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Shambhala Sun | September 2012


Lighten Up

An attitude of humor, says CAROLYN ROSE GIMIAN, cuts through seriousness and stress and makes life cheerful and light.

Humor. Anyone who meditates knows about it. Natural funniness is the term that Chögyam Trungpa used. It’s not making fun or mocking. It’s natural cheerfulness, light touch, appreciation, and joy. Sometimes in the meditation hall, someone giggles, amazed by a toe wiggling in front of them. You pick up the giggle and soon everyone is laughing, trying not to laugh, laughter exploding. How naughty. Back to the breath.

Morning meditation in your own little home: Sitting might seem self-serious, then you lighten up and you see or hear or sense something delightful and unexpected. Wind moves the curtains and rattles the blinds. Look out the window. A robin skittering across the yard stops to listen for worms. A squirrel chatters at you from the woodpile. And yellow dandelions are ruining your green lawn. Oh, wow! Take a sip of morning coffee. Back to the breath. Unexpected smile.

But then, there’s the rest of the day, the complications of life: child, boss, husband, or wife. Bills, car out of gas, late for work, neighbor hates your weeds coming under the fence. The taxes are due. Big argument with your world. Little skirmish with the washing-machine repairman or woman.

Can’t laugh at it. Can’t make fun of it. Can’t get rid of it. It’s our precious life, our oh-so-precious life. In the midst of clouds, the sun peeks through. Big sky! What a surprise. We could wish for that much in our grimy little reality.

Toast is burning. Where are my glasses, honey? Are you coming home for dinner? I have such a busy day. No, I can’t pick up the cleaning. Will you please call the bank today? You drop your cup and the shards go everywhere. Everything stops for a moment. Nobody’s hurt. Sweep it up. What were we arguing about? Natural funniness. Just what is!

Here’s what Chögyam Trungpa says: “Humor is an appreciative gesture. That is, things don’t seem to be as heavy as we think they are, but they seem to be floating above the ground, and seemingly hilarious, funny, swift, and lucid. At the same time, humor is not particularly casual or haphazard. It comes from delight and it comes from celebration. A sense of humor from that point of view is very transparent; at the same time, it is very definite. It has its own background and sanity.”

Amen. We are so lucky that this uncompromising yet kind world gives us opportunities for a fresh glimpse. With all the stress, speed, and anxiety of modern life, we’re so lucky that some things never change. Moon and stars, rain and snow, a gap between every thought. Phew—it’s possible to relax, to smile in the space between things, to see the simple humor of it, at least for one breath, just as it is.

Carolyn Rose Gimian has edited many of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s books, including his Collected Works and Smile at Fear.

From the September 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to see what else is in this issue.

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