Laugh Your Way to Stillness

"Comedy is serious business." A much-loved teacher of mine, Louise Cowan, was fond of saying that. For her, comedy as a literary genre (distinct from lyric poetry, tragedy, and epic) was a rough-and-tumble imaginative terrain of grace, redemption, regeneration, and hopefulness.

I think the same can be true for laughter in our lives. A good belly laugh can quiet the voices of our demons. It can be a sudden shaft of sunlight through the storm clouds, a breach in a foreboding thoughtwall, and an infusion of new buoyant energy into a downward spiraling system. It’s a reassertion of hopefulness—an implicit metaphysical assertion that there’s Something Out There worth smiling about. 

It’s the banana peel that sends the joyless drill sergeant in our despairing death march spinning and sliding across the floor in befuddlement. 

Laughter is also cathartic—a way of releasing repressed energy/emotion/fear stuck in our systems. There’s a meditation designed by Osho (who was both an extremely wise and super problematic guru) called “The Mystic Rose.” It involves laughing hysterically for a certain amount of time, followed by heart-rending crying for the same amount of time. If you’ve ever done it, you've quickly realized that deep, soulful laughing and lamentation are very close neighbors.

And then the third part of The Mystic Rose, after you’ve laughed and cried, is to sit in silence. Osho believed that we Westerners, with our busy minds, had to travel first through the valleys of noisy laughter and tears before we could land in stillness.

During this holiday period, if you find yourself stuck in a dark storyline, invite some laughter into your life. Far from frivolous, it may actually be a stepping stone to an elusive inner quiet. It can be, as Louise noted about comedy, delightfully serious business.