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 . . .
How do I know I am more than my body? How do I know I am energy in physical form? I sensed these truths since I was a young girl. And then one day, I knew them in every fiber of my being. Literally.
I recently reread an essay I wrote a number of years ago, published as “A Girl Who Believed” in the book Held in Love: Life Stories to Inspire Us Through Times of Change, (2009, Molly Brown and Carolyn Treadway). I want to share it with you because it is the physical foundation for how I see death. And it is the spiritual foundation for how I see life.
Mystical experiences – both our own and that of others – can play a significant role in how we navigate death and dying. They allow us to take a quantum leap toward the spirit of who we really are. Though I had adventures with the non-physical world when I was much younger, this specific one was the most transformative because I experienced myself as pure energy for the first time.
For many of us, the closest we’ve come to experiencing eternity is being on hold, waiting to talk to someone at AT&T. But one afternoon at Lake Siskiyou in Mount Shasta CA, I glimpsed eternity in a much more satisfying way.
The sky was a smooth, consistent shade of grey. I couldn’t see the sun’s circle of light through the grey, nor could I see individual clouds. The air was still. And like water running over my hands at just the right temperature, I could barely sense the air on my skin.
Time somehow evaporated, and I didn’t know when it would become tangible again.
Of course, the sky had been grey before. The air temperature had matched my skin before too. This wasn’t the first time I imagined what it would be like if the sun didn’t rise and set, if we didn’t gauge our lives by hours and days.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered how my life would change if humans didn’t need sleep and we were awake all the time.
The difference this time was the focus of my awareness. In that moment – regardless of how long the moment lasted – I allowed myself to experience a moment out of time.
I don’t usually tell people this, but I had what is known as a “shared death experience” when my life-partner Kate died. I know it’s hard to believe, but that night, spirits made themselves known to me.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/karelin
I felt euphoric. The bliss lasted for months. I can still tap into it now.
And this may sound crazy, but I communicate with Kate and my mom and friends who have died and other non-physical beings. Regularly.
Yes, they communicate back.
All of these words are true for me. And they are all variations of some of the most common sentiments I’ve heard again and again – both spoken and implied – in discussions I facilitated this past year and in one-on-one conversations.
I don’t usually tell people this, but . . .
I know it’s hard to believe, but . . .
This may sound crazy, but . . .
That we give disclaimers or hesitate to share real experiences because of what others may think is a fascinating human idiosyncrasy. But what’s even more fascinating to me is what often happens next.
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.