|Stephen at Monday Night Class, San Francisco circa 1969|
Ooops. I almost let the cat out of the bag.
With another deep bow to Stephen Gaskin -- and to a Most Amazing Universe -- I want to share, once again, the post from that day. Beyond the Mysterious Magic Manifested, it's encouragement to "lighten up" bears repeating. With my own conditioning, prone to caffeinated perfectionism, and well aware of all that needs to be done to help change this world, I need hear that every day.
Originally Posted July 12, 2014
A couple of night's ago, unable to get back to sleep after a nocturnal "nature call."I had tried to write a memorial to Hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin, whose Life -- and recent Death -- touched me deeply. I got nowhere. I gave it up and read a bit of a Tenzing Norbu Mystery before finally stretching out to meditate into sleep once again.
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.
Then, I began reading the post.
All I can do is grin, offer a deep bow to Stephen, and to the Primordial Comedian of the Cosmic Mystery Medicine Show -- and renew my commitment to lighten up!
Although some of us may have experienced lives of relative comfort and success, I think many of us who were drawn to the Practice were like me. We were having a hard time of it.
Seriously? Damn. Sign me up!
Even if you were drawn to other spiritual traditions as you entered the Practice, I think there was often a similar dynamic. Whether seeking nirvana or heaven, sat chit ananda salvation, liberation 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.
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. Having spent some time of The Farm, I was committed to being a "truth yogi." I tried to be totally honest and help sort out the vibes in any situation. I could quickly squeeze the life out of any party.
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 to consider 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. (This Dude has to handle an enormous amount of energy, after all.) I'm hoping that at some point an archeologist will unearth ancient scrolls like the Nag Hammardi texts). As revolutionary as The Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary, they would contain the Jokes of Jesus to educate future Popes -- and, of course, strengthen my case.
But I digress...
The 21st slogan of the Lojong Trainings* of Tibetan Buddhism is: Always Maintain Only a Joyful Mind. Pema Chodron, among others, points out that this primarily involves "lightening up". As part of our Practice, we can choose to approach the events our life with genuine curiosity and appreciation, with a sense of lightness, freeing ourselves from the judgmental mind that emerges from grasping onto a fixed model of how it "should be." Like any quality of heart/mind this is something that we can cultivate. If we actually aspire to this, our sense of humor deepens and emerges more freely. Thich Nhat Hanh even recommends that we meditate with a "half smile" on our lips to prime the pump.
I've read that the Latin root of the word humor actually meant "moisture, fluid." That makes sense to me. I think we've all seen how a bit of spontaneous wit, a laugh, or just a simple smile at the proper moment, can lubricate a situation, releasing us when we were apparently stuck between a rock and a hard place.
As the Practice develops, we also come to see that being of "good cheer" doesn't just makeLife flow more easily. It it a quality of consciousness also contains great wisdom. As Practice develops, we are able to perceive even our own rather dysfunctional patterns emerge and meet them immediately with a grin rather than allow them to sweep us along into the same untenable position time and time again. Although a perception of the Truth of the Matter can sometimes come in tears as we open our heart, it can also readily appear with a smile, a chuckle -- or a belly laugh. We catch a glimpse the Real Deal --and It's a Hoot!
I hope you don't mind if I join you.
*In the Tibetan tradition of mind training, Lojong Practice consists of working with a series of training slogans as a framework for understanding how Mind operates, and as an aid in actualizing our commitments to kindness, clarity and compassion -- both on and off the zafu. I wrote a bit more extensively about Lojong in "The (Heart) Beat Goes On" in the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call awhile back.
(PS. I finally did get it together to write a memorial to Stephen Gaskin -- a year later:
This Season's People: In Memory of Stephen Gaskin. Better late then never, right? LOL One Love, Lance)