Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is it Madness to Laugh?

In the midst of, what surely must be the most amazing mad scene in all of Lucia history, Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, as the title role Lucia, lets out a laugh.

It causes me to wonder, is it madness to laugh?


To laugh in the face of adversity, can surely be considered madness. A good kind of madness. To blow off the stress of a difficult situation, to stare adversity in the face and defiantly choose to laugh. Yes indeed, laughter is a good kind of madness.

Like insanity, laughter separates us from reality, if only for a brief moment. It pulls us out of real time, into our own explosion of joy

Nervous laughter is that strange phenomenon, that demonstrates how we unconsciously use laughter as a coping mechanism. When we’re a bit on edge about something, we instinctively laugh. It’s the body’s wisdom to release stress in this way.

Yes Lucia, laugh. Laugh for it’s all gone so terribly wrong for you. Laugh and get at least a moment’s reprieve from the tragedy of it all.

For those of you who don’t know Donizetti’s famous opera Lucia de Lammermoor, the story goes: Lucia has been forced to marry a man she’s never met by her evil brother Enrico, who convinces Lucia her beloved Edgardo has been unfaithful, at which point she murders her new husband and understandably goes mad. Pure opera drama.

For those of you who might be even mildly interested in opera, this current performance at Seattle Opera is not to be missed. It’s a Lucia like you’ve never seen before. It’s got all the drama, the beautiful music, the fantastic staging and rousing chorus, and most importantly extraordinary dramatic acting matching exquisite musical ability. It’s a night at the opera you’ll never forget.

And there's that laugh in the midst of it all.

Photo: Rosarii Lynch/Seattle Opera

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Music and Laughter

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is pure joy! If music could laugh, this would be it.

I woke up this morning in a joyful mood. So I put on Vivaldi to match my spirit.

Sometimes when I need an emotional boost, I play a CD called “Mozart for a Merry Christmas”, and let that joyful music that Mozart created, shift my energy and change my mood for the better. It’s uplifting. There’s no denying it.

A new study from Mexico found that listening to Mozart and Bach significantly helped to improve the psychological mood of depressed patients, as opposed to engaging in talk therapy. (Chavez, University of Oaxaca).

Dr. Kimata, an allergist in Japan, conducted a series of studies using the Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. Using the film to get subjects to laugh, he tested them before and after, for allergic reactions. He found those reactions to be significantly less after laughing. In one study he altered his approach and used the music of Mozart. Again he found a positive response (though interestingly not with the music of Beethoven).

Music raises our vibration, same as laughter, especially when we sing, raising our voices in song.

I sometimes think that if we only opened our mouths to sing or laugh or kiss, what a beautiful world this would be. Perhaps we could simply sing, laugh and kiss more.

A friend of mine has a theory that, the Italians in Italy don’t snack and overeat, like so many Americans, because they’re always kissing. Hmmmmm.

But I stray from the subject at hand.

Laugh, sing, listen to Vivaldi or Mozart or whatever else lifts your spirit, and allow your joy to rise.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smiling is a Gift

Smile at someone. It’s a gift.

It’s possible to lift someone’s whole day with this simple act. Lift yourself in the process.

It’s easy to smile at children. It’s slightly harder to smile at that old person sitting alone on the park bench. It’s not common in our culture to smile at people we don’t know. It’s much harder to smile at someone we don’t like.

Yet it’s a simple act. It takes only a second or two. And its impact is lasting. Consider taking the time to do it more often.

An anonymous person said, “Smile awhile, for when you smile another smiles, and soon there’s miles and miles of smiles because you smiled.”

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Natalie Goldberg says Practice

Natalie Goldberg, famed author on the art of writing, says there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Just put pen to paper and go. Don’t worry about what comes out. War and Peace won’t come out on the first try. Practice.

She makes a football analogy. Players on the field have practiced many times over. I’ll make an ice skating analogy. When we watch Olympic champion Yuna Kim perform a flawless routine, as Peggy Fleming says, she’s done it so many times it’s engrained into her body.

How is laughter any different?

Laughter Yoga is the same for some people. Laughing a lot, laughing in a sustained way, laughing for no reason and laughing on my command, may not come out perfect the first few times. Practice. And your laughter evoles.

Many people just don’t laugh enough. Many have very rusty laughter muscles.

Practice is what we do in the Laughter Club. We practice laughing. The more we practice, the better we get.

Then one day we’re laughing experts. We’ve had lots of practice at the Laughter Club. We find more reasons in life to laugh. We create a treasury of laughter.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Pumpkin is Back!

It’s October in Fremont and the pumpkin is back!

It’s huge, orange, ghoulish, smiling, and sits atop a spike on one of the buildings down by the canal. As I open my shades in the morning, it’s still glowing in the dark. And it gets my morning laughter rolling.

Get your daily dose of laughter in whatever way you can. One half hour is a good formula. Several studies have been done using this dose.

One study was conducted at the Institute of California. It was found that one half hour of comedy daily lowered the risk of heart attacks.

In this study, they gathered participants who had already had one heart attack. One group (the lucky ones) was instructed to watch one half hour of comedy daily. The control group (the unlucky ones) did not.

Forty-two percent of those unlucky participants (the ones with no half-hour of daily comedy) had a second heart attack. Only eight percent of the lucky ones (those with one-half- hour of daily comedy) had a second heart attack.

Laugh daily. It’s important.

May this Halloween season help you along.

Photo: Stock.xchnge