Sustaining a sense of humor cultivates lightheartedness. It connects us to the deepest reaches of our soul and is crucial in healing. Most people express that they would rather die than live a life without laughter. Research shows that laughter lowers blood pressure, increases vascular blood flow, reduces stress which in turn reduces anxiety and depression. Most importantly, when we laugh with others, we share a sense of interconnectedness and belonging which assists in healing as well.
For me, laughter that originates deep within and assists us in communing with others in an intimate way is soul laughter. Soul laughter lets us share our sheer vulnerability with another. It communicates a loving presence heart to heart without spoken words: “I am present and share this moment with you.” Writer, Anne Lamott suggests that such “Laughter is a bubbly, effervescent form of holiness.”
Maintaining a sense of humor assists us in moving outside of whatever is happening in our lives so we can assess situations with healthy detachment. Every experience we have, no matter how trivial-an impatient driver who cuts us off in traffic, an irritable waiter who will not look our way, the unexpected loss of a close relationship, or a downpour that drenches us to the bone-can be viewed as something wonderful, humorous, or simply an opportunity to discover more about ourselves.
Here is an example of sustaining a sense of humor so that I remained lighthearted while preparing for a book signing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Right before leaving on my trip, I received an e-mail notifying me that a shipment of books I had sent to a distributor had arrived damaged and covered in oil. They needed the shipment yesterday so I quickly packed another box of books and this time sent them through UPS instead of the US Postal Service. This time I also remembered to insure them.
I arrived home in time to meet my dad who was driving with me to Ann Arbor. As I opened the back door excited to be on our way, my golden retriever, Cammi dashes through the doorway deciding that this would be a great time to explore the neighborhood. As I chased her through several backyards, she gleefully flees from me reveling in our new role as a flight risk. When I finally caught up to her, treat in hand, I felt success but then I fell. Did I mention I was wearing linen white pants?
After a challenging drive with my dad who wanted to share with everyone in Michigan that they were bad drivers, I arrived at the bookstore ready to greet the eleven hundred people who had responded on Facebook that they were attending the signing. Yet, the eleven hundred soon turned into eleven including my dad. On the bright side, I was still able to videotape my presentation except that my camcorder chose that moment to die and the backup was two hundred miles away.
My presentation went well and just as I was letting out a sigh of relief and getting ready to wrap things up, a young University of Michigan graduate student decides to ask a question. I didn’t realize questions could actually last fifteen minutes. Isn’t there a time limit, or a rule of etiquette about the length of questions? By the time he was finished, I had completely forgotten what his question was; yet, obviously it was to make a point. So, I answered him with a smile and the first thing that came to mind.
I finally made it home around midnight happy in my heart even after my dad pointed out that after gas, dinner, and the earlier loss of books, my profit was the change in his pocket. This day was perfect just as it had unfolded. Being flexible, keeping a sense of humor, and allowing spontaneity and playfulness, sustained the flow of love energy through me supporting responsive rather than reactive choices.