There is something that has made it possible for First Nations [Natives of the USA and Canada, Central and South America] to survive centuries of genocide and joint efforts of the colonizers and their churches to obliterate their customs, languages, spirituality and traditions. Curiously it is not what we would think of, but indeed a normal and daily human activity. Laughter!! 😀
Yes, humor, knowing how to laugh at ourselves, of our circumstances, of the absurd ways of the invader, allowed First Nations to remain sane, to not lose their ability to cope, to retain their constancy and to make the comeback towards their values and traditions that we see today. Not only have they managed to survive, but contrary to the tendency in civilizations and western technocratic societies, they are still making a lot of children. They are coming back in force and have a message to deliver, that of the unity of man and nature.
It’s very important to understand humor and the importance of laughter. When we are cheerful, there are fewer risks of falling ill. There is no greater remedy to prevent disease and dissipate malefic energies than laughter. Ill-intentioned entities are frightened and run away from a great stomach laugh. Cheerfulness increases the strength of the immune system and vital energy. Belly movements during laughter, quite specifically the crazy laughter which makes one come to tears, massages the internal organs and has the fluids circulating, favoring the action of the stomach, liver, loins and intestines. Many people were cured of cancers by looking simply at many comedy films to help them laugh. It gave birth to a discipline which is called laugh therapy. In short, laughter is good for the health of body and spirit.
Being able to make fun of our own shortcomings is a great virtue. We are but a speck of dust in the vast universe, yet nevertheless we have an important unique contribution to give to the world. When we know how to laugh at ourselves, our growing edge, the integration of the lessons which life offers comes much faster. To be able to laugh at our faults, imperfections and deficiencies allows us to transcend them and transmute our shadow aspect into light.
It’s often difficult to laugh at oneself. Our pride, our over-dimensioned ego obscures the clear assessment of our absurd behavior. Those who have the humility to clearly see their weaknesses can transform them and transcend them very quickly with humor and laughter. If we laugh at our failings and frailties, they quickly become a lot less important, we can take them less seriously. We look at them with more thoughtlessness and this allows to transform them effortlessly, in a joyous fun moment!
That is why humor occupies a brilliant and strategic place in Native American spirituality. You will rarely First Nations teachers remain serious for hours. Generally, they are going to do all they can to relax the atmosphere and cheer people up, as laughter is a health insurance. One of my best friends, whom I consider one of the most powerful medicine men of Canada, can’t say 3 sentences without pushing a joke! The energy around this man is powerful. It’s also the tendency in First Nations circles, communities and families for people to play gags on one another. The stunts and mischief make the unexpected appear, upsets the existence that we thought so well ordered, insuring a bucket of laughs at the expense of the person whom the prank was spun upon. In western society this is frowned upon and people get mad. In Native communities the prankster has to expect that the jest is coming back at him big time, insuring still more laughs. Life itself plays tricks on us: this is the medicine of coyote and the energy of the South. If we learn to laugh at the impertinence life has on our stupid ego, we’ll learn a lot faster.
First Nations had such an understanding of the importance of laughter that there are even, in many different nations and spiritual societies, holy men [called “Heyoka » to the Sioux] whom the role is to make others laugh. This is the powerful medicine of the west, thunder being medicine, the medicine of the contrary. Native American ceremonies are amongst the only ones that I’ve seen where laughter is often a part of ceremony. During ceremonies, Heyokas will disguise themselves in a silliest of ways and do everything the opposite of what is expected. Where there are well ordered, very serious and intense rituals they will come running in to participate, stumbling over each other until they finally fall into a puddle! Indigenous ceremonies often last several days and are very powerful, serious and intense. Laughter allows for a moment of relaxation and release. It’s wholesome and gives man the opportunity to see himself as he really is. If man doesn’t know how to laugh at himself, he’s displaying a lack of humility. The sacred craziness of the Heyoka, or sacred clown, is not understood in modern society, but in indigenous communities they create crazy liberating laughter that allows for joy and healing. These shamans and traditional medicines people are honored and are often super powerful. To read the life of such a man see the book—Seeker of Visions—Lame Deer by Richard Erdoes.
I remember a precious moment during the return on the event of a great meeting between shamans and the public in France by the participating shamans. During this closing assembly a women shaman from South America with this Heyoka medicine started imitating the tics and absurd manners of several shamans in the assembly. People had a lot of fun. When the moment came to imitate the authoritative chief of this event, they were all falling over with laughter. It was great fun. Yet the man’s laughter was rather hollow, he didn’t look well. Later, in private, he came back at that person with great anger and verbal violence, to take revenge for the humiliation he had felt. He’s a product of French society despite his attachment to Celtic lore. This is a good example of the difference there is between traditional indigenous societies where such a demonstration would have been considered a sacred moment for which we would have been very grateful and even made offerings of gratitude and that of western civilization where the ego takes offence and revenge.
That reminds me of a teaching experience I had in Germany. As explained, humor is very important in a teaching environment if it’s only so we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But during my first session and seminar in Germany I was very worried as they didn’t react to my humor. My best jokes fell flat. At lunch time, I went to my room to think about what was for me a big problem. Not only was humor essential in the tissue of time we were spending together, but these people were already very, very serious! I saw myself spending a whole month over there without being able to laugh during teachings… My eyes fell on a small bell in the room. There was formerly in Quebec a TV humor series called The Three Bells. I had an idea…
Upon returning to class I explained to the group that I had a real problem. My jokes were falling flat, as our humor was too different. So, when I would say a joke, so they would know it was one, I would sound the small bell. It was a miracle! They found the small bell immensely funny. Every time I sounded the little bell, no matter the joke, I was rewarded with a torrent of laughter!
Have you all a fun day! 😀