To share this story I need to go back in time to 2008 when I arrived at a point when I had to make some big changes. Every aspect of my life had painfully come to an end, and I asked myself,
“What would really and truly make me happy?”
The answer appeared to come out of nowhere. I wanted to move to Thailand and teach English. I made a firm decision and resigned from my very serious architectural job, I sold all my earthly belongings, I said goodbye to security patrolled Johannesburg and I left my very serious life of military style perfectionism.
Shortly after I arrived in Thailand I went to see a shaman because I knew something was very wrong with me. I had an unusual and uncomfortable physical condition that had remained undiagnosed, as well as general feelings of depletion and melancholy. When the shaman saw me, she was absolutely horrified. “You need to teach yourself how to laugh and have fun”, she said. I was terrified. How was I to do this? I was the most unfun person I knew.
Initially I tried to watch some funny movies, but I was indeed unsuccessful. And then a miracle happened! I started teaching English to my Thai students using songs and games and soon I noticed their spontaneous joy and willingness to become excited about the smallest and silliest of things. Their playfulness was infectious and although I was still a very serious teacher, I could feel myself changing just a little bit. At the end of each lesson they were smiling and full of energy. Perhaps I was onto something!
On one auspicious day in 2011 I experienced my first taste of Laughter Yoga from a visiting teacher in Chiang Mai, and I was completely awestruck at how light and liberated I felt after only one class. So inspired was I, in fact, that soon afterwards I traveled to Bangalore in India to study Laughter Yoga with Dr Madan Kataria, the founder and master of Laughter Yoga.
Upon returning to Thailand, together with a fellow laughter teacher, the first Laughter Club was born in 2011 in Chiang Mai, and it continues to thrive. There has been a lot of laughing since then, as well as all sorts of twists and turns in this little laughing adventure.
Along the way I discovered so many benefits of laughing that I never knew. I discovered that if I laugh continuously for at least ten minutes, my body saturates with joyful energy at the very deepest cellular level, which serves as a washing out and releasing of my old stuck negative emotions. This is proving to be life changing; as I continue to practice my own energy continues to melt, become lighter and freer, my ego is diminishing ever more which is opening my heart.
Over the years, I’ve had the great joy of meeting other laughter yogis from different walks of life, and always we have felt an instant recognition and comradery between us, having been initiated into the practice of laughing mindlessly, without the use of jokes or humour, our laughter has been liberated from the confines of the mind, and we knowingly and secretly share this understanding between us, it goes beyond any spoken words.
Among the highlights of this journey have included laughing together with enormous groups of people in Thailand, China and India, and well as groups from different spheres, ages and abilities. The impact of laughing in such groups has had an effect of reverberating in the inner recesses within me, touched by the gift of connecting so heartfully and playfully with others that I had never before spoken to and yet formed instant connections that traversed across culture and language.
In September 2014 I organized and facilitated the first ever laughter yoga leader training in Chiang Mai Thailand, it was purely magical as well as deeply challenging, having never done anything like that before, I felt stretched well beyond my limits, and it stirred up huge fears within me, which I had to let go of. This year October I am so delighted and excited to share laughter yoga leader training No.5, fully endorsed and certified by Laughter Yoga International.
There are several things I love the most about a laughter session! I simply love that I get to move around and be silly and theatrical and express myself playfully with other people. I get to express the notions of celebration and joy outwardly, which I may not ordinarily get to express in daily life. I get to connect with people in a very joyful, natural and upbeat way. I get to move out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. It appeals to my dry sense of humour and sometimes, still today, I pack out laughing simply because of the idea of getting together in a group and laughing! It is a highly creative and right brained activity as there is nothing rigid to follow, one has to be willing to be free to enjoy it. I love that shows people how to relax, and that they often leave a session looking more radiant than before.
In many laughter sessions I have felt myself entering into a state of unstoppable, cathartic laughter, whereby the laughter has taken over the experience, it is a feeling of having arrived in a place of emptiness, egolessness and surrender. I see this as a state of mindlessness or ‘no mind’, as opposed to mindfulness, or perhaps it is like mindfully choosing to be mindless, knowing of the huge benefit this has on the mind, body and spirit 🙂
Having learnt certain life lessons the hard way, by placing obligation, money, ego and fear ahead of my own happiness and authenticity, I recognize on an intrinsic level the essential functioning of a happy and healthy life resides in living playfully, joyfully and truthfully. I became vigilantly mindful to make play, joy and truth the central defining points of every single decision I have made ever since, and I have built my life around these key criteria.
I now know that I have the power to create happiness from within, regardless of any external circumstances. I can influence my own life with positive energy through the practice of mindfully choosing to mindlessly laugh and play.
I would love to hear your story too! What brings joy and fun into your life? Do leave me a comment 🙂
If you would like to become a master of your own laugh in Chiang Mai Thailand, have a look at this page http://www.ganapatilaughs.com/training.html