Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lenin for Christmas

Every December, Rockefeller Center in New York City, is ablaze with holiday spirit. In years past, I have enjoyed watching the ice skaters whirling around the outdoor rink, like a Norman Rockwell painting. In Greenwood there is the annual lighting of the large outdoor Christmas tree. But in Fremont, where fun and laughter reign supreme, we sport our seven - ton statue of Lenin dressed up in holiday lights. Come check him out some evening this month when you need some alternative holiday fun!

Photo: Wikimedia

Monday, December 14, 2009


2009 is the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo Lunar Landing and in celebration I’ve been immersing myself in all things Apollo: Michael Collins’ book “Carrying the Fire”, the HBO special “From the Earth to the Moon” and Ron Howard’s movie “In the Shadow of the Moon”. One of the best pieces I uncovered was Pete Conrad’s first words as he descended onto the surface of the moon – “Whoopee!” We all know what Neil Armstrong said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 12 arrived next, and as the world awaited what astronaut Conrad would say, we got a great dose of his sense of fun and humor. Wikipedia says “He described himself as the first man to dance on the moon.” They say that particular crew of three, Pete Conrad, Al Bean and Dick Gordon, bonded the most of any crew that flew together in space. They even drove matching gold Corvettes. Laughter bonds, even in space. It’s a beautiful thing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Baseball Fun

When the Mariners were in the absolute pits a couple of years ago, one of the worst teams in baseball, I wrote a letter to the Seattle Times sports editor, suggesting they try a new tack: Have some fun. Since they were all in such misery about their losing streak, what did they have to lose? My baseball friend Rex told me they’d never publish such a silly suggestion.

I quoted Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins, at the time considered “the best pitcher in baseball”, as saying “It’s all about having fun.” I said that cracking the whip was just adding more angst, more pressure. I suggested trying something radical – lightening up and having a good time and seeing what happens. Release the outcome and be in the moment, in the zone, as they say. It’s a game after all.

Well, behold the Mariners this past year! Griffey came back. And he brought with him his light-hearted sense of camaraderie. They started having fun. They were lightening up. They were being more playful. We’ve even seen Griffey tickling Ichiro on the field. Tickling! And they started winning again. They did a huge turn around.

Maybe there’s a place for fun and games in baseball. Maybe play and laughter can yield some pretty solid positive results. What better place to use laughter than on a team, capitalizing on the bonding spirit to enhance performance.

Even more amazing, they did indeed publish my letter to the editor.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Laughter Clears the Lungs

Well it happened again last night. Leading a laughter yoga program for a group of parents, when we were finished, one participant reported to me, that even though she didn’t know her lungs were clogged before she began the session, now at the end she realized her lungs were clear. Congestion she didn’t even know was there, until we began laughing, started breaking up.

Laughter is a combination of deep inhalations and full exhalations. This rhythm acts to clear the lungs of congestion. I’ve seen it repeatedly. Someone will start coughing during the session, an indication of this process beginning.

I once had a regular laughter club member with scleroderma, a disease characterized with the build-up of skin tissue. She also reported that her lungs would clear after our laughter sessions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Laugh at Yourself

We were sitting in her den chatting away like typical teenage girls. My friend in her rocking chair and I opposite her. When suddenly she rocked so exuberantly that she landed backwards in the fireplace behind her. I burst into laughter that was hard to stop. My friend was not amused and to this day I regret, with sadness, that she could not laugh at herself.

The above scene has come back to me many times over the years as one of the funniest sights I have seen and still brings me laughter.

Michael Miller, Cardiologist from the University of Maryland Medical Center, conducted a study on laughter, where he tested how 300 participants would react to slight amounts of stress, such as having a drink spilled on them at a party. Participants self-reported by answering a questionnaire. Half the participants had heart disease.

Dr. Miller found that those who were more able to laugh at themselves were more heart- healthy. Those with heart disease were 40 % less likely to see the humor in life’s everyday absurdities. It’s good for your heart to be able to laugh at yourself.

I hope if I ever land square in the fireplace, I’m howling with laughter. I can’t imagine what else I could do!

(Please know that there was no fire going at the time.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Laughter Tidbits

In the process of dismantling a house, decisions are being constantly made: what goes into storage, what doesn’t. I come across my singing dancing pirate – a gift from another laughter leader. Momentarily I think “storage unit”, until I press his button, mobilizing him into his hip- swinging dance, to the tune of “Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight, get down” sending me into peals of laughter. What was I thinking? Like the rest of the world, I placed laughter and silliness at the bottom of my list. I repented. The pirate comes with me.

While waiting on hold on the phone for Apple Support, I decide to open up my new “laughing video” I made of myself, and spend the next few minutes doing my laughter routine. The time sped by. I was still laughing when the nice young man came on the line. He seemed to catch the thrill, for it set the tone for a lively and fun MAC support session for both of us. Yet another practical use for my laughing video.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Integrity, Loss and Laughter

Over the past few months, I’ve had a falling out with three good friends over an integrity issue. It’s been difficult. Very difficult.

And I’ve felt it in my laughter programs – my spark lessened. I’ve known it’s a temporary loss - the peak in my laughter brightness gone a bit dimmer.

I remember my own words, the words I repeat before every laughter program: “If you can laugh when life becomes challenging, it’s something very special. It’s a profound life skill.”

I remember my other words: “As you learn to self-generate your own laughter, you learn to choose your own emotions; instead of your emotions choosing you.”

With these words, I choose to laugh again as brightly as before. I choose forgiveness. I choose love. And I allow my laughter to flow from there.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Laughs

My neighbor across the street has placed a voluminous replication of some creature on her front door. It looks like a cross between Yoga and Voldemort. Half benign, half devious. Whatever it is, it makes me laugh and laugh every time I emerge from my house.

Triggering Halloween thoughts, I dig out my one prop for this holiday – a chartreuse green feather boa, laughingly purchased at Costume & Display some years ago. I continue laughing even more.

A Japanese friend tells me a Halloween story, from when she first moved to our country. Walking into a bank for the first time, she was thrown into anxious confusion at the sight of tellers dressed in outrageous designs. We had big laughs over her reminiscing of her first knowledge of our end of October ritual.

A writer friend tells me about the two kids who came to his house dressed as lawyers, in business suits with brief cases and even business cards – hands down, the scariest ones to arrive at his front door.

I hope this Halloween has brought you much laughter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Laughter Clubs are a Great Thing, Oprah!

Laughter Clubs are a great thing Oprah!

In Oprah’s recent interview with author Daniel Pink (The Whole New Mind) for O Magazine, she comments, “Isn’t it kind of pitiful? You don’t have anything really to laugh about so you go to a club, you have a meeting to laugh?”

It’s comparable to saying, “Isn’t it pitiful you don’t really have anything to sing about, so you join a choir, you come together to sing?

I love Oprah for being a positive force in the world, but here she misses the point of laughter clubs. It’s more laughter. It’s more of a good thing. It’s going deeper. It’s doing it with others. It’s a celebration of laughter.

It’s my dream to appear on Oprah and have her experience the authentic joy of participating in the true spirit of a laughter club.

We come together and laugh because it increases the amount of laughter we have in our lives. Because the more we laugh for no reason, the more we find reason to laugh. Because the more we do of something that is healthy, the healthier we’ll be. Because the joy and emotional stability it gives us, carries over to the rest of our day, our week, or even our month.

For many of us our laughing spirit gets buried over the course of life’s challenges or just over the course of the daily grind. As one new laughter club participant told me, “That one evening extended my life two years.”

It’s like that choir. Or like meditation. The combined effect of laughing in a group profoundly enhances the experience, multiplies the effect. The combined energy raises the roof in exhilaration.

I once had a workshop participant leave my program on such an emotional high, that when he ran into a friend, his friend thought he was newly in love. He had that unmistakable glow! But it was from laughing with a group of 100 people.

Photo: Laughter Yoga International

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Evening of Joy

We had a joyous meeting last night of the Phinney Laughter Club. It was a smaller group of ten as we birthed our new laughter club, a reincarnation of the old one in Ravenna. For me it was a nostalgic evening. Exactly eight years ago, in October of 2001, I started my first laughter club at Phinney Neighborhood Center, across the hall in the Red Room. I feel blessed to still be at this business of bringing more laughter into the world. Thank you all who came last night. You were a beautiful crowd of laughers!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Laughing iMAC

I’m in love with my new iMAC!

With it’s built in digital camera and 20 inch screen I can create my own videos directly in front of my monitor. As a friend says, instead of bringing my camera to the action, I bring the action to my camera. My latest creation is a video of myself doing my morning laughter routine. Now anytime I need some laughs, I can just click on my video and laugh it up – with myself!!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun in Fremont

I live in Fremont now, the Center of the Universe, as the locals call it. There are organized groups of people in this community whose purpose it is to “keep Fremont fun”. Fremont is an easy place to laugh and play.

From my window today, I face a huge inflated pumpkin, sitting atop a spike in one of the low- rise buildings along the canal. With a ghoulish smile of shark-like yellow teeth, it invokes my morning laughter.

Julia Cameron, famed writing teacher, encourages aspiring writers to scribe their morning pages each day (three handwritten sheets), to keep their writing muscles toned and their words flowing. I prescribe morning laughter, to keep our laughter muscles in shape and enhance a steady flow of positive emissions. This October I’ll use the huge pumpkin. Tonight I’ll point it out to my dinner guests and we’ll laugh more. After the sun goes down, it illuminates like an element of fun plopped into the sunset.

Each morning I begin the day facing East to greet Mt. Rainier. When it’s not immersed in clouds, I get the full top-to-bottom, left-to-right view. It’s a special moment in my day. Now I’ll also turn West and laugh with the pumpkin!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Seattle International Comedy Competition

In it’s 30th year the Seattle International Comedy Competition is a great venue for adding more comedy to your life. It starts this year on Nov 4 and ends on Nov 29th and runs at various locations around Seattle. Basically it’s a month of comedy performances, in the form of competitions, until one final winner is chosen.

I discovered it two years ago, attended the semi-finals at Edmonds Center for the Arts, laughed for about 2 – 3 hours, left with a sore mouth and a belly full of laughter. Plenty of crude stuff, but the whole range of humor too. Some were doing the ethnic routine. One older man was doing a “seniors” routine. Something about leaving a glass around and someone will plop their teeth into it. Lots of young guys were doing the dating routine. A couple of teachers were doing the classroom routine, informing us they were educators by day, comedians by night.

At our venue it was down to 16 performers, each doing 5 minutes. The whole show began with a scruffy warm-up comedian, a veteran in the culture of comedy, and ended with an over-the-top seasoned performer. This last guy had me on that dangerous just-couldn’t-stop roll of laughter. He was “in the zone”. He had us so hooked, he could say anything and we would laugh. All this, while the judges did their judging. The evening ended with five finalists.

My all time favorite made it to the finals. He was one of those who you could just look at and laugh. Laughter was all over his face. Not the intellectual type, like Jerry Seinfeld. But the ever-ready to laugh type. I caught the spirit and everything he said left me in stitches.

This year I’m off to the event at the Kirkland Performance Center the day after Thanksgiving. Burn off the holiday calories in grand style! Hope to see you there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Invigorating Laughter

Imagine laughing under a cold shower first thing in the morning! It’s the ultimate in invigorating.

I got the tip from another laughter leader. It’s a variation on Dr. Kitaria’s wise prescription to start the day with 2 minutes of hearty laughter. Some health experts advise finishing off your hot morning shower with a minute of cold water to improve circulation, among other things. Add laughter to the routine and you’ve got an over-the-top experience of waking up your joyful spirit! Full disclosure: I’m really only at about 30 seconds of cold water with laughter, but it’s a great beginning. I get the ecstatic jolt!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Autism, Laughter & Speeding TIckets

From medicine to clowning: Ron Jenkins was a pre-med student with the goal to become a child psychiatrist when he changed his course to comedy. Ode Magazine highlights Ron in an article about how laughter can set people free.

Ron’s turning point was when he was working with a child with autism who never spoke, except to repeat words spoken to him, and never made eye contact. Yet Ron’s comical, silly, joking gestures broke through a barrier. The child started looking into his eyes and began initiating words!

Laughter is the ultimate universal language. When you can’t get through to someone any other way, laughter paves a road to connection. We all respond to laughter.

I recall an incident of being pulled over on the road by a police officer for driving over the speed limit. It was a residential area unfamiliar to me, near a school. I was simply ignorant and didn’t see the reduce speed signs. The officer was being extremely condescending and disrespectful until I told him I was on the way to a chiropractor for a problem with my leg. Somehow this broke the ice, causing him to joke about my lead foot needing healing. The opportunity to make a joke caused him to lighten up. My ever-ready laughter only helped more. He let me off without a ticket and I forgave him his attitude. In the end we bonded over our little joke.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Monday, September 7, 2009

Marriage needs Laughter

It is reported that with couples who have been married for more than seven years, the absence of laughter predicts the likelihood of divorce far more than the presence of outright animosity. In other words, the positive emotions of laughter are stronger in their effects than the negative emotions of disharmony.

So if you’re cruising along in a long-term relationship, in a day-to-day complacency, with a low level of passion, yet with no real discord, without the sounds of joyful laughter, that should be a BIG RED FLAG. Something crucial to a healthy relationship is missing.

Of all the issues we need to be aware of in relationships: honesty, integrity, spending enough time together, good communication, common values, I am pleased to see that creating consistent joy is an essential ingredient.

Far too often joy is not something we attend to. Priorities are work, responsibilities, family obligations; even vacations don’t always involve a lot of genuine joyfulness. It seems to be enough to just get away to another place. Being truly joyful in the experience isn’t always expected.

Laughter is the stuff of life, of really living life. It’s an important element in keeping the people we love, glued to us. Dacher Keltner, psychology professor at University of California, Berkeley, says “Our relationships are only as good as our histories of laughter together”.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ode Magazine

Ode Magazine is subtitled “For Intelligent Optimists” and this month’s issue (August) is all about laughter – all the great things I consistently lecture about:  how laughter evolved, the health benefits, why laughter in the workplace is a great thing, etc.  But the best part of the whole issue is the cover.  A radiantly beautiful African woman of many years beams out at you with a laugh on her face you can feel.  She’s beside herself with joy.  On the cover it asks "Why is this woman laughing?"  The editorial inside explains:  “because her grandson became President of the United States".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Laughter Yoga is Acting

Laughter yoga is acting, acting in its highest form, and in the fact that living life is acting.

Method acting is the term. It’s the form of acting that Marlon Brando did and it’s why he was considered the greatest American actor.

A truly great actor has lived a lot of life and consequently has a wide range of emotional experiences to draw upon. A truly great actor choose his emotions. “It’s onstage honesty.”* He isn’t acting; he is living his emotions on the stage. This is what they say Mr. Brando did. Every time he played a character, he embodied the intense emotions that that character portrayed, actually living those emotions. In this sense, he wasn't "acting". He was able to call upon these emotions in himself because he had lived them before in his emotionally wrenching early life.

In laughter yoga we do the same, only with positive emotions. We’ve all had the experience of laughing and we’ve all experienced the accompanying joy. This is what we recreate in ourselves in a laughter yoga session. I repeatedly tell participants it’s only my job to jump start everyone laughing and then it’s their job to self-generate their own laughter, with the support and contagiousness of everyone else, and with my continued modeling. Like Method Acting, it’s a process of creating the emotions of laughter.

Acting is a natural behavior, as natural as living life. As Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” We choose our actions in life. We choose what to do. We can also choose our emotions. This is really what emotional maturity is. We choose how to respond to different situations. We choose how to respond when someone expresses anger at us. We choose whether to react or to stay calm and centered. A truly effective life is one where we are always choosing both our actions and our emotions. Laughter Yoga is a great way to practice this.

As one Laughter Yoga student put it, “It’s nice to have a larger than normal portfolio of feelings to feel and for no particular reason.”

*Method Man, Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, Oct 27, 2008

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Favorite Laughter Yoga Exercises

Some of my Laughter Yoga students revealed their favorite laughter exercises and why. Here’s what they said:

The Handshake Laugh: “It felt the most natural and was a great way to start the sessions. Nothing quite compares to locking hands with someone sharing a laugh.”

The Static Electricity Laugh and The Tag Laugh: “My favorite laughs are the ones with a direct playfulness about the laughter, like the spark laugh where you touch someone’s finger, scream and then laugh; or the Tag Laugh where you touch someone like you were tagging them, then run away laughing; and the Seattle Rain Laugh that starts out with three quiet laughs and ends with the one big laugh because the sun came out. Just plain silly.”

Balloon Sword Fight Laugh: “It was fun to sword fight with everyone, taking a swing at somebody knowing they weren’t going to get hurt.”

Toss the Balloons: “There were moments when I just couldn’t help but laugh until I just about cried.”

Vowel Movement with Pom-Poms and Sword Fight with Balloons: “These are my favorites because it’s always fun to have props.”

Toss the Balloons Laugh: “My favorite laugh because it reminds me of when I was young. I used to always play with balloons. Because it has a significant relationship to my childhood, it makes me a happier better person.”

Seattle Rain Laugh: “I liked the difference between how the two types of laughs make me feel, the quieter laugh and then the explosion.”

The Wave Laugh: “This is my favorite where we pass the laugh around the circle. Because we are in a circle, it’s easy to see everyone’s laugh and that makes me laugh. I don’t know why but the laugh combined with the facial expression would just crack me up.”

The Scarf Toss: “It’s really crazy that this is my favorite laugh, but for some reason I just get real juiced and giggly when I start throwing all these scarves in the air. This other kid and I would always end up in the middle of the class tossing these scarves in the air and at each other and we’d be cracking up.”

The Vowel Movement: “This is my favorite laugh because it gives me that extra boost of energy right before the end of class.”

AND my personal favorite is The Hearty Laugh, where you throw your arms up in the air and laugh in an exclamation of pure joy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Breathe Correctly

In Laughter Yoga as in life, it’s important to breathe correctly.

Breathing correctly means two things: breathing through your nose and breathing from your diaphragm.

When you breath through your nose, the air if filtered, moistened and warmed. When you breath through your mouth, the air is dirty, dry and cold. We were designed to breath through our nose. If you’re not talking, eating, laughing or singing, your mouth should be shut.

When you breath from your diaphragm (located below the lungs and heart), your abdomen will move. As you inhale your abdomen will expand, blowing up like a balloon. As you exhale, your abdomen will deflate.

If you’re breathing incorrectly you’re probably hyperventilating, which simply means taking in too much oxygen by breathing too much and too fast. Most people in our society are hyperventilating without knowing it.

If you are breathing through your mouth, you are automatically breathing too much, because your mouth is three times bigger than your nose.

If you are breathing from your upper chest (as most adults are), you are automatically breathing too fast, as it takes less time to move air in and out of your chest. Breathing from your diaphragm automatically slows your breathing down.

In summary, if you’re hyperventilating already and then come to do laughter yoga, you could run into trouble getting light-headed, i.e. hyperventilating even more. When we laugh our breathing speeds up which is generally a great thing because it oxygenates the body. But if you’re already taking in too much oxygen, it can tip the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio off balance. For me this started to happen, after many years of leading laughter yoga sessions. I learned that I had been breathing incorrectly forever, i.e. I had chronic hyperventilation. I have since corrected that problem through proper breathing and have been able to enjoy all the great benefits of laughter yoga again.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Earth Laughs in Flowers

A large compact and perfectly round bud sits atop its leafy stem on this year’s peony. It’s the grandest plant in my garden this summer and it’s just about to burst open. You can feel it coming.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “The Earth laughs in flowers.” I can see why. The burst of exuberance is just the same. It’s the culmination of all our positive energy exploding in a forceful eruption. Just as the plant’s energy culminates in its production of a flower.

I’m an avid gardener. Perennials are my favorite. They come back year after year, growing larger and stronger and more magnificent each repeated spring, summer and fall. Annuals are fine to scatter here and there for added color and interest, but the perennials are my constant companions.

Each year as they bloom I see a correlation between our bursts of joy and theirs. We blossom when we laugh. It’s an explosion of joy. It’s power is undeniable. It can instantly clear a space of negative energy - sorrow, anger and stress. It’s the same when you place a bouquet of gorgeous flowers in a room. They light up the space and everyone’s mood along with it. They are healing and beautiful. Just as we are when we laugh.

Peak experiences aren’t the norm. They are those special moments that make life worthwhile. Like a plant when it finally makes its flower. Like us when we burst into joyful laughter.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Smiling Cars

The cars are smiling in Hawaii.

The electric cars in Hawaii toot down the streets with a smile on their faces.

During my one-week stay on Maui I spotted two of them. They look like glorified golf carts. They’re all electric, and like many of the public buildings in Hawaii, they’re mostly open to the warm tropical air with little bodywork on the sides besides structural bars. They seem to carry an ever present water bottle perched between the two front seats. Most distinguishing, the front grill has a definitive smile pattern to it, a large deep smile with headlights for eyes.

My online search on this subject tells me that Hawaii is the first state in the US to create a transport infrastructure that will allow cars to run almost entirely on electricity, involving 100,000 charging stations by the year 2012.

I found Hawaii to be a very magical place. Special things, great and small, happened to me while I was there. The sounds of tropical birds filled the air; a school of small sharks swam in the water off our local beach; we had a close encounter with a family of humpback whales; we attended a five-course luau with music, dancing and food from four different cultures of the South Pacific; we spotted 2 rare red palm trees (the stalks were solid red).

The smiling cars were a perfect added treat.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Follow the Sound of Laughter

Just before beginning a laughter program for a group of retired teachers, I sat off to the side listening to the sounds of scattered conversations. They were constantly peppered with the sounds of laughter. "This is going to be a great group" I thought. "They all know and enjoy one another." And so it was.

Years ago I took a four-day ferry trip from Seattle to Juneau. I used the thrifty mode of travel, sleeping on deck with the myriad of other interesting travelers. We had guitar playing, singing, joking, fun and laughter. I befriended two fun-loving young men on their way to Nome, Alaska, a place I had never heard of. An interesting college professor joined us daily on deck. Even though he was staying down below in a cabin, he knew this was where real life on the ship was happening. He was following the sounds of laughter.

I meet with a group of people each Friday at a coffee shop. Who actually makes it each week varies, but when it is a particular combination of four individuals, the laughter reigns. There’s something about our chemistry, our dynamics. I started this coffee club in an effort to maintain the sounds of our flowing laughter. Consequently others have been drawn in to it.

It’s a sure signpost of life – if you follow the sounds of laughter, you’re on the best road.

Photo: Stock.xchng

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I’ve never liked board games. Not as an adult anyway. They seemed boring, mindless, passive entertainment. When getting together with others on social occasions, I always preferred meaningful conversation, genuine connection, and engaging laughter.

But that was before Cranium.

I’d never seen my partner do a James Brown impersonation before. The laughter from that alone could last me a lifetime. It’s loosened him up and fed him to do more impersonations both on and off the Cranium board game.

An alliteration I created while playing Hoopla (one of Cranium’s offspring) morphed into a standard household joke. In fact I completely lost myself in a laugh-till-I-cried spell during that game, such that they had to turn off the timer until I recovered.

A friend’s recent Humdinger, both his warm-up concentration, and his subsequent delivery of a humming version of “Frosty the Snowman”, got me rolling in endless laughter. It remains a priceless memory.

I love Cranium because of the laughter it generates. Lots of it. And yet more laughter in the days and weeks that follow as the memories become household jokes as we work the humor over and over. It’s a great board game that stays with you, creating a treasure chest of comic memories. If you’re looking for some really good laughs – Cranium’s the ticket.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Laughing with 41 Disabled Adults

I led a laughter program recently for 41 adults, some physically disabled, many developmentally disabled. It was a beautiful thing!

They all participated in their own way and to their own degree. Some were in wheelchairs with little control over their bodies, yet it was my hope that the energy of laughter affected them positively. Many were sweet, simple, gentle human beings who glowed and giggled, smiled and played along.

An engaging young man, wheelchair- bound with little control over his physical self, conversed with me in extremely slow and slurred speech. He let me know how much he had been looking forward to this laughter session. He had heard about it from somewhere else and he was ready. He inquired what I had in my plastic bags, which I told him were some props, just to make the laughter more fun. He wanted to know if I had a website and what could he google in order to find it. He’s part of another group that meets monthly. He felt they would love this too. I was so touched by this astute young man with physical challenges I can’t imagine living with. Touched and inspired by his positive spirit and his involvement in life, to the best of his ability.

But most inspiring to me were the staff. So many bright cheerful uplifting people. They all participated fully in the program, including the director and assistant director, really making it happen. Two of them even want to become Certified Laughter Leaders. What a wonderful place. I feel blessed to have visited them.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Jolly Lama

I’m reading a book called “The Heart of the World”, subtitled “A Journey to the Last Secret Place”, about Ian Baker’s journey into uncharted territory in Tibet and his subsequent discovery of a legendary waterfall.

One of his fellow journeyers was a lama called Kawa Tulku, who the others dubbed “the Jolly Lama”. Throughout their challenging travels traversing unrelentingly harsh terrain, often including leech infested jungles, this lama remained an ever smiling and cheerful figure.

Two of the travelers, brothers, who after becoming drenched and caked in mud, with much swearing and bad dispositions, were able to cross a chest-high fallen log. They decided to hide in the bushes nearby to see how the lama would deal with this obstacle, convinced this would finally break his spirit.

Ian Baker recounts their observations:

“He trudged up to the log. Ever smiling he took a couple of steps back and tried his jump with a running start. With not enough momentum, coupled with a portly belly, he slid back down the log landing on his back in a large puddle, and bursting into spasms of uproarish laughter. Staggering to his feet, he repeated the maneuver, with the same result three more times. With each collapse back into the puddle, his laughter grew stronger and louder. On his fourth attempt he made it over, sliding headlong into the muddy puddle on the other side. Again with knee slapping laughter. He wiped himself off, lovingly patted the log like an old friend, and still chuckling proceeded up the trail.”