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.

I clung desperately to, the psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach's RAIN practice this past week. It's fair to say that that practice saved me. It's also fair to say that my clients are probably tired of me assisting them in utilizing RAIN.


But, it's just so calming. And, I love it.


It's the perfect combination of two of my favorite things -- mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness is just noticing the fullness of what's happening at any given moment. So, if I grab my chapstick and I notice what it feels like to touch it, to see its colors, to feel the sensations on my lips, to smell it, and finally what it's like to put the cap on and place it down, guess what! I just applied chapstick in a mindful way.


Self-compassion, on the other hand, represents a caring, loving, supportive, accepting, and empathetic friend who is by your side at all times. If, while trying to mindfully put chapstick on, I notice a pain in my shoulders, self-compassion is the one who rubs my shoulder, asks me what's going on and what I need, and gets me what I need. I'm externalizing self-compassion, but its energy is within us. We just have to do some work as often as we can to grow that kind, curious, and comforting energy.


So now, onto the magic that is RAIN!


I love the acronym. This week, after I practiced makin' it rain on my emotions, I laughed at the expression. I also felt calm. It felt like the RAIN washed away all the tightness, the pain, the anger, the heartache, and the sadness.


I needed RAIN the most when I read and thought about the systems of oppression that are in place in our country that are contributing to Black and Latinx folks being more at risk to COVID-19. Thinking about how unfair and unjust the world can be to marginalized folks rips my heart apart.


I am so appreciative of the folks who are writing articles about these injustices to create more awareness about what's happening and how different systems can help. I am also grateful for the folks who are doing their best to help those of us with less privilege (e.g., finding resources for immigrants and other sources of funding for POC).


Also great to see individuals who are helping medical professionals, whether by saying thank you, offering food if and when they need food, donating supplies and blood, and practicing physical distancing.


I am beyond grateful to those who can and have helped.


Like Mr. Rogers and his mom have said, in times of crisis, it's important to look for the helpers. And, there are many many many helpers. You can witness more acts of kindness through John Krasinski's Some Good News show.


Seeing people practice compassion, empathy, and kindness towards others does feel soothing. But, if you ever need to turn that compassion and kindness towards yourself, know that RAIN is here for you.


RAIN entails recognizing your feelings, allowing them to be present, investigating possible sensations in your body, and nurturing yourself in some way.


In action, for me, the RAIN practice could look like:


R -- I'm angry and heartbroken that centuries of racism, anti-blackness, and classism means that certain groups of people will get sick more often and die more often.

A -- Your anger and sadness belong. It's OK that these feelings are present.

I -- As I experience this deep anger and sadness, I feel that my chest is tight, that my shoulders are tense, and that I'm barely breathing.

N -- I see your pain. What do you need right now? How can I support you in this moment? If your favorite person were here with you right now, what would you want them to say or do? I need to cry. I need to just cry and crumble, and let myself feel this helplessness and grief. And I need a hug. And, I need tea. And, I want to hear: I see you. I'm here for you. I love you, and I believe in your ability to move through this pain. I believe in your ability to hold space for you and to hold space for others.


This practice can be really powerful, especially if you have the time and space to pause and reflect on uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that come up for you. It's also helpful to explore what you need. Whether you're alone or with others, you can give yourself what you need. Say to yourself what you need to hear. Hug yourself. Make yourself tea.


I hope this practice is as powerful and healing for you as it is for me.


Thank you for reading.


Thank you for being.



Updated: Apr 4, 2020

I have been telling folks that as days and weeks progress lately, I feel as if I'm playing a game of dodgeball that I can never win. There are so many balls being thrown at us.


So.


Many.


Many.


Balls.



They come in the form of: headlines indicating that the world is ending and that humanity will become extinct in five minutes, social media posts making you feel ashamed or judged, colleagues sending out a thousand e-mails, books you're wanting to read staring at you resentfully from across the room, hobbies begging you to re-engage with them, meals that your partner is wanting you to cook with them, bills taunting you, problems you're having or needing to think about, or trainings or workshops you might need to attend.


It's overwhelming. It feels like there's no way to dodge these balls, or no way to catch them and throw them back at whatever hell they came from.


But! While navigating these stressors, I have found two questions that have been tremendously helpful in getting me and others through -- two magical questions that'll help us kick our opponent's butt!


The first question is-- can I practice gratitude in this moment? This is particularly helpful when we're worrying about ours and others' health. If we're wondering "what if I get sick," we can potentially think "I seem to be OK right now, and thank goodness for that."


"What if the world ends?"


Imagine tires screeching and then boom! You think: "well, the world hasn't ended yet. I appreciate the fact that I'm still here and seemingly healthy."


What we're wanting to do is notice these overwhelming and scary thoughts and feelings, and if possible, we're wanting to pivot and change course. We're wanting to pick up the ball and throw it hard at capitalism's face. Or, stress' face. Or, worry's face.


"How am I going to answer all of these e-mails?"


SKRRRRTTT. "I can appreciate that I have access to technology and WiFi. It's good to know that colleagues feel healthy and motivated enough to send out these e-mails. I will take it one e-mail at a time."


OK! Ready for the other question?


Can I help anyone or anything in this moment? Maybe the only person you can help is yourself, and that is real and fair. And, I feel you.


But, how wonderful, right? In the midst of chaos and overwhelm that we pause and we reflect on how we can help ourselves and others. Maybe self-help is just telling yourself to breathe. And, other-help could be texting loved ones "I love you so much. I'm thinking of you."


Self-help can also look like having mindful moments with your plants and/or pets. The more you make time to help yourself, the more present and healthy you can be to help others.


If you do have some resources, whether that's money and/or time, there might be lots of opportunities near you, if you're wanting to donate money or volunteer. Here are more options for ways to help older folks, restaurants, and hospitals.


I'm thinking of you.


If you like hugs and don't have anyone to hug you, and self-hugs are proving to be difficult, know that I'm hugging you in spirit.


Take good care of you and others.

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