I was thinking recently about the word, enlighten.
At the root of enlighten, is the word, light.
Light can be what results from the rays of the sun, or it can be something with a small amount of weight.
Therefore, lighten could be defined as: to make less dark. Or, it can be defined as: to bring levity.
My husband and I watch a lot of comedy specials on Netflix. And, we’ve noticed that really good comedians use their talent to turn unpleasant, embarrassing, and sometimes even traumatic stories into stories that can be laughed at by others, but also by themselves.
It reminds me that stories are our interpretation of reality, and that we can choose to tell ourselves our personal stories in any multitude of ways. If we choose to re-write some of our stories using humor, that will “lighten” our memories, and can help us find a path forward into the future from a place of enlightenment.
For those of us who are not professional comedians, this can be quite difficult to do.
So instead of trying to train ourselves a skill that may be quite foreign to us, and take years to develop, we can instead simply use elements of comedy as inspiration to change our perspective.
Most jokes rely on the element of surprise. We expect the story the comedian is telling to go in one direction, and instead the comedian delivers an ending to the story that is unexpected.
Raising kids may be a thankless job with ridiculous hours, but at least the pay sucks.
When it comes to mulling over our own personal stories, it may be impossible for us to surprise ourselves. However, we can invite ourselves every day to try one new activity, or learn one new word, or meet one new person, etc. And, by embracing a small amount of “unknown” into our daily lives, we train our minds to curiously seek out surprises as part of our daily routine.
WIDEN YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Some comedy relies on exaggeration. For example, a person dipping their hand into the jellybean jar to grab one jellybean isn’t humorous. But, if someone picked up the entire jellybean jar, tilted their head back, and tried to dump all of the candy into their mouth in one shot… that might be considered humorous.
In real life, of course you wouldn’t want to repeat and exaggerate any unpleasant experience you had. (If you burn your hand on the stove, no one would find it funny for you to then put your entire arm in the oven.) But what you can do, is remind yourself of how much worse your unpleasant experience could have been. This change of perspective teaches our minds gratitude, which will help us lighten our attitude a little.
CHOOSE SILLY OVER SERIOUS
Some comedy is just plain silly.
For an example of “silly,” you only have to picture Steve Martin in almost anything he has done during his career. Back in the 1970’s, during his comedy routine, Steve Martin would appear on stage with an obviously fake arrow through his head, and audiences at the time thought it was hilarious.
Wearing a fake arrow might just be one of the least “sexy” things a person could do. And, to don one proudly and on purpose in front of an audience of people demonstrates that the arrow wearer really doesn’t care about social norms. The gesture invites everyone to “let their guard down,” and perhaps let go of any stress that may be experienced with constantly trying to prove our worth and value to society.
If you’re someone who tries to be socially perfect 100% of the time, you are literally setting yourself up for a big disappointment. It is impossible to never make a public mistake. Perhaps being silly isn’t your style, but if every once in a while you allow yourself to stop trying to be the best or the most perfect (at whatever), and embrace your mistakes instead of cringe at them, then you might build the self-confidence necessary to accept your mistakes in a non-judgmental way, whenever they do happen.
Humor helps us find levity in many situations. And, you don’t have to be a professional comedian, or even consider yourself funny, to practice lightening your mood. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at training your mind to be light and flexible, just as we train our bodies to be light and flexible in our yoga classes.
As an aerial yoga instructor, I encourage you to… enlighten up! 😉