more irritated, we’re better to just turn it off until we’re done what we’re doing (an increasingly common approach).
Irritations do not require ‘fixing.’ They are inclusions in our attention much like diamonds can have inclusions that disrupt the flow of light within them. As with a healthy person, a good diamond actually manages to add sparkle and intensity to whatever amount of light enters them. We can do likewise with our feelings.
If a diamond is cut too shallow, it has a large ‘table’ and looks large, but without the right angles for the ‘pavilion cut’ underneath it all, the diamond will lose light rather than amplify it. It will appear dull.
If however, the angles on those facets are just right, then most of the light that comes into the table, will bounce off of the angles that form the lower ‘pavilion,’ and then back up to the table where we perceive even greater ‘sparkle.’
That sparkle represents us when we feel ‘on.’ It’s when we’re in the zone. In that state, anything that comes towards us gets handled and anything good about it gets magnified. We just have to remember that we can’t expect to always be in that sate of mind or it would cease to exist as a state of mind. If that was the case it would be our total reality.
We all know that unpleasant or painful stuff will happen no matter how together we are. Our job is strictly to make the best of things, not to always make them good. Like the diamond, we should just do our best to reflect the light we’re given.
So how do we do this with irritation? Unlike the earlier pieces about getting out of feeling depressed, or angry, or even frustrated, we’re now less about making sense, and now we’re more about getting increasingly focused. Because by the time we’re out of the ditch and are feeling ‘irritated,’ we’re already on pretty level ground.
Much like with the bee or the phone notifications, we don’t need to kill the bee or throw the phone away. We just have to manage the situation as it is.
In the case of us feeling irritated, we don’t want our focus to be on the bee or the phone –we want to focus on driving. Then, as an act of the driving, we can open the window and let the bee out. (We may just want to turn the phone off, rather than toss it out the window, but if you did, you wouldn’t be the first.)
The act of letting the bee go is, in essence, us learning to maintain focus. If we want mental peace and health, we have no alternative but to take responsibility for what we put into our consciousness.
Yes, sometimes we must –for very good reason– consider terrible things. But most irritations are not about things that are critical, they are about trivialities.
As an example, we can prefer to work in total silence. But if they’re doing roadwork that week outside of our house, that’s not lost time due to it being too noisy. That’s meditation time to help work on our mental focus. Because the only way we do that is with practice.
We all know how frustrating it is to catch our minds wandering when we’re truly trying to maintain our commitment to the present moment. But as was pointed out earlier this week, we wouldn’t even feel frustration if it didn’t include the notion that things could be better. And they will be. If we make them that way.
If we’re irritated by anything captured by our senses, we must remember that all of our senses operate at all times and our minds give them priority. What takes precedent in our minds is whatever our brains tell us to focus on.
They are our brains. We control them. So if our brain feels tugged one direction, we are best to redouble our efforts to focus on the subject at hand. Thinking about the irritation will only expand its place in our minds.
To return to the metaphor used previously,we can all just use the buzz of the rumble strips on the shoulder of the road to remind us to refocus on our present route. If we do this, over time, we will develop ‘attention’ as a distinct state of mind that we will find it much easier to tune to, as necessary.
Let’s not let irritations steal our focus from our path. The path alone has too much to offer.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.