And why you are resisting it
I once lived with a fairy and a clown doctor.
No, I’m not kidding.
One of my housemates was going to hospitals, dressed up as a clown, making the patients laugh and bringing them emotional support, (contrary to common belief a clown doctor does not take care of all the sick clowns around…) and the other one used to dress up as a fairy and be hired for kid’s birthday parties.
It was a time of emotional expansion for me. I was just coming out of my long and serious spiritual quest and a 7-year relationship. Through my fairy friend, I was introduced to Laughter Yoga. And I hated it.
I felt so stupid doing it. Very good, very good, Yeah! Ho ho ha ha ha!
C’mon, how ridiculous and contrived can it get? It wasn’t funny at all and in fact, it felt more like effort and a work-out than fun.
Somehow, even though I wasn’t convinced about the whole thing (I really thought it was a bunch of losers coming together not having anything better to do with themselves) I kept going back every Monday afternoon, 5 pm South Beach, Western Australia.
Truth is that I felt good afterward.
I felt more present, more grounded, more alive, and more sane. So I guess there was part of me that recognized the benefit, even though my Ego didn’t like the process.
And then, it happened, I had a breakthrough during the class.
Rather than forcing and faking it, it just started flowing: something released and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was orgasmic!
It was pure joy as waves and waves of energy rolled through my body and released accumulated tension leaving me wide-eyed in communion with the divine
As I was surrendering to the waves of laughter, my psyche was clearing out all stagnated energies in the form of thoughts, images, and emotions. I could literally see what I had been ‘clinging’ to and taking too seriously.
And it made me laugh even harder because the notion of holding onto anything was so funny!
Then the tears came, and the energy was opening my heart. I cried for all the things that stopped me from being able to love more. But even that was funny and I kept laughing at my tears and my sadness. Realization of the truth was striking me hard:
I saw the whole damn tragedy and ignorance of my Ego and it was so hysterically ridiculous, I couldn’t stop for hours.
ALL OF IT felt ecstatic. Afterward, I felt like a newborn baby. Like God had personally tickled every little cell in my body from the inside.
10 years later, I call myself a Laughter Yogi and I see Laughter as the biggest asset in my life.
Sometimes when I come home from work and I feel tired, drained, and disconnected, I lie down on the floor and just start laughing.
There is always resistance to doing it, and not always am I successful in overcoming it. Sometimes the attachment to ‘my story’ is stronger than the awareness of the pain it is causing me.
That’s ok, too. Certain things let go of themselves when we are ready. But when I do get into it, it feels like taking a shower from the inside. The past is released and I’m back in the Now.
About the physiology of laughter
What I learned about myself is this:
1. It’s practice
you can train your brain to go to laughter as a default mechanism for resetting. It’s literally something that you can teach yourself.
When we laugh our diaphragm gets a workout. I realized that we store a lot of our ‘seriousness’ there. It’s the center for ‘I am so important’, ‘Life is serious’, and ‘if it doesn’t happen the way I want it, I’m f*cked or die’.
Think about it: every time you get worried or stressed, you probably hold your breath. And how do you do it? By contracting your diaphragm.
In spiritual terms, it’s your Solar Plexus, your 3rd Chakra, that stands for your personal power and your individuality. All ideas, images, and self-concepts, your psyche stores there in the cells of the tissue. And if you hold onto those beliefs very tightly, it translates to a lot of tension in your diaphragm, which is a muscle that can be released.
2. It’s ok to feel stupid.
(Your resistance is there for a reason)
That’s also why we have resistance to laughter. Because physically it feels uncomfortable to release tension. It’s the same resistance that you may have to a Yoga class or any other workout for example. Stretching those hamstrings is painful and sometimes we really don’t want to feel it. But if you have done it before, you know how good it will feel after, so you do it anyway.
Same here. But it goes a little bit deeper because there is so much emotional charge there. Letting go of the tension also means letting go of a part of your story, or yourself.
It also means showing your vulnerability. Why do we hold onto those images? Because we are insecure about our own worthiness, so we protect ourselves by creating images that give us a sense of security. If I am like that, then people will like me.
And if I let go of that image then everyone will see that I was scared to show myself before and that I was just pretending. To our Ego, that’s terrifying.
And it is.
As liberating as it may be, I would never suggest it is an easy thing to do.
To laugh at yourself is advanced spiritual arithmetics. That’s why the Buddha is always shown with a smile.
And that’s why in ancient traditions there was always the archetype of the ‘sacred clown, fool, jester’, that pokes us all in the right places to show us our folly.
It’s a practice and it requires repetition. So whether you find yourself a local laughter club or you simply commit to ‘the willingness’ of letting go, it’s up to you. But know this: if you are stressed and feeling drained, the only reason is that you are taking yourself too seriously and your diaphragm is contracted.
3. Your brain doesn’t know the difference
Laughter Yoga is based on the principle that whether you laugh for real or you are faking it, your brain doesn’t actually know the difference. It still releases all the feel-good hormones. So you can hack your physiology to become a master of feeling good! How cool is that?
You start laughing for no reason and as you do, you start feeling better as your body gets flooded with endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin.
No need for taking drugs anymore.
4. Laughter creates connection
Doing Laughter Yoga workshops at a retreat, for example, is the fastest way to break the ice in a new group. Once you have laughed together, you instantly feel safer. Why? Because you have shown your vulnerability.
We don’t laugh when we are all uptight about ourselves. We laugh when we feel safe enough to let go and doing it together brings everyone in the same boat instantly.
All of a sudden a CEO from a very important company and the Hippie from the beach meet on a common ground, which is their body. And with that the fact (sorry to spring this on you)
that we are all gonna die
Yep, we will. That’s why it’s so very funny to try to hold onto anything, especially our sense of separation.
So when we meet in laughter that disappears and we agree to connect exactly as we are, with all that we cling onto. Afterward, there is a feeling of compassion towards self and others and a sense of having seen each other. Which, really, is priceless.
So my friends, go forth and enjoy your laughter. Know that it’s the fastest and easiest vacation from your Ego and the best way to stay sane in this mad world we are creating, where everyone is so busy running.
After what I’m not exactly sure. :)
If you like what you read, you can buy me a coffee! Thank you!
Kasia Patzelt is an Artist, Laughter Yogi, and Embodiment Coach. She helps people to release trauma and learn the art of self-compassion through embodiment practices and creativity.