Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Living "Namaste"

I've been attempting to put into words the powerful effect that Laughter Yoga has had on my outlook and experience of life; here's a first shot at articulating this profound shift of awareness. (Update: this story has also been posted on the Laughter Yoga website.)

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When I first heard about Laughter Yoga, I knew immediately that it was something that I must do; it resonated with every cell in my body! But at the time, I didn't know that Laughter Yoga would answer a deep question I'd been pondering, a question with life-altering effects. Last winter, I had set out to explore what it really means to live the word "Namaste." We hear it often and say it fairly casually, but as I thought about what it really meant ("the Divine in me sees the Divine in you"), I realized that I had truly experienced this deeper awareness only occasionally in flickering moments here and there, while the rest of the time it remained an intellectual concept, relegated to the mind and oft-forgotten. And so I decided that I wanted to genuinely learn what it would be to live my life as an authentic expression of "Namaste."

It wasn't until I began doing Laughter Yoga that my experience of living "Namaste" began to come alive in a big way. Laughter, as it turns out, is a natural yet powerful means of connecting with others, and laughing while intentionally making eye contact with people is profoundly transformative! By the time I finished Laughter Yoga Teacher training in Albuquerque in August, I discovered with awe and amazement that group laughter had given me the experience I had sought. Five days of playfulness, hearty laughter, and eye contact with the 40+ members of my new laughing family gave me first-hand sustained experiential knowledge of what it truly feels like to look at someone and see only their Divine nature, to celebrate their beauty and uniqueness, to elicit the best from them, and to feel the power of their creative potential waiting to be unleashed. The simple practice of laughter had pierced the illusory veil of my mind and its perception of separateness, and had opened the doorway to Oneness!

The power of daily laughter continues to sustain this new way of being in the world. Everywhere I go, I find myself laughing and looking into the eyes of everyone I encounter, and continue to be delightedly surprised to discover the eyes of the Divine looking back at me (whether or not the other person is laughing, too)! As a result of Laughter Yoga, old barriers have crumbled and my heart has exploded--unable to contain the torrential flow of love that is pouring through me and into the world--and I am forever changed. Laughter has given me the gift of an open heart--a gift that keeps on giving in infinite forms, to every person I meet!

I have no doubt that my purpose in life--the whole point of being alive--is to spread laughter and joy, and I'm so grateful that Laughter Yoga exists as a structured means for doing so. Laughter Yoga is truly a gift to humanity; to join the Laughter Yoga family and be a part of this incredible transformation of humankind is exhilarating beyond words!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gibberish and My Opera Debut

Have I told you yet about speaking gibberish? That's right, babbling nonsensical syllables. (Fibbu la dempo zee diligoo swarfles!)

Gibberish is... well, gibberish is a gateway to bliss, if you ask me! Ha ha!

However, I must admit that when I first heard about gibberish during my initial Laughter Yoga leader training, I was skeptical. The thought of babbling nonsense made me cringe, in fact! We did an exercise in which we practiced speaking gibberish, and when I opened my mouth to speak, nothing came out!

It turns out that language is typically associated with the left hemisphere of our brain, and so when we speak words, the sounds must first be generated in that part of the brain (called the "Broca's Area" of the left frontal lobe) that recalls grammar and vocabulary.

So what happens when we try to speak gibberish? We are employing the physical mechanisms of speech, using the vocal cords and mouth, but bypassing the language center of the brain. I don't know the precise physiology of the process, but I can speak from experience when I say that speaking nonsensical syllables somehow releases the grip of the left-brain on one's life, and opens up the creative, intuitive spontaneous flow of the right-brain experience! I would even go so far as to say that gibberish is a tool that can unlock a whole new perspective on life. But don't take my word for it; try it for yourself!

At first, I had difficulty creating gibberish syllables. The left brain had a fairly firm grip on my speech habits, as it does for most of us, I think. My solution was to pay closer attention to my toddler son, Cedar, who was 20 months old at the time.

"A goh dully godully goh," he said. I repeated it.

He continued. "Mek. Boo. Weh."

Got it. I was getting the hang of this. Before long, I was able to utter a few syllables, and then the flood gates opened: "A goo dully wempo la skoovitty bee!" Hey, that felt really good on the tongue!

Still, when my Laughter Yoga instructor shared that she'd had an "all-gibberish" birthday party, in which only gibberish was allowed for the entire evening, I must confess I didn't really get it. You wouldn't know what anyone was saying! What would be fun about that? I wondered.

Fast forward to Albuquerque and my week of Laughter Yoga teacher training. Gibberish prevailed! We had gibberish dialogues and group gibberish discussions and even a bit of formal instruction. Oh, this was getting fun.

There was one classmate, however, for whom gibberish seemed completely inaccessible. Working in a very left-brain dominant career by day, Joel had never been able to release the hold that the left brain had on his speech, and so no sounds came out whenever he tried to speak gibberish. I could relate!

One day during a break, I walked past him in the hall and heard that he was singing a little vocal warmup arpeggio, "Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!" Always eager to sing with people, I joined in. As we got to talking about the fun of singing "ha ha ha" as a warmup for a laughter session, it occurred to me -- hey! Why not try singing gibberish syllables? Singing is a right brain activity, so perhaps that would break through the hold of the left brain...?

I started singing some gibberish and invited Joel to join. Lo and behold, it worked! Nonsense syllables began to flow from his mouth--voila! In the giddiness of this discovery, we broke into song and sang an impromptu gibberish duet. Ohh, it was fun. After a few more rounds, we decided to add our new act to the upcoming Talent Night roster.

And so it was that I had, at last, my operatic debut. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present: Gibberish Opera!

Joel and I performed a glorious gibberish rendition of La donna รจ mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto. I am not kidding when I tell you that I have never had so much fun in my entire life! Gibberish opera! I've found my calling! HA HA HA HA HA!

As it turned out, we also had the privilege of attending an All-Gibberish party being held in the next room as part of the Laughter Yoga Conference. Imagine, if you can, seventy five people (many in costume) speaking only gibberish and gesticulating wildly. (I was about to write that there are no words to describe this effect, but... that's kind of the point, isn't it! HA HA HA!) It was just magical, really. When we left the room and returned to the realm of "normal" speech, I felt oddly stiff and somehow deprived. I would have much preferred to speak gibberish the whole night!

Gibberish is quite the fascinating phenomenon, I've discovered. It requires one to be so much more emotive than when we use traditional words, and so there's more intonation, facial cues, and body language through which to express oneself. In addition, it is a more spontaneous form of expression than language, in that you can't plan ahead what you are going to say! You just open your mouth and see what comes out. In this sense it anchors you firmly into the Now, the absolute present moment, and thus gibberish becomes a form of active meditation.

How to bypass the thinking mind? Speak gibberish.

How to be completely present in this moment? Speak gibberish.

How to access the depths of joy within yourself? Speak gibberish.


I might also add that gibberish has one more very practical benefit: it is a very effective telemarketer deterrent! HA HA HA!

Last month while visiting my parents, the phone rang and the caller ID indicated that it was a telemarketer. My mom groaned. I said "no problem! I'll take care of it!" I picked up the phone and answered "Kerflooga femzy? La skoo! Shaylu va bimitty jugalo vwem, sha lemti koshoo gwa mentwuffle ess toop!" And on and on and on. I am pretty sure that they won't call back. HA!

As for me, I am now in a perpetual search for opportunities to sing gibberish harmony! Shemphoo lee portemmo gla moo vwenda lim, cha logotu dimfle, la shwendula vim!

Who's in?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finding Happiness

On my flight home from Minnesota yesterday, I noticed that the cocktail napkins handed out by the flight attendants were advertisements for Coca-Cola, the ad slogan being "Open Happiness."

Wait a minute, I thought. Happiness is found within a bottle of caffeinated high fructose corn syrup augmented with phosphoric acid? That is some truly slick advertising.

Upon returning home, I checked out the Coke website and found that they actually do believe this:

"Throughout its history, Coca-Cola has always tried to express a refreshingly positive view of the world," said Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial leadership officer, The Coca-Cola Company. "Open Happiness builds on that heritage, recognizing that even with the difficulties and stress of modern-day life there still are opportunities, every day, to find a moment to recognize life's simple pleasures. This new campaign reminds people that Coke is always there to offer that small moment of fun and refreshment when you need it."

Well. I am sure that opening a cold Coke does bring fleeting moments of happiness to some. But what happens when your Coke bottle is empty? Or you don't have the spare change handy to buy a bottle of happiness? Or you forget to be mindful of the happiness in the bottle, and guzzle the fizzy beverage unconsciously?

And then there's the question of motive. Does Coca-Cola really have your happiness in mind, or are they just wanting to sell more Coke? Again, from their website:

The new campaign will continue to invite people to bring positivity, optimism and fun into their lives through engaging creative and an updated message. The campaign also was developed to provide a clear role for Coca-Cola, setting the stage for a rich in-store and shopper experience.

"Open Happiness is designed to work at every level -- from national advertising all the way down to coolers and store shelves, with a clear call to action at the point of purchase," continued Tripodi. "The combination of inspirational marketing and in-store execution in collaboration with our bottling partners worldwide will ensure we continue to reinvigorate the sparkling category."

Reinvigorate the sparkling category?!?!? What on earth does that mean, anyway? And does anyone actually believe that a "rich shopper experience" comes from seeing brightly-colored ad campaigns and responding to a "clear call to action at the point of purchase"?

If you are looking for a "rich in-store experience", check this out! Now THAT's what I call a shopping experience that reinvigorates your own sparkle! It really is that simple; we have the power to create our own rich experiences through the power of choice. Choose to laugh; choose to dance; choose to smile at everyone! No need to depend upon consumer products to deliver happiness; instead, we can tap in to our inner spirit of laughter and discover a source of unending joy!

I don't know how long it will take, but my vision is that one day in the future, airline cocktail napkins will continue to deliver messages about finding happiness, but rather than using carbonated soft drinks as the medium, the happiness message will be delivered via creative and playful laughter exercises! The flight attendants will be trained laughter yoga leaders, and each flight will include mirthful sessions of giggling fun! Passengers will arrive at their destination feeling refreshed and energized, and the energy flowing out of the planes upon arrival will fill the city with invigorating waves of friendly smiles!

People may dismiss this kind of vision as nonsensical or impossible, but I'm willing to bet that the Wright Brothers received that kind of response back in their day as well. A century ago, the idea of millions of people flying around the sky at 500 mph while sipping fizzy beverages would have been considered ridiculous, too!

So, we must start somewhere. I'm off to dance my way through the grocery store; who wants to join me?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Laughing on the Shore

While staying at the lodge on the north shore of Lake Superior, I did a short laughter session with family--just for the joy of it! Ahh, laughing outdoors, filling the beach with the sound of laughter... there is something very freeing about it!

Laughing daily is no longer optional, I've discovered. I have to laugh every day, or it feels like something is amiss in the world. There is no doubt that laughter has a profound, even if subtle, impact on one's physiological and mental wellbeing!

But don't take my word for it -- come laugh with me and find out for yourself!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Impromptu Laughter Session

A few days after becoming a Laughter Yoga teacher, I traveled to Minnesota to visit family and to spend a holiday weekend on the north shore of Lake Superior. I hadn't yet formally established a laughter club, but was eager to begin laughing with people right away, so I decided to round up a few people to see if we could have an impromptu laughter session. During breakfast, I went around the dining room in the lodge where we were staying and struck up conversations with people at other tables, inviting them to join me after their meal to laugh with me in the solarium.

Three people decided to join the fun, and considering I'd only invited about a dozen to begin with, I thought this was a wonderful success! Together with my mom and sister-in-law, we had a group of six people laughing and playing.

It was an interesting exercise, leading a laughter session while holding onto Cedar. He was not about to let go of mom in the midst of this obvious craziness, so I did what I could with one hand while holding him on my hip with my other.

Cedar didn't seem to be overly amused with the laughter antics; unbeknownst to me, he was apparently picking his nose during much of the session!

After awhile he was comfortable enough that I could set him down, but he didn't go far:

Nonetheless, we all had a fantastic laughter session and the three who joined us became instant friends for the weekend. This is what I enjoy most about laughter; when you've laughed with someone, you become friends for life! Now, let's laugh together!