The Opa Method: Laughing in the Face of Spilled Milk (and Broken Plates)

opa method

By Mo Edjlali, Founder & CEO

Life, in all its unpredictability, often feels like a well-rehearsed play where suddenly an actor forgets their line, or the props fall apart. It's in these unscripted moments—like when a plate crashes to the ground, or a phone rings in the sacred silence of meditation—that we're given a choice. How do we react? With frustration, an outburst, or a shout of "Opa!"?

For some of us who have been in toxic atmospheres where a broken plate would result in shame, blame, and abuse, it can be challenging to react differently. We might be conditioned to withdraw or even lash out in the face of a mistake. The impulse can be so automated that it's very difficult to disrupt. I have a half-Greek childhood friend who always carried a positive outlook and demeanor. Whenever anything went wrong, he would smile, laugh, and say "Opa!". Not only was he smiling, but the whole atmosphere and everyone in it would relax. Instead of bracing for an emotional lashing or getting angry and lashing out emotionally, the mistake was celebrated.

I've thought about this for some time, and the idea of turning this into a practice was not cemented until we hosted our first international Mindful Leader Summit in India back in 2016. One of the speakers shared this thought: whenever someone's phone goes off in a meditation session, instead of thinking, "How dare this person interrupt my practice," he encouraged silently and with a smile saying, "Wonderful!" Why stop our session or get thrown off? Instead celebrate the sound and weave it into your practice. Respond, don’t react, and while you’re at it change the narrative to something positive and light. Now, this might seem awfully inauthentic; our “authentic” hardwired selves may default to more honest reactions. But sometimes doing the opposite helps disrupt the pattern and provides a metaphorical splash of cold water.

For group settings, especially as leaders or parents, we need to pay attention to the feelings and energetic atmosphere we create. We often try to encourage risk-taking and not being afraid to make mistakes, but when someone does, we cringe or lash out. The Opa method not only helps us with this but also models to others how they might react to a mistake.

And of course, do what is appropriate. Say you are crossing the street and get hit by a car, you might be a bit deranged to say Opa at that moment. Or your friend has just slipped and fallen in a painful way, saying Opa would be insensitive. So please use it with discernment!

Let's explore the Opa Method, a way to embrace chaos with a smile inspired by ancient wisdom and modern psychology.

Ancient Roots of Breaking Plates

Ever wonder why the Greeks started the whole breaking plates thing? It's not just for a good Instagram moment. This practice is deeply historical, tied to mourning rituals, offerings to the gods, and even methods to ward off evil spirits. It's about connecting with something bigger than ourselves, acknowledging the transient nature of life and material possessions. And let's not forget the symbolism of abundance—it's like saying, "Look how blessed we are, we can smash plates and still keep the party going!"

Shouting "Opa!" is like the universal signal for "Let's turn this mishap into a moment of joy." It doesn't directly translate to English because it's more of a feeling—a spontaneous burst of happiness, a way to celebrate the now, even if the now involves cleaning up shards from the kitchen floor. It's the sound of not taking life too seriously, of communal joy and the shared human experience of, well, making a mess of things sometimes.

Why Saying "Opa!" Works: A Quick Psych 101

Okay, so why does flipping our script from annoyance to jubilation actually make a difference? Here's the breakdown:

  • Cognitive Appraisal Theory: Our brains are constantly narrating our lives, and how we tell our story affects how we feel. Seeing a broken plate as a chance to say "Opa!" turns a mini-disaster into a non-issue, or even a funny anecdote.
  • Cultural Conditioning: Growing up, we learn from those around us. In Greece, shouting "Opa!" is as natural as saying "bless you" when someone sneezes. It's a learned reaction that highlights the power of community and positivity.
  • Positive Psychology: This is all about focusing on what makes life worth living. By choosing joy over frustration, we're tapping into our innate ability to find the silver lining, boosting our mood and resilience.
  • Stress Management and Social Bonding: Laughing off mishaps not only lowers our stress levels but also brings us closer to others. It's a way of saying, "Hey, we're all in this together," turning solo embarrassments into group highlights.

Practicing Opa

Here's how you can start incorporating the Opa Method into your everyday:

  1. Pause When Things Go Sideways: Before you react, take a beat. Acknowledge the mess, the error, the unexpected. It doesn't matter if you're the cause of the error or someone else is.
  2. Embrace the "Opa!": Whether you literally shout it out loud or just say it in your head, let it be a reminder to lighten up. Though I highly encourage saying it out loud, especially in group settings.
  3. Find the Upside: There's always a takeaway, a moment of gratitude or a lesson in every spilled glass of water or missed appointment.
  4. Spread the Good Vibes: Share this approach with your friends, family, and even strangers. Who knows, your "Opa!" might just make someone's day.

Final Thoughts: Opa as a Way of Life

The Opa Method isn't just about dealing with broken plates; it's a philosophy, a mindset shift towards embracing life's imperfections with a smile. For me personally, it has helped a great deal in trying to parent two curious, daring, and sometimes reckless kids. It also has made me a much easier person to work with.

So next time life throws you a curveball, remember to pause, smile, and maybe even shout a little "Opa!" because sometimes, that's all it takes to turn a moment around.



Excellent read.

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Elizabeth Mitchell

I think this is what I wanna find. @fnaf games

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