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Accepting Irritations—or What Can Become of a Single Grain of Sand

<em>Edit Blog entry</em> Accepting Irritations—or What Can Become of a Single Grain of Sand

Admit it: at times, we all can be a bit like the Princess and the Pea. Life can offer us so much goodness, but all we can do is get irritated by the few small things that don’t go smoothly. Frustrating, right? But there is an approach that we see reflected in nature that can help us. Here’s one way you may be able to turn your irritation into a pearl of wisdom.

We’ve all been there. We find ourselves so bothered by some experience in our day. Like when we get stuck in traffic; or we deal with an irritating coworker (again); or perhaps when that same nagging issue keeps coming up in our meaningful and closest relationships. Argh! If this rings true, you are definitely not alone.

The oft-quoted poet Rumi (my favorite, so you’ll get a steady stream of him in this blog) said: “If you are irritated by every rub, how would you be polished?” If we are not careful, it’s easy to get really flustered over the small, nagging tendencies or old patterns in our lives that keep repeating themselves ad infinitum. But the flip side to these irritants is freedom.

What are these tendencies, exactly? Perhaps we tend to feel afraid in our lives, and those we love somehow keep abandoning us. Or we don’t believe that there is enough abundance in the world, and we get this proved to us as we sink deeper into debt or lose our jobs. There are countless ways this can play out.

We all have our karma. It will keep looping back into our lives as we grow and change. Sometimes, we just want to shout “why does this keep happening? Why can’t this fear of abandonment or fear of financial ruin just GO AWAY?”

Yet, think of the pearl. A mollusk gets this annoying little piece of sand in its soft and tender flesh. That speck of sand grates the interior lining of the mollusk and it then produces a coating to cover the irritating intrusion. The mollusk adapts to this new irritation instead of trying to get rid of it or expel it. In time, exquisitely beautiful, iridescent pearls are formed.

We have the opportunity to cultivate beauty from irritation as well. When we become aware of irritating situations as they come up, and we notice how we react to these situations, then, like the mollusk, we can use that irritation as an opportunity for something beautiful to happen.

When we take the time to stop and listen to what is causing us to feel ill at ease; when we allow for that irritation to speak to us and teach us; when we decide to stop running from it or trying to hide it or disguise it; then we have a chance at turning a simple irritation into something quite exquisite. Remember the mantra the only way out is through.

It is with this acceptance and understanding of “what is” that, over time, a pearl of wisdom can be born from a simple irritation.

Will Donnelly

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at

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