I’m going to step out from under the turban for a moment, and speak to you as Steve Bhaerman about why I’m doing my class on the Alchemy of Laughter, and why the cosmic comic perspective is so valuable in these times of heavy-duty shift.
First of all, I love laughing and I love making other people laugh. I started writing the Swami column just to amuse myself, and when I saw how my musings amused others, I knew I found my calling.
At the same time, people who know me well – and those who can read between the punch lines – know I have a serious side too. Oy, do I have a serious side. And my serious side sees a world in serious condition. The world at this moment seems like one massive crisis, and one big fat opportunity.
I spent three years immersed in writing a “serious” book with Bruce Lipton, Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here. Based on Bruce’s background in cellular and evolutionary biology and mine in political science (no, I never did get to dissect a politician in political science lab), we came to a simple conclusion: The next phase of human evolution is the recognition that we are each and all cells in a super-organism called Humanity. The multiple crises we face are an invitation, an opportunity for our entire species to evolve. Some might call this evolution “heaven on earth”. The cellular community beneath our skins would simply call it “health”.
Now while this idea is “simple”, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy.
While evolution might sound fine and dandy in the ideal, when it comes to the “real deal” it can be messy and uncomfortable, particularly when we insist on holding on to structures (physical, mental and spiritual) that the forces of evolution are sweeping away because they have become obsolete in our lives. Over the past two years, my wife Trudy and I have undergone a transformation that we jokingly (and seriously) call “involuntary simplicity”. In the wake of these changes, challenging as they’ve been, we’ve been awakened to a much, much higher quality of life.
And through it all – thank God for humor! Thank goodness we’ve been able to laugh, because the perspective of humor has given us cheerfulness in the face of challenge, has made us more flexible and resilient, and it’s given us the courage to face life and make necessary changes. Being able to laugh has helped us find and stay in that space of inner peace, even when our outer peace seems to be in pieces.
Laughter is medicine, yes. And not just in the physical sense. Laughter is medicine in the Native American sense of medicine, as an alchemical (or, all-comical) tool to help us turn the dross of life into golden peals of laughter – that leaves awakening in our wake. So – seriously – here are some of the benefits of cultivating a cosmic comic perspective in these evolutionary times:
Physical Well-Being. Medical science has been studying the healing power of laughter ever since Norman Cousins used it to heal a life threatening condition and wrote his book Anatomy of An Illness nearly 35 years ago. In a more recent study, Dr. Lee Berk at Loma Linda University found that heart patients who incorporated 30 minutes a day watching comedy along with their medical regimen required fewer medications. Even more remarkable, in the one-year course of the study, only 8% of those who included laughter suffered another heart attack, as compared to 42% of the control group! So folks, hearty laughter and “regular-hilarity” save lives!
Emotional Balance. It may be that many of the physical benefits of laughter come from how it releases emotional stress, and helps us become more cheerful and resilient. Regardless of external challenges, when we naturally and authentically resonate with this joyful state, we attract situations and people who are happier and more functional. As the Swami would tell us, if you’re looking to uplift humanity, begin by uplifting the corners of your own mouth in a smile. Like chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt.
Mental Flexibility. Here is where the magic of humor holds an important key to the evolutionary upwising. Because it integrates both the linear and intuitive brains, comedy helps us include, transcend and integrate seemingly contradictory ideas. At a time when we must evolve from “this-or-that” thinking and begin to entertain new possibilities, humor is perhaps the most important – and certainly the most enjoyable – way to spark and expand creative thinking.
Spiritual Perspective. You ever wonder why the great spiritual teachers who walk their talk – like the Dalai Lama and the late Swami Satchidananda – laugh so much? It’s because they realize they are not who they think! Unlike so many of the rest of us, they clearly get they are not their personalities, so when you-know-what happens, they don’t take it personally, or poisonally. The cosmic comic perspective activates our “observer” so we gain a “God’s-eye-view” of our situation, and we recognize that who we are is much, much bigger than any circumstance.
As Bruce Lipton tells us, crisis precipitates evolution. And if we look around us, we see the chances of precipitation are 100%. We are coming to see that if our species is to survive, we must learn to work together. And that’s just half of it …
We also need to play together, because play proliferates the seeds of joy, creativity, magic and miraculous transformation. Play activates our childlike nature, and this “innocent perception” opens us to new possibilities – particularly as the old impossibilities prove less and less workable.
Maybe the first step in transforming the serious condition of the world is by addressing our own conditioning to be serious!
So come play with us. Not only will you wake up laughing, you will learn how to leave laughter in your wake. Remember, what goes around comes around. The laugh you save may be your own.