Monday, December 5, 2011

WWDSD? or Learning to right-size your heart

You think to yourself, "Well, what would Dr. Seuss do in this situation?" Instead of using it as ammunition against yourself, you can lighten up and realize it's the information that you need in order to keep your heart open. If everybody on the planet could experience seeing what they do with gentleness, everything would start to turn around very fast.
-- Pema Chodron on the Lojong slogan "Don't be jealous"

The best authors of children's books do so much more than entertain the young ones. They teach life lessons.

Dr. Suess -- cited by no less than Pema Chodron -- was a master, packing a serious message into the light touch of a feathered fan held by a strange creature who appears to be a hybrid of a bird and a mammal. And who acts human.

In "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Dr. Suess tells the story of the Whos, happy beings who live in Whoville, and the Grinch, who lived on the mountain overlooking Whoville and who was not happy. You could say he never takes off his cranky pants, except that being a Dr. Suess character, he doesn't wear pants.

The Whos speculate on the cause, of course, as even happy Whos will gossip -- or share their legitimate concern about another being. It may be, the narrator says, that his shoes are too tight. Or maybe his head isn't screwed on just right.

"But I think," he intones thoughtfully, "that the most likely reason of all
"May have been that his heart is two sizes too small."

Ahhh ... how's your heart feeling? Is it filled with joy and generosity, overflowing with tidings of comfort and joy? Is it expansive, spreading appreciative joy to the world?

Or is it, maybe, a little closed down? A little boxed in? Are you putting on your cranky pants, fashionable though they might be, as you encounter shoppers and tourists and expectations, of and from you, and wish lists and bank accounts and noisenoisenoisenoise?

Don't feel bad -- even if you feel bad. Be gentle with yourself. And don't let resentments pile up like presents under a holiday tree. No one is making you do any of this; you are choosing to do it because of what you believe will happen if you don't.

The celebration season will be ruined if you don't bake 15 dozen cookies, stand in line in the hope of snagging the last remote-controlled helicopter, find a book that Uncle Irving won't mock to your face, go to every last holiday party with a smile on your face, an eggnog in your hand, and sequins somewhere on your person.

But you don't have to take it all that seriously. As Ani Pema suggests, you can lighten up. Give yourself (and others) a break.


Be aware of those thoughts. Instead of grabbing at them like they are the last artisanal panetone on the display, let them go. Focus on what is front of you. When you're stuck in a long line in a heavy coat in a hot store, know that you are uncomfortable and see if you can be OK with being uncomfortable instead of blaming it on all the other stupid people who decided to come to this store at this moment.

Consider: how important is it in the scheme of things to be doing what you are doing right now?

This takes some practice in stepping back from your thoughts, seeing that your thoughts aren't reality, so take time for yourself to meditate.

You are not your wish list. Or your to-do list. And the people in your life are not purchases to be checked off. They are tender-hearted beings with unspeakable hopes and fears that may be subsumed under believing that a chocolate diamond is just the thing to prove their worth.

The greatest gift you can give or receive is to know that you are enough. Good enough, bad enough, pretty enough, valuable enough -- and that the others in your life also are enough, just as they are.

When you see that -- as the Grinch saw that the Whos were happy without all the pantookas and puzzlers, let alone the roast beast -- your heart will grow several sizes, as his did. It will grow beyond measure.

And you can simply be.

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