Laughter Lightens The Load

laughing buddhaNotice how much better your day goes with a good belly laugh? Do you have a friend, a relative, a pet, or a TV show that makes you laugh? Do you understand how laughter enriches your life? Laughter is a part of my daily spiritual practice. How about you?

The scientific, as well as anecdotal, evidence is clear that laughter is good for us. It is a great healing agent. It is efficacious emotionally, physically and mentally, so we should cultivate the people, places and things that encourage us to laugh.

Why not take a moment today to write a list of people, and things, that consistently make you laugh? Everything on your list is a blessing and should be cherished and encouraged.

On Wednesday evening, January 30, my Center For Positive Living is offering a Laughter As Meditation workshop, so if you are close to Carlsbad, CA, you might choose to be there. Whether you attend or not, you can use grease the wheels of your days with laughter.

Be on the lookout for jolly resources. Cultivate them. Make time for laughs! It is a fairly simple thing to call your grandchild on the telephone for a laugh. It is also easy to tape a talk show that makes you laugh and then watch it at your convenience .

Begin to notice where you are putting your relationship energy. Make sure to give some attention to friends who laugh, not just the friends who ask for help with problems.

Friendships should be balanced and fun, not just based on solving problems. Sometimes we nice New Thought people can spend our energy on helping others and forget to help ourselves. Let’s not focus on healing rather than staying well.

Two friends visited me last week and I realized one reason I treasure their company is that we laugh. Their joy is contagious. One thing we laughed about was my eccentric taste in movies.

I am convinced that My Man Godfrey, starring  Carol Lombard and William Powell is hilarious. It is one of those screwball comedies from the 1930’s that I’ve seen in many, many times. I showed it for them once and they didn’t laugh. But they have been laughing at me ever since.

I don’t see these friends often since they live 3000 miles away but when I do, it is a blessing. I have many other friends who are closer in distance who also make me laugh and they are also blessings.

I talk to my sister every day and we often laugh together. Our childhood history wasn’t always so light-hearted but much of it is funny in retrospect. We didn’t just survive, we thrived. And there are many day-to-day stories that are also laughable.

One gift my family shares is a sense of humor. It’s in our DNA.  At times, our sense of humor can be can be a bit dark but it never intends to be cruel. We should all be careful to laugh with people, never at people. All it takes is a little mindfulness. Staying centered in love while we are laughing is important.

Sometimes people have totally forgotten how to laugh. Or they never learned. Many people come to the New Thought teaching to lighten and brighten their world. Some simply don’t know how to laugh. It may be bewildering to begin the search for laughter if you truly never crack a smile.

If someone asked me how to “safely” learn to laugh, I would suggest starting with movies. I’d also say to go for the simple, clean-hearted oldies.  Skip the edgy, raucous stuff of 2012 and go back to the brighter eras on the silver screen. Despite Depressions and Wars, those comedies were really light hearted.

Right now, I have a selection of Danny Kaye movies that are waiting for me on my DVR. When he begins his amazing double talk, I will laugh out loud. He made them during World War Two when people really needed a laugh.

Want to learn to laugh? Experiment with the movies. See what makes you laugh. Do you love Lucille Ball? Does Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie seem truly funny? How do you like the Three Stooges? And what about Shrek? Do you find the wry comedy of Woody Allen irritating or irresitable?

In your experimentation, notice how your general emotional climate grows happier even if personal situation doesn’t change rapidly. A good laugh can make any problem feel more manageable.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was clearly life threatening. One of the things I did as a part of my healing program was to watch a lot of comedies on TV. I cut out all tragic drama and  sad songs. Of course, I also did many other things including daily prayer. Others also prayed for me. And I had excellent medical services.

I don’t think that watching Gene Kelly sing in the rain, or Woody Allen stumble through his New York stories healed me. On the other hand, I do believe the comedies lifted my health consciousness, just as the prayers did.

You don’t have to have a life altering challenge to decide to bring more laughter in your life. It is just a simple issue of becoming more aware of what you are doing and thinking during your day. Practicing mindfulness about laughter is easy and it will pay off.

Recently, I watched W.C. Fields in a movie and he was– giving a professorial lecture on the human body. He was very pompous, talking about his miracle cure, with the authority of a snake oil salesman. He said,”My latest survey shows that 3 out of 4 people make up 75% of the world’s population.”

That’s nonsensical statement that is makes fun of authority and it makes nearly everyone laugh. I could also offer statistics but don’t want to make a big deal out of the fact that laughter helps us.

I don’t want to be like the W.C. Fields or the Wizard of Oz – those all American windbags. I’m not  going to promise that laughter is a panacea. I have no charts of human anatomy showing how laughter floats through your body and/or your life, clearing away all disease.

But just for a moment… Imagine I am an old time medicine woman with a chart and I’m moving my wand down through the organs until I get to the place in my gobbledegook lecture where I point to the liver and say, “And now the liver – very good with bacon and onions.”

Surprised? That made me laugh very hard when I saw Fields do it. Maybe it seems silly to you so I will just tell my truth. Laughter is good for you. Try it, you’ll like it.

Ask Yourself

Who makes me laugh?

What makes me laugh?

What do I want to do to add more laughter to my life?

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Laugh Lines

 Who is your favorite comedian? What makes you laugh? Do you have a special friend that you laugh with? When did you last laugh out loud? Do you consciously seek laughter? Why? Why not?

By now, most people in New Thought know that laughter helps you to be happier and healthier. Scientific studies are always extolling the virtues of a good belly laugh. It is excellent exercise for body and spirit. On Sunday, our pastors remind us, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine”.

New Thought encourages a light heart and plenty of laughter in our lives. I am a teacher and student of New Thought with a background in psychology. I have even written some comedy during my long career as a writer. Yet, I don’t laugh every day unless I make it a conscious choice.

On most days, I do my own spiritual practice then I talk and pray with my prayer partner. After that, I work on my writing, pay bills online, play AARP memory games and make phone calls. I might meet a friend for lunch or run some errands. I finish my day by watching the news and a movie or reading a book.

My days are pleasant and I enjoy life it but they tend to focus on helping others and work. Sometimes I forget about how funny life is. Why is it that?

It would be wrong to say nothing funny happened. Truth is, I just need to pay attention. Or make some other choices. Mostly, it’s a matter of choice and habit. We are not stuck in our habits of thought if we think about it a bit.

New Thought is all about learning to think differently. We choose to look on the bright side and that choice does become habitual. That’s what I teach and what I live.

For example, I’ve consciously developed an attitude of gratitude. When I rise in the morning I make my gratitude list and that sets the pattern for my day. Over the years, it has become second nature to look on the bright side of life.

I’ve also quit drinking and smoking and cut down on silly eating. These addictions were triggered by habits of thinking that I erased. I’ve changed my thinking in so many ways, I know I can make laughter a habitual response to life. I can change my thinking and change my life.

A long time ago, when I took a graduate seminar in comedy, I discovered I was very confused about what passed for comedy. My thesis was supposed to answer the question, “Is Kafka Funny?” I said no but it turned out the professor had written a book on Kafka’s comedy. He thought I was wrong and I thought I was right. We did agree that the C minus he gave me wasn’t funny.

I still don’t think it is funny when the hero wakes to discover he’s turned into a bug, which is what happened in Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis. When I read that famous short story, I felt sorry for the poor bug. Cruelty and pain are the edgy part of some comedy and that doesn’t make me laugh.

That’s what happens to me- even in movies. I react with empathy instead of laughter. I just don’t think it’s funny when the fat lady slips on a banana peel. I always hated those cartoons where the rooster got flattened by a hammer and then would spring up again. I looked to me as though that hammer hurt the poor rooster a lot.

But I do love to laugh and I do believe it is good for us. Many years ago when I was in chemotherapy for breast cancer, I decided to choose only “happy, happy, happy” stories and I have stayed with that habit. It is a part of my spiritual practice and it works for me.

My comedy choices avoid ridicule, sarcasm and violence. The old movie Sullivan’s Travels makes a perfect argument for the value of comedy and I agree.  However, the prison and poverty scenes are not funny. I actually preferred the modern take off Oh Brother Where Art Thou. George Clooney and the music are fabulous.

What I like best is surprises. A total surprise is always good for a belly laugh from me. I laughed out loud when my six-year-old nephew poured coke on my friend’s bald spot. I laughed out loud when the hero stepped off the silver screen into real life in Purple Rose of Cairo.

Seinfeld is good on surprises. Cary Grant and Woody Allen have perfect timing when it comes to prat falls and other site gags. I love also a good site gag.

One of my favorite movies in the whole world is The Lady Eve. I like it when Henry Fonda falls over and spills stuff at the formal dinner party. He then changes his clothes and proceeds to fall and change several more times. I have seen the movie at least 25 times and I always laugh out loud at Fonda’s tumbles.

I learned to love screwball comedies from the 30’s and early 40’s during chemotherapy and they are still my best laughter flicks. Others on my best laughs list are My Man Godfrey and Bringing Up Baby.

Whenever anyone is down in the dumps, I suggest, “Bring in the clowns!” Danny Kaye was brilliant for a lot of reasons, including his marvelously responsive face. Lucille Ball’s TV show offers that same flexible reflection to life. She is the world’s best clown. Woody Allen came much later but he’s also a great clown and comedian. Have you seen Hollywood Ending?

The movies aren’t the only laugh triggers but they are easy because you can rent them. It’s more difficult to rent friends. And friends you can laugh with are treasures to be nurtured. I have a couple of friends who are always good for a laugh or two. The ones close to my age are the best. We are now getting to the place where we are so delighted to still be here that we think life is a great, big, wonderful joke.

Real laughing friends are wonderful. Imaginary movie laughter is also great. You can also be your own best friend if you put your mind to the funny things in your journaling. There’s nothing that says a memoir has to be about the struggles you’ve overcome. It can also include the laughter and fun you’ve found.

Your thoughts can be trained to include observations of the funny things are in life. I can make myself laugh out loud right now just by thinking about how things have changed.

My sister and I sometimes talk about our high school algebra teacher. Mr. Baker walked up and down the aisles, shaking his head and saying it was a shame we girls couldn’t just learn to bake biscuits instead of math. He was certain we would soon be married and our husbands would take care of all those nasty bills. I have been widowed twice and self-supporting. My sister has been a widow for many years and successfully manages her estate. Mr. Baker’s opinions always good for a laugh.

Of course life is no joke but laughter is good for us so it’s smart to seek out the light and bright stories in our days. We can decide how and where to send the light of our consciousness.

There are times when a good laugh is the true healing we need most. Our ability to laugh may also help people around us. I thank God that I can look at my own life and see that the laugh is on me.

Ask Yourself

What made you laugh today?

What makes you laugh generally?

What are your favorite comedians?

What friends make you laugh?

Would you like to laugh more?

How might you add laughter to your life?