August 1, 2012

No Big Deal. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}


“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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