I have often marveled at the intense emotions that are waiting for me immediately upon waking. Over the winter, I would find myself waking up feeling angry or at least very irritated. “You just woke up,” I would tell myself, “how on earth can you be angry already!?”
Sometimes my anger would dissipate in the shower or as I brushed my teeth, but often I carried it with me into the morning, and it would affect my interactions with my husband and my children as they went off to school and certainly it affected my approach to my day.
While I realize that there are all kinds of reasons why I might wake up angry, and that my subconscious could well have been dreaming its way through my anger issues as I slept, I still had to deal with this emotion and come to terms with it in the light of day.
So I fell back on meditation, on the principles of peace and Zen to guide me and I found this quote:
Let me give you a wonderful Zen practice. Wake up in the morning…look in the mirror, and laugh at yourself.
~ Bernie Glassman Roshi
As I read it I did laugh, and I realized how seriously I was taking my life and my anger and that this wasn’t really serving me.
While the anger just needed to be felt, it was what I was thinking about my anger that was the problem. I was…getting angry at my anger. I was taking it so seriously, and I wasn’t accepting that it was there, that sometimes you just wake up mad. And as I stomped through my days trying to deny it, I was just strengthening the grip of the emotion I wanted to be released from.
Laughing at myself in the morning has been oddly liberating. At first I would look in the mirror and start off with a few “ha-has” and even that made me so aware of how serious I was. And you have to laugh at yourself laughing at yourself in the mirror because it’s somehow so delightfully ridiculous.
This practice really highlighted how I had forgotten to be joyful (after all, this was a new day, a fresh start) and how I was strangling the fun out of my life.
I knew just how seriously I was taking my one, beautiful life because at first when I started laughing in the morning I would sometimes cry, which was also a cathartic release of my anger and a sign to me of how long I had been letting my tension around anger build up. It was such a relief to let it go.
So…if you’ve ever woken up mad, sad, irritated, or even full of joy, I can wholeheartedly recommend looking in the mirror and laughing at yourself.
It is one of the fastest routes to joy I have ever found.
This article was originally published in April 2019 at A Life in Progress.