This weekend was A.MAZ.ING! I was fortunate to have the opportunity to become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader!
HO HO, HA HA HA!
The certification class was a beautiful blessing which brought with it several unanticipated gifts. Knowing where to begin sharing my story is a bit difficult and so I will begin with a proverb that my Mãe (mother in Portuguese) used to share especially during hard times, namely around her chemo sessions: É melhor rir do que chorar. (It is better to laugh than to cry.)
Stop and think about that for a bit.
What does it mean? How many interpretations can come from this reflection? No doubt children will come to different conclusions than will adults. My own conclusion is that it is a wonderful life philosophy and one that I want to live everyday.
Several years ago while living in the Bay Area and teaching at a local liberal arts college, I had read about Laughter Yoga and thought: “Wow, how neat! Wouldn’t this be a cool way to help students and professors to relax before final exams?” I casually mentioned it in a class or two and there were those who thought it sounded odd and others who were intrigued. I had looked up what it takes to become a Laughter Yoga Leader and the time was never right. I had also looked up clubs in the area, but with schedule conflicts never made it to one. And so I used a tool I already had to help students relax before exams: meditation.
Fast forward to July 2013. This was one of those months where, had I had Laughter Yoga in my life, I would have needed to recall my mother’s saying: It is better to laugh than to cry. You see, on the very day I receieved news of my father’s stage IV lung cancer, my dermatologist called to notify me of my own cancer: a basal AND squamous cell carcinoma. The tumor had shown up on my wrist during my pregnancy in 2009. I had seen a dermatologist in February of 2013 who dismissed my concerns. So on that July, I was devastated; not only had I just found out that my Papai was sick, but I was also forced to face the reality that in my early 30s I too had a form of the disease that took my mother’s life and would soon take my father’s.
Wow! That day I needed a laugh, but all I wanted to do was cry and then research. After my surgery and during my recovery, I underwent a dietary cleanse under my chiropractor’s supervision in order to get to the bottom of the rashes which had plagued me for over 2 years and were the reason I sought a dermatologist in the first place.
The cleanse brought blessings and answers. The first blessing: clear skin and no itching!!! What relief. When I was able to re-introduce foods that were not on the initial cleanse protocol, I had a comfort food: popcorn. While it brought comfort, it also brought the rash back. The second blessing: I discovered I was allergic to corn and the mystery was solved. My road to recovery continued. Shortly thereafter came the best post-cancer blessing: we learned we would be introducing into the world Baby-Foodie.
There was joy amid tragedy.
Baby-Foodie’s pregnancy was mostly healthy as well as a journey of learning how to navigate the medical world with a corn allergy. I revisited my hypnobirth preparation and became a zen mama. I reconnected with my amazing doula who has a beautiful and calming laugh as well as presence. Nine months later, with my Foodie-in-Crime and doula by my side I laughed and sang during labor. How beautiful it was to laugh at a time where many are taught to cry, yell or be medicated in order to get through the discomfort.
I laughed. I sang. I breathed. I loved.
The babymoon returned to life’s various realities and laughter was lost a bit. My father passed away which also led to the theft of my mourning process by the one person who should have shared in the loss of our father. One deception after another led to more crying, but this is no way to live and I remembered my mother’s saying and my father’s typical urging that one pick oneself up after a cry. With my angels watching over me and my Foodie-in-Crime at my side, I reconnected with my desire to live laughter.
Laughter Yoga Leader certification’s blessings in disguise.
While I knew I would be laughing a lot during the class, I had no idea how sore my stomach muscles and cheeks would be. I had no idea I would be smiling so much and for no reason other than I was alive. I had no idea what kinds of connections I’d make or how uninhibited I would feel by the end of the weekend.
They say laughter is cathartic.
It is true. Laughter is a release, a spiritual cleansing, a joy. We forget these truths as we age and as life becomes more complex. We forget that we can play, laugh and breath deeply. But what a blessing it is to laugh for no reason.
By the second day of training, my Laughter Yoga Teacher had brought the world of 10 people together where we laughed, played and breathed together for no reason other than to bring the joy of laughter to others.
At some point during the second afternoon, some of my fellow students (Lokesh, Gian Micheal, & Jaime) requested a coffee break and so our teacher, Teresa, invited us to take laughter to the streets of San Francisco. Wow! A Laughter Yoga Flash Mob! This was one of the highlights of my training. We encounter a spectrum of participation from the completely unwilling who simply walked passed as we laughed to those who kinda-sorta laughed to those who laughed with us and thanked us. What a gift to laugh for no reason with strangers and to connect on a human level.
Another highlight was the spectrum of laughter in the room which held 10 humans. From somewhat quiet laughs that resemble those of a cat to the full on infectious cackle of Lindsey and Gian Michael.
Not only did I laugh and learn this weekend, but I also experienced the most understanding and concern for my corn allergy that I have experienced since my first Mini-Foodie’s diagnosis over 8 years ago. Wow! I feel such gratitude toward these 9 spirits which came together this weekend with the common goal of being certified as Laughter Yoga Leaders. These were perfect strangers united in laughter and concern for one another.
Life is beautiful with laughter. Let us laugh and be well. Let us laugh and let go. Let us laugh and be human.
Ho ho, ha ha ha.