Hate the unknown.
Love coming into the clearing.
Hate to admit I don’t know.
Love being in control of decision-making.
Hate admitting I was wrong or outdated.
Love seeing through a brand-new lens.
HUMOR is what turns us around the corner. The “knowing” is exhilarating, the “getting it.”
More fun —> less stress —>let down your guard—>less stiff-necked
perfectionism—>more authentically “you”—>trusting yourself to recognize the answers (when they arrive).
This entire process happens each time we laugh at something.
Learning is a cumbersome version of this split-second comedic process. The pain is just the set-up. The knowing, the answer, is the punch-line. The release, the denouement, the return to ourselves, to the comfort of mastery again.
It’s that turning point, that pirouette–the pain of the unknown and the unknowable and the we-don’t-even-have-to-know-it—that is the elusive key.
Living Between the Extremes is the research study Dr. Trina Hess conducted at Penn State University. Subtitled, “How do single, mid-life women reconstruct their identity after a work transition,” the study highlights those tools that describe and inform the process of change. Find out about the change programs offered by Dr. Trina Hess at www.HumorAcademy.com
Up ahead, a crash—involving our world champion instructor! Panic? Anger, fear of the future?
Just when I was about to analyze a reason for the situaion and expect the next move—surprise! Naturalness and spontaneity beat me to it.
No panic, anger or fear in this Saturday unicycle workshop with world champion rider Connie Cotter. No: Just pick up and go, because the parachute is still going around.
And so is time, so is life and its happenings. It doesn’t judge us if we fall, only if we don’t get back in the line-up. Because that brings down all life’s other riders. It’s a chain reaction.
Everyone knew the crash wasn’t on purpose. Knew even the best riders fall. So…you don’t have to worship them; in fact, you CAN’T, it’s not possible!
A few years ago Richard Bolles wrote a career exploration book, What Color is Your Parachute? I’m proposing that when we change, we think of a literal parachute. And ask ourselves: ”What color is your parachute of learning? Of life?”
Is it laying in a closet because you’re not sure how to operate it? Don’t want to look foolish trying it out?
Or does it float freely, moving in momentum with the other people who are helping you carry it, hold on to it?
In the workshop I met many interesting folks. One was a fit man in his 80s. Looks like he had just climbed down from the Swiss Alps after a 20 year casual walk. ”Who ARE these people?!” I kept asking myself as each one had an even more fascinating background than the last one.
I asked about his unusual sport (I didn’t say, but meant, at his age). He explained, “I was in gymnastics and trapeeze in high school and college. Unicycle was a natrual outgrowth of those.” He must have been Swiss! Because the most exotic thing at our high gym class was Chinese jump rope. And none of us ever came out looking as dapper as he looked!
All the participants were strangely natural about their odd hobby. It was refreshing, not only their naturalness, but also their gentleness—with themselves and others. Tired? Rest. Want to try this new routine? No embarrassment.
I watched two older men hold hands walking the routine before trying it on their unicycle. If they had started skipping and singing, I may not have been surprised by that either. They were compelled to learn, and put aside anything that usually gets in our way: fear of looking stupid, fear of getting hurt, fear—of the unknown. I grew to become just as open to these experiences I was part of. It gradually all became “normal” and—even—O.K.
All change involves learning. Not the kind where we have facts and put them together. But rather learning that requires us to piece together the unfamiliar with the odd, the bizarre with the boring. Life’s parachute twirl begs us to not only keep spinning, but to kaleidoscope ourselves into a new person. One who is not only able to take on the requirements of a new life, but who will—and wants to—have FUN!
Living Between the Extremes is the research study Dr. Trina Hess conducted at Penn State University. Subtitled, “How do single, mid-life women reconstruct their identity after a work transition,” the study highlights those tools—including humor—that describe and inform the process of change. Find out about the change programs offered by Dr. Trina Hess at www.HumorAcademy.com
Consumerism requires us come up with innovative ways to advertise our products. One went too far.
A commercial for wart remover was paired with a wedding scene. The woman had a wart on her ring finger. Panic set in. People were scattering. It was the central theme of the day.
Marriage represents a big change. A time when perfectionism kicks in. The ego says, “No one will notice the gown, my inner glow of happiness, or the expensive flowers. They will only notice this wart.” The proverbial stone in our shoe, the small potato that makes us feel like it’s an entire wheelbarrow full.
So much for “I’ll love you—warts and all.”
So much for the weirdness that we are willing to marry someone who (we believe) will not approve of our warts-and-all status.
The bride applies the product and the wart is gone. A shot of the ring moving smoothly, happily over the wart-less spot reassures us. Clean and clear, free of all disease and disfigurement. Perfectionism: 1, Humans: 0.
That’s the danger we encounter during change. Perfectionism requires us to belong. To a group of people who (we think) expect us to be and look perfect. We make bad decisions and we do it easily, almost automatically! Our ego tells us that we won’t belong if we have imperfections. Become perfect and then your life can change, you will find happiness and a sense of purpose.
During change, something automatic, sudden and powerful happens: We gauge our worthiness by our warts (our weaknesses) and our willpower (our ability to overcome these weaknesses).
This narrow and incorrect focus compounds our problems. Takes us away from the truth about our Self. The fact that we are more than a wart on our finger. This strategy guarantees that we will NEVER get close to our purpose because we never get to know who we are dealing with: our identity. How funny is that?
It can be VERY funny if we learn to laugh even despite these challenges.
1. Laughter wakes us up from this trap of perfectionism. When we laugh, we can see how absurd it is, this focus on a wart. We are more worried about other’s views about us than we are that we have a viral infection.
2. Laughter stops the craziness. When we laugh, we can consciously ridicule those things that are looming and bothering us.
3. Laughter gives us back our power. Our perspective. Our inner strength and self-belief.
Just when you think you have it all figured out, life rings a bell. Or sounds like Darth Vader or brings out a big round drum.
This weekend I heard Tibetan chanting. After a presentation on Tibetan medicine, the speaker took his seat. On either side of him, a row of young Tibetan men. With their satiny colorful tanks, they could have been a high school basketball team.
But they were not. Especially when they started their chant. A low, guttural sound—like Darth Vader doing the ujjayi breath. The audience was spellbound. Silent. Wondering. Were we trying to make sense of this experience?
Theirs wasn’t harmony as we know it. But it had the same efffect: Calmness.
I felt like a voyeur. Is it O.K. to be videotaping this, I wondered. I felt my analytic antennae arise. Some of the men had their eyes open—the men on each end of the row, while others seemed to be looking at notes. I felt an inflow of memories. Their fast-paced chanting reminded me of our gibberish meditation we do in Laughter Meditation.
All of a sudden, something jolted me out of my mind. Music. Or at least the-playing-of-instruments. It sounded less like music than a high school band warming up.
Just as suddenly, they returned to the slow chant. Just as abruptly, on to the faster paced chant. Words running and humans catching up with them, trying to figure them into some sort of context.
I just listened.
Even in my unanswered questions, I was calm. I didn’t try to stop myself from analyzing, from wondering: Is it O.K. that I’m taking pictures? I wonder if they can marry. I like the one on the end best. Does he mind that I’m taking pictures of him? I secretly hoped their chant words didn’t “mean” anything to me. I hoped I wasn’t converting; I don’t look good in orange.
And the bells, always the bells signaling —something. I remembered the bells my Grandpa used to collect. Why did he collect them? Did he have some hidden knowledge, like these Tibetans had?
More memories, more attempts at analyzing.
But there was nothing to analyze, nothing to remember. Because there was no form, no rhyme to this experience. Even so, I was strangely NOT anxious at being so out of control. I couldn’t predict what would happen next. And that was oddly O.K. I couldn’t even appreciate what had just happened because I had no reference point to process it. All I could do was merely appreciate what was happening in this present moment.
That’s what made the calmness possible.
We need more artists, especially during change. Take for example career change.
Typically a logical, sequential process of gaining money. But the more we follow this linear path, the less our minds are embracing the unknown. The rush for (and of) perfectionism stifles us. It also kills our sense of humor. It pushes people away, even as we push towards it. We isolate ourselves and hide our humanness. Our weaknesses. Our vulnerabilities.
Hey wait—this sounds great!
Until we see our thinking patterns dwindling. After all, we might spill some ill-fitting and unclean ideas on our pretty veneer.
Enter the artist. The right-brain, the non-conformist who breaks us out of our fossilized thinking.
As our minds cling to the security of a certain goal, something sinister happens. We lose a sense of openness, of possibility. Fixed on an image, we allow it to guide our choices—and our feelings about those choices. And, finally, our view of ourself. Our identity.
Enter the artist: Your sense of humor. It’s spiritual element cajoles you to claim and craft your purpose. Think about it: You wouldn’t have been given this disposition, this weird combo of abilities, if it weren’t for SOME purpose, some reason. Something higher than your ego’s saying, “You studied library science, you ’should’ be a librarian. Congratulations!”
Laughter lofts us above limited thinking. Laughter is a process, a protection, a powerful clarifier.
Laugh and you free your mind to think of other avenues where your skills may be useful.
Laugh and you reflect on all you’ve done with this conglomeration of skills and loves.
Laugh and you see ways to serve a larger world than what exists in your mind and your past failures.
We all want to be perfect. It’s a dream goal, everything will go well for us. But when we finally get it, that this goal is actually bad for us—we win.