(Fair warning, I have previously refenced Caddyshack as a source of dharma teaching a few months ago, and today I will draw upon another Bill Murray 70s comedy, Meatballs, for inspiration. If you consider such pop culture references offensive, I invite you to turn to the more conventional items elsewhere on our blog. -SH)
I sat in our Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class last night and listened closely to these people who have become a fleeting family for me over these past six weeks. Their voices were gentler, their faces were softer, their posture was more at ease. They were talking about the "Full Catastrophe" of their lives: deadlines, challenges, pain, relationships. When they walked in the door six weeks ago they wielded these things like weapons or burdens, or both. They were dark, heavy, malignant and unpredictable forces in their lives that seemed to threaten all that they hold dear in life.
Six weeks of mindfulness practice later (and two to go) and, in the vast majority of cases, nothing has changed about these stressful items in their lives.
But they have changed. In remarkable, awe-inspiring ways. They report meeting many of the facets of their lives in a more present-centered, equanimous manner. They are noticing their habitual tendencies and often ineffective coping strategies, and choosing to respond rather than react. To pause and allow a more skillful response to emerge from within rather than doing what they have always done. They have come to practice what the bumper sticker says: "Don't believe everything you think."
It is my view that they are viewing the dramas (stories) that are created beyond the actuality of their experience, and seeing right through them to the heart of the matter. They watch the drama unfold and, in some way tell themselves that "it just doesn't matter". And what's even better is that they have a very deep felt sense of what DOES matter. To them, to their future, to their lives.
In the movie Meatballs, the quintessential summer camp movie, replete with adolescent angst, the hyper-hormonal and the perennially awkward, this attitude is amplified through the motivational speech offered up by Bill Murray. Take a look and see if you don't feel the powerful and liberating letting go inherent in chanting: "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!" (We probably won't be hearing the strains of this chant issuing forth from behind the walls of monasteries anytime soon, but the image lightens my mood and makes me smile nonetheless!)
He's not saying "nothing matters" but exposing the emperor with no clothes, the man behind the curtain, the paper tiger if you will. The coiled hose in the shadows is actually just a hose, and the "story" of it being a rattlesnake poised to attack just doesn't matter when you see it for what it is. Just this.