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Spirituality and Humor

June 24, 2015

One of the things I particularly like about Sufism the value it places on humor. At this point in my life, I find that I have little time for a spirituality that lacks humor or suppresses laughter. That’s not to say that it’s all gut busting and back slapping. There is a time for seriousness just as there is also a time for play. Humor can be a powerful tool in learning as well as a powerful tool to ease the suffering of others. In my acupuncture practice, when appropriate, I use humor to ease the anxiety of my patients who come to see me.

And then there are those times when I recognize that humor is itself a coping mechanism for those in deep emotional or physical pain. It helps them get by. Yesterday a woman, who is a regular patient, came into my office. She always carries herself with a bubbly personality, very quick to smile and to laugh. In so many ways, I can see the little girl that she once was. However, I also could see that her smile was a thin lifeline in which she was barely holding herself together. I looked into her eyes and asked her how she was doing. Her smile immediately broke into tears as she cried and said, “I’m okay.”


“I’m just trying to cope,” she replied.

“You don’t need to cope here. It’s okay to let it out. You’re safe.” I gave her space to cry as long as she needed. Then I gave her the acupuncture treatment. As she left, that bubbly girl smiled as she seemingly skipped out of the office.

I was reflecting on this when I stumbled across this footnote regarding Sufi stories in “Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way,” by Idries Shah:

“Not only do humorous tales contain valuable structures for understanding, their use also helps to weed out people who lack a sense of humour. Sufis hold that people who have not developed or who have suppressed their capacity to enjoy humour are, in this deprived state, also with learning capacity in the Sufi sphere.”

And of course, Rumi has this to say:

“If you want special illumination, look upon the human face: see clearly within laughter the Essence of Ultimate Truth.” — Rumi

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