Once, in a supermarket, an elderly stranger looked at me and said: “Why so serious?”. I never thought his words would still have an impact on me a decade later.
He was indeed right. Unknowingly, I used to go about my daily life in all seriousness and I made sure that my facial expression portrayed my state of mind. The funny thing about life is that we take ourselves too seriously. Everything must fit into boxes, we expect people to treat us a certain way and we ourselves behave differently depending on our surroundings. Things changed since that incident though and now am often labelled as ‘a joke’. I still recall some of my friends saying to me: “You are so jokes!” And to be fair, I am quite fond of this particular label.
All too often we equate spirituality with immense seriousness. If anyone dares to smile, let alone laugh in a place of worship, we are very quick to judge and assume that such a person cannot be a serious seeker, let alone be spiritual at all. We walk into temples or into spiritual events with all the possible seriousness on our faces. It’s as if a tremendous effort is going on behind the scenes to keep all our muscles engaged for the best possible frown. Because obviously an award will go to the most serious seeker!
The bliss of laughter.
In God’s creation where toddlers have so much fun, flowers bloom gloriously, the colours of nature are beyond our grasp, where the sun shines against the most magnificent blue sky, where the elderly often crack the funniest of jokes… have you ever wondered why most seekers or religious people have come to the conclusion that places of worship or rituals require rigidity and seriousness? The way I see it is simple: if we experience such joy and bliss in laughter, then laughing surely is a divine occurrence. But above all when we are able to look back at our own lives and laugh at our own past behaviour of utter seriousness, something wonderful happens. In that moment we experience true bliss because laughing at oneself requires letting go of our own ego.
A couple of years ago, in a Swaminar question, I asked Swamiji to tell me a hilarious joke and in His usual witty He said: “You want a hilarious joke? How about the mirror?:)” And with all my seriousness back in the day, I took it quite literally, without understanding the deeper meaning in His wise words. However, now, many months later, I realise that as a little human, I can verily be described as a joke. And I believe it applies to many of us. Why?
Because we take ourselves so seriously! Perhaps you are wondering what the latter statement means. Let me explain.
Why are we so serious?
Generally, when we are so engrossed in our own world of ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘my mind’, we fail to look at the bigger picture. We make up questions in our minds, we tell ourselves stories (usually far-fetched and over-dramatic ones), we create beautiful scenarios of mindiness and build wonderful expectations which can never be fulfilled. And over time, as we continue to reaffirm all the above to ourselves, we put a huge emphasis on our self-created illusory inner world. A world which revolves around the swinging pendulum of our fleeting thoughts and temporary emotions. In such situations, we are easily offended by the opinion of others, we refuse to admit our mistakes and we are often convinced that we are above everyone else. We are special.
“Laughter is for simple people. I am important, my life is important, and this world will struggle without my presence.” This could possibly be true if we happened to be a human incarnation of God. I don’t know about you, but am definitely not one.
Jokes aside, although this sounds like a hilarious assumption, there is a lot of truth to it. Somehow, we think that the world will come to a halt without us and this gives us a great sense of peace and security. In this seriousness, it is hard to let go and enjoy the jokes life throws at us because if we were to do so, we would have to let go of our false pretence.
Additionally, it would mean genuinely accepting that we are nothing but a speck of dust in this massive universe. Yet we are also complete as we are. A feeling we easily experience during a fit of laughter.
The “Take it easy!” mantra.
What if God is constantly looking at us and trying hard to control His laughter at our mindy seriousness over trivial matters!? And He probably is:)
Most of us can barely recall the last time we had such a hearty laugh that we struggled to even catch our breath. That’s because in the midst of a life full of desires, ups and downs and ambitions, we tend to forget how to live. As Om Swami often says: “Take it easy.”
Truly, in this whole rat race which we put ourselves through, we fail to realise that we can also have fun, we can also laugh at our stupidity, we can laugh at our shortcomings, we can laugh at our nonsensical blueprints.
Go on! Laugh at yourself, it’s not hard!
With confidence, from my own experience of laughing at myself, I can assure you that once you start taking it easy and laughing at yourself, you will discover an infinite mine of laughter, no less than precious gems.
I don’t know about rituals, but if without fault, as a matter of discipline, we make sure to laugh at ourselves at least once a day, it unlocks something divine within us. And more often than not, there is always something to laugh about. We are our own biggest lessons and our own dearest friend. Go on, let go of yourself. Pick an event from your beautiful life, look at it from a third person’s perspective and laugh it out. It’s therapeutic.
Make others smile in the process…
And as far as being serious is concerned, whenever I come across little children wherever I go, if they happen to be serious, I make it a point to smile at them and ask them to cheer up. Who knows! They might write a blog post about it and laugh at their seriousness some day!👽
Go on my serious seekah friend…fix up that smile and take it easy, yo!
Photo credits: A beautiful ocean, definitely not taking itself seriously at all!:)