Saturday, 7 January 2017

Well-Being, Health & Humour

I had a bit of a lie in on Monday morning. I needed it, I was following doctor’s orders actually, as Aled Jones (retired doctor) commanded me to do so. The last four weeks of Advent, Christmas and New Year have been the busiest I have ever known. I have loved them for their fullness, but they have taken their toll physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. So I went to bed on Sunday night and decided not to set my alarm. I awoke naturally the next morning at 9am, and I felt great for it. I showered and ate a good hearty breakfast. As I did I turned on my computer and instantly read a post on Facebook pointing to an article in Daily Mirror featuring myself and the other Slimming World Awards winners and our top tips on weight loss. Top Tips from Weight Loss Champions It is obviously aimed at those attempting to be healthier for the New Year, following the over indulgence of Christmas. I then received a text message from my personal trainer saying he was back working following his back injury and asking if I wanted to book a session. I did and booked in for the next morning. By 11am I wandered down to the gym to get started back into fitness. Well when I arrived I was utterly overwhelmed, I’ve never seen the place so full. I felt this strange first day at school feeling, very uncomfortable. I tried to get going but couldn’t really and left before too long. Thankfully I felt different the next day and soon got back into things. I also know that very soon attendance at the gym will return to its normal levels.

At the beginning of the year so many of us resolve to live healthier lives, gym membership sores at this time of the year. As does attendance at slimming groups and their like. General physical well-being is often on our minds during the winter months, especially early January. We all seem more vulnerable to ill health at this time of year. I remember well two winters back when I, along with many others, suffered a severe bout of illness, gastric flu in my case, which took over a month to fully recover from, I have never felt so ill. So yes physical well-being is definitely on my mind as it is on so many of our minds at this time of the year.

Now while there is a great deal of talk of improving our physical well-being, which is of course vital, there seems to be less talk of taking care of our spiritual well-being, which actually may well be more important. If I have learnt anything in life I know that my emotional, mental and physical well-being rests on my spiritual health. I discovered that if I take care of my spiritual well-being, as a result, the rest just seems to take care of itself. I never forget the importance of first things first.

Now this might sound a little funny to some, but one of the many measures of my spiritual well-being is my sense of humour. I know that during the most barren periods of my life I was almost completely devoid of humour, I was utterly self - absorbed and took myself far too seriously. I was weighed down by life, by myself, everything just seemed so heavy going. Improving my spiritual well-being has enabled me to lighten up or maybe lightening up has helped me to become spiritually healthier. As Forrest Church stated “"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly," wrote the English author G. K. Chesterton. By the same token, surely the devil fell on account of his gravity. What works for angels can’t help but be good for us. Levity addresses worry’s tendency to obsess; scoffs at the demon of perfectionism; and exposes (as our enemy, not our friend) the self-absorption that lies at the root of insecurity and unhappiness. When we laugh—especially at ourselves—we fill the present with instant joy.”

Life is far too serious a business to be taken too seriously. I remember at school an old biology teacher telling me that a man who cannot laugh at himself will always struggle. It is something I have never forgotten. I hated him for it at the time, because I knew I took myself far too seriously and just couldn’t free myself from this blight. I just took everything so personally. Thankfully I learnt a long time ago that if ever I want a good laugh I just have to listen to myself.
More and more I see clearly that one of the key barometers of my spiritual well-being is the health of my humour. When I am in good humour I find that I am in good health.

It seems I am not alone. To be in good humour is to enjoy good health or at least this is once what “good humour” literally meant. The very word “Humour” is actually derived from a medieval medical term for fluids of the human body. It has its roots in the ‘old’ French word ‘humor’, derived from the Latin ‘umere’. Physicians of the day believed that we had four different types of internal fluids that they called ‘humors’ and it was these that determined our physical and mental health. Therefore if a person became ill it was believed that their humors were out of balance. So to be in good humour is to literally be in good health, or at least that’s what it used to mean.

Now I’m not someone who is very good at poker. Why? You may well ask. Well because I don’t have a very good poker face. How I am feeling and experiencing life is written all over my face. You can tell just by looking at me if I’m a bit too lost in myself and my seriousness and whether I’m living openly and in life, in the joy of life, in good humour, good health. I know I aint much fun to be around when I’m not in very good humour.

I love the human face, especially when it is caught up in laughter in humour. There is something beautiful about the comedic face. It seems I’m not alone in this. John O’Donohue, who died this very week in January 4th 2008, loved the human face, he saw in it a Divine quality and loved it when it was caught up in laughter.

He said that:

“There’s something really subversive in laughter and in the smile on the human face. It’s lovely and infectious to be in the company of someone who can smile deeply.

I think a smile comes from the soul. And I also love its transitive kind of nature—that if you’re in the presence of someone who has a happiness and a laughter about them, it’ll affect you and it’ll call that out in you as well.

Your body relaxes completely when you’re having fun. I think one of the things that religion has often prevented us from doing is having really great fun. To be here, in a way—despite the sadness and difficulty and awkwardness of individual identity—is to be permanently invited to the festival of great laughter."

Like John I see a quality of the Divine in humour and laughter. I believe that this is because it is a quality of being fully alive. It is an expression of unguarded abandonment and it is infectious in a healthy and loving way. It encourages this aliveness in others too. Laughter comes from that eternal spirit that is a part of our common humanity.

Humour can not only brings healing but it can also bring people can be infectious...Here are a couple of wonderful examples...One from Test Match Special


I have heard it said that God is the greatest comedian of them all and that if you truly want to experience God it is through laughter. I’m sure that you’ve all heard the expression “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

This brings to mind that old Depeche Mode song “Blasphemous Rumours”, “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that god’s got a sick sense of humour”. Many see God as a creative mishevious artist and that it is through such activity that we ourselves can become intune with the Divine. As Sara Maitland wrote in “A Big-Enough God”

“God is not careful. Theology is careful, and it ought to be; but God is not careful, is not bound by rules. This double-dealing magic-weaving careless God, this God of strange codes and complex twistings of imagery and power, this God whose sense of humour so often seems to outweigh any sense of ethical propriety, this playful God: this is the God of the artists.”

This brings to mind a Meme I recently saw posted on facebook, which mischievously asked the question: “How enlightened are you?”


If you can live without caffeine,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him or her,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, gender preference, or politics,
Then you have almost reached the same level of spiritual development as your dog!

How many of us can honestly say we are as enlightened as our dogs, as spiritually healthy? There is something humbling and beautifully amusing about this little bit of wisdom. Made me laugh too…It came at a perfect time when I was getting a little too serious and lost in my own and the underwear of others…It doesn’t help getting lost in such things…
It;s a bit messy and not very pleasant...

Humour is so vital, remember it means to be in good health and it is healing too…It’s amazing what healing comes when I’m in good humour or maybe actually when I’m in good humour it is surely a sign of good health…

Voltaire wrote “The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.”

He recognised, as my biology teacher did, that humour and laughter are good for your health. We all feel better after a good old laugh, it must be because those humours are really flowing. The problem is though that our sense of humour can abandon us often when we need it the most.

If only we could get our “humours” flowing again. If we could our bodily health would improve immeasurably. To quote Josh Billings "There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun." We would relax more and as a result our stress levels would lessen and as a result it would seem that our immune systems improve. Research has revealed that laughter has a positive influence on our immunoglobin levels and immune system in general. As I look back at my last bout if real ill health, two January’s back it was at a time when I’d lost my sense of humour somewhat, I’d gotten a little too serious and self absorbed and had worn myself out with “stress of it all”. I became really ill and once again had to surrender to it all. This did eventually lead to positive things as I began to look after myself better. Included in this was to play a little more and spend a little more time doing activities that bring me joy, that make me happy.  This helped me on my general getting physically fit and healthy journey. I know I would not have been able to sustain it with out first of all getting spiritually fit.

I have discovered that spiritual freedom brings with it the ability to laugh and not to take yourself too seriously, or is it laughter that helps bring about spiritual freedom? Life is a very serious business, far too serious a business to be taken too seriously in fact. Now please don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting that we ignore the troubles present in life, my word I certainly do not. What I’m actually saying is that we must be careful not to get too caught up in them or weighed down by them. In order to be of service to life and others requires us to be in good health and good humour. We need to take care of ourselves wholly, body, mind and spirit. It begins with spirit I have learnt. To enjoy good mental and physical health requires good spiritual health and a healthy spirit requires air to breath. It enjoys freedom and aliveness and it often begins with laughter.

I’m going to end this little chip of a "blogspot" with a story…I hope it leaves you in good spirit, in good health, in good humour…

A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his torch around, looking for valuables, and when he picked up a CD player to place in his sack, a strange disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying, "Jesus is watching you."

He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his torch off, and froze. When he heard nothing more after a bit, he shook his head, promised himself a holiday after the next big job, then clicked the torch back on and began searching for more valuables. Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard, "Jesus is watching you."

Freaked out, he shined the torch around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his torch beam came to rest on a parrot. "Did you say that?" he hissed at the parrot.

"Yep," the parrot confessed then squawked, "I'm trying to warn you."

The burglar relaxed. "Warn me huh? Who are you?"

"Moses," replied the parrot.

"Moses?" the burglar laughed. "What kind of stupid people would name a parrot 'Moses'?"

The bird answered, "Probably the same kind of people that would name a Rotweiller 'Jesus'."

I wish you good health and good humour.

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