Laughing With Pain
Fun fact: I love Airbnb experiences. Through these experiences, hosts around the world teach us about their culture, give us tours of their towns, and best of all, show us where the delicious food and drinks are.
One day, while remembering some of the trips I took and feeling sad about the fact that I wouldn't be traveling until the year 2100, I opened the Airbnb app. I got so excited when I saw that they had online experiences. Ahhhhh! I, of course, quickly signed up for a yoga + meditation experience, because duh! Yoga and meditation are two of my favorite activities.
But, another experience caught my eye: Fall in Laugh. I thought -- why not. I love to laugh. Why not try this. I tried it, and it was about an hour of me feeling awkward and anxious, while also trying to connect with folks currently around Europe.
And now, it's been about a week since I engaged in this experience, and I've thought about it everyday. The idea of laughing, even if you don't feel like it, is interesting and potentially mind-blowing. Laugh even if you're grieving. Laugh during a pandemic. Laugh even though you're scared and anxious.
What I love about laughter yoga or laughter meditation is that it helped me feel free. Although, I did this experience at 7AM on a Sunday, so I'm not sure if my neighbors were thrilled with this newfound freedom.
But, forcing my body to laugh uproariously and outrageously triggered various memories-- when a colleague was taking a picture of me and others, and he said: do a fake laugh, and I was surprised that the fake laughter quickly turned into a real laugh. He said that him and his family members do this in pictures often and I felt this sense of peace and joy, knowing that he engages in such a fun ritual with parts of his community.
Also, some sad and painful memories. As a child-- laughing with all of my body, so loud and free, and having an adult tell me: don't laugh so loudly and uncontrollably; it's not lady-like.
One memory, which helped me feel connected, free, grateful, and feel a sense of belongingness. Another memory, which triggered sadness and a sense of shutting down. And, heartbreak.
And yet, I continued to laugh. With the pain that arose, as well as the joy.
I think laughter connects you with your spirit. As you laugh, there can be a sense of knowing. Knowing who you really are. Knowing what matters to you. Knowing what it takes to truly feel connected with yourself and others.
Laughter can also quickly bring you back to the present moment. Our minds love to not be here. Right here, right now. In this moment. It loves to have thoughts of the past and the future, and is barely aware of what's happening in our bodies and what's happening as we make contact with what's here. When we laugh, whether in a genuine way or not, we make contact with what's here.
Thom Cock, which -- great name, led this Fall in Laugh experience, and I'm thankful that I got introduced to laughter meditation through him. He's a Frenchman who presented as outgoing, charismatic, funny, curious, unapologetic, and filled with stories, theories and wisdom.
He and others reminded me that the voice is powerful. In using our voices, we heal. When we experience trauma or when we're policed, criticized, and shamed, we sometimes lose our voices. We shrink. We hide. Through laughter and singing, and sharing our stories however way we can, our voices can grow. As we become louder and louder, we make more contact with our power, confidence, courage, and spirit.
He shared some quotes with us throughout the experience:
An optimist laughs to forget; a pessimist forgets to laugh -- Tom Nansbury
To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it -- Charlie Chaplin
We don't laugh because we are happy, but we are happy because we laugh -- Madan Kataria
In life, we must constantly practice finding the balance between being in tune with our pain or being in tune with the difficult and uncomfortable feelings that may come up, and helping ourselves connect to joy again. Helping ourselves find meaning. Helping ourselves heal. There can be a balance. We can hold pain and joy. We can make space for grief and gratitude.
Sometimes, the narratives we carry with us can sometimes keep us stuck in pain. Suddenly, laughing at those narratives unshackles us.
Try it. Experiment with this idea. Maybe you're walking around your home and a thought or narrative comes up: I'm worthless. I'll never be successful. I'm a failure. I wonder how you'll feel if you were to pause, breathe, and laugh at those narratives. It might potentially give you a new perspective.
Mr. Cock said that children laugh about 300 times a day, while adults laugh about 20 times a day, if we're lucky. Just like we make it a habit to eat well, sleep well, and move our bodies in some way everyday, we can make it a habit to laugh for at least 5 minutes morning, noon, and night!
Let's start a revolution to absolutely piss off our neighbors. We'll laugh. Our neighbors will be angry. They'll laugh as they experience their anger and suddenly experience joy and acceptance. And, we'll all continue laughing.
I hope you get to make some time to laugh today.
I laugh you so much!
Here's to you, finding community through laughter.