Working on yourself, as you probably know, has many benefits: better/ clearer relationships with yourself, with those you love (or have to put up with), clearer sense of social justice, more connections with what’s beyond you through the earth and spiritually.
However for some of us (present company not excepted), you can overly focus on healing so much you live in “woundology,” as Carolyn Myss calls it: “Becoming overly identified with our emotional wounds, so that it’s hard to heal and move on.”
Where does woundology come from?
You may, like me, have experienced denial growing up. Even though you heard everything was “just fine” or that your feelings weren’t worth paying attention to, you know that’s not the truth. Looking at wounds such as these soothes your emotionally neglected inner child.
However, when that becomes a key part of your identity, it can be helpful to remember that’s not the whole picture. You can both gently and compassionately tend to your wounds, AND remember the inner layer that knows you’re more than that.
No big deal
Pema Chodron, Buddhist teacher, author, and nun, shares the helpful aspect of remembering it’s “no big deal.” Here’s what she says in her book, How to Meditate:
Generally speaking, the human species does make things a very big deal. Our problems are a big deal for us. We need to make space for an attitude of honoring things completely and at the same time not making them a big deal.
It’s a paradoxical idea, but holding these two attitudes simultaneously is the source of enormous joy: we hold a sense of respect toward all things, along with the ability to let go. So it’s about not belittling things, but on the other hand not fanning the fire until you have your own private World War III.
Keeping these ideas in balance allows us to feel less crowded and claustrophobic. In Buddhist terms, the space that opens here is referred to as shunyata….
Sometimes the word shunyata has been translated as the “open dimension of our being.” The most popular definition is “emptiness,” which sounds like a big hole that somebody pushes you into, kicking and screaming: “No, no! Not emptiness!”
But there’s nothing nihilistic about this emptiness. It’s basically just a feeling of lightness, the Bearable Lightness of Being. Shunyata refers to the fact that we actually have a seed of spaciousness, of freshness, openness, relaxation, in us.
Focus on the layer of openness
Try this reflection to play with the shift between big deal and not. Imagine that you are one of those Russian nested dolls, but each is a cloud made of a different color.
Your grey outer cloud may be chattering up a storm about problems, worries, or wounds. That’s fine!
Let your attention shift to the inner clear (or blue or other color) cloud that is also there. Maybe you experience it as kindness, awareness, emptiness, or just presence that allows you to also be. Even if you just feel the smallest particle– just a quark of shunyata — or you’re even just open to find it, it’s all good.
You’re allowing yourself more space to experience yourself and life. More space means less density and tension, more relaxation to bring all of yourself into play.