Day 32 If you want to give God a laugh
If you want to give God a laugh tell him your plans! So sang Mike Scott of The Waterboys. Life is extremely unpredictable, full of change, full of the unexpected. It can be frustrating at times, painful and difficult. And yet, the unpredictability of life can also throw up a lot of joy and wonder. I think that line from Mike Scott’s song is a reminder to us to sit lightly to how we want life to be, and be open enough to adapt to life’s chances and changes. A way of doing this is by learning to see the funny side of things, and not to take ourselves too seriously.
In my study I have a wooden image of the laughing Buddha, who sits on my desk, with his big round belly, grinning from ear to ear. Sometimes it feels like he is laughing at me when I am getting frustrated and throwing my toys out of the pram because things are not going as I want them to; once I lighten up he is laughing with me. There is also a beautiful image of Jesus Laughing that was painted in the 1970’s by a Canadian, Willis Wheatley, which is just full of joy. Such images as these remind us that the ability to laugh at ourselves and join in divine laughter is an important gift in life. One of my favourite poems is by the Persian poet, Hafiz, which is simply this:
God and I have become
Like two giant fat people
In a tiny boat.
We keep bumping into each other
A Christian mystic once wrote: “God told me a joke, and seeing God laugh has done more for me than any scripture I will ever read!” Learning to participate in the joy and laughter of God can help us navigate through the unpredictability of life.
Getting into the habit of praying our mantra throughout the day is a wonderful way of remembering not to take ourselves too seriously and, when we discover that we do, to join in the laughter of God. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, also encourages us to smile when we pray our mantra. He calls it mouth yoga!
If you want to make God laugh,
And it is quite easy to do, so I’m told:
Applaud your progress
Make known your plans
Say “I’ll change”
Put trust in self-discipline
Believe you’re in control
Be convinced you are right.
If you want to make God laugh
There are many opportunities –
God often gets the giggles.
I never tire of mentioning my laughing Buddha, as I did in today’s primary reflection. I have had him a long time, he has become a valued friend. All he does is sit there in my study and grin and at me from my desk, but in that he does everything. The Buddha is probably the ultimate icon of meditation, sitting there serenely, regally, in perfect pose and stillness. I have a number of Buddha icons around the place. But my favourite is the Laughing Buddha with his is big belly, his big round face, and enormous grin. It is easy in meditation to take ourselves too seriously, to get cross with ourselves, to expect things of ourselves that we should not be expecting – like any kind of competence! On the rare occasions while meditating I begin to think “I am doing quite well at this today” I almost immediately hear laughter. It is not laughter at me, but laughter with me, a laughter that pricks that silly bubble of pride. While I am busy trying (and failing) to be serene and Buddha-like in my meditation, I sense God is poking me in the rubs with a grin saying: “Lighten up, it’s not about a beautiful pose, it’s about us sitting and enjoying the moment together.” A laughing Buddha is good meditation companion.