Laughter is the best medicine.
I was looking for an upbeat topic for this post, and stumbled on laughter. Laughter may be among the very best ways to purge. But purging is a broad and deep subject, that I’ve never considered very much until now. This post will be a first peek.
The subject can be complicated in that there are many ways to look at it, and many of them aren’t very pleasant. For starters, the term itself refers to bowel movements. A necessary inconvenience. So, whether one like or not, one must purge. But spiritually, psychologically, there are diffrerent ways to go about it. Some are socially acceptable, some not; ways that are socially acceptable in some circles, are not in others. Some potentially bring light into the world, whereas others merely spew darkness.
In terms of literal, material purging, the foods we eat and drink inevitably include elements that the body cannot assimilate. These waste products need to be purged, or eliminated. This is the stuff stool’s made of. Moreover, the activities of the physical body, themselves, create other waste products that will become toxic if not eliminated. These normally pass from the body in one’s urine — or breath (carbon dioxide).
In one’s social life, material objects that may have had value and have had use for perhaps many years, can become useless; either because of changes in one’s activities, or changes in technology (For example, the 8-track cassette player.), or by becoming broken beyond repair. That is to say, they become trash. And the social mainstream has customs for the elimination of trash.
Spiritually, both of the just-mentioned aspects come into play. The events of one’s life from day to day will not always and only bring positive growth opportunities; there will be events one finds useless, and events of inconvenience, or offenses. One’s emotional exertions consume positive spiritual energies, and may produce emotional waste products. Spiritual energies that have become toxic need to be eliminated also.
I went into that at some length in a post years ago, “Un[b]locking the spirit.”
An offhand list of ways people purge …
… in no particular order.
… includes literally taking out the trash, and restoring order to chaos. The physical waste materials that clutter one’s home are strongly connected to emotional waste materials — unfinished “business” that deserves to get cleared out.
Watching someone clean house
Research has shown that even watching someone else clean house can have the same emotional effect as doing it oneself.
Football, basketball, hockey, swimming, running, tennis — I’d like to say it’s obvious that any athletic activity can be a good way to vent; a very, very good way. And once one gets “in shape,” that’s a tremendous spiritual resource; because, just by taking a deep breath unlike anything anyone can do who’s not “in shape,” one can relax profoundly, in a moment, and let stress and tension just leave.
As of now, I do not understand why spiritual teachers don’t emphasize exercise just as much as they do meditation. The benefits are much the same.
… have jillions of fans the world over, and can be practically as purging as participation itself. I have my reservations about football and UFC, in light of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and suspect that a few decades from now, these sports will no longer be practiced.
Gardening, baking, cooking, knitting, auto mechanics — you name it.
Prayer and meditation
Meditation is largely a practice of letting bad feelings, emotional waste products, just leave. The same goes for mindfulness, or presence. In previous posts, I have told about some specific exercises one can do to “clean house” emotionally; such as imagining the bad feelings as coming into the form of firewood, which one can then burn up in the fire.
Plays, novels, movies and television
The earliest reference I know of to emotional purging, pertained to watching Shakespeare. If one gets wrapped up in the story emotionally, at the end those feelings find release.
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God has given us an amazingly powerful tool for turning darkness into light, and it’s right at hand for almost everyone.
As to the proverb, “Laughter is the best medicine,” I am reminded of another proverb, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That refers to the fact that such a diet will keep you “regular” — no constipation, and none of the other annoyances that come from constipation, including disease. Some years ago, I practiced that for a few months, and was surprised how it corrected both constipation and the other thing.
Much the same can be accomplished by doing whatever it takes to get in a good belly-laugh every day. Just one, every day, will be enough.
One can read, watch or listen to comedies. From my childhood, I remember laughing out loud at Pippi Longstocking, some chapters of The Wind in the Willows, some chapters of Tom Sawyer. One can listen to, or ask for, others’ jokes; one can make up one’s own.
For myself, I’ve been told I have a strong sense of humor; my wisecracks are prone to come out at any place or time. One restriction is that I seek always to laugh with everyone, not at anyone. At the former shelter, where I stayed for ten years, I got the real reputation that one could hardly say anything in my presence, because no matter what one said, I was sure to come back with something lewd.
I’ve stopped fights that way. People went from being all hostile towards each other, to laughing all together. This profoundly gratifies me.
I don’t know or understand the mechanism, but it’s sure that laughter consumes negative feelings — anger, sadness, even fear — and releases joy. This is a good thing.
Now, I’m purged.