"Laugh my friend, for laughter ignites a fire within the pit of your belly and awakens your being."
—Stella & Blake
As we journey through life and gain experience we unknowingly program ourselves to react and think in certain ways, most likely resembling what we grew up with in our families, friends, culture and local community. It's like we enter a grocery store with an empty cart when we first arrive on this Earth, and as we follow our parents around we observe the types of foods they are putting in their shopping carts and we follow suite.
We don't understand most of what we are putting in our cart, and we may not even end up liking what we buy, but it's all we know so we unconsciously do it. Most of the time, our parents or caregivers are not even aware that they are sharing their cognitive preferences with us, following the same patterns they were taught by their elders. But as we get older, many of us start to realize how unhappy we are with what is in our shopping carts. We may look around wanting to try other "foods" but we are too scared to step away from the dissatisfying but comfortably familiar "foods" we are so used to. We may be afraid to try new things, afraid of offending our parents for choosing differently than them.
Whatever the case may be, we stay in the same isles as those who came before us and we call it our "comfort zone." We feel safe in this metaphorical box and don't dare step out of it to enter the world of vulnerability. This may be because the rare times we did step out, we were judged, ridiculed or rejected from those we looked up to and trusted the most. Or we may just be too scared to even fathom the idea. When it comes down to it, we all want to feel worthy, to feel okay with who we are, and like we belong somewhere as part of a greater good. So we follow the example of others, convinced this is the road to finding that happiness. We create self-judgments that hold ourselves back from reaching the amazing potential we are capable of because of the chance of failure and rejection. We think that controlling situations and people will prepare us for the disappointments and struggles that will crash into our lives. We worry about every little detail and think that the excessive analysis of the "what if" scenarios will somehow save us from pain and vulnerability.
We do all this, forgetting that we have no control over other people, or life, and what it presents us. All that worrying, excessive thinking, judgement, fear-all it leads to is our own suffering in the now. We don't even know how long we have here in this life and instead of living in the now and embracing what we have at this moment, we worry about how we can "save" ourselves in the future. That in itself just doesn't make sense! We forget that the one place we do have power, the power to choose what we really want, what is best for us, is in the present moment.
The past is gone. Like everyone else in the world, we all stepped into that grocery store and followed our parents around copying most, if not all, of their actions. But now, we realize, we have the choice to decide what goes in our carts. I don't have to listen to the judgments in my head that I picked up along the way. I don't have to eat the things I don't like. I get to choose how to live my life and what I want to put in my cart. Sometimes what I put in will become a favorite staple, but sometimes I may choose something that isn't very appetizing and I can decide not to eat it again. The important point is that we are the ones choosing and stepping outside the isle we're in to discover the possibilities.
Stepping out and trying new things can be scary, but it can also be liberating-when you decide to let go, know that it's okay to be vulnerable just like everyone else, and trust yourself and the process. Easier said than done, but that's why we are here, to practice it until that becomes our new habit. Now, just think if you are practicing that with the least amount of judgement possible and instead of getting upset at yourself when things don't go your way you laugh it off. As we discussed in our last blog, laughter is a great way to release stress and give yourself some good energy to face situations better. And how good does it feel when you just laugh, letting go of any worries or fears in that moment and embrace true freedom-letting yourself be open to life! I don't know about you, but the best way to get through a stressful moment in my opinion is to accept it is happening, feel it no matter how unpleasant and then look at some of the ridiculous things you may be unnecessarily holding on to and laugh at them.
How much better would the world be if we laughed more and worried less? Think how much better our kids would handle their challenges if they learned to let go and laugh more-especially at themselves. Teaching our children to be less harsh on themselves and cultivate compassion, love and the ability to laugh at their imperfections is like giving our children gold! Let's show our kids that it's okay to step outside our comfort zones, bash through our mental boxes with a loving and empowering kick and laugh at all the silly things that happen on our road to freedom. If we can be comfortable laughing at ourselves and our learning moments*, and move on with trust and love, just think how empowered our children will be in their lives? Let go of who you think you have to be, embrace yourself, create a new "comfort zone" and laugh the whole way through. And remind your loved ones the same when they need to hear it because, "each of us has a spark of life inside us, and our highest endeavor ought to be to set off that spark in one another," (Kenny Ausubel).
*Some people call them "mistakes", but I don't like that term. It implies that there was nothing to gain from the moment, like it's some kind of scar on you. Instead I prefer "learning moment", because like the lyrics from the song "It's The Only One You've Got" by 3 Doors Down, "Your mistakes do not define you now / They tell you who you're not".
Now we would like to know:
What makes you laugh?
Share your response with us in two ways:
Email us your answer(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear what makes you laugh and share it with everyone else!
Thanks for reading and don't forget to smile as you step out of your "comfort zone."