“Laughter is a symptom of spirituality. Laughter is the flow of love coursing through your body. Laughter is the nectar of present moment awareness. Invite more laughter into your life and relish the magic in every moment.”
Do you remember the last time you laughed so hard that you could barely stand or walk? Even if you were in the midst of a difficult situation, you may have felt lightened by a feeling of pure joy and ease, letting go of the past and forgetting the future.
When you play and laugh with abandon, you enter into the present moment, which is the only place where you can experience happiness. Fully established in the present, you see the world with fresh eyes, relinquishing the ego’s rigid ideas about how things “ought to be” and opening yourself to the realm of infinite possibilities.
Children offer the finest expressions of openness and spontaneity. They play and laugh freely, and are enthusiastic about everything from watching a caterpillar and splashing through a puddle to making funny faces and spinning around in circles.
They are infinitely creative because they haven’t yet built up the layers of conditioning that create limitations and restrictions. They haven’t yet learned to be “serious” or fallen into the grip of the ego, which has no sense of humor and is easily offended.
No matter how long it’s been since you were a child or really let yourself have fun, today you have an opportunity to lighten up and infuse some playful joy into your life.
Think of something that evokes childhood for you – eating an ice cream cone, going to a playground to swing, coloring a picture, jumping rope, building a sand castle. Find something that brings back the sense of fun you had as a child, even if you think you’ve outgrown it, and choose one of these activities to do today.
Here are few more ideas for bringing out your creative, playful, open self:
Go to an art supply or crafts shop and buy three to six paints in colors you love. You can try watercolors, acrylics, or whatever kind of paint appeals to you. Don’t worry about what you will paint – just choose colors that you make your heart sing. Also select a surface for your project, such as canvas, paper, or a board. Set aside half an hour where you won’t be disturbed and let yourself paint. Paint with your fingers, your hands, or your nose! Let the child in you play freely.
Play with Your Food
Eat something you’ve never tried before or try combining foods in new ways. Ideas: Strawberries with balsamic vinegar; hot chocolate with a dash of cayenne, salted pineapple or watermelon; almond butter and carrots; potatoes seasoned with nutmeg.
Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
Turn down the lights and turn up the music and let your body move! You can dance alone or invite a group of friends over. Let go of any ideas about whether you can dance. Let the music wash over you and free your body to move.
Try Laughter Yoga
Laughter Yoga uses childlike playfulness, eye contact, and yogic breathing (pranayama) to create real and contagious laughter. There are now more than 6,000 yoga laughter clubs in approximately 60 countries!
Go on a media detox and refrain from watching or listening to the news for a week – at least! Use the time to nourish your soul instead, by going back to re-experience the books and movies you enjoyed as a child, such as the The 101 Dalmatians, 21 Balloons, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Star Wars, E.T., The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, The Wrinkle in Time (or anything by Madeleine L’Engle), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Harry Potter Series . . . the list is extensive.
If you want to get news and inspiring stories about all the good things that are happening in the world, we recommend visiting the websitewww.darynkagan.com.
Do One Thing Different
Playfulness involves letting go and trying something that may even scare you a little. Remember as a child climbing a tree, jumping off the high dive, or riding your bicycle for the first time? Your heart may have raced as you felt the exhilaration of conquering your fear and expanding your possibilities. As an adult, you can experience that childhood excitement again by doing something different . . . even if it feels daunting, such as running your first 10K race, learning the tango, taking a drawing class, traveling somewhere by yourself, adopting a pet, trying online dating, studying a foreign language, wearing a color or style you usually shy away from, or anything else that resonates with you. The key is to choose something that sounds fun, not something that you feel you “should” do or that “would be good for me.”
Come up with your own ideas about what would be fun for you – and give yourself permission to commit random acts of wanton silliness and lightheartedness. Have fun!
Cultivating Your Intentions
In the past seven weeks, we’ve explored many different ways to look beyond our limited ego-mind – the “I” that struggles to find peace, love, and fulfillment in life – and discover our true self. The ancient sages described this unbounded self as a shrine in the heart that hides a small candle with an eternal flame. When you find that flame, you find enlightenment and the darkness of doubt, anger, fear, and ignorance are dispelled.
For most of us, the discovery of the flame in our heart’s shine happens not once but many times. We may glimpse the flame in one moment, and then fall back into the darkness for a time before realizing again our true identity, which transcends space, time, and cause-and-effect.
Fortunately, even if the process is gradual, knowing your true self isn’t difficult. It’s what nature intended for us. Any step you take towards your core consciousness, your ground state, your true self, obliterates the causes of unhappiness in your life. At the same time, the innate happiness that is your birthright will blossom.
The place to start is always exactly where you are now. It’s all too easy to feel lost and confused by expecting a clear-cut master plan to unfold before our eyes. With every little step that you take, know that your inner intelligence is working in concert with universal intelligence leading you unerringly on in exactly the way you need for your growth and happiness.
It is not necessary to have a perfect vision of how your full journey is supposed to unfold. Sometimes that is even a distraction as the ego gets involved and tries to control things. Instead of looking outside of yourself for direction, trust in your own guidance. The very action you are taking now by participating in theAwaken to Happiness series has declared your intention to move in the direction of greater evolution, joy, and love. Be gentle with yourself, and as you take each step, keep in mind the beautiful words of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Laughter is a natural part of our being. During the first few months of life, a newborn will smile and laugh. As children we laugh freely, without judgment. As adults, however, we take ourselves more seriously and often lose that childlike ability to laugh heartily, even though we know it feels good. Research has shown that laughter can lower blood pressure, decrease stress hormones, and strengthen our immune system.
In this week’s meditation we will experience the bliss of laughter and release endorphins into our system, which will bring joy to our mind, body, and spirit. Our meditation guide is Janis Steiner, a Chopra Center certified educator of Primordial Sound Meditation and Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga. She is also a Senior Events Planner at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.
Consciousness In Motion
Go Outside to Play
Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to nourish your spirit and feel your connection to the universe. Most children love to play outdoors, experiencing the freedom and exhilaration of exploring the environment. As adults, it’s easy to forget the power of connecting with our natural surroundings. We may spend most of our days indoors, in our cars, or in front of a computer screen until we feel so overwhelmed or burned out that we decide we have to get away to an island paradise or a remote mountain cabin before we spontaneously combust from stress.
While vacations can be rejuvenating and enjoyable, taking time to connect with nature on a regular basis is much more likely to create ongoing joy, balance, and satisfaction in your daily life, so give yourself permission to play outside and explore nature’s infinite gifts. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Take a brisk walk or a run in a beautiful park or somewhere in nature. Inhale the life force of the plants with your full attention, imagining the air entering your lungs, flowing to your heart, and fueling the millions of life processes taking place in every second. Allow your breathing to connect you with all life on this planet.
- Walk barefoot on the earth for a few minutes. Feel the nourishing energy of the earth flowing into your body through the soles of your feet.
- Make a regular pilgrimage to your nearest, lake, stream, river, or ocean and let the cooling influence of the water calm your heart and soul. You can swim, float, sail or simply stand on the shore, connecting with the life-giving water element.
- On a sunny day, spread a blanket on the ground in a comfortable place outdoors and lie on your back in the sunshine, allowing the light and warmth to infuse your being.
- Walk in a beautiful park, forest or other area with lush vegetation and breathe in the life force of the plants. The best times to do this are right before dawn and right after sunset.
- Grow some plants and flowers. You don’t have to have a lot of space or even a yard. You can plant a small herb garden right on a windowsill or choose some plants that don’t need much light for your home or office. The simple act of caring for another living organism is profoundly healing – plus plants naturally detoxify the air you breathe in doors. Some of the best plants for improving air quality indoors include Bamboo Palm, Gerbera Daisy, English Ivy, Peace Lily, and Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.
- Volunteer for an organization that helps preserve nature or cares for animals that need our help. You could join in a beach clean-up day, offer your talents at a wildlife reserve, or help out with the animals waiting to be adopted from animal shelters (volunteers are often needed to walk dogs, and offer loving attention to the cats and other small animals).
- Go to a park, a forest or even your backyard and listen to the healing sounds of the natural world – the buzzing of bees, the wind blowing through the leaves and the calls of wild birds. If you live in a city where you can’t regularly hear natural sounds, listen to audio recordings of rain forests, ocean waves or waterfalls.
- Gaze up at the moon and stars at night, allowing your awareness to expand into the heavens and beyond. Whenever you find yourself agonizing over little things, looking into the boundlessness of the cosmos helps put life into perspective.