The trouble with spiritual teaching is that sometimes we get the opportunity to practice the thing we have been trying to teach. It is generally a lot easier to write or speak eloquently about the virtues of being a spiritual person, than it is to embody the principles one is attempting to encourage others to adopt.

Early this morning I sat at my laptop typing a blog post on “Irritation.” I wrote about the fact that there are a multitude of little irritants that crop up in life from time to time to derail our best laid plans and schemes.

Later this morning as I sat at my desk at the church, I became aware that a pain I had experienced in my stomach two days ago was rapidly returning. The pain was not just returning, it was returning with a vengeance. As long as I could, I tried to ignore the growing discomfort. When it would no longer be denied, I phoned my wife who told me to get to a clinic. I had never thought of such a thing!

The doctor took one look at me pacing the floor in his examining room, turned to the receptionist and said, “When you see someone with a pain in the gut, pacing the floor, think kidney stones. Get a urine sample.”

Moments later she returned with a cheery smile to announce, “Yup stones!” The doctor shared gloomy prognostications about the course stones take, the pain involved and the unpredictability of how and when, or if, they may eventually pass. On the way home, Heather and I stopped to pick up prescription anti-inflamatories and I began pacing the floor in our house. The medication reduces the pain to discomfort level but wears off after an hour or so and I am only permitted three a day.

In the great scheme of things, kidney stones are a minor irritant. In this case the irritation is exacerbated by the fact that six days from now we are supposed to spend fifteen hours in an airplane flying to New Zealand where we are scheduled to lead two retreats and give five workshops and lectures.

This is irritating. We are plunged into uncertainty. It could all resolve itself tomorrow. In some cases stones take eight days to pass on their own. Some people require a visit to emergency for injections of pain killers and anti-inflammatories. There are cases where surgery is necessary to eliminate the stones.

In my unfinished blog post this morning, I had begun to say that irritants are inevitable; they cannot be avoided. No one has sufficient power, wealth, or intelligence to so completely organize their world that nothing ever gets untidy.

The only thing any of us can do in the face of the inevitable irritants life brings, I was going to say in my planned wise blog post, is choose how we respond. We can allow the little irritants of life to completely derail us or we can choose to allow them to cause us to sit more lightly to our plans, agendas, and schemes for how we think the world should be unfolding.

I wonder how I am doing right now with this sitting lightly idea. The pain is increasing again. I am wondering if I will get any sleep tonight, if I will be able to keep my appointments and obligations tomorrow. Will I be able to spend enough time sitting at the computer over the next few days to finish the notes for New Zealand that I have put off completing until this evening? Will I get packed? Will I be able to fly?

I have no answers to any of these questions. I am not in control of this process. I can only sit with this moment as it is; ride the waves of pain and see where I am tossed up in the next few days. This is spiritual training, you will never get from reading a book or even a blog!