April 2018

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wisdom in Laughter

During yoga yesterday, the yogi next to me, Rebecca, shared that she's been laughing at herself instead of getting angry with herself when she disappoints herself lately.

Her comment reminded me of when I saw His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, in Seattle a few years ago. His Holiness is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, a country occupied by The People's Republic of China where its government and many of its people are in exile. With such a painful history, I expected profound words of wisdom from His Holiness, words that would help me think newly about some important thing.

Instead, I do not remember a thing His Holiness said. I don't even remember the topics he addressed. I only remember that he seemed to giggle throughout the presentation.

Like many other teachers, I had taken a group of students to this presentation, and I had hoped they would be inspired to act on the wisdom we heard together. I did not know what to do with this giggling.

Perhaps my fellow yogi Rebecca is teaching me now, though I could not understand the words of this wise man who was so far on his stage from my seat at the arena's top. 

I think now that there may be wisdom in the giggle. What does that wisdom tell? I don't know. Maybe to see myself and my smallness in this universe of space and time. Maybe with such perspective I can giggle at myself and my world, because maybe with that perspective I can see that I am such a small part of a large whole. 

Maybe with that perspective, I gain some humility about my power in the world and even over my destiny, and I won't take myself so seriously.

This giggling is not about making others laugh, as I so often try to do: a dolphin jumping among so many other lives in the sea, some giant like a whale, some vicious like a shark, others small with pretty colors, or bizarre with two eyes on one side of a flat body, some gentle giants like the turtles I saw laying their eggs with such hope in Costa Rica's sand. 

I imagine now that this giggling is an overflow of joy that's available if I can see myself with some humility. 

Right after Rebecca's comment, our teacher Victoria asked if there were any focus that students would like to request for our movement. As always, I repeated my chicken yoga mantra in my head: "No balance poses. No balance poses."

I have struggled with balance over the past six and a half years since my first brain tumor was extirpated (good word, huh?). I need to do balance poses: they are good for me physically, and through facing the fear of falling, they help me center spiritually.

But still, for me balance poses are more like broccoli than ice-cream. They're good for me, but I don't dream of them.

In response to Victoria's question, Ellie said she'd like arm strengthening, and for a moment no one else spoke. I relaxed my "no balance pose" mantra, and then becoming-wise Rebecca spoke: "Balance poses."


So we worked on arm strengthening and balance poses. As the class proceeded, Victoria invited us to try a modified moon pose, the pose where one knee was on the floor, a hand on the floor under my head, and the other hand and foot held aloft.  I have been working on this pose at home, and I can now do it on my stronger and more coordinated right side, the side less affected by damage to my cerebellum during surgery. 

First we tried the pose on my strong side, and I could hear Victoria's delight as I was able to do it. (I learned the modification in this class, but this is the first time since I've been working on it at home that I've done it in class.) 

Instead of the self-talk of joy, I said to myself, "Wait 'til she sees that I can't do it on the other side." We moved to the other side, and nope, I couldn't do it. 

This is the story I tell myself: I cannot balance on that side. Maybe the story's true; maybe not. I haven't told Victoria this story, so she tried to help me move into the pose on my weaker side. Nope. Wasn't happening.

If I were wise like His Holiness and like Rebecca is becoming, I might have laughed, but I am not, and I did not. I rolled my eyes at myself (figuratively: with nerve damage I can't roll my eyes).

Nope. Can't do that. I reinforced my story. And I did not laugh. I don't know if I'll ever do this modified version of moon pose on this side. It's not really a goal for me right now. 

Giggling at myself and my world. Maybe one day I'll do that. I haven't made this giggling a goal. If I giggle, maybe that will be evidence that I have grown wise, and growing wise (to tell you true) is my goal, though I have no idea how to work towards it. 

How funny that though I think I have little to no chance of ever doing moon pose on my weak side, I think I have a chance of becoming wise.

Funny. Giggle. 

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