by Minister Michael Beckwith
Has anyone ever told you that you take yourself too seriously? Or maybe you remember a past conversation when you confided to a friend, “Oh, he takes himself so seriously that it’s hard to be around him.” Serious people believe everything that they think and feel, even without examining what underlies their thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. Not questioning one’s answers about life can seem like a safe and secure way to live, but such an approach will not place you in touch with Reality.
Think of a time when you felt very serious. Wasn’t it accompanied by a sense of being constricted, tight, shut down? Then compare it to a time when you were feeling joyous. Didn’t you feel free and expansive? Individuals who take themselves very seriously bring up, for me, a visual of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, the monumental sculpture he created for a group work titled The Gates of Hell. There he sits all bent over, tensed up, chin in hand, heavily thinking with an expression that looks like Excedrin headache number forty-seven is pounding in his head. The work is so convincing you can almost hear him saying, “I’m a thinker, and I’m thinking my way into solving the mystery of existence.”
In contrast, it always brings a smile to my mind when I substitute that image with that of Siddhartha Gautama, who became a Buddha, meaning “awakened one.” There he sits, buoyantly floating on a lotus flower, a blissful smile on his face because he woke up to the Real—no quandaries, no seriousness. He reduced his awareness to the utter simplicity of Being. The weight of judgments, opinions, beliefs, and concepts were replaced by pure awareness of the Real. (Just writing this practically transports me into a joyous state of consciousness!)
The Nectar of Laughter
Speaking of the Buddha, I’m reminded of a story I heard about a Zen teacher who studied the dharma and meditated for many, many years. His students said that when he became enlightened he laughed for two solid days, developing such a spasm he nearly died from laughter. Laughter takes us out of time. For a microsecond, we become extemporal, transported into the gap, a timeless dimension of the Real where we aren’t caught, snagged, or snared by our narrow little perceptions, points of view, cherished beliefs, thinking our way into rationalizing, and justifying our existence.
Laughter is nectar that flows directly from the soul. It has nothing to do with our circumstances. When we laugh, we touch our inner luminosity. Laughter liberates us from the thinking mind and presents us with precious moments of spontaneous meditation where there arises a super-
aliveness. Laughter transports us back to an inherent memory of oneness with all life, before all of our conditioning into “normalcy” began. When our laughter is absolutely genuine, we can hear the whisper of our inner spirit assuring us that we may recapture our joy, that we may reclaim our original nature made in the image and likeness of Spirit and be a conscious co-creator, an artist of our own life.
Meanwhile, it is very healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves. If you have difficulty doing this, then ask a few of your friends what they laugh at about you behind your back. They aren’t being two-faced, because more often than not, these qualities endear you to them. If they’re really honest, they’ll tell you and give you a great opportunity to laugh at yourself.
Recently, Rickie, my wife, was playfully making fun of how I speak, claiming that I’m a media person’s nightmare. Then she began imitating my antics, like how I move around on the dais when speaking. “You run over here, you jump in the air, you dance. They’re even threatening to draw a circle on the dais floor to keep you within its parameters!” Someone who really loves you will help you to good-naturedly laugh at yourself and shake off, loosen up your all-caught-upness about your self-image. They also shine a light on those aspects of ourselves that we haven’t quite refined, where our potential has not yet fully actualized. Humor is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom introduces us to Reality. Excerpt from Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential . Michael Beckwith is an ordained minister of Religious Science, and a New Thought leader. He is the founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Beverly Hills, California.