Defying Gravity

By Steve Bhaerman

Swami Beyondananda on how levity lifts us in unfunny times

Note: Cosmic comic Swami Beyondananda, whose favorite yoga pose is tongue-in-cheek, is coming to Salt Lake City Tuesday, September 18 as part of his “Great Upwising” tour. In preparation for his visit, we gave Swami some answerable questions, and he obliged us with some questionable answers.

“The best way to overcome gravity is with levity.”

Catalyst:  Swami, these are serious times.  So, why humor, and why political humor?

The world is in serious condition largely because of our conditioning to be serious.  Seriously.  As for politics, you’d have to agree there’s definitely something funny going on, right

That’s true … but isn’t comedy in the face of such huge problems a form of denial?

Actually, laughter is a form of radical acceptance … it allows you to be with what is and see it from the higher perspective of levity.  As the old saying goes, “The truth shall upset you free.”  And besides, laughter makes us smarter and more creative.

Really?  How is that?

Laughter causes breathing, and breathing is the key to long life.  When we breathe in, we inspire and when we don’t we expire.  When people are made fearful and angry, they go into their hindbrain, which naturally takes them backward.  When we laugh, the ha-ha is often followed by an A-HA and then an “aaaaahhhhhh” as our attention flows from the static in the head to the ecstatic in the heart.  And when we breathe deeply after laughing, oxygen goes to our brains, our synapses start synapping … and we come up with creative solutions.  At a time when there is plenty of “out-venting”, inventing is far more productive.

 Is it true that laughter heals?

Oh yes.  You’ve probably heard about Norman Cousins, the writer who was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.  Instead of going to the hospital, he checked into a hotel room and watched Marx Brothers movies and Candid Camera re-runs.  And when he got well, the medical establishment decided to study the healing power of laughter.  Which is kind of like … Well it works in practice, but does it work in theory?

Are you serious?

No, but I used to be … until I discovered the physiological benefits of laughter.  Did you know that when we laugh, the body secretes these hormones called endorphins — our natural painkiller?  Laughing improves immune function, and laughter lowers the blood pressure because it causes our blood vessels to dilate — which is better than having them die early!

 I’d love to see the science behind that.

Oh, there’s a very well known experiment where they took a group of college students, and put them in a room with hilarious comedy videos.  They took another group, put them in another room and made them memorize Croatian parables — and then gave them an electric shock each time they made a mistake.  The results were conclusive.  The ones watching comedy had more fun.

Yes, that’s pretty conclusive.  But can comedy help us heal the political divide?

Here’s a true story about how a joke can cause enlightening to strike.  At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, American and Soviet delegates were meeting to discuss possible trade between the two countries.  When news of the missile crisis hit, everything stopped.  There was tremendous tension in the room.  Finally one of the Soviet delegates suggested they each go around and tell a joke.  He volunteered to start.

“What’s the difference between capitalism and communism?”

“In capitalism, man exploits man.  In communism, it’s the other way around.”

In one great ejoculation, the room exploded in laughter … and the new clear fallout from laughter, insight and wisdom left everyone glowing … really.  And as Ben Franklin didn’t quite say, it is far better to laugh together than cry separately.

So people who come to your show are guaranteed to laugh?

Oh, yes.  Here is our unconditional guarantee — you’re guaranteed to laugh, laugh, laugh till the sacred cows come home, or we will double your grumpiness back.

Well, there are a lot of grumpy people these days.

Just think.  If all the grumpy people in this country were laid end-to-end… they’d probably be a lot less grumpy. u

Swami Beyondananda’s wisdom, scribed by Steve Bhaerman, has appeared in CATALYST on and off over the last 36 years. Welcome back to Utah, Swami!

Swami Beyondananda, cosmic comic, pundit, and uncommontator comes to Salt Lake City!

Where: First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, 569 South 1300 East

When: September 18, 7pm.

This event is both a fund-raiser for the Social Justice and Environmental Ministry, and fun-raiser to raise the laugh force during serious times.

Buy tickets here.

This article was originally published on August 31, 2018.