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The Bliss Blog

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Take a deep breath and then let loose with a deep belly laugh. Then another and another. I’ll wait. I bet that felt good. I know it does when I do it. We are born to laugh, hardwired for it. Watch a child explore the world and more often than not, it will include a whole lot of silliness, giggles, and guffaws. I’ve heard the kiddos laugh 100 times a day while adults may only indulge 15 times a day. Reason enough to experience childlike playfulness and wonder. For many, it has to be prompted by humor or comedy. What limits us is that belief, since what might be funny to you may have me rolling my eyes and groaning and vice versa.

World Laughter Day which occurs on the first Sunday in May (this year it falls on May 6th) celebrates all things ha-ha healing. It was created by pioneering laughologist and cardiologist Dr. Madan Kataria back in 1998, when he found that laughter had a multitude of benefits, including that of bringing people together in community. When we laugh together, all self-created and societally reinforced differences melt away. All over the planet in 108 countries, people gather to laugh it up on a regular basis. It is estimated that there are 6000 Laughter Yoga clubs since the inception of the modality 23 years ago. Imagine if our world leaders to could laugh together. Peace would not just be a distant possibility, but a here and now reality. Laughter is a universal language.

What are the benefits of sustained laughter?

*Science shows that the mind and body don’t know the difference between genuine laughter and fake laughter.

*You reap the same benefits either way, as long as you engage the diaphragm.

*To put it to optimal use, it is important to extend your laughter times, ideally laughing for 15-20 minutes a day.

*It has also been found beneficial in helping with addiction recovery.

*Start out by inserting some laughter into your already existing routine.

Full out belly laughs are an important part of the process as you engage your solar plexus and do diaphragmatic breathing. The physiological and psychological shifts are observable. They include increased blood flow and oxygen, release of pain relieving and pleasure-inducing hormones, decrease in cortisol (a stress hormone), as well as reduction in depression and anxiety.

After being immersed in laughter soup for most of my life, having grown up in a really goofy family, I decided to become a certified Laughter Yoga Leader which has enhanced my life in innumerable ways and increased my toolkit of strategies to work with clients and students. No matter what is going on in my life, I seem to find a way to laugh my way through it to the other side.

Throughout the world, people will be gathering to put this into practice and I can imagine the waves of love and laughter washing over us out into the world. Here in my area, Philadelphia, we will be joining to share the beauty and benefit of what is referred to as hasyayoga. It is a family-friendly, free event. I will be there, participating and teaching some way cool exercises.

As a teaser, this is how we celebrated last year.

Yesterday, I had breakfast with a celestial being who is newly arrived on the planet.  Her name is Lucy and she is the daughter of my niece Jena and her husband Brendan who I had the pleasure of marrying a few years ago out in California where they make their home. Wind back the clock to 1987, and Jena is something like three years old, standing next to her older sister Dana, both decked out in cute little floral dresses as the flower girls at my wedding to their Uncle Michael. Their brother Eric was probably around the age Lucy is now. The reason we were, along with her mom (my sister-in-law) Patty sitting opposite each other at breakfast was that Eric had just gotten married to Jasmine on Saturday in Harrisburg. Sadly, I was not able to attend the festivities since I was still recovering from pneumonia. Tearfully, I had the next best experience when my son Adam passed his phone around the room as I got to Facetime hug, dance and chat with family at the reception. They were decked out in fancy clothes and I was in jammies, bundled up in a blanket with a cup of tea at my side. Felt loved and included.

A few days later, I had the joy of greeting the newest family member, this brilliantly shining tiny human who locked eyes with me and I blinked first. It seems that she doesn’t miss anything and according to Jena, she is incredibly curious. One of the things I loved about the ways she and Brendan are raising her is that they want her to be well rounded and not just a pretty girl (that she is anyway with a full head of dark hair and chocolate brown eyes), but smart and talented and creative. So often in our culture, girls hear how cute, pretty, adorable, lovely, sweet and beautiful they are and boys are told how tough, rugged, smart and athletic they are. In this family, both the women and men are athletic, since Lucy’s grandmother Patty was a gym teacher and her grandfather Ray was a marathon runner and my other sister-in-law Lisa is a fitness trainer. Dana’s work is as a sommelier, but she focuses on fitness as well. The weekend Jena and Brendan got married, the family went for a run (I walked) for a few miles.

I had such a good time choosing outfits for Lucy and as is typical for me, I don’t subscribe to the ‘blue is for boys and pink is for girls,’ attitude about baby clothes. Instead, I picked fun onesies, shirts, and pants that had fanciful animals and affirming messages on them. One even had a full-maned little lion on the back of the pants.

One of the things I love about my relationship with my in-laws is that long after my husband’s death in 1998, we remain friends and I am invited to family gatherings  They came to Adam and Lauren’s wedding back in August and Adam and Lauren had a blast at Eric and Jasmine’s celebration. As I look at the two cousins, I am amazed that these once upon a time little dudes, grew to be mature young men with linebacker physiques, married to the loves of their lives.

I’m sorry I missed hugging the newlyweds,  as well as Dana and Ray. Will catch up with them over the next few months, I imagine.

 

For Jasmine and Eric, I share the blessing I would have wanted to offer them at their wedding, had I been there:

I Know You by Heart

 From the words you whisper in my ear

To the glow in your eyes when you look into mine

From the late night talks we share

To the little things you do to brighten my day

From the way you take care of me when you sense I am in need of a little TLC

To the way you share secrets with me that you have never told another living soul

Thank you for letting me into your heart

I love you with all of mine.

 

I offer these words for Lucy as I have done for those whose baby blessings I have done over the years:

May your mind be clear and focused

May your voice speak truth with kindness

May your heart love beyond limits

May your hands do good in the world

May your feet keep you grounded and take you where you need to go

And may you know God as your constant companion on all your journeys

Someone asked me last week what it feels like to have pneumonia since he (thankfully) has never experienced it. What came to mind was a feeling of drowning, with water rising in a boat and I couldn’t keep up with bailing out. Ironically, a few weeks ago I had a dream in which a ship in which I was sailing was being flooded and no one noticed but me. Since I have portentous nocturnal visions, this came as no surprise. Clearly, I needed to heed my own impressions and drop anchor and float for a bit. Medical intervention in the ER, at my local hospital and now at home, are helping, in addition to prayers, naps, healing treatments from friends both at a distance and in person. Reiki, Quantum Sun Source Energetics, Reflexology and Somatic Therapy. What I have noticed is that while I have experienced each of these modalities, the pain in my ribs from coughing has decreased dramatically and my breathing has eased.

Initially, I wondered about the ratio between the success rate of each intervention…how much mainstream and how much metaphysical or holistic. My answer was, ‘who cares?’ All I know is that I feel better. It provided insight into what it might be like for my clients who face chronic conditions. Even in the depths of near despair, I knew that there was an endpoint to the illness. For some of those I serve, they have no clue when or even if the symptoms will dissipate. The added anxiety or depression contributes to the level of discomfort. I was able to keep my feelings of angst under wraps by encouraging self-talk and listening to the wise words of others. I am giving myself ample time to recover which is rare for this go-getter workaholic who has a hard enough time sitting still, let along stopping for an extended period. Over the years and in the face of blessedly short-term acute conditions such as shingles, heart attack, and kidney stones, I have taken time off and then resumed steady and sometimes increasing activity, convincing myself that I can handle it. For the short term, I can manage anything, knowing that there is an endpoint and one morning I will wake up and realize that I feel dramatic improvement. Getting there. No rush.

During the Somatic Therapy session, Donna,  the practitioner in training asked me to dialog with various body parts and what I came up with astounded me. One area had me imagine a triangular shaped scone (now I think of it as cranberry orange flavor) and the idea that there needs to be a balance, thus the three corners. At one point, we spoke about my awareness of a safety net that could catch me if I fell, since trusting myself to surrender to the care of others is paramount. I saw it as if it were a bouncy trampoline that could actually provide fun. At another moment in the session, I became aware of the existence of a small and high bouncing super ball that represented my state of being much of the time. Often, I feel like I am here, there and everywhere, unpredictably.  We transformed it into a squishy, squeezy stress ball that I could turn to when feeling overwhelmed. Another metaphor that arose had to do with transforming the rushing flood waters into an easy flowing stream. It brought to mind something I enjoy doing in the summer which is tubing along the Delaware River. Sitting in an inner tube and allowing the flow to carry me rather than paddling through the tide is much more pleasurable and far less fatiguing. By the time I rolled off the table, I felt far more grounded and slept well last night.

Today,  I ventured out to my office for a short visit to make phone calls and do some errands. I was going to say ‘run some errands,’ which is typical of me. I often say I am ‘going to jump in the shower,’ and ‘grab breakfast/lunch/dinner,’ as if I had to rapidly move through the day to get stuff accomplished. Not so, if I want to stay healthy. My mother used to advise, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” When I returned,  I felt wiped and see a nap in my future.

I am reminded of the story of the tortoise and the hare…slow and steady wins the race.

I am writing this article from my bed, listening to music designed to heal body, mind, and spirit. On my bedside table, in the bathroom, and on the kitchen counter is ample evidence that this 59-year-old body is facing yet another round of challenges. I was diagnosed with asthma at age 4, shortly after my beloved grandmother died following a stroke. Losing her was like saying goodbye to a third parent, although I didn’t know at the time what an impact that would have on the rest of my life. I am certain that my family and I grieved together, but my parents modeled (as they did with everything) how to keep on keepin’ on, not missing a step. It wasn’t about appearances or hiding emotions; rather it seemed more about resilience building. I learned it well, and YET, here I am all those years later, recovering from pneumonia that was foreshadowed with challenging episodes of breathing, of running at a rapid pace, not taking time to slooow down and just BE, as if I really know what that means anyway, even as I suggest it to clients and students.

I was forced to do that when, feeling like my lungs were awash, I went to the ER after seeing my PCP the day before. I thought I would simply need a nebulizer treatment and then I would be on my way home. No such… as the doc diagnosed me with pneumonia and told me I would be a guest of the hospital for a few days while they got me stabilized. Family and friends came to visit, call, and send messages online. Reiki and all kinds of healing modalities were offered. Two days after I came home, I was on a coaching call with Lori Ann Davis, whose skills and guidance are assisting me in calling into my life, the partner of my dreams and desires. I first discovered this relationship powerhouse via a series she is part of called Radical Dating. We have been working together for the past year and although men have shown up in my life, I have not yet met the One. At this moment, it feels like a blessing, since another round of relationship lessons has arisen. This one is about not needing to be superhuman to attract a superhero partner. I have been exploring the mystery for decades why I have needed to be invulnerable and invincible to attract lifelong love. Being a caregiver has always felt like insurance against abandonment. On occasion, I have allowed others to take care of me, but only of necessity, this being one of them. I can do my own ADLs, with minor help, like getting a shirt on over my head due to rib injury from coughing too hard. During our session, what arose was that I needed to let things be easy, rather than working so hard for it all. Although I give lip service to taking ME time, this time, there was no excuse since by doc’s orders, I need to take time off from my counseling job and stay home. Now THAT is a huge stretch since my anxiety about financial limitations and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) by curtailing activities is looming large. I have renegotiated, rescheduled and just outright said no to requests. In the hospital, I watched junk tv, and when a friend brought me some magazines, one was a celebrity tabloid. As I perused the pages, I rolled my eyes at their antics.

I told Lori Ann that I felt I was on the upswing, having slept well the night before and was breathing with greater ease. Spoke too soon, when I coughed too hard and felt my right ribs scream as if I was stabbed between them. I’ve been there before with an intercostal strain. Within short order, I was back in the car as a friend drove me to the ER where I had another nebulizer treatment and sent home with a muscle relaxer and the machine to use here.

I contemplated the journey I am on and know that I need to take the time while I am home to dive deep. I am a firm believer that life keeps handing us a library of lessons and it is up to use to decide which reading material to explore. I also realized this morning, that if love alone was enough, I would be totally healed. I am willing to breathe it in, like the steam from the machine sitting by my bed. I am willing to absorb it through every pore in my skin. I am willing to embrace it as I embrace others.