I think the best kind of laughter, the most healing kind, is the kind that comes out at the most counterintuitive moments; that is, the times that you didn’t really know that laughing was appropriate,helpful, or expected.
Years ago I had one of those moments that will be with me forever.
I went to San Francisco with my dear friend Ron. I love him because he takes life very easily. He has taught me a great deal about how to maintain a life of letting go. He is a spontaneous and beautiful spirit.
One of the first stops when we got to San Francisco was the magnificent Grace Cathedral. It has the presence of Heaven. I felt lighter the second I step into the sanctuary. I love this place.
Near the back of the church is a labyrinth. It’s a path that winds around in a large, circular pattern eventually placing you in its center. It is defined as a “spiritual journey.” As you walk, you try to breathe to your body’s own pace, moving in steps consistent with your own rhythms. As you make your way to the center, you stop and ask your Higher Power for insight to the solutions to your issues. And as you leave, you focus on the relief from this stress, and open yourself to the hope a new day brings. It is a powerful experience, and is somewhat somber and focused.
There are usually several people on the labyrinth at the same time. The instructions state that you want to leave about one minute between each other so that your walk doesn’t compromise the walk of the person in front of you. You want to leave enough space between the two of you to walk independently.
Ron hadn’t been to Grace Cathedral before, so he wasn’t sure of the protocol. He just watched what I did, and followed along. I think he was meditating, but I’m not sure.
But he was right on my heels. I could feel him and hear him about two steps behind me.
As I’m attempting to reassemble my thoughts, all I can think about is how close Ron is. I’m trying to make this a deliberate journey into the center of my soul, and Ron is moving like he’s walking through the park.
I quietly arrive at the middle of the labyrinth, praying for the insight needed to cleanse myself from whatever, and…I feel this bump behind me.
He was looking at the ceiling. He didn’t see me in front of him.
I looked behind me and he was still looking up. He said “Do you see the rainbow in the light up there? Or is that just me?”
And we giggled. Hard. I mean, I was trying to be somber in my pursuit of enlightenment. But Ron saw "the light."
He turned around, and started walking out. I walked out behind him.
So you know, the labyrinth is a large, maze-like map that requires you focus on your feet. It has dozens of turns in it and, in order to see where you’re going, you have to look down.
As I’m looking down, moving through this path, I saw a familiar set of feet moving toward me. They belonged to Ron.
Ron got lost on the labyrinth. Instead of going back on the path he came, he got turned around and ended up back in the center, probably because he was still looking at the ceiling. Now I looked up from where I’m walking, and I saw my dear friend standing in the middle of this path, still laughing, only harder.
Barely able to contain his laughter, he walks directly out of the circle and, instead of going back the way he came, he makes a beeline to the first place he can find a seat, and starts laughing so hard I thought he was going to explode. Still trying to hold it in,his whole body starts to shake and his face is crimson. Tears are coming out of his eyes, his hand is over his mouth, and he’s just having a grand old time.
As I walk toward him, I lost it. Laughter jumped from my chest. I was in the middle of my walk back through the maze, trying arrive at some kind of spiritual epiphany, and I was about ready to wet my pants. I walked out of the labyrinth .We sat down together and held our head in our hands, hoping no one would notice.
We were noticed. And now we can’t control ourselves. We suspected that it was time for us to leave, otherwise risk being assaulted by a group of spiritual worshipers trying to find their inner peace.
He and I left the main church and went down to the basement. The stares of disdain from the remaining labyrinth walkers were making me uncomfortable and I hustled out of there. Ron didn't particularly care. He was still laughing. And I started up again.
We got to the bookstore underneath the church. In it were several labyrinth related items, like shirts and postcards and the like. Along one wall of merchandise was a set of labyrinth cards, a pile of spiritual reminders that help extend the meditative experience.
I flipped a card over off the pile. On the back it has a little labyrinth and inside the inscription read: “Find more joy in your life.” I just did.
I learned three things that day:
1) Look up as you walk. Your feet may not know where to go but your spirit always does.
2) The rainbow of healing light is around us, always.
3) If the spirit and presence of God could be called anything other than God, its name would be Laughter.