A young monk lived in the desert, he was very serious about practicing the Jesus teachings. He came across something he did not understand. He went to his spiritual Father, or Abba. The monk posed a question. After the Abba heard the question, he kept laughing. Soon, he stood up and walked away, still laughing. The monk was disturbed by this apparently disrespectful behavior.
For the next three days, he could not eat, sleep, or think properly. After these days he returned to his Abba and told him how disturbed he had felt. Hearing this, the Abba said, "Monk, do you know what your problem is? Your problem is that you are worse than a clown!" This shocked the monk. He asked, angrily, "How can you say such a thing?! How can I be worse than a clown?" The Abba replied, "A clown enjoys seeing people laugh. You? You feel disturbed because another person laughed. Tell me, are you not worse than a clown?" Upon hearing this the monk began laughing and, in that laughter, he was freed to enjoy Life.
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I once believed that to be devoted spiritually meant to be very serious, deadly serious. In the mid-1990s, after I was vowed to a wisdom path, I tried very hard to appear holy, and trying to appear holy to others is not the way of being holy. How wrong I was, for the truly holy being may not appear holy at all, indeed what holiness he or she embodies is natural, not particularly religious or captivating for anyone to notice. Holiness, like Life, is more subtle in its essential being. Holiness is more like a perfume that pervades space, calling attention to itself simply by being itself. So, holiness and being, when united in life, this is a life of being holy, or holy being.
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A trait of deeply spiritual persons of faith traditions is humor. Certainly, we are not meant to walk our faith walk with deadly seriousness. Maybe God could say sometimes, "Oh! Get over yourself!" Or, "Would you stop taking me so seriously?!"
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I was informed of a Catholic priest who was reprimanded for apparently irreverent behavior during Holy Communion. What irreverence? He enjoyed dancing before the Eucharist as part of celebrating the Eucharist. Interesting that a priest with a gloomy countenance would have been seen as reverent, as acting holy, but a dancing joyfully priest was seen to be acting irreverently.
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I enjoyed reading several of St. Teresa of Avila's works, as well as the collected works of her friend, St. John of the Cross. During this time, and a prolonged meditation sit in my dark, quiet closet, I had St. Teresa of Avila's image come to awareness. She was smiling and winking at me.
St. Teresa (or, Teresa of Jesus) was a 16th Century Spanish mystic. She was discontent with the laxness of her Carmelite monastic life. Hence, she sought new depths of contemplation, having a profound spiritual awakening at age 40 (Carl Jung said we are typically not ready to wake up spiritually until about age 40-imagine 40 years of sleeping!).
Teresa, after her awakening, founded the first Discalced ("barefooted") Carmelite convent community-she started sixteen more. Teresa was a semi-invalid but traveled extensively in Spain and became a leader in the Catholic Reformation. In spite of her infirmity and apparently fragile psyche, she retained a busy schedule and was a prolific writer.
So, why would the image of St. Teresa winking and smiling to me erupt unbidden into the Prayer closet? I think the Spirit was letting me know that St. Teresa, with all the good she did and with the hardships she endured, knew the joy of the Spirit. I think Life was reminding me that a wink is more characteristic of holy beings than the seriousness of much religion and spirituality, including my own over-seriousness too.
This does not exclude feeling serious or looking serious. Grace includes all in its embrace. Yet, as written yesterday, Life invites us to a quiet joyfulness, a contentment deep, and this will lead to more happiness, more laughter, and more levity.
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As for pluses of laughter, I include these effects from an article by the Mayo Clinic Staff, "Stress reflief from laughter? It's no joke"-1-3 short-term and 4-7 long-term...
1) Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
2) Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
3) Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
4) Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
5) Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
6) Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
7) Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
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As written yesterday, our world and Earth now, with so much change and chaos, needs your joy, my joy, all the joy it can be given. I conclude, today, with these words from June 17, 2015, and they are, if anything, reflective of a wisdom more needed now than then, though timeless in insight...
In Grace and by Grace we discover a joy that leads us to take life less seriously but more reverently. We may become less religious, but we become more awed by Life, by the Mystery moving all around and within every life form. We share more wholly in the bliss of the Divine. Grace dances, and we dance in and with Grace. We find, also, the wonder of joy and sadness being part of the same movement. Life becomes ecstatic dance, not merely a happy dance, but a joyful dance. To the non-dancers, we become wonderfully odd. How blessed are the wonderfully odd! And by emanating this Joy, you invite others to join the blissful dance, and some will join with you, and us. Thereby, the world will be a little more of a joyful place for everyone.
*Video can be accessed on original site via below upper left artist-title...
*(C) Brian Wilcox, 2010
*Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or local bookstores.