Spirituality is best practiced with humility and playfulness, like kids in a sandbox exploring the boundaries of imagination and possibility. Fun is not just fun, although it IS that. Fun is a pathway to enLIGHTenment, by lightening your anxiety, loosening your attachments and letting go of the need to be right.
Fun and laughter are powerful spiritual tools because they play with your assumptions and society’s rules. Laughter and fun give you ways to tear apart the straight jacket of personal and social conformity. Life is not always predictable, our rules and conclusions are not always as clever as we imagine, and it’s always possible to take alternate perspectives. Through the power of laughter, you open up a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
The transforming power of fun is that you can try out a different reality in your mind, see how it feels, get comfortable with it, rehearse it, and live it into existence. You release the tension out of a situation and inadvertently find new solutions that you hadn’t even thought about. Some people have a rare gift of introducing fun into tense situations, but we all have the ability to do it if we are mindful.
Fun is important to all species. Animals in the wild engage in ferocious mock battles. Magpies wrestle, foxes jump on trampolines and elk frolic in puddles. Bears charge rivers, monkeys somersault down hills, and elephants doodle with sticks in the earth. Fun even crosses species lines. Polar bears have been seen horsing around with dogs, and monkeys playing with tigers. Fun seems to be a universal instinct.
A study of Alaskan grizzlies showed that the ones that played the most were the ones most likely to survive. Another study showed that if you take play away from lab rats they develop behavioral problems and become bad lovers. And we can’t have that, can we?
Fun is important, and there are loads of examples of fun and laughter in spiritual traditions. There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.”
In the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, laughing is emphasized. There is a quote usually attributed to the Buddha that says, “When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” It’s a great thought although not quite accurate. It likely comes from a Tibetan text that says,
Since everything is but an illusion,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection,
One might as well burst out laughing!
(From chapter 1 of The Great Perfection’s Self-Liberation in the Nature of Mind, by Longchenpa (1308-1364)
Thank goodness for laughter and for those who are able to create fun in tense situations. Are you burdened by unsolvable problems? Laugh, not AT the problems but in such a way that you remind yourself that a new reality is always possible. If you can’t find anything funny, conduct a preemptive strike on fun. Laugh on suspicion of something ordinary and every day. Laugh at your own routines. Laugh at your over active imagination. Laugh at the absurdity of chaos. Laugh at the frailty of life. Then surrender to new perspectives that only open up because you let the air out of your nervous energy. Fun is a pathway to spirit, rerouted surprise, laughter’s short cut. The spirit of fun in me greets the spirit of fun in you. LOL!