What is so special about a Buddhist vacuum cleaner? "No attachments."
What did the Zen Master say at the hot dog stand? "Make me one with everything."
What is a good greeting card to give to a Buddhist? The one that says, "Not thinking of you."
Okay, so after the ba-dum ching has faded.... Seriously (or not so seriously) folks humor is a great support of our mindfulness practice. I have run into many spiritual characters that take it way too seriously and put on aires of somehow being spiritually advanced or superior to others. There is a fakeness and pretentiousness to it all...you know the overly gentle look in the eyes with the smile and the two-handed handshake and the overly soft-spoken voice: "My, my it is so nice to meet you." That is nice and everything, but let's cut to the chase. No need for the dollop of crazy. Just be yourself man!
Jon Kabat-Zinn said, "Life is way too serious to take too seriously." When we make humor part of our mindfulness practice, it helps us free ourselves from some of the the self-created and unreal expectations of being a human being. We can step back from the obvious seriousness of the world and find some ability to laugh at ourselves with all of our idiosyncrasies, eccentricities, imperfections, and oddities of our personality. (really Bill, did you need to find every vocabulary word that relates to the quirkiness of the human condition?). Well, sometimes the way we behave is quite hilarious, comical, whimsical, and downright funny. (Ah, there he goes again. Is he going to do this for the whole blog?). But really, if we cannot laugh at ourselves, life can become rather dull.
I do my best to bring humor in to my mindfulness classes, as well as when I am working with clients. Not that the situations that people are struggling with are not serious. But, if we can share a laugh, then we know deep in the heart of the matter lies the ever-fleeting dance of our lives. We also recognize that we are not alone, that all of us have our own little quirks that make up who we are, and when we take things too seriously, we can easily get stuck. When we run in to the stubbornness of our minds, we find that the dance becomes awkward. It becomes awkward because we often over-identify with the situation calling ourselves names, being over-critical, and seeing ourselves "as" something rather than just being with what is.
So, in mindfulness practice we lighten up a bit and step away from any preconceived notions of how things should be and begin to accept them as they are. Not that we take a passive resigned attitude, but to just touch lightly into each moment and see where it takes us.
I have a close friend in the Dharma with whom I was telling a story. It was about something that happened to me on a long meditation retreat. I shared how I was dealing with really bad allergies and my nose was running and that I was sniffling more than usual. At that moment the Zen Master yelled out to the entire group, "STOP -- SNIFFLING!" I said to my friend I was startled and did not know what to do. I asked my friend, if you were there, what would you say? He said, "Pipe-Down Roshi!!" I still laugh to this day every time I think of it because he took the over-seriousness of the situation and made it real. There was no need to make it so serious. "Pipe Down Roshi" is now a phrase we share with one another when we get a little too full of ourselves. I had another friend who would quip about himself and say, "You know Bill, I need to get my ass on the cushion." These are all ways we can see how we back ourselves into a corner with being too serious, and well we all know, "nobody puts Buddha in a corner."
Friends along the way in mindfulness practice are crucial. They keep us real and call us out on our own stuff. In the same way, we can do this with ourselves. But, do it in a way that is light-handed and humorous. And if you cannot laugh at yourself, get a friend to do it for you. Well, what kind of friend would they be if they could not?
And I will leave you with one more, just because...
An aspiring monk asked to enter a temple and study with a teacher.
"Very well," said the teacher, "but all students here have to observe a vow of silence. You will be entitled to speak only once every 12 years.
After the first 12 years, the student said, "The bed is too hard."
After another 12 years, he said, "The food is not good."
After yet another 12 years, with 36 years of hard work and meditation behind him, he said, "I quit!"
"Good," snapped the teacher, "all you've done for 36 years is complain."