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.”