My favorite teachers all have one thing in common – they make me laugh. It’s not just that they are funny but that they are enjoying themselves as much as their audience. It’s infectious.
Whenever I’m listening to teachers who are taking themselves too seriously or not able to find the humor in life, I tune out immediately. I just can’t relate to it.
So when I teach, I try to bring in funny stories to get my point across. Not just because it’s fun (although that is a good reason!), but because I think it’s the most effective way to learn.
We Need To Laugh More Not Less
I once read that children laugh on average 300 times a day and as adults we laugh about 5 times a day. That’s not funny – that’s horrifying!
Why would we deny ourselves the pleasure of laughing when there is so much to laugh at?
If you take yourself so seriously that you can’t laugh at yourself, then you are missing out on a boatload of opportunities for growth.
I often find my greatest insights come when I’m laughing at myself. When I finally see some habit I’ve been repeating my whole life and how much pain it’s causing me that I burst out laughing at the insanity of it.
It clicks in that moment.
I see how ridiculous it is and that I’m the one creating pain for myself – it’s not the situation or anyone else – it’s ME!
In my experience, when we can laugh at it, we are really getting it.
A Teaspoon Of Laughter Helps The Wisdom Go Down
We’ve been listening and telling stories for hundreds of thousands of years. There’s a reason for it – we like it a lot.
If it’s a good story, we really pay attention. Our frontal lobes become active as we look for the pattern trying to figure out where the story is going?
We know there is a punchline coming, a twist, a turn, but what is it?
And then when the punchline is delivered, the unexpected twist revealed – we laugh with delight and pleasure.
“Wow – I didn’t see that coming!”
And neither did your dopamine.
Dopamine loves to be surprised. The more unexpected the twist the more dopamine is released (and the more pleasure we experience).
And when the joke reveals a truth about something we all habitually do that is completely insane, we laugh even harder.
If we’re with another person or a group of people there is a true bonding moment when we recognize that we are all the same.
All our pretenses are dropped in that moment.
Everyone is in on the joke because we’re all doing it.
It is such a relief to know our crazy habits aren’t so unique – everybody’s doing it! Phew!!
Funny Stories Cut Through Our Pain
The beauty of funny stories is that we remember them.
The first time you hear a funny story you laugh because you can relate to it based on past experience.
The second time you laugh is because at that moment you’re going through it. You really see it, “I’m still doing it! How ridiculous is this?” That’s your moment of insight – when you can really let go.
One of our greatest challenges as we walk this path of spiritual growth is that we hear the teachings and they make perfect sense but then we turn around and keep doing the very thing we intellectually know is causing us harm. We know it hurts but we can’t help ourselves!
When we are caught up in a story about “why we’ve been wronged,” or “why this shouldn’t be happening to ME,” or “why we’re so mad at our partner,” we aren’t thinking rationally.
You could spend an hour trying to tell someone who’s angry how they are harming themselves and their actions will bring more harm than good, but your words will fall on deaf ears. They are so caught up in their story, they can’t hear you.
But a funny story cuts through even our craziest delusions. The humor opens us up in a way that nothing else can at that moment.
You may have to be reminded of the story from a friend or teacher, but in that moment of it being brought up – the story unravels.
The clarity arises.
The insight is known.
We can listen to great teachers 24 hours a day but until we see the suffering ourselves we won’t let go. That’s why we need humor and funny stories – tools that we can take with us to keep guiding and reminding us.
To help us see with our own eyes.
So when you find yourself laughing out loud at something you’ve just done – rejoice in that laughter. You’re learning, you’re getting it! Please don’t shy away from laughing at yourself and at the silly things we all do.
Let it be your guide to greater wisdom and happiness.
And the next time you see me walking down the street laughing to myself, you might think, “How wonderful, Meredith must be learning something about herself right now. I hope she also sees that piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe!”