Tag Archives: laughter meditation

Beyond McMindfulness (hint: think ‘laughter practices’)

‘This makes me more present than anything else’, said the Maori homeopath, ‘more than my own meditation practice’

She was referring to the awareness practices she’d just experienced in a yogic laughter session at the Bristol laughter club.

blc logoIndividually at first, we explored awareness of feet, breath, hands, ears and so on.
We then explored them progressively and cumulatively.

Next, we explored how deeply we could maintain this awareness  while walking and moving.

Next, we took off our regular masks and added the quality of a soft face, ie a smile. We experienced the extra dimension the smile added.

Progressively we explored how there’s no limit to how deeply we can be aware, and how the smile deepens awareness.

Simple but not easy, to use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s expression.

The effect? Becoming more present, absolutely anchored in the present moment, connecting warmly with fellow human beings.
The quality of experience? Quiet, joyful contentment.

This simple exercise gets better the more we use it. ‘Gets better’ means becomes more effective. The more present we are, the better we can respond to the requirements of the current moment – with less stress, less anxiety, less frustration, more calmness, more peacefulness, more effectiveness.

McMindfulness does not deliver this. Mindfulness does. Yogic laughter practices do, par excellence.

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

 

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Laugh – and be mindful (7 tips for happiness, tip 9)

Laugh – and be still. Express, and then feel.
Take a moment to breathe and be still – relax, breathe, smile, and feel.

The practice of laughter is a joyful path to mindfulness. Why is there so much attention on mindfulness nowadays? Benefits include:

  • Become more resilient to daily stress
  • Improve your health and well-being
  • Improve your relationships
  • Become happier

The apparent contradiction between the explosiveness of laughter and the calm of mindfulness dissolves when we feel the stillness after the laughter. When we develop our laughter meditation practice, through nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and/or laughter therapy, and use it to become more aware, we are experiencing a mindfulness meditation practice.

What are the benefits?

Why use laughter practices? Benefits include:

  • Energising
  • Physical workout
  • Improved breathing
  • Produce natural painkillers
  • Relaxing
  • Antidote to the ‘blues’

The laughter meditation technique has two parts. First is to develop the ability to chuckle in a good-natured way as we exhale, on two or more consecutive out-breaths. Four consecutive chuckling out-breaths is a good number to start with.
The second part after this laughter practice is to stop, smile, breathe and feel. When we focus our awareness in this way, we are using classic mindfulness awareness. We are developing our present moment awareness.
As a practice, the more we use our awareness in this way, the more mindful we become and the greater the benefits we experience.

Why laughter practices?

The attractiveness of laughter practices as a form of mindfulness practice is enjoyment.
Some people find the laughter practices enhance mindfulness without having to go through the mindfulness process. They immediately start to experience the benefits through their smiling and laughing practices alone.

The psychology, science and medicine that underpin this are becoming better known all the time. It is not a coincidence or a fluke that these practices work. There is an ever expanding evidence base which supports it, from positive psychology, hard science, and psycho-neuro-immunology.

How do I use them?

The basic practice is to maintain a genuine good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds, and then relax, breathe, smile and feel.
You can extend this into a full-blown inner smile practice.

The more advanced but still simple practice is to chuckle in a genuine good-natured way on 4 consecutive out-breaths – and then relax, breath, smile and feel.

If you already have a mindfulness practice, you can explore doing it with a smile. The smile can be almost invisible as long as it softens your face and you experience this effect on your awareness. Meditate mindfully, with a smile.

If you are already very experienced, you can explore adding the good-natured genuine chuckle to your mindfulness meditation. As you are already experienced, no doubt you are comfortable with exploring new qualities in a non-judgemental way, just to see how they affect you.

There is a tribe for whom these additional practices bring unexpected benefits.
What I have learnt in the process of awakening my inner laughing Buddha is being able, at any moment, to choose to enter the  state of having a genuine warm smile and that this has a transformative  effect on me.  It is as if I have found the last piece of a jigsaw, which holds everything together, a magic key which enables me to access, without effort, those qualities that I have been ‘working’ towards.
Namely, acceptance,  peace, lightness, playfulness, joy in living, connection being more centred,  and being able to inhabit my body more.  It is so simple, yet so profound, it’s laughable!

Do let me know how you get on?

Where can I learn more?

Here are some helpful links:
inner smile
laughter meditation
laughter/mindfulness course
book

 

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7 tips for more happiness, tip 8: don’t try to laugh

Never, ever, try to do something. Either do it, or don’t.

If you want to be happier, be happier.
If you want to use laughter, use it.

How do you laugh more? You breathe in, hold your breath for a second, and breathe out willingly with a good-natured chuckle.
It’s not about a loud laugh, nor a big one, just a willing one.
Do it now?
There, you’ve just laughed.

Note how you feel. Be alert for any changes in your feelings, mood and overall consciousness. Repeat this process three more times so that for four consecutive exhales you’ve chuckled, willingly. This is a basic nls: natural laughter skills practice.

‘I’ve managed to do the exercises every morning (apart from today) since the class! I’ve found that each day after I do them my mood definitely improves and I tend to have a better day because of it. I think it gives me a more positive view of the day and makes me wake up a bit before I go to lectures etc……..My mood and energy levels have definitely improved each time I’ve done the exercises, and my resilience has also improved.’

This simple practice changes lives. When we separate our laughter from jokes & humour & funny and just laugh as a practice, like breathing or stretching (eg yoga) as a practice, we start to liberate our consciousness from a culturally conditioned prison, as well as improving basic qualities like mood, energy and resilience.

This liberation is always an uplifting experience, and always induces happiness.

Among other things, the process being activated by this practice is freeing our awareness from the bullying domineering and often nagging voice in our head.
‘Don’t believe everything you think’ is advice which comes from many cultures. This nls: natural laughter skills practice gives you an effective tool.
It changes lives.
It inspires, encourages and motivates.
It energises and builds resilience.
It helps overcome stress and ease depression.
It helps you think more clearly, and for longer.

As a one-minute morning practice, it sets your day up well like a Louise Hay style affirmation. When you combine it with an inner smile practice, you have a quick, simple and extraordinarily effective way of getting on top of your life in a continuosly improving way.

‘On the first day I woke up with a headache with general cold symptoms and was reluctant to start. Even though I felt ridiculous, I still smiled and by the end was genuinely laughing; it was a great start to the day and I actually made it to my lecture. It’s amazing how such a simple task can have a positive effect on your day. By the end of the week I did feel slightly happier and found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier. I was able to write up lecture notes quicker and found it helped clear my mind and thus, improved my cognitive ability’.

Remember, all you need do is breathe in, hold your breath for a second, and breathe out with your good-natured chuckle.
Repeat as often as possible but at least 4 consecutive out-breaths.

Enjoy your practice.

Please click below for more information on
nls: natural laughter skills
smiling & laughter practices
the book
retraining the brain courses
team & conference sessions
coaching

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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.

Why?

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 www.joehoare.co.uk

Laughter and meditation benefits

Laughter meditation

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7 tips for more happiness in life, part 3

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching sessions.
This is the third 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 3 – ‘when feeling angry/stressed/‘blue’, laugh at yourself’

 

This classic reminder, used by both Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle, is an essential step towards happiness. We tell ourselves stories all the time, and being human we tend to believe them.

How can we break this pattern, and how do laughter practices help?

As ever, awareness and mindfulness are crucial. The more we practice being aware and living in the ‘now’, the easier it becomes to remember we’re just telling ourselves a story. Consequently, the easier it becomes to break out of the pattern.

One way to stimulate this awareness is the laughter meditation practice of chuckling & laughing-out-loud on each out-breath.
When you develop this practice it becomes easier to use it when you’re angry, stressed or anxious. You find that in the middle of the drama you can still have awareness, and with this awareness, you can take this laughter meditation action step – and laugh out loud at yourself.

To do this:

  • Breathe in
  • Pause
  • Smile
  • Breathe out with a chuckle
  • Repeat
  • Repeat again etc

This practice, combining nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and the Barefoot Doctor’s Taoism, is described more fully in chapter 2 of ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
It is an inherently mindful & joyful practice because laughter brings our attention into the present moment. It cuts through the drama of our story, and eases any anger, stress and anxiety.
Psychologically it helps because we start to exercise control over our state of consciousness.
Neurologically this practice works because our brain responds to our laughing rather than our worrying, so the more we practice this, the more we re-wire our brain for peace, calm and happiness.

‘Thank you……not sure I could have gotten through the year……to laugh again at all the right and ‘wrong’ moments’. (private comment)

 

A note of caution – this is not an easy practice!
I find when I’m in the thick of an anger, stress or anxiety drama, it requires considerable effort to do my chuckling meditation.
A note of reward – just one chuckle is enough!
Once I’ve had the presence of mind to take this action step, it immediately starts to break through and provide perspective, clarity and calm. I experience an immediate easing of the internal pressure my drama was creating.

I also find it the perfect antidote to over-seriousness and use it whenever I feel this tendency encroaching – so I use it several times a day! I now find it an essential, enjoyable, life-enhancing safety valve.

I’d love to hear your experiences.

Coaching

Happiness

Action for Happiness

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The challenge is to live

This lovely quote comes from a recent interview Howard Jacobson with Clive James.

Inside us all is the fire of life. It is our uniqueness, our own gift to the world. It is the person inside us who wants to break free, to rise to life’s challenge, live life fully on our own terms and live our life’s purpose.

Are you clear about your own life purpose? I am 100% clear about mine. 2013 July 15th 011

I’m here to cheer people up, to spread good cheer, to help us all access that place in ourselves where we say ‘I feel better’.
‘I feel better’ is the most common response when I ask people how they feel when they laugh, so I encourage everyone to laugh, live and find their inner ‘taa-daaah!’

Just imagine the whole world, all 7 billion of us, experiencing ‘I feel better’?

I’ve made so many mistakes and my teachers include surviving suicide, 18 months of insomnia hell, financial catastrophe, and dealing with Fear, stress, anxiety, depressed spirit and more.
The result is I know about pain and suffering and how to come through it. I’ve written about it (‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’) to give people hope, courage, and practical tips.

I know that the safest course is to take the risk and live because as we’re all going to experience pain and suffering anyway, let’s make them worthwhile? Let’s punctuate the in-between spaces with celebration so we enjoy them as fully as possible?
Let’s fill them with warmth and kindness?
Let’s reach out and help others when they’re down?
Let’s emit our own ‘taa-daaah!’ as much and as often as possible and make the ride worthwhile?

‘The challenge is to live.’

There are many ways to find your own fire, your life purpose. These include practicing getting out of your own way.

  • Develop the practice of just being – ‘sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit’ (attr. Mark Twain).
  • Practice mindfulness to develop your awareness and inner peacefulness.
  • Develop your inner smile. Learn to access your inner joyfulness with nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga practices. Use their smiling and laughing techniques to access your zest for life.
  • Remember to use your body, and not just your head, to experience life.
  • Take the risk to feel.
  • Take the risk to be open and non-judgemental, and to reach out to share heart-felt experiences with fellow human beings.

Your benefits will include greater wellbeing, and a healthier, happier, more productive, more love-filled life.

May my own experiences help you.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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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 www.joehoare.co.uk.

 

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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?

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Laughter meditation? Mindfulness? At Glastonbury Festival??

How is it possible to be mindful in the middle of a music festival like Glastonbury?  How is it possible to practice a mindful walking meditation in the middle of 250,000 revellers?

How do laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills and laughter meditation help? This what the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 was curious about, and why they sent Alex Jones to find out.

Alex Jones from the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Joe Hoare at Glastonbury 2014

Alex Jones from the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Joe Hoare at Glastonbury 2014

The easy path when surrounded by noise, distraction, stress, anxiety, and wild revelry is to give up your own centeredness and get gobbled up by the madness. After all, isn’t that what we’re being invited and tempted to do?
And yet, you might find that even in these tempting circumstances, your own small voice of calm, your intuition, communicates with you and invites you to be mindful and hold your own centre.

Through discipline, commitment and persistence you can internalise your laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills and mindfulness practices and experience their calming, centring benefits in any circumstances. When you focus on the inner sensations, these practices develop a somatic quality. You feel them in your perineum, in your belly and in your heart, as described in the book Alex is clutching, ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. They provide you with an anchor so you stay centred and grounded, in your own power, no matter what the external circumstances.

Your practice becomes:

  • walking steadily, mindfully, with awareness
  • feeling your inner sensations
  • your feet connecting with the ground
  • your breathing relaxed
  • your posture supported by your chi
  • your inner smile beaming

Your laughter yoga practices develop your relaxed breathing, your nls: natural laughter skills adds chi and your inner smile, and your mindfulness adds awareness.

When you practice these at home, or in classes, workshops and in coaching sessions, you’re developing your ability to tap into these stress-busting, anxiety-relieving, depression-lifting, happiness-inducing, health-boosting qualities at will. You can use them not just in noisy wonderful party places like Glastonbury Festival, but also at work, at home, and in times of stress, anxiety, worry and depression.

People find they work, so just keep practicing a little bit every day:

  • relax
  • breathe
  • smile
  • chuckle
  • feel

For further practical information to help you develop your own practice, visit www.joehoare.co.uk

For further insights about approaches to inner freedom, read Victor Frankl’s book
‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

For other research into the benefits of meditation, visit the BBC site here, and read a neuroscientist’s view here

 

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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’.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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