Being more aware of our thoughts, letting go of judgments and frustration, and focusing on what really matters are just a few lessons we can learn from choosing laughter as a tool for wellbeing in our lives.
The following article was first published in the Shift Network’s online magazine on April 5, 2018. To see the article in all its glory, with photos and a sweet layout, you can go to The Catalyst. During 2018, I offered a workshop called “Laughing Matters: What Laughter Teaches Us about Living & Dying” to over 150 people in California, Oregon, Vermont and Maine. What a treat!
In a future article, I will share some of the lessons from the classes and what we discovered together. For now, here is why the class came about to begin with . . .
If you want your life to stay exactly the same, don’t fall in love. If you want to be unaffected by the loss of anything or the death of anyone, don’t fall in love.
Or if you want to put off what makes you come alive or to sidestep your purpose, don’t fall in love.
Making sure you don’t fall passionately in love is simple: Guard your heart against all that Death stirs up inside of you.
Act as if you will live forever in this physical body, and so will everyone you know. Get on with business as usual when someone you love is dying. Don’t let the temporary nature of anything impact your daily routine, the decisions you make, or your future plans.
But if you are willing to live differently – to have certainty without having answers, to follow unexpected twists and turns, to be deeply moved and satisfied, to grow and give and receive and surrender – then here’s what I suggest for you:
Call upon death to be like Cupid, shooting an arrow of passion into the heart of what matters to you. Invite death to be the matchmaker between you and what brings you joy.
Then accept the real Kiss of Death: Allow death to escort you on the mysterious adventure of falling in love with life.
This summer, I’m giving up. I’m giving myself up, that is. Offering myself up. To acknowledging death. To embracing life. I Give Up.
Photo Credit: 2013 Self-timed photo, Jennifer Mathews ©
When I was training with laughter yoga founder and guru, Dr. Madan Kataria, he told a story of being interviewed about how the idea of laughing for no reason came to him. He shrugged his shoulders, then matter-of-factly pointed at the sky.
“It came from Up,” he said, his Indian accent and eyes emphasizing the last word.
I could feel what he meant. It’s where most inspiration and creativity comes from . . . somewhere beyond our daily routine. Somewhere vast and bigger than we are. It’s also the place from which I prefer to live. To live from Up.
A few years ago on New Year’s Eve, I looked around the house for a blank journal to write in. As I flipped through an almost empty notebook, I unexpectedly came across a note my life-partner Kate had written a couple weeks before she died. “Dear friends, family, loved ones,” she began . . .
Photo credit: Jennifer Mathews, 2013
As Kate’s cancer progressed, she and I had used the CaringBridge website to keep people updated about her life and process. I recall her mentioning that she drafted something to post online, but she never brought it up again. And then almost a month after her graceful exit, I found her handwritten words.
I’m compelled to share them with you as we enter a new calendar year. May they be a reminder that it’s possible to experience freedom and joy amidst challenges and suffering. No matter what you experienced this past year, or what is on the horizon in the coming year, my prayer is that you, too, remember to taste and savor the sweetness of life.
This writing was inspired by time I spent this summer at the Big Spring at South Gate Meadow in Mount Shasta, CA. I so love the timelessness of being in nature in this way. I offer this poem as a reminder of that which remains wordless . . . Enjoy!
Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Varghona
Today I sit
Pen poised, poem patient.
Bright green moss
merges with smooth stones
in the mountain stream.
Bumblebees hum softly
flower to flower, dip
into crimson orange
of an Indian Paintbrush.
Clouds color a hazy sky
with gradients of gray.
This is the beauty
poems are made of . . .
But not today.
Today I sit
if I can ever be
to write the present
before it becomes the past.
If I can ever be
Pen poised, I sit.
Page blank as clouds float.
Page blank as bees drink.
Page blank as moss grows.
It is the truest verse
I have ever