Meditation: Can You Have Fun If You Are Spiritual, by Catherine Rathbun (Lama Jetsun Yeshe)
Why is it that so many people who are on a spiritual quest seem to be so somber and earnest? We know some scientists postulate that laughter can actually be part of the healing process, so why does spiritual activity seem so serious? I recently taught a class where someone whom I had not seen for a number of years said to me, “I had forgotten how funny you are!” Where is the place for humour and fun on the journey to enlightenment?
Because laughter loosens, it helps to lift our burdens from us. Deep laughter jiggles us inside, like an internal massage. Laughter creates endorphins, the high that promotes health. Laughter opens our minds as well as our hearts. There is so much in the world that can make us angry, morose and even frightened. So we must actively seek out the things that can promote the opposite.
A mark of spiritual attainment is often seen in a person by their rather childlike view of the world. There is a freshness of mind that comes into the mind of the enlightened ones, open, curious and delighted by simple things. There is a famous story of the first visit of the Very Venerable Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche to Canada in 1971 when his attendants lost him in an Eaton’s store. He was found in the children’s department playing with the toys, with other children gathered round. He came away with a slinky and later, when I was cleaning at the house he was staying in, I could hear that slinky coming down the stairs. Clump, clump, galump!
So let us laugh, let us seek joy in the moment and let us radiate that joy to others. This surely would be the true vacation. The vacation that we actually need. The vacation from self-viewing, obsessively searching for the ‘answer’, worrying about our careers, our families, our shortcomings. Trying to lock down the future is as useless as trying to defend the permanent self, for it is a construct made up of our perceptions about ourselves and our world. None of these are permanent, nor are they exclusively ‘right’. If we can relax into the fluidity of everything in life, then we will be free to experience fully each and every moment we are granted on this sacred earth.
And when we are officially ‘on vacation’, let us leave behind the technologies that keep us plugged into the world of work and worry. Let us open to the sky, the grass, the lakes and the forests that make up this beautiful country.
Catherine Rathbun has studied meditation with His Holiness XVI Karmapa, head of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, and with pre-eminent individuals like Ven. Kalu Rinpoche, Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche, Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche and John Coleman. She received her traditional teaching name, Lama Jetsun Yeshe, from Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche, a lineage master of the Sakya and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, in 2002. Catherine taught meditation studies at York University for seven years (1989 to 1997). With a background in dance — she was a member of the National Ballet Company of Canada from 1962 to 1963 — and a modern dance career in England (1967-69), she frequently incorporates creative movement exercises into meditation studies as a way to bypass the tight hold that the Western intellect has on one’s development.
She is the author of Developing the World Mind and Clear Heart, Open Mind, and is currently working on a new book called Waiting for Truffles: Meditations for Daily Living. Her books are available from her directly or from Friends of the Heart or Snow Lion Meditation Shop, both in Toronto.