Recently someone asked me why I had chosen to spend an entire month focusing on the spiritual practice of play. Why is it that play is not seen as spiritual? Play is powerful in that it enhances our free spiritedness. It also counter balances predictability and seriousness. One can be spiritual and free spirited at the same time. There are times to be serious, but they are times to be playful and kick back and enjoy life. Laughter and play can actually help people with their spiritual journeys and their ability to learn. Several of the spiritual teachers who I admire have lured me in with their humor.
For example, the Dalai Lama was once asked what he wanted for his birthday. He said nothing. On his birthday, his friends gave him this ornately decorated box. He opened it and smiled and said thank you. You gave me exactly what I wanted. The box was empty. They had given him nothing. That story, was both serious and humorous. It made me laugh and think all at the same time.
Laughter can help others see how much you enjoy your life. Although topics such as freedom, conflict, and humanity are serious. We can talk about them and use humor. Sometimes laughter can help bring people together and share enthusiasm. When we can learn to laugh at a situation, it gives us a new perspective on it. For example, the other day a colleague of mine wanted to talk with me about President Elect Trump and what was God thinking. I giggled. I shared with him this memory of my grandmother working on a piece of needlework. I was sitting on the floor looking up at all these pieces of yarn going everything and thinking this is so ugly and wondering why she was working on something that was such a mess. Then she picked me up and put me on her lap and showed me what she was making. From her perspective, it looked nothing like what I had been seeing. She taught me I only see things as I can see them, I can try to see things like God does, but I never will because I am not God. Whether I voted for Trump, Clinton, or someone else is irrelevant. The reality is that what I see is from my perspective and not that of the Divine.
The really amazing thing is that play helps you learn. Research has shown that humor activates more of the brain then sitting and listening. I am intentional these days about infusing humor into what I do. It helps people know I enjoy what I am doing and helps them learn more.
While I would love to spend my entire day playing, that is not a possibility for me. However, I can take 5-minute laugh breaks. Where I grocery shop, Wegmans, they periodically announce that it is time for a micro stretch break and talk about the health benefits of doing so. Maybe one day they will announce it is time for a micro laugh break as we all need to laugh at life and situations these days.
Maybe that is why I surround myself with people who make me laugh. They fill my life with memories that allow me to have micro laugh breaks. I can think about my friend Michael who while doing his chaplaincy internship went to visit one of his regular clients who had been in a coma. He sat and talked to this man for nearly 20 minutes while the family listened on. It was not until he was getting ready to leave that he learned the man was no longer in a coma, he had died shortly before he had walked into the room. In the midst of this moment of profound loss, Michael was making the man’s family laugh.
Who makes you laugh? Bring people and things into your life which help you become spontaneous at moments and tap into your inner child. Give yourself permission to take a micro laugh or play break. Let go and let God help you play and laugh and enjoy life today.