Humor and Mindfulness How Hearty Laughter Frees the Mind
“Living in the information age has created a condition called mind-fullness. So, we need to empty our minds through mindfulness.”
-- Swami Beyondananda
The term mindfulness seems to have two meanings. First, it represents finding peace of mind in a world filled with way too much information, a certain degree of knowledge, and precious little wisdom. Secondly, it means living in conscious awareness of the impact of your actions on the world, and on your own life.
Funny thing is, laughter and the comic perspective will help with both.
I’m not just saying that because comedy has been my career for the past thirty years, but because I’ve noted the impact heart-opening, mind-expanding comedy has had on my audience – and on those who have taken my humor classes. The right kind of comedy has the power to heal the heart and free the mind, because it interjects surprising novelty to disrupt our ordinary binary, this-or-that ways of thinking.
You ever wonder why jokes use “three’s” – like a minister, a priest and a rabbi?
A minister, a priest and a rabbi are discussing their legacy, what they would like the eulogist to say at their funeral. The minister says, “I want them to say he was a family man and a pillar of his community.” The priest says, “I want them to be saying he was a holy man and a leader of his flock.” The rabbi says, “I want them to be saying, ‘LOOK – I think he’s breathing!’”
The first player – in this case, the minister – sets up the premise. The second player – in this case the priest – reinforces the premise, proceeding along a predictable linear pathway. The third player – the Rabbi in this joke -- upsets the premise, and introduces an entirely new dimension. We laugh because our mind has been tricked into making the “wrong” conclusion. In his book, HA! The Science of When We Laugh and Why, brain scientist Scott Weems says that when we get the punchline of a joke, we receive the same dopamine rush as when we solve a problem. This can explain why humor is so often associated with creativity.
And – pertaining to mindfulness – something else happens when we laugh. There is often an “aha” in the wake of the “ha-ha”, and then an “aaaahhhhhh” as we leave the static of the head for the ecstatic of the heart. In other words, the surprise from the punchline and the resulting laughter temporarily liberates us from the trance of the dualistic mind, and we find ourselves in the unity of the heart.
No wonder “hearty laughter” is hailed as healing!
In the empty space created when the “universe” created to deliver a joke dissolves, there is the potential to see anew, feel anew and create anew. Freed of the burden of logic (which is often illogical anyway!), we are propelled by our laughter into childlike innocent perception, where we can be fully mindful without the blinders of rationality we often mistake for reality.
This space of innocent perception can also help us be mindful of our own egoic patterns, but that’s the subject of another blog post. For now, see if you can remember a time when a joke – advertent or inadvertent – broke through the trance of separation, of ordinary linear thinking, and stopped your “one-tract” mind “in its tracts.” You will likely discover a moment when levity elevated your perception above and beyond “mind-fullness” to the joy and peace of mindfulness.
Got a story of how humor or laughter created a moment of mindfulness? Please share it with me at email@example.com
Steve Bhaerman is an author, presenter and comedian who has spent the past 34 years in the guise of cosmic comic Swami Beyondananda. Swami’s comedy has been described as comedy disguised as wisdom, and wisdom described as comedy, and noted author Marianne Williamson has called him the “Mark Twain of our times.” He can be found online at https://www.wakeuplaughing.com/ and you can find out more about his work as creative consultant here. https://wikipolitiki.com/hire-steve-bhaerman-creative-consultant/