Originally published in the Shades of Awakening online magazine, Issue #3, January 2018.
Shades News, a curated look at some of the projects and offerings from our Shades Forum members and the broader Spiritual Emergence(y) and Transformational Crisis community. Shades of Awakening is a community platform providing a safe container to ask questions and have conversations about such topics.
I remember the first time I encountered The Great Cosmic Joke. I was dutifully scrubbing the shower floor at an ashram in the picturesque countryside of Australia. At that time I took spirituality rather seriously. I woke at 4am each morning to pour warm salty water through my nostrils, practiced yoga postures several times a day, read as much of the recommended texts as I could, took pains to pronounce every Sanskrit word accurately, wore the right coloured clothes, was acutely attuned to the ins and outs of every breath, and aspired to embody a yogic path as perfectly as possible.
As I crouched on the shower floor that morning, fixated on the tiles whilst inhaling a cleaning mix of vinegar and eucalyptus oil, my entire life spontaneously flashed before me.
For some reason the absurdity of it all—life that is—hit me hard and I burst into a long hysterical laughter. Its beauty. Its brevity. Its poignancy that is but a mere pinprick in the eternity of time. I felt like I’d been whacked with a cosmic baseball bat. The game of life I thought I’d been playing revealed that, actually, all along I’d been played. It was literally rolling on the shower floor, tears streaming down my face, laughing so hard there is no sound, can’t make it stop, people getting worried kind of moment.
I’ve never quite been the same since. I’ve also become far more relaxed.
Laughter, as we know, provides numerous benefits from major feel-good endorphin rushes to better physical, emotional, mental, and social health. It works magic in the family, the workplace, and especially the bedroom! In the context of awakening experiences, there are even more benefits this grand trickster provides. It helps keep the rabbit holes light, reveals irony, and cultivates the ability to live with the paradoxes of non-ordinary transcendent experiences (NOTEs).
And given all that NOTEs experiencers go through, sometimes there really is nothing else to do but laugh.
It’s no accident that The Fool in tarot is unnumbered, giving him the ability to have both the first and final laugh. Nor is it an accident that the fat jolly man of the ten Buddhist Ox Herding pictures (a visual representation of an awakening process) makes his debut in the final image of the series—a representation of successful integration and full participation back in the ordinary world. In naïveté lies a certain kind of wisdom, and vice versa.
That meeting with the Universe’s wicked and twisted sense of humor was, for me, the first of many to come. Over the years, and having spoken with many NOTEs experiencers, I’ve found that the ability to see divine comedy at play is most helpful for those who live the extraordinary within the ordinary.
Ironically, it often ain’t funny at all, until it’s really funny.
Laughter doesn’t excuse or diminish situations that need addressing. Nor is it an excuse for inaction or spiritual bypassing. Rather, the capacity to have a laugh no matter the situation can provide welcome relief and warmth, especially throughout and beyond the disorientation that can accompany awakening processes.
Life at any given time might be painful, ugly, or a glorious mess. Regardless, it seems that as long as there’s just a glint of humor to be found in the mighty madness of it all, everything becomes just that little bit easier.
Laughter really may just be the best kind of medicine out there!