Saturday, June 19, 2010

Traveling with a Smile

Joyce Majors, author of Smiling at the World, explains how she felt safe as a woman traveling alone and volunteering for numerous organizations around the globe. She accredits her smile. It’s the main reason, she cites, for feeling and remaining safe in her travels. She smiles a lot. Smiling kept her engaged with others especially when there was a language barrier. Smiling, like laughing, is disarming.

As the Dalai Lama said (in his broken English) when he came to Seattle to plant the Seeds of Compassion Conference: “Smiling is a reflection of no kind of barrier.” Smiling creates an immediate connection, a positive connection, even an intimacy between strangers. You feel safe with someone who smiles at you. You can immediately relax.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Authenticity and Laughter

It takes an authentic person to laugh, really laugh. Laughter is a real emotion, as real as it gets.

I posted something about Barack Obama and his laugh when he was running for President, noting that his laugh was a clear indication that he was a truly authentic person. Unusual in politicians.

I thought about this recently as I mourn the death of a friendship. Someone I knew, and thought I knew fairly well, has mostly been promoting an image, an image of himself as something he is not. It’s been mind-boggling to discover. But as I look back on the course of our friendship, I recall that he seldom laughed. He was always too guarded, too careful, too unwilling to let himself really be himself.

A friend recently asked me what it is that I value most in a friendship, and I found myself answering “authenticity”. It’s the measure of who someone really is - and laughter is one of the best yardsticks of it.

As Dostoyevsky once said: “If you wish to glance inside a human soul and get to know a person, just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Life of Brian" Baby

Need an extra push in the delivery room? Try some hearty laughter!

Recently I led a program for a group of local physicians, one of whom relayed this great story to me.

On duty in the delivery room of a hospital, a woman under his care was close to delivery. Yet it seemed she was more focused on watching the comedy movie “Life of Brian” and on laughing. He was trying to get her to turn off the movie and focus on getting her baby out. With no success. She continued to watch her comedy. The next thing he knew he lifted the blanket and there was the baby. It sounded instantaneous. What a wise woman to continue on with her comedy and laughter.

It’s true laughter can induce labor by putting pressure on the abdomen. I’m sure that the relaxation of laughing helps even more.

Before I lead a laughter yoga session I run through a list of health warnings. Because laughter is hearty exercise and in laughter yoga we laugh for a sustained amount of time, there are some reasons to go gentle. Of particular concern are those in the later stages of pregnancy. My standard precaution is “You need to go easy or perhaps not participate”. The pressure on the abdomen could push someone out a little too soon. I’ve heard of this happening. More than once. Although in all stories I’ve heard, the enhanced delivery was welcome and on schedule.

Remember that the next time you’re giving birth. Laughter can help. And who wouldn’t want to come into the world in an environment of laughter? What mother wouldn’t want to give birth in the spirit of laughter? It’s good for you and it’s good for your baby.