|Stephen at Monday Night Class, San Francisco circa 1969|
Originally Posted July 12, 2014
At that very moment the phone "dinged"with an incoming email. Peering down I read the notification:
How could I not lighten up?
I broke into a bemused grin as I clicked it open. Just receiving this unsolicited and inexplicably"cosmic" MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call would have been enough to make my decision (just read, introduce and re-post this one for sure) -- and make my day.
I began reading the post.
Although some of us may have experienced lives of relative comfort and success, to then realize that there was still something lacking, I think many of us were drawn to the Practice because we'd had a hard go of it. We'd led lives that included serious trauma and/or significant emotional distress.
So, when we stumbled across Buddha's First Noble Truth, it rang true. We knew suffering to be real in our lives. Reading on, we learned that this Sage had also proclaimed that there was a reason for suffering. -- and, even more importantly -- a freakin' way out!!?
Seriously? Damn. Sign me up!
Even if we were drawn to other spiritual traditions as we entered the Practice, I think there was often a similar dynamic. Whether we were seeking nirvana or heaven, sat chit ananda or atonement, we were looking for Light at the end of the tunnel, some form of release from this "veil of tears". Then, whatever our path, at a certain point we knew that if we "wanted out" we had to get serious about it.
Very, very, serious.
Unfortunately, some of us then got deadly serious about it. I, for one, know that at one point my friends used to hate to see me coming. I could quickly squeeze the life out of any party. I was so serious! I didn't realize that the Practice could involve having some serious fun. I didn't realize that in order to really see the Light, it is helpful, maybe even crucial, to Lighten Up.
Although some forms of humor can be mindless and cruel, I think humor, at its best, is High Magic. It's a Holy Balm, a Healing Art. If some future Worldwide Buddhist Conference was considering the addition of a ninth element to the Eightfold Path, Right Humor would get my vote. Although I don't think that the College of Cardinals would go for it at this point, I'd also recommend that any candidate for Pope should be able to master appropriate "one liners" -- preferably off the cuff. I'm hoping that at some point an archeologist will unearth ancient scrolls containing the Jokes of Jesus to educate future Popes -- and, of course, strengthen my case.
But I digress...