Lighten up

“There have been countless documentations of people having near death experiences and as they almost die they see “the light.” When they are jolted back to reality and wake up from their near-death episode, the number one take away from the near-death experience is not, “Holy crap, I almost died.” It’s, “Holy Moses, I need to lighten up and not take life so seriously. I better start living!”

We don’t all get second chances but we can switch our path starting right now. If you feel unhappy, you have the power to choose happiness based on your actions. It starts with your perception and how you treat the world. The way we see the world is a reflection of how we see ourselves. Remembering to treat ourselves kindly and laugh often is one way to appreciate life. In order to love our lives to the fullest we can start by lightening up. When we learn to not take life so seriously, this is when we can truly be free.” Shannon Kaiser, author, speaker (Kaiser, n.d.)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is known for his sense of humor. His teachings are laced with humor, he believes that the purpose of life is to seek happiness- “I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness…. I believe the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in that religion or this religion, we are all seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”

Happiness and joy come from the inside. The more we lighten up and learn to not take life seriously the more joy we bring into our life and in the lives of others. Happiness and joy can be experienced alone but laughter is always in the company of others. According to Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, most laughter is not about humor, it is about relationships between people. Laughter has a bonding function, it is contagious.

In meditation circles, laughter is serious business, The Chopra Center in La Jolla, California has a ten-minute practice[i] of laughter meditation. Even though, in these settings, laughter is contrived, it simulates the impact that authentic laughter has on the nervous system-it helps bypass the conscious mind and reach into the unconscious. Laughter allows us to shake off our burdens and drop our inhibitions, much like a dog shakes off its emotions.

We don’t fully understand the physiology of laughter nor do we know why we laugh, but we do know that laughter is therapeutic. The more unburdened of worries we are the more freely we laugh, and the more freely we laugh the more burdens we shed. The more burden we shed the happier we become. The happier we are the more joy we spread. It is a joyous circle that we create through laughter.

According to evolutionary biologists the origins of laughter can be traced back to play among mammals, such as chimpanzees. Have you watched chimpanzees at play? It is fun to watch, almost as joyful as watching toddlers play and laugh. Laughter in humans is an invitation to play or to be playful. Laughter makes us drop our inhibitions. Inhibitions are our way of protecting our self-image. When we laugh we drop our mask and connect with the depth of our being-our soul. Laughter among friends (and strangers) is a communion of souls. Laughter cannot be faked, it is an authentic expression of the joy within us.

As we get older, we become uptight and laugh less, when just the opposite is good for us. Laughter is the best medicine for ageing. We are conditioned into believing that older people should be serious not silly. In fact, every family needs a silly uncle.

Silliness as a positive trait is underappreciated. We should all be sillier. Being silly gives others permission to drop their pretenses too. Silliness is actually an act of humility; it makes one vulnerable. It takes courage to be silly.

In medieval times kings had court jesters to lighten the burden of statecraft, Shakespeare had Puck, the clever, mischievous and wise knave in English mythology, Hinduism has the lovable and mischievous Lord Krishna[ii] and Catholicism has the angelic Cherubs. Laughter, play, mischief and even silliness has a role in the journey from the “head to the heart”

“There are at least three ways of talking about Spirit: You can say what Spirit is like, you can say what Spirit is not, or you can have a direct experience of Spirit.”  Brother David Steindl-rast, a Benedictine priest.[iii] Laughter is a direct experience of the Spirit, I believe.

This I believe:

  1. A full-throated belly-laugh breaks through our inhibitions- our false self and connects us to our and others’ authentic selves. They say cleanliness is next to godliness, I believe silliness is godliness.

[i] (https://chopra.com/articles/laughter-meditation-5-healing-benefits-and-a-10-minute-practice, n.d.)

[ii] (Krishna Leela, n.d.)

[iii] (https://onbeing.org/programs/david-steindl-rast-anatomy-of-gratitude-dec2017/, n.d.)

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