No time to meditate? Laugh instead!

I am so glad it is 2017 and I get to create a brand new year of beauty.

I started out the new year by setting a solid work schedule. Discipline is so key to getting things done, from taking care of self, to work related stuff. Putting things on the schedule creates a commitment that otherwise may not be present, and sets in motion actions that we may otherwise keep postponing. I will share more about this in a future blog. Today, I wanted to share two, really easy and so impactful new practices I have embraced since January 1:

  • laughter, and
  • prayer

And, the results are already tangible so I wanted to share them with you.

Laughter? Yes, laughter. Laughter is in and of itself a form of meditation. In Japan, hundreds of people will gather at a set location and time, and simply laugh together and the energy is incredible. I have been in a room with over 800 people, experiencing laughter this way. It goes like this: a person leading the room starts out by guiding some very simple stretches. Then, the same person starts laughing. It is a belly type of laugh and the body moves back and forth (in the way we do when we are actually laughing really hard – it reminds me of Santa Claus ho-ho-ho laugh). Then the room joins in. At first you feel kind of silly – mostly because we believe we need a reason to laugh. I remember looking around the room, hesitant, thinking: what is going to make me laugh? Then, I did as I was instructed, and I just ‘pretended,’ to be amused. Within seconds, I was feeling the same laughter energy I would feel if someone had told me a really funny joke. And, then it keeps going, in waves, in total bursts of laughter. The whole thing lasts about 3 minutes. There is a quiet pause afterwards, so we can all just be with the post laughter buzz that’s in our bodies, and all around us.

Honestly, I don’t have a house full of people every day to do the practice in the same way, but I have found ways to create deep laughter with my daughter, during our meals. As we eat, we have the laughter moments that lasts for minutes. She cannot speak yet, but she understands this practice so well, and she is a great buddy in the process. Every 6 am breakfast, every noon lunch and every 5 pm dinner we seat, eat and laugh. Everyday we discover new ways to make each other laugh. She will sway her body in funny ways, and then look to see if I laugh and as I do, she laughs with me, and we stay in that moment for as long as we can. The next meal, I might make funny sounds, or a funny face, and as she laughs I laugh with her. I feel light and so full of energy because of this, and am committed to keeping this practice at home.

Being the nerdy scientist that I am, I started investigating the WHY – why would laughter make me feel so good?

In a particular study conducted by Loma Linda University participants hooked to an EEG monitor (which measures density of brain waves) demonstrated a similar reading to a person who is in a deep meditation. Laughter is essentially meditation. Other studies now show, that similar to meditation, laughter boosts the immune system, balances blood pressure and hormones associated with appetite, and can greatly reduce stress. A few years ago, I also came across studies that show that laughter, before taking a hard exam, greatly increases focus, and the end score. I used this laughing practice for all of my speaking engagements – I watch a funny video and then step on stage, and that energy has always made a positive impact.

No time to meditate, or not sure how to do it? No problem, find a way to embed laughter in your everyday life. I bet you have some funny YouTube videos that could make you crack up in joy for a bit, during your drive, as you make your meals, or before heading out to a meeting. Find a set time, and make it a ritual.

Now, let’s talk about prayer…I  will start by admitting that organized praying is not my thing. I grew up Jewish and one of the things that used to frustrate me was that I would sing and pray in hebrew (which I can sort of read but don’t understand fluently), and be totally lost in the meaning of it all. I think when someone has a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words, and the stories behind each prayer, the whole thing makes more sense. I do love the chanting component of prayer. Like laughter, chanting brings this deep meditative state in me. But I find that it is only true when I do it in a group. In my own private practice, prayer is more effective when it is free flowing, and when it is directed toward something. Right now, I pray during my meals, because I am also setting these times as my laughter meditation – so my meals have turned into daily rituals. My prayer is a pause before I feed my body – it helps me stay grateful for the food on my plate, and mindful of the energy going into my body. The prayer is a quiet acknowledgement, a subtle reverence to all that has gone into making the meal, from the growing and harvesting of vegetables, to the actual prepping of the end dish. By the time I seat down to feed myself, and my daughter, I am more aware of the food that’s on our plates, and I feel connected and grateful with the meal.

I said that these two practices are already generating tangible results. How? First of all, it helps me to slow down. With a little one at home, and running two businesses with little help, I will admit that slowing down, taking a pause, has been harder than ever before. But, these two simple practices make pausing easy, and desirable. When we pause, we are able to slow down the thinking machine, the running thoughts that are constantly trying to organize our days, and just for a few minutes, we are one with the moment. The more of these moments we have, the more mindful, present, and calm we become. So, doing these simple practices is helping me to balance the busy-ness of life, with the desire to stay connected with life itself.

Additionally, these two practices are very expansive. Whenever I am having to deal with a circumstance that is difficult – and there have been many in the past few months, I can shake those off by bringing warmth, gratitude, joy. In that expansive state, I am more clear about my priorities, and I can exercise all the creative activities that are meaningful to me – like writing this blog! It moves me from a state of resentment or frustration, to a state of calm, ease, and acceptance. Life is.

If you have made excuses, like I have, that time is limited and you simply cannot ‘fit anything in,’ then try just to laugh and pray, in whatever ways it is meaningful to you.

Welcome the new year with these simple and truly expansive practices, especially if sitting to meditate has been on your list for a long time. Start with these simple an easy forms of meditation.