Category Archives: laughter

Natural laughter yoga


I am not a fan of paper qualifications.

5 of the smartest people I’ve ever met were educational dunces. Also, I look at some of the leading figures in the world and observe that paper qualifications were not the prime cause of their success.

Additionally, a paper qualification is neither a measure nor guarantee of competence – I mean, do you see the way some people drive?!

The relevance of this to how I practise and teach laughter yoga is that I teach principles. I show people that when we understand laughter yoga principles, we can apply them anywhere and everywhere, all the time, individually and in groups, in any setting, anywhere in the world.

These principles make laughter yoga exercises fluid, spontaneous and natural.
They have the potential to make exercises invisible because when they are applied spotaneously, ‘in the moment’, laughter yoga exercises stop being formulaic and become flowing and natural. It can appear as if there are no exercises, and nothing is happening except the laughter.

Using the principles this way also encourages expansiveness and creativity. They expand formal exercises. For example, the last time I did ‘milkshake laugh’ with a group, it lasted about 10 minutes as everyone got creative, the exercise got funnier,  people laughed more & more naturally, they became even more creative and the exercise got funnier. The exercise just ‘worked’ better and better.

A key principle here is empowering the group.

Another aspect is that a course cannot teach understanding. A course can teach techniques but understanding comes from inside us.

Understanding does not require experience. It becomes easier with experience, but some people are natural ‘understanders’, ie they can observe one situation and easily transfer the principles to another. One facilitator I know learnt his group dynamic skills by observing performers at the first Isle of Wight pop festival!

We can all learn to be better ‘understanders’. The keys to this include open-minded observation, and the question children fortunately ask lots – ‘why?’

For me, the most important benefit of this approach is it allows people to use laughter yoga in any way imaginable. When you understand the principles, you can infuse them into whatever you do. This applies not just to obvious laughter yoga exercises, but to any wellbeing activity, and to any activity at all. One person is a life model who sits naked while being drawn, and who sits more comfortably and confidently because she imbues her sitting with inner laughter yoga.

So, principles, everyone?

I’d love to know your views, feelings & thoughts.

Learning the ‘natural’ approach to laughter yoga

‘Invisible’ exercises footage  (TY Dave Berman)

General information

‘Living more joyfully’ – 3 basic principles: an online course

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The ‘perfect’ laughter yoga exercise: what I learnt as a lumberjack


I learnt many skills in my previous career as a lumberjack.

One that has served me well is listening – not to the hinge cracking, nor the tree falling, but to people.
An important part in my lumberjack career was sales and I learnt that if you listen, or rather when we listen, we hear all the person’s under-currents, assumptions, preferences and particularities.
This type of listening, when we feel the nuances of the communication, is a great skill to master – if we ever can.

Its practical application in laughter yoga is been enormous.

It is a subtle skill to feel the nuances in a group – and helpful when we are looking for perfect pitch, so to speak, pitching the ‘perfect’ exercise, ie the perfect exercise for that moment.

It is a common practice to have a set, pre-planned repertoire, and it is essential to set the correct intention and to do proper preparation and planning. However, it is important to be able to vary our plan.

Sometimes this is forced on us by ‘circumstances’, other times there is a subtle invitation, if we know how to listen. Sometimes someone from the group makes a comment or observation, or behaves or interacts or moves in a particular way that lends itself to becoming a ‘perfect’ exercise. When we turn this moment into a warm, generous and inclusive exercise, it can be perfect.

It can certainly be ‘perfect’.

On one occasion, out of the group emerged a hokey cokey. In the context of the workshop it was about as tangential and off-the-wall as you can imagine – but everyone loved it. One person came up to me afterwards and used the words: ‘it was just perfect!’
The reason it was perfect was because it ‘caught’ the moment, it was spontaneous, inclusive and engaging, it was inviting, playful and fun, everyone found their own enjoyment in it, and everyone found it rewarding. This is my definition of a ‘perfect’ exercise.

In my own personal and professional journey I experienced many similar delights. I found the ‘working with what is’ approach in Kindling Point exceptionally useful as it fosters the ability to allow ideas and material to emerge from within the group.
Our skill in the laughter yoga / laughter therapy / laughter wellness / laughology / laughter facilitation arena is then to turn this into a ‘perfect’ exercise.

When we embrace this, sessions become richer, more rewarding, more effective, more engaging, more life-enhancing.

We can all learn this skill.

How to create ‘perfect’ exercises

Laughter Facilitation Skills

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7 tips for more happiness, part 4

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching and on courses.
This is the fourth in the series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga for more laughter in your life.

Tip 4: ‘Get out of your head’

This is perhaps the best-known and least-followed tip for all of us on the wellness path.


The simple answer is that potentially our brain is an over-thinking self-aggrandising monster that wants to indulge itself forever. Unchecked, this is exactly what it does, and it causes us endless stress, anxiety, misery and even depression.

How do we break this cycle?


  • Practice being aware. Practice witnessing your own thoughts and feelings. As soon as we’re aware, we have the possibility of choosing our next action.
  • As soon as you’re aware, and want to make a change, do something physical. Stretch. Walk. Move. Hop. Jump. Hoover. Dance. Getting into our body immediately breaks the over-thinking cycle.
  • Do some facial yoga. Pull faces, stretch your face muscles, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out, give your eyes and forehead a workout. Include the whole of your face and head so you loosen all your facial muscles.
  • SMILE! Having done your facial warm-ups, put a warm smile on your face, even if it’s a small one. This smile triggers an almost-immediate mood-change.
  • Practice your inner smile. Develop your ability to connect with your inner glow.
  • In a good-natured, kind way, learn to laugh at yourself. Learn laughter meditation. Laughing at ourselves in this way gives us space to see the humour and quirkiness in our behaviour, and helps remove any sting we’re feeling.
  • Practice becoming a professional laugher, like the Dalai Lama: ‘I have been confronted with many difficulties throughout the course of my life……… But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher.’ (The Dalai Lama)

The Dalai Lama was an inspiration for the exercises in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ because to become a professional, we need to practice.
When we practice getting out of our heads, we get out of our heads and into our bodies, we might also find we get into our hearts, just like he does.

And we might also find we laugh more, and become happier.

For more information, please visit

Laughter and meditation benefits

Laughter meditation

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Gentle laughing mindfulness

I was asked on a recent Laughter Facilitation Skills course ‘How can I combine laughter yoga with mindfulness?’

2014 July 23rd 036

Laughter meditation and mindfulness are natural companions. Mindfulness is the practice of awareness. It is the act of noticing your body, breath, emotions, thoughts and environment, without necessarily responding to any of them.
People usually find this practice calming. Because of this calm, they often experience quiet joyfulness. This quiet joyfulness often brings a smile to their face.

Laughter meditation, whether through laughter yoga or nls: natural laughter skills, stimulates mindfulness. It brings attention into the here & now. People find they become more present and more aware of their own processes and environment. This happens in a naturally joyful way.
The act of laughter meditation therefore can stimulate joyful awareness.

The easiest way to combine these practices is through by smiling practices.
These smiling practices, as described in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’, can add the specific quality of joyfulness into mindfulness. As a meditative practice, this is like the difference between a ‘zazen’ or observing meditation and a dynamic one.

Both approaches work well.

When you next do either a laughter yoga or nls: natural laughter skills meditation, make a point of being aware of your body, breath, emotions, thoughts and environment. The practice is to combine your laughter with your awareness so you are aware of both.
When you next do your mindfulness meditation, do it with a soft, small, genuine smile on your face. Notice any difference this smiling quality brings to your awareness. Be open to expressing it as occasional chuckles or laughs of delight.

This is gentle laughing mindfulness.

Notice how it can lift your mood, ease stress, anxiety and depression, give you a psychological boost, and promote a sense of wellbeing and happiness. If you practice this often, you will rewire your brain for greater happiness and an improved quality of life.

You can learn more about these practices in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ and on


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Can laughter yoga make me more confident?

Bristol Laughter Club‘How do you feel when you laugh?’ is a question I often ask in laughter yoga
sessions at the Bristol Laughter Club. The most common answer is ‘I feel better’.
When I then ask how people experience that, their responses include feeling more relaxed, grounded, intuitive and focused. When they continue this deeper reflection, people realise they’re more mindful, relaxed and happier, more aware of the totality of present moment rather than just what’s passing through their head.

‘Don’t believe everything you think’ say both the philosopher Alan Watts and the contemporary mindfulness & awareness guru Eckhart Tolle.

The upshot of this mindfulness is we feel happier and better about our own life experience, and a common way people express this is they feel more confident. This is an especially wonderful benefit for those who suffer from the modern epidemics of stress, anxiety and depression.

A recent participant on a nls: natural laughter skills course is a life model, i.e. she poses naked for artists to draw her. She now sits with greater confidence, and feels more confident about dealing with tricky clients.
The particular exercises that help her in these circumstances are the ‘Inner Smile’ and the ‘Inner Laugh’, covered in depth courses and described at length in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. Developing the ability to do either or both of these on demand gives her the ability to change her mood in an instant. Because this is empowering, she has gained enormous confidence in her work and day-to-day life.

The ‘Inner Smile’ is a quintessentially mindful exercise and at heart invites you to take your attention inside and smile, internally. There are many refinements but this is the exercise in its simplest form. It is easy, non-obtrusive, and you can do it anywhere. you can even practice it now.
These exercises also sit naturally alongside other disciplines like Positive Psychology, CBT and yoga.
If you practice your ‘Inner Smile’ and ‘Inner Laugh’ regularly, you become more mindful, less stressed, anxious and depressed. The benefits you experience include relaxation, being grounded, focus, the ability to prioritise your time and efforts, increased happiness, and greater confidence.

This comment from the life model expresses this well: ‘Now I’m with James (name changed) the tetraplegic, putting into practice the laughter from the course…….He admits he is being deliberately difficult. I am so much more powerful now.’

What can these practices do for you?

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Are you willing to laugh?

‘When I’m unhappy, stressed, or depressed, sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is laughing – can I really laugh myself into a better mood?’This is a common laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills, and laughter meditation question.

The psychologist William James observed ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh’.
But does laughing always make us happier?

The key is willingness.

Willingness empowers every stress-busting, mood-lifting activity we undertake. Particularly when combined with mindfulness, willingness can break us free of anxiety and even depression. The impact and benefit can be long-lasting. We can become happier.

To activate our willingness, one way is to use the inner smile, a classic Taoist/Zen as well as mindfulness-based stress-busting technique.

How do we activate it?

  • Breathe: start taking slow deep breaths, breathing out more slowly than you breathe in
  • Relax: focus on loosening and dropping your shoulders, and do some backward shoulder rolls, maybe even backstroke movements
  • Smile: soften any habitual facial mask by allowing a hint of a smile across your mouth and eyes
  • Internalise: drop this feeling as deeply into your torso as you can, focusing especially on your heart, belly and perineum
  • Laugh: use the power of your mind to bring some pleasant, happy thought or memory into your awareness and have a quiet chuckle.
  • Feel – be mindful: in an aware, attentive, mindful way take a moment to feel and register the quality of what you’ve just experienced
  • Repeat as often and as much as necessary

This and other exercises are in the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’, co-authored with the Barefoot Doctor.

As ever, the more you use this practice, the better it works, because you’re learning new habits. You’re harnessing your brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to create new neural pathways. You are increasing grey matter concentration within specific areas of your brain which are involved in learning & memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and re-assessing perspective.

What practical benefits do these bring? Among others:

  • You energise your stress-busting, mood-lifting, happiness-boosting processes
  • You strengthen your ability to be more mindful, to ease anxiety and depression, and to lift your mood at will
  • You develop the knack of becoming more optimistic, resilient and happier

All you need is willingness, and yes, you can laugh yourself happier. People do all the time. This why Dr Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, says: ‘it’s time to take laughter seriously’.

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Need more time? Well, laugh more!

‘Purleeeeease – laugh? When I’m stressed and busy? Meditation? Laughter meditation? I just don’t have the time. Let’s get real here – how can I manage more things when I’m short of time already?’

Ring a bell, anyone? I remember this time management conundrum well, so I enjoy helping others out of it.

Funny things happen when you laugh, especially when you laugh as a health promotion practice. In our era of intensifying stress and time pressure, the quest for happiness, serenity and productivity is also intensifying. As anxiety and depression increase, so do practices like yoga, meditation, laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills.
As time monsters proliferate, so do subtle time management practices.

‘The busier I get, the more I meditate’ says the Dalai Lama.

How is it possible that the solution to time shortage is to take up more time-consuming activities? Sound a bit funny, this? Yet this is what works.

First, following an earlier theme that laughter practices stimulate a sense of ‘I feel better’, this  gives us a sense of greater control in our life. This alone is an excellent reason to start laughter practices immediately. We feel more in control of our time,a pre-requisite for time management.

Secondly, laughter and smiling practices bring us into the ‘now’. The decision to use these practices breaks us out of our hamster wheel of mind-swirling overwhelming demands. Being mindful and in the ‘now’ immediately breaks the cycle of pressure, whether time pressure or pressure on the spirit.

Thirdly, time spent being mindful reconnects us with our intuition, our sense of inner knowing. This is where our time management solutions are. Allowing mindfulness and our intuition to guide us allows the important time management priorities to reveal themselves. Like cream, they float to the surface.

So far, so good – but how do we access all these benefits? Where do mindfulness, laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills fit in?

  1. Wake and Smile – W.A.S.
    Possibly your simplest and most powerful daily practice is to start your day with a smile. You start your day with conscious positive intention. You can either lie in bed and do it, or even smile in the mirror. The practice is for it to be a genuine, good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds. Use the ‘pencil in the teeth’ technique if necessary, as in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. Just do it, whatever it takes.
    Starting your day well gives you a sense of being in control and ready for what the day brings.
  2. Laugh at Lunchtime – L.A.L.
    At lunchtime, repeat this smiling exercise, or look around and find something to have a good-natured laugh about.
    Use the power of your own mind to access thoughts or memories that bring you a sense of lightness, wellbeing or joy.
    Listen to your intuition and re-prioritise your afternoon accordingly.
  3. Laugh at Work – L.A.W.
    During your working day, find moments to stop, relax, stretch, breathe, smile and chuckle. We all need regular breaks to keep our work focused, relevant, creative and productive. Add the L.A.W dimension to access your intuition and help you prioritise and manage your time well.
  4. Laugh at the End – L.A.T.E.
    At the end of your working day or at the end of your day, do one final smiling & laughing exercise. Besides the mild euphoria this induces, it also helps you settle and calm down. Whether you’re about to head home or head to bed, you do so with an enhanced sense of calm and peacefulness.

The more you develop your laughter practices, the more you improve your health, happiness and wellbeing – and your time management.

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Wake Up Laughing

‘What’s the point? Why would I do this?’ I was asked recently.
These questions take us to the heart of the healing power of laughter. Why is it such a good stress-buster? Does it ease anxiety and depression? Does it improve health, wellbeing and happiness?
Basically, does ‘laughter the best medicine’ deserve its reputation? The short answer of course is ‘Yes’. The long answer is also ‘Yes’. But why is this so?

When I ask people how they feel when they laugh, the most frequent comment is ‘I feel better’.
What does this mean to you? If you stop, breathe, smile and explore ‘feeling better’, what do you experience? Do you get a sense of an upward curve, of life improving?

I specifically invite you to stop, breathe, smile, relax right now, and simply feel what you’re feeling, whatever that is. Take a moment to feel the experience of your life before reading any further, and then add the phrase ‘I feel better’ into your experience. Do you notice a difference?

The longer I use nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and laughter therapy, the more I appreciate the Dalai Lama (‘Be optimistic. It feels better‘) and contemporary psychological insight that ‘I feel better’ is significant and underappreciated.
It is arguably the most important attribute in our life because when we feel better, we have a sense of life improving, in particular:

  • We feel more in control, and we enjoy life more.
  • We beat back stress because we become more resilient, generous and open-hearted.
  • We improve our mood because we are having a better experience of being alive.
  • We feel more cheerful and optimistic because we ease anxiety, loneliness and depression.
  • We improve our relationships because we are a warmer, more approachable human being. We become someone people instinctively warm to and want to communicate with.

Aren’t these good enough reasons to ‘wake up laughing’?
The fact there are important, numerous and well-documented benefits for conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular health, depression, weight loss and many others is an added supportive factor. Physiologically and psychologically, these are highly significant, and they also combine well with disciplines like yoga, meditation, laughter meditation, positive psychology, as well as mindfulness practices.

However, the improvement in spiritual, psychological and overall wellbeing is perhaps the most fundamental benefit. This is another way of saying we become happier, and is why organisations like Action for Happiness support these activities.
Excitingly and interestingly, even a short exposure to nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga can activate this. One person came up to me at a healing arts festival and told me she’d taken part in one of my 15 minute sessions the previous year. She told me she had then spent a difficult and relentlessly demanding year as carer for a family member. She found that as a result of her 15-minute experience she felt so buoyed up that this kept her going all year.

All the other health benefits are important but to me sometimes they pale besides the improved life experience that these 15 minutes contributed to this person.

I leave you with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), and I encourage you to ‘wake up laughing’.
‘To laugh often and much………To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition…….. This is to have succeeded.’

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‘What if it’s too hard to force even a smile?’

In a recent session, the prevalent themes of depression, anxiety and stress came up and I was asked this excellent and classic laughter therapy question – ‘what if it’s too hard to force even a smile?’
There are two short answers. The first is: don’t.
If you don’t want to force even a smile, don’t. There’s no reason you have to smile. Whatever we do is a choice, conscious or not, and every choice is wonderful. Every choice is an experience, and every experience is valid and useful. So if you don’t feel like smiling because it’s too hard, don’t.
The second answer is that if you want to force a smile: do.
The short answer to any question on how to do something is always: by doing it.

However, as we peel away the layers of stress, anxiety and depression, we come to realise the question is how to motivate ourselves to do something we sense/feel/know will help us, even when we don’t really feel like doing it. This is a common occurrence for all of us but especially for people with extreme conditions like cancer and MS. Once we realise it’s a motivation question, that is, how to help us do something we know is going to help us, solutions start to present themselves and we start to relieve our stress and ease anxiety & depression.
One clue is that the question has even been asked. This indicates mindfulness and awareness. In my coaching practice, mindfulness and awareness are essential (and easily developed) because they underpin a willingness on the part of the asker to change their life experience from an often stressed or anxious state to something more positive and upbeat. As soon as there is willingness, there is a measure of space and separation around the situation, and this space allows the possibility of conscious choice, and a lifting of stress and anxiety.
Fuelled by this willingness, and using insights from nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and positive psychology among others, there are two simple paths. One is experiential, and the other uses the power of our mind. Practicing either of these, we can all learn to lift our spirits by smiling more.
When we have reached the point where even though it’s too hard to force even a smile, we’ve decided we’re going to, if you’re an experiential person, just smile. Recently I was with a group of elderly people who suffer from macular degeneration (sight loss), and one of them said chirpily that when she starts to get ‘down’ she just smiles. She is naturally experiential and has discovered her own, and now widely used, antidote for low spirits and depression.
For others, it’s easier to use the power of the mind and in their mind’s eye either to remember something that generates a smile, or anticipate something. Both routes are wonderful, and both work well because they’re based on a positive choice you’ve made. They are empowering.
If you find you can’t bring yourself to do either of these but want to do something, hold a pencil in your teeth, or even your finger. Hold it across your mouth without it touching your lips. This facial position is the facial position of a smile, and simply having your face in this position tricks your brain into releasing mood-enhancing endorphins as if you’re smiling a genuine smile. There is a business coach I know who uses this technique when she’s driving between clients, to help her arrive in her most upbeat, positive mood possible.
There are of course many other ways we can change our mood, including exercise, yoga and meditation, but the beauty of the approach described above is that you don’t need any props, external stimuli or other activity. Because of their simple effectiveness, these smiling exercises are the starting point in the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. People’s testimonials in the book speak for themselves.
Even if you’re stuck in a hospital bed or on a desert island, plagued by anxiety, worry or depression, with no access to friends, phones, TV or any other media, you can still force a smile this way, once you’re ready to.
Happy smiling.

laughing buddha


laughter therapy
nls: natural laughter skills
lift our spirits
Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

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How to find your guru or spiritual leader (it’s easy, just look around)

What is a guru? What is a spiritual leader? Who’s yours? Do you have one? Do you want one? Do you need one?

I meet mine all the time.

A guru is someone who teaches spiritual truths, a spiritual leader, someone we learn spiritual truths from. A typical portrayal of a guru is a venerable Asian person, either man or woman, wrapped in a cloth, sitting on an elevated chair or throne, dispensing wisdom pearls either through a discourse or in response to questions. Typically, they are surrounded by acolytes and seekers, all of whom are looking to find something through their guru’s special radiance, something they haven’t been able to find or maintain in themselves, like peacefulness, bliss or serenity. They sometimes find it in their guru’s presence, and then lose it again when they re-enter planet earth.

There is another way to find your spiritual truths.

First, what is the most important spiritual truth? Is it knowledge, insight, wisdom?
Or is there a more fundamental one, highlighted repeatedly by gurus and teachers everywhere, namely Loving Kindness & Compassion?

If this is the deepest spiritual truth, what more do you need to know?

Secondly, where are you going to find it? We’ve all heard the old saying ‘the answer lies within’.
What if it really does?
What if what we’re seeking is actually inside us all along, all the time, always? What if we always know what to do, even if we think we don’t? What if it’s just a question of looking inside in the right way? What if it’s more a question of feeling inside and receiving the message, even if it’s uncomfortable, not what we want to hear, and not what we like?
What if no one else can do it for us?
What if we have to do it ourselves?
What if we can find it whenever we look inside in the right way?

Thirdly, if the deepest spiritual truth is Loving Kindness & Compassion ,what else do you need to know?
If you already know this deepest truth, what is more information other than distracting entertaining brain-food, an avoidance of actually doing the work?
If you already know what to do, what is more important than doing it? Isn’t the doing of it as a diligent daily practice, the most important truth of all?

I’ve come to follow this approach for many years now. Once I realised it’s all about Loving Kindness & Compassion, I realised the most important thing to do is to keep filling as much of my life with it as possible. Everything else is secondary. Yes, I love my laughter yoga, my mindfulness, my ‘be here now’, my healing, my breathing techniques, but the main focus is Loving Kindness & Compassion.

I am aware, every day, how much more I have to do. I am a work in progress. Every day I fail constantly and am judgemental, unkind, and critical. I’m a daily failure. Fortunately I’ve trained myself not to focus on my failures but to focus on my expanding Loving Kindness & Compassion, and I use every opportunity I can to help me, because I need all the help I can find.

I need my guru, my spiritual teacher, badly. Happily, I’ve come to realise the truth in the saying ‘if you know how to listen, everyone is your guru’. I’ve become aware how everyone I meet, however casually, is an opportunity to practice Loving Kindness & Compassion. Everyone I meet is an opportunity to extend Loving Kindness & Compassion, whoever they are. Whether they’re teenagers being truculent, politicians telling lies, people being casually rude and unkind, they are all my teachers, my gurus. This is especially true when I feel the sting of irritation because they are doing me the service of highlighting my need for further practice. They benefit too because I make a point of extending Loving Kindness & Compassion to them, so they’ve helped me and I’ve helped them, aka win/win.

I now have many gurus, and I find them everywhere every day. I hope from now on you do too.

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