“I want my people to laugh like a lion’s roar. Then even laughter becomes a tremendous experience, because it is intelligence at its peak.” – Osho
We probably all have memories of being a kid in class and starting to laugh uncontrollably, usually along with a co-conspirator to the crime. Their laughter triggers you to laugh more, which triggers them, and suddenly: laugh mania.
It can’t be stopped.
We’ve all laughed until we’re almost (or are actually) peeing in our pants. Remembering an inside joke, or a bad joke earnestly rendered or just seeing something mildly, unintentionally ironic can trigger laughter. Shared memories definitely trigger laughter on all sides.
If we’re incredibly poised, it’s possible that levelled self-criticism or judgements directed at us can inspire a nice, hearty laugh (I’m not there yet).
Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. It’s a win-win activity, since you get to be happy and because being happy is good for you (unless you’re a teacher trying to get a few kernels of knowledge across to a roomful of giggling students).
What is it about laughter that is so healing for our hearts and souls?
According to helpguide.org, the benefits of laughter are almost innumerable. In terms of physical health alone, laughing can release stress, increase your immune system’s ability to function and helps you release endorphins, which basically make us feel darned good and help increase blood flow. This is very good for the heart.
All this from the simple act of letting a good laugh come out of you—a from-the-belly, no-holds-barred kind of laugh.
And then there’s what it can do for our minds, and our general sense of well-being. There is no doubt that when you share a laugh with someone, a feeling of connection with that person grows strong. So too can we feel greater connectivity with the world at large if we can laugh our way through life, laughing with it not at it, of course.
Osho, who has inspired programmes all over the world in which you laugh your way to spiritual health, famously believed that laughing is key to good living.
“Existence loves laughter,” he said.
“You may have observed, or not, that man is the only animal in the whole of existence who is capable of laughing. Laughter is the only distinguishing mark that you are not a buffalo, you are not a donkey; you are a human being. Laughter defines your humanity and your evolution. And the greatest laugh is at your own ridiculous things.”
I never thought about laughter being that one thing that does not make me a buffalo, but to me these sounds like wise words. Laughter is great release, as we know from that delicious feeling of expansive, all-encompassing emptiness we have after a good laugh.
It’s the good kind of emptiness, which has you knowing intuitively there is nothing in the world to think about, because the laughing has done it all for you.
It’s virtually impossible to think while you’re in the throes of a great laugh. And putting a pause on thought is a really, really good thing, a fantastic vacation from our normal way of being in the world, ruled—no, utterly dominated—by our undying and energetic thinking process.
Canadian ‘laughologist’ and filmmaker Albert Nerenberg is part of a growing movement of people trying to save the world by way of the laugh. His documentary, “Laughology,” explores the universality of the phenomenon of laughing. The movie shows how laughter can teach us about ourselves on our journey toward well-being.
He also teaches people how to laugh, which sounds strange at first, but sometimes we really don’t feel like laughing, and that’s when we might need it the most. So it’s reassuring to know that laughing is an exercise, like so many others, which means we can train in it this universal art.
Watch Nerenberg teach a studio audience how to fake it until you make your laughter happen.
And here’s a bunch of people having a great ol’ time laughing, which might just inspire you to do the same.
Here are some of my favorite quotes about laughter:
“I would like you to accept only one prayer, and that is laughter, because when you are totally laughing you are in the present. You cannot laugh in the future and you cannot laugh in the past. All those people who have created this retarded humanity have taken away all juice, all laughter, all smiles, and dragged everybody into being inauthentic. And if you are inauthentic, insincere, you can never grow the seed that has been given to you by this great compassionate universe.” – Osho
“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” – Khalil Gibran
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” ~ W. H. Auden
“Earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world.” ~ Peter Ustinov
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Renee Picard/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Wikimedia Commons