Is This a Big Deal or a Little Deal?

by Blakeney Schick

I found myself asking this question on a Friday morning, as I was getting ready for work. It had been a particularly hard week and I had been running through all the things I needed to get done in the office before the weekend could start. I wanted to get to work right on time. Then, as I was putting on my makeup, I made one of those mistakes that instantly transforms you into looking like a clown. My mind quickly switched gears from my to-do list to the present moment. Fixing my makeup meant that I would be behind schedule. Even so, when the question popped into my head, I had to smile.

My mother retired last year after 25 years as a Montessori educator, and she often brought a little bit of the classroom home with her. “Is this a big deal or a little deal?” is a question that one of her colleagues would ask the 3- and 4-year-olds in her classroom, just as a child was reacting to a setback. It’s a great question when you’re 4. When your mother asks you the same question as you’re sharing your latest tale of woe at the age of 29, it’s a different thing. But it’s still a wonderful question because we instinctively know what the really big deals are most of the time. And whether you’re 4 or 29, if you get asked this question, you’re almost always looking at a little deal.

The yoga practice allows us to ask ourselves this question over and over again. When you are set on mastering downward facing dog, is it a big deal or a little deal that your heels are not touching the floor? Is it a big deal or a little deal that you fell out of tree pose last week? What about the fact that somewhere between Warrior II and Triangle, your mind drifted off the mat and back onto your to-do list? Some days, these can seem like big deals to me. But the longer I’ve been on the mat, the smaller they have become. Once I can see the little stuff for what it is, it becomes a lot easier to deal with. Because when we’re on the mat, we can always come back to our breath and start over.

And we can often start over off the mat, too. Standing in my bathroom on that Friday morning, I mentally gave my mother some credit and washed my face. And then I started over. It was definitely a little deal. Between the makeup and the subway, I was 15 minutes late to work that day. And, as it turned out, that wasn’t such a big deal either.

Blakeney Schick is a public radio producer who follows events and elections. She started going to yoga 8 years ago in the hopes that it would help her stand up straighter. It has. But she’s stayed on the mat because yoga’s also made her stronger in every possible way. Blakeney found her way to Mala in late 2007, and finished Mala’s 200-hour teacher training in 2012. She is also a regular contributor to the Mala Yoga blog.

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