A very dear friend of mine has the gift of making me laugh when I’m feeling upset. Not by not taking me seriously. He does, he first dives in and resonates with my emotion, showing me his understanding of it, holding space for me while I express it. And then, gradually, he brings in soft, gentle silliness… the clown who offers me his bunny slippers as comfort. And I start giggling, taken out of myself and into the world. The world that always carries joy in it, no matter what private sorrow is breaking our hearts.
And this, I think, is the function of laughter. To allow us to touch the joy, no matter how briefly, as a reminder that the world – life, the universe – is full of joy. Even the very darkest parts of it, even those are filled with dark, sparkling joy.
In Buddhism, laughter is said to be one of the strongest medicines against negative thoughts. You cannot cling to the past or future and laugh at the same time. It keeps you in the moment.
Laughter, like hugging, produces the right kind of hormones in our bodies to counterbalance the effects of stress and sorrow.
But laughter that is used as a mask, to try and block our negative feelings, will only increase the stress. You can feel the difference. Laughter from tension can feel helpless, not being able to stop laughing, maybe even turning to tears. After the laughter subsides, the tension will still be there, under the mask.
Real laughter will give you a sense of release, of being able to let go. It may also turn into tears, when the ‘letting go’ becomes powerful. Like water streaming over a dam. You may feel relieved or grateful. Whatever was giving you pain or sorrow, will have retreated to a place that no longer affects you as strongly as it did. Yes, it will still be there. But you can observe it without it overwhelming you.
When was the last time laughter healed you?
p.s. I will be traveling for the next week or two and have found that not to be the best time to try and work on the blog. So be patient, I will get back to it!