Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cracking Up

Just when I think I've seen it all, my world gets rocked again. I'll try just about anything once in the name of feeling better and a good time, and if an activity accomplishes both, all the better. I went to a laughing meditation class on Friday evening and I, well, laughed my ass off. My curiosity about laughing clubs dates back several years when my mom and I talked about going together, but my virgin experience was Friday night. I refuse to use the word "surreal" to describe what went on. Ooops, too late. I showed up to the studio in Carrboro with "an open mind and a willing heart," like the flyer suggested. Driving over I was afraid it might just be me and the instructor, and luckily, it wasn't. There were four women and three men, plus the instructor. We started off on our yoga mats in a circle, sitting criss-cross applesauce while the leader briefly explained what laughing meditation is, its benefits and how it would work. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me but looking around, everyone seemed to have smirks on their faces waiting for the real laughing to begin. We would lie on our backs, go through three "OMs" and then practice sustained laughter for fifteen minutes. Most likely, we would be genuinely, spontaneously laughing. But if we ever stopped the real laughter, we could fake laugh, because fake laughing brings the same benefits of real laughing and fake laughing usually leads to real laughing anyway. To fake laugh, we were encouraged to utter these three sacred sounds: Ho ho ho, Ha ha ha, Hee hee hee. And, the leader told us, sometimes people start crying during laughing meditation and if this were to happen to any of us, better to leave the room because it would get awkward if someone was sobbing uncontrollably and the rest of the room was cracking up. At this, I laughed out loud.

It was all so very strange in a most delicious way. We all lay down, heads at the top of our mats, and after three led "OMs," the laughing began. For the first five minutes, I was hysterical, laughing at the idea of laughing, laughing at the others' laughter, laughing at the craziness of what I was doing and then just plain laughing. I'm a rather quiet laughter, where my vocal chords are less engaged than my abdomen and chest, but there were some real howlers in the rooms. The two women beside me were cacklers--real hyenas-- and every once in awhile, I tried to let one out like they did, and when I did, this seemed to set them off even harder. The men were also loud, but deeper and more "Ho ho-y." A couple of times I sat up and looked around the room to take it all in, but mainly, we all just lay there, laughing. There are only a couple of times in my life I remember laughing harder and with more verve, but I can't really go into detail about those experiences, at least not here, in case I decide to ever run for President.

Before you conclude that I have completely cracked up, some of the touted benefits of sustained laughter include:

-lowered blood pressure
-reduction in stress hormones
-increase in muscle flexion
-boost to immune function
-release of endorphins
-relief for mild depression

Within the first few minutes, my mind was in disbelief at how crazy-fun this was and how my brother and sister and friends, and David needed to do this with me. I know David won't ever do this with me, but can you think of a better way to start off a Friday date night?

It's free, it's fun, it's legal and it's good for you. Laughing Meditation, you should give it a try, at least once. It will be one of the trippiest things you'll ever do. And if you can't find a club or class in your town, you can always join me in Carrboro.

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