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, or helpful, or even one of the things you thought about doing at that moment.
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. We tend to balance each other out. I let him know how intense my life is, and he tells me that I worry too much, and laughs. Works out great.
So, we go through this whirlwind trip. Two days in the Bay Area, largely because I can’t leave my office for more than an hour and a half at a time or I break out in spots. But I needed the time off badly, and he is the kind of person that an old teacher called a “hey let’s…yeah let’s” kind of guy. As soon as I start my sentence with “Hey, let’s…”, he doesn’t have to know what it is we’re doing, he’s up for it. He’ll say “Yeah, let’s…” before I make the suggestion. He’s just there, ready to have a good time, however it comes to him. I knew that if I asked him, he’d go. And he did.
One of the first stops when we got to San Francisco was the magnificent Grace Cathedral. It has the presence of Good. I feel lighter the second I step into the sanctuary.
The absolute instant we walked in the organ fired up two notes. Turns out that the organist was scheduled to practice the morning we arrived. We opened the door, stepped inside, and were welcomed by this majestic sound. Just magical.
Near the back of the church is a labyrinth. It’s a path that winds around in a large, circular pattern placing you in its center. It is defined as a “spiritual journey.” Upon entering this walk, you put your mind into those elements of your life that you may find difficult or are in need of change. 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.
My friend, Ron, didn’t quite get this.
He 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.
And 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?”
We giggled. I was trying to focus on the enlightenment that I was pretty sure was going to come my way, and I’m giggling. Hard.
He turns around, and starts walking out. I walk out behind him.
So you know, the labyrinth is a large, maze-like map that requires you focus on your feet. It has a hundred 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 see a familiar set of feet moving toward me.
They belong to Ron.
And he starts to laugh.
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 look up from where I’m walking, and I see my dear friend standing in the middle of this path, still laughing. Harder.
He looks at me, smiles, and 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, but 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.
I see him, and I lose it. Laughter jumped from my chest. I’m in the middle of my walk back through the maze, trying arrive at some kind of spiritual epiphany, and I’m about ready to wet my pants. I walk out of the labyrinth .We sit down together and try to contain our laughter.
Not happening. We can’t control ourselves. We know we have to go or be assaulted by a group of spiritual worshipers trying to find their inner peace.
He and I leave the main church and go down to the basement. The stares of disdain from the remaining labyrinth walkers are making me uncomfortable and I’m hustling out of there. Ron doesn’t particularly care. He is still laughing. And I start up again.
We get to the bookstore underneath the church. In it are several labyrinth related items, like shirts and postcards and the like. Along one wall of merchandise is a set of labyrinth cards, a pile of spiritual reminders that help extend the meditative experience.
I flip a card over off the pile. On the back it has a little labyrinth and inside the inscription reads: “Find more joy in your life.”
We just did.
Laughter is the greatest expression of happiness we know. May it find you in at the most unexpected times and places, every day.