No Big Deal. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}

Via on Aug 1, 2012


“When you notice you’re making a really big deal, just notice that with a lot of gentleness, a lot of heart.

No big deal. If the thoughts go, and you still feel anxious and tense, you could allow that to be there, with a lot of space around it.

Just let it be.

When thoughts come up again, see them for what they are.

It’s no big deal. You can loosen up, lighten up, whatever.”

(Start Where You Are: “No Big Deal.”)

I don’t know about you, but I like to make a big deal about things sometimes. It’s awesome ego food. Making a big deal means I’m a big deal, right? It also means I am keeping myself separate and disconnected from others. I have a six-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. They have tantrums, as kids do, and it’s funny to look at their tantrums, and then look at how we, as adults, do basically the same thing.

It’s going to happen. We are going to make our big deals sometimes. The thing that Pema suggests in dealing with this is to notice it, label it and give ourselves space to let it go. We need to treat ourselves with the same gentleness we would treat children having a tantrum. We see what’s going on. We recognize it for what it is. We approach it by gently giving them some space and then help them let it go. It’s good to do this for ourselves.

Sometimes it takes multiple rounds of our big deal tantrums before we really learn what they are and to let them go. I recently had an “a-ha” moment of a “tantrum” I’d been going around and around about for about a year. My first reaction was to be embarrassed, feel defensive. But, seeing the truth of any situation should be good news!

“The key is, it’s no big deal. We could all just lighten up. Regard all dharmas as dreams. With our minds we make a big deal out of ourselves, out of our pain, and out of our problems.”

We make a big deal and puff ourselves up when we think we have it all figured out. We make a big deal and squash ourselves down when we think we’ve screwed up. Either one is a great time to remember that it’s all a dream, it’s all just our perspective in that fleeting moment. We need to look at this gently, and let it go. Or as Chogyam Trungpa said about the most powerful mantra,

“Om Grow Up Svaha.”

It takes a great deal of courage to grow up and relate directly with what’s going on. It is more courageous of us to see when we are getting all wound up and wake up and let it go, then to aggressively fight our way through.

This courage is meant to be gentle, not bullying. Pema talks in more detail in this chapter about lightening up and practicing gentleness with ourselves in our meditation practices. This is not serious business. This is where we learn compassion for ourselves, and ultimately, for others. We don’t need to yell at ourselves to “get it” or stop wandering. This is taking a soft gaze at the present and being at peace with reality, whatever it holds.

One commenter mentioned on the previous post where we talked about labeling thoughts that come up during our meditation that she prefers not to label or judge her thoughts.

In this sense, labeling is not meant to be judgment of thoughts coming up as “good” or “bad.”

“Labeling our thoughts is a powerful support for lightening up, a very helpful way to reconnect with shunyata—this open dimension of our being, this fresh unbiased dimension of our mind. When we come to that place where we say, “Thinking,” we can just say it with an unbiased attitude and with tremendous gentleness. Regard the thoughts as bubbles and the labeling like touching them with a feather. There’s just this light touch—”Thinking”—and they dissolve back into the space.”

Hopefully this clarifies the idea of labeling our thoughts during meditation practice. I think it extends nicely into everyday mindfulness too. When we see ourselves getting irritated or upset about something, we can gently look at what’s coming up, see it for what it is and let go.

I’m excited to hear what other people thought of this chapter! Any “a-ha” moments for anyone? Favorite passages? Parts you disagreed with or didn’t understand?

For next week: Chapter three: “Pulling Out the Rug.”

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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter


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15 Responses to “No Big Deal. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}”

  1. nyah says:

    Today I am having an adult tantrum regarding a job interview that i have tomorrow. I've been working myself up over it, and telling myself that I am going to mess up. I need to realize I have the power within me to do well and succeed. If I don't succeed it is not the end of my career but the very beginning still. It is easy to make a big deal out of nothing when you are resisting the change that will happen. I need to except that these days are the biggest changes in my life and it is better to accept it and love it then fight the feelings of not knowning the result.

  2. cupcakesandrainbows says:

    Today I am having a tantrum because a man I am in love with told me he is in love with me but he's not allowing himself to be because he needs to move to another state because of work. It's NBD, though, because the truth of the situation is that if it is actual love, he will prioritize me in his life or I'll be here if he should return.

    • livingfrombalance says:

      WOW.. I must have need to read this as my boyfriend of 9 years moved to Cali in February ( I live in New england) and I have been in tantrum mode around it on and off for almost 6 months! It really is NBG isn't it? I love what you said:

      "because the truth of the situation is that if it is actual love, he will prioritize me in his life or I'll be here if he should return."
      I felt a HUGE shift when I read that so thank you!!

    • True. And if you have actual rich, deep love and compassion for yourself, it's okay either way.

  3. LynnBonelli says:

    Since the beginning of the year I've really been making a conscious attempt at living as if most things are Not a Big Deal. Whether it be someone who has an extremely different opinion (that having an argument isn't going to 'resolve' but breed resentment) or those pesky 5-10 pounds I've been trying to lose for the past 10 years. Truth be told, the people who love me love me as I am…different point of view and fluffy mid-section and all. So, for me to make a Big Deal out of something so superficial and inconsequential is a waste of energy. I picture myself on my death bed…and I know that no one will give a $#!% if I am a size 4 or how I vote….I will not be remembered for those things but for what type of person I was…Looking at things from this perspective…as an old lady 'ready' to die…has made it much easierfor me to focus on what is really important.

    • That's awesome, Lynn! I think it's one of those lessons we have to keep learning over and over until it really clicks. Or maybe we just keep learning it as new "big deals" come up for us.

  4. livingfrombalance says:

    which book of hers is this ??

  5. Paul Russell says:

    "If we could finally grasp how rich we are, our sense of heavy burden would diminish and our curiosity would increase."
    This sounds like a fine state of affairs! Something that feels burdensome to me how essential ideas like these are given less cultural importance than, say, American Idol. Imagine a Pema Chodron dharma talk as the #1 prime time Monday night show in America! Well, in any case, she gets a prime time spot in my mind which is a local and independent channel. Well, interdependent. I'm grateful to every reminder like this article by Kate in conjunction with this book by Pema to gaze with gentle devotion upon our frozen emotional landscapes and see if they don't turn out on closer inspection to be swirling and shifting like a Van Gogh. Sign me up for the book club!

    • Paul—I love that idea of the mind as a local & independent channel, awesome! Yes, it would be great to see more of Pema or any mindful speaker in the forefront instead of constant "entertainment." For next week, we will be talking about chapter 3: Pulling out the Rug.

  6. karlsaliter says:

    I agree, Paul, and your visual of the frozen emotional landscape is apt.
    How easy it has been to shift from technicolor to these washed-out hues, over the years.
    And it is not our fault. Thats where your "gentle devotion" rings true.

    Kate, I love “Om Grow Up Svaha." I have not seen that before, it is beautiful. Glad to be taking
    this journey with you whack jobs.

  7. “Meditation is a formal way to get used to lightening up.”

    Here I love this visual of meditating in formal attire, being very pristine and poised, uptight even – and with each breath the facade melts away. Softness blurs the lines even though everything is very clear.

    Love OM grow up shava…

  8. […] in the last chapter, we talked about letting go of the big deals we make about everything. Regard all dharmas as […]

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