I don’t think it’s a good idea to make any spiritual practice into a really big deal. The tendency is understandable — spirituality deals with the pain and difficulty of life. But it seems to me that treating pain and difficulty as a really big deal gives them more power and makes them hurt more. The practice is to bring lightness to our experience — to be gentle with it — so it will be gentle with us.

There are levels to this. Judaism does tend to make things into a big deal — mostly the big, public rituals. The rabbis might throw in an adorable note at some point like, “Remember: you are commanded… to have fun!”, but, you know, that doesn’t make it sound super fun. These are rituals for a culture with a penchant for the dramatic, and really the drama is a kind of fun. But that’s the exterior level; the interior of Jewish practice is serious, to be sure, but the real wisdom of the tradition is found in teachers who hold that seriousness with lightness and joy. Think of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof — you know, if that’s your best reference for Jewish culture — or the ecstatic smiles of Ḥasidic masters. It’s a core teaching to walk lightly in this life.

Buddhism obviously teaches this as well. The Dalai Lama and Thích Nhất Hạnh — who both smile through practically every sentence of every teaching — are the best known living examples, but the classic Zen stories read just like funny Ḥasidic tales, and even the Buddha himself is recorded as having a tendency to goof around. In Buddhist terms, considering something a big deal is an expression of grasping and attachment. Everything is impermanent, so nothing is that big a deal.