In every seminar I do, I ask people to go through a belly laugh with me, to remind them what it feels like to really let go. I take them through the facial expressions; I tell them to open their eyes wide, to lift their eyebrows, grab hold of their bellies ( whichever section they like best), and on the count of three, to let fly a HA-HA-HA, which we do for thirty seconds.
When I announce that we’re going to do this, the moans and groans that escape most people’s lips would make outsiders listening in think these folks are about to be punished. Some people actually note the time before they start, to make sure they get it right—a sure sign of having the need to do things perfectly. Many individuals look around to see if anyone else is doing it, because, after all, there could be reporters in the room who are going to put them on the front page for acting silly. ( The word “silly” by the way, comes from the ancient English word “selig” which means “to be blessed.” Many a pompous court was lightened up by the court jester, who was considered to be a blessed fool.)
Several times I’ve had the opportunity to do this exercise with children. One incident in particular has stuck with me. My grandson who at the time was in third grade asked me to go to his classroom and share what I did for a living with them. After I did, I asked them to try the belly laugh for thirty seconds. Immediately they started shouting. “We can do that for an hour!” Their unbridled laughter filled the room. They grabbed their stomachs without any coaching from me, and many of them literally doubled over or fell on the floor, completely capturing the moment. The more they laughed, the more they laughed.
However, it took only a minute or so before the teacher began to look worried. Before long she started saying, “Now boys and girls, we need to calm down and control ourselves.” Although I realize the need for control in the classroom and beyond is a necessary part of a civilized society, there is also a need to release and let go to allow for creative thinking.
Many adults say their faces hurt after they leave my workshops, or that their stomachs are killing them. Perhaps many of us are so used to being in control that giving into a burst of laughter is actually difficult and perhaps painful. Why is laughter causing us physical pain? I’ve never seen a group of four year olds who are laughing joyfully suddenly stop and report they are in pain.
Life becomes complicated and often difficult but please try to allow yourself to engage in laughter whenever possible. It truly is the best medicine!