Sunday, September 18, 2022

No place like Om

THE SANGHA SONG: Harpreet thinks I could teach a course
in funny.

Here's something I never thought I'd write: My meditation guru, Harpreet Sangha, asked me how I find humour everywhere. Harpreet says he thinks I have a talent for brightening up otherwise serious situations and that I might be able to actually teach other people how to do the same thing.  

I've since spent hours on the question, hours that could have been wasted on household chores, visiting the sick or exercising. And I found the answer.

At this point you're probably thinking, "'You just said 'my meditation guru?' Who are you and what have you done with Peter?"

But nope.

Harpreet Sangha. Doesn't have long grey stringy hair and or frizzy beard; in fact Harpreet's about half my age and possibly the most flexible person I've ever met or even seen. He can get his body pretzely or stand on his head and make it look effortless. He's all Adidas sweats and snazzy sneakers and he sports one souvenir tee I'm kinda jealous of; from Rishikesh India, which is like the Vatican for Catholics. Or The Brickyard for Indycar racing fans. 

Guruing is also Harpreet's moonlight gig. To feed his family Harpreet's a sales manager at the same company I work for. He writes a blog that you can read if you're on LinkedIn. 

But enough about the young successful, handsome agile, fit, very bright and good-hearted Harpreet

Back to me and my quest for the holy joke. 

Which started with Harpreet. In January of 2019, word went around our office that one of the sales guys was offering a once-a-week lunchtime yoga and meditation session. Everybody should try everything once (or as my late brother Ed said: "Once is research, twice is perversion.")  I signed up. 

The session met the only two criteria that dictate whether or not I continue with any activity: It was easy and fun.

 POSTER CHILDREN FOR MATURITY: My family at a memorial service for Ed

A month and change later, we were all sent to our room for two years. In my case I was sent to my son Michel's old bedroom, which became my office.

Harpreet took the lunchtime exercises on line, volunteering his time, so almost every Thursday around noon if you looked into Michel's bedroom window, you'd see me sitting with my eyes closed, sometimes even going "Ommmmm."  (I used to say that in Michel's room before meditation, too, but it was followed by "I God!" But that's fodder--see what I did there?--for another blog.) 

In August of this year, my deep-thinking friend and colleague, Jean Hammell asked a very silicon-valley question:  

"What would happen if a bunch of people at LexisNexis meditated 15 minutes a day, every morning for a month?" (P.S. Don't worry. I'm almost at the answer to the joke question.)

Our company, LexisNexis is a division of an outfit called Relx, which has--get this--about 33,000 employees around the globe. Harpreet, Jean, a lawyer and do-gooder named Jay Brecher and I spread the word about the 15-minute sessions and so, every workday since Sept., 1, thanks to miraculous  technology called Microsoft Teams, we can be found meditating online alongside colleagues in Manila, Dubai, South Africa, Colombia, England, the Netherlands, all over the U.S.A., and even downtown Carleton Place, Ont., which is where Jean lives. 

Most people, when I tell them about this experiment, say "wow!" or "amazing!" or "Is that really you Peter?"

But when I told my sister Norma, the very first thing she said was, "And I suppose everybody starts singing?" 

Norma was of course referring to that old '70s coke commercial "I'd like to teach the world to sing."

If she hadn't come up with a smartass response, I would have checked her I.D.  Because that's the way we Carters converse. 




It's also the answer to Harpreet's question about finding the funny everywhere. 

All you have to do is grow up in a family like mine.

When you're raised in a three-bedroom house with a dozen or so kin plus an assortment of  boarders, overnight visitors or itinerant relatives, you joke to survive. Evolution weeds out the soft spoken and/or the  polite. If you weren't funny you'd starve to death. Or worse, not get laughs. And you have to be prepared to talk over other people and get talked over. Interrupting is not impolite, it's mandatory

It's full-time, this talking, not listening and performing verbal ledger-du main which is a word I've never even tried to use before but it sure came in handy there. Generally speaking, if you catch one of us in a rare moment of  silence and not interrupting, it's only because we're waiting for you to finish talking.

JUST CUZ: Rose'n'me. Back when the world was in black&white
To whit (I'm killing me here): Suppose my sister Mary is talking about re-upholstering furniture (a skill she picked up recently, much to her credit). It might look like I'm, whatchamacallit, listening. But no. I'm mentally Googling upholstery-related words so no matter what Mary says, I will respond with, "I guess that about covers it." 

Exhibit B: My first cousin Roseanne Rice. I'm the youngest of 10;  Rose's the youngest of seven. She lives in Halifax and any conversation with Rose is a tip-toe through a funny story minefield.

Here's me and Rose on the phone last week. We were discussing how we youngests feel we alway have to do what our older siblings and cousins tell us.

Me: "We don't have to do what they say you know. We can sometimes... "

Rose cut me off..

And then said five words that have never before been uttered or even considered by any individual who shared so much as a scintilla of Rose's and my DNA, and I'm going way back to the highlands of Scotland and boglands of  Ireland or wherever we stem from.

 Roseanne said:

"Sorry. I spoke over you."

I was like, "What did you just say?"

Rose. "That's right. I apologized for speaking over you. I've been practising with my sister. Isn't that just the sweetest?"

She started explaining but I interrupted.


  1. Peter is one of the most selfless and helpful person I have met. He is blessed with so many skills : including professional journalism and incredible dexterity to make people laugh in any situation, it is so effortless for him. It is so nice of him that he has shared in this blog that how he acquired this skills and how one can work towards gaining this incredible prowess. I am honored to read that he addressed me as his guru, but he also is my guru in many ways as in this life there is lot that we can learn from each other to be better ourselves everyday. It has been such an uplifting experience to lead meditation & breathing sessions for my work colleagues since last 3 years but such an incredible project have only been possible because of great colleagues like Peter, so many thanks for all his contribution in my life.