One way to define who we are is by how we respond to life and things that happen to us. Everyone has experiences, good and bad. Stress is the name of the game. As life unfolds, we are able to develop a deeper awareness of ourselves and our world. Our existence resides in relationships to everything and everyone. It all translates into a personality. One's personality is then ultimately a stance within our relationships. It's how we show up in the face of living our lives. It’s how we cope with anxiety, stress and challenges. A big part of how I show up is my sense of humour.
Birth order most assuredly has something to do with one's emergent personality and hence our sense of humour. As a typical baby of the family, I was sensitive and observant of others' behaviour. I learned that humour often eased the built up tension in the family unit. So, in accordance with many other babies of the family, I donned the role of comedian. A salient aspect of my personality was developed from my first family dynamics. Who knew?
At the same time, our sense of humour is personal. It is affected by (amoung other things) culture, socio-economics and gender. I’ve noticed that it also changes as we age and gain experience in living. It follows that you don't get a robust sense of humour unless you have lived. That includes lots of times of trial and tribulation, pain and sorrow. God knows that many people have not chosen humour to cope or help process what it is to be human. Indeed, people hold onto their misery like it’s a hard won prize!
And there are all sorts of ways to hold onto one’s pain. That includes a sour demeanour. Sometimes it’s a lack of forgiveness, especially for oneself, that is at the core. In the meantime, the lucky ones have found a way through and past painful experiences by virtue of their ability to laugh at not only their situations but also themselves. I have often been dismissed as a light-weight in substance because of my playful personality. That saddens me since my attitude and antics are only an invitation to play with me. My approach springs from a place of insight, acceptance and love.
When people slow down and really "show up" for each other, we may be able to see and hear each other for the first time. A much richer quality of understanding may be the reward. I love it when people pause long enough to look past the surface. Beyond the invitation to play, perhaps my playfulness is a veil to be pierced by the few sensitive, old souls who really listen - it’s sort of a test. Chances are they have walked a mile or two on this planet. Chances are, they appreciate a good sense of humour.
In the movie, Mary Poppins, "I love to laugh, ahahahaha; loud and long and clear," is a line in one of my favourite songs. Come to think of it, the whole movie ‘rocks’ with its messages of timeless wisdom. Yet one of the most memorable scenes is where Dick VanDyke, Ed Wynn and the children float up to the ceiling from the pure joy of their laughing lesson. The wonderful point of the song is that while ’shit’ inevitably happens, you can laugh in the face of adversity - even when people don't approve. You might even be able to defy the laws of physics:-)
Kids get it. They embody play and laughter. Why do adults have to be so freakin' serious all the time? Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that "grown ups” are serious and controlled. They do not act silly, spontaneous and/or irreverent. Yet my experience is that good, supposedly mature adults are just itching to climb out of their corralled skins and let loose.
One of my favourite places to try to lighten things up is in a doctor's waiting room. I remember one occasion when I, along with a host of other ‘blue hairs,’ waited in one of two waiting rooms. As usual, everyone looked dour. Once I started poking fun at some random, inane link between us, the room around me began to come alive. By the time I left, we had dubbed our waiting room "the rebel room" whilst we laughed, chortled and outright guffawed the whole time. It sure made the experience much more enjoyable. We probably inhaled more oxygen than anyone else too.
When I think about being playful and seeing things from a lighter side, I will go so far as to say that we are exploring a spiritual dimension of being human. (Keep in mind that my opinion, along with my humour, bubbles up from a colourful and challenging fair number of years spent in the deep mines of life.) There are just so many times that you repeat certain behaviours and attract certain types of people and run into familiar walls before you start to relax a bit and change the tune. That’s when you start getting the distance and subsequent perspective along with the wisdom. From there, it is not far to the horizon of Spirit and stepping there with humour.
Since our suffering is a profound spiritual teacher, it follows that humour is linked to that. It seems that many people who have faced formidable challenges, have coped by letting go of resistance to the inevitable. Going the extra step gets the humour of it all. It's a bit Tao actually. In Taoist Tai Chi, the concept is that as you move with your opponent (rather than getting bruised by presenting a wall), you use oppositional energy against the opponent . In this way, success in life stems from tuning into, a sort of deep understanding, of what you are facing. Next is establishing a certain alignment with it before finally navigating your way through relatively unscathed. That little ditty of insight takes years and years of practice by the way. In the end, not everyone gets it either. Some insist on resisting the inevitable that is beyond our control. The pain is in the resistance.
Think about it. There's a certain surrender and freedom woven into the fabric of humour. Laughing at a situation or with a fellow human-being accepts our experiences as a mirror to our commonality. It is a view from 1,000 feet where we are able to see ourselves muddling through whatever, along with everyone else. Nobody gets out without experiences. We might as well accept that aspect of being human. We can laugh at ourselves doing life. There is humour woven into the wisdom of knowing that we are all in the trenches together.
When I conceptualize the constructs and dynamics of humour, I see it as a combination of mind and heart, where the knowledge of the mind (through experience) combines with the blessed compassion of the heart, that deepens the knowledge into wisdom and connection (innate). So our minds form the flavour or content of our joy while our hearts provide the depth or quality.
The body is geared for humour and laughter too. Did you know that the mechanics of a good belly laugh is much like the mechanics of a cleansing yoga breath? First, we inhale deeply, infusing our bodies with an extra hit of oxygen. As we expel the air from our lungs, we give our diaphragm an extra squeeze and purge our system. Our whole body is engaged. And it feels good! That's the acid test. If it feels good, do it; do more of it. If it doesn't feel good, don't do it. It's sort of a recipe for life. Is it any wonder that our bodies are on board with howling, side-splitting laughter?
As a dimension of our hearts, humour is therefore seated in our connection to each other and the universe. A poet once said that flowers are Mother Earth laughing. That catches the beauty, spirit and purpose of humour. When something is funny, it's usually borne of a dynamic of relationship to something or someone. In other words, it's a dimension of connection. Plain old fun is an expression of our humanity that links us with not only each other but also with Source.
More evidence of what I’m talking about is this. Whenever I have had the blessing of consciously connecting with Source on any deep level, I have noticed a sublime, almost impish, humour that was imbedded in the awareness. It's like I felt that "God" most definitely had a well developed sense of humour and was inviting me to play. Furthermore, I don't think that it's an accident that His Holiness the Dalai Lhama, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, touts happiness (where a sense of humour is implied) to be our birthright - a natural, healthy state of being. Indeed, most spiritual leaders around the globe have proclaimed the same thing.
Happiness is the evidence of successful living! We express our delight with laughter. Everything you do is for the purpose of the joy that it is giving you. When you stop pursuing a certain course in life, it usually indicates a discord in your deep awareness. That way has stopped producing the joy that you were hoping to receive. Abraham Hicks, a well known spiritual guide, would say that it is always better if you joyfully anticipate having received what you want. When you’re focussed on what you want, just thinking about it makes you happy. It all works to make your goal actually happen. The metaphor would entail an infinite well (health, happiness and well-being) that we have constant access to (our natural state of being). To maintain a steady flow of water (our enlivening awareness in Source) a manual hand pump (mind, heart and body) is required. Humour and joy then become the grease to make the pump work more easily. It all makes for good exercise to boot.
The invitation is to un-pucker that sphincter and let loose a good belly laugh from time to time. It might be for no good reason at all. Perhaps it is to let Spirit know that you are on board.
Helena Green, BA EFTCP CCIP MRP MPCC
Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling
Certified Energy & Somatic Psychology
Certified Compassionate Inquiry Practitioner
Counselling for the Health of It
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