Laughing into Life

Photo © Diane Diederich/iStockPhoto

by Ellen Turnbull

Back at home now after five full days of travel and stimulating and thoughtful conversation. I love Victoria and I always look forward to attending Epiphany Explorations, both for the sessions and workshops and for the energy of the city (not to mention the restaurants, shops, and Wildfire Bakery).

I become aware each time I attend of how the core teachings of the mainline religions are all about “right living” and are so entwined. And how most speakers, no matter what topic they speak on, have at the core of their presentation our need to act for justice, whether it be social, environmental, or political.

Even laughing yoga is really about learning the language of “peace, compassion, and empathy.” About releasing our pettiness and stuck opinions and opening to fresh air and balance and joy. The laughing yoga was en-joy-able. I felt rather shy at first – how can I forget my inhibitions enough to let go and be silly in front of 30 people I don’t know? After all, I have a certain professional image to maintain!

But Sheelah Megill knows how to get a group guffawing, chuckling, tittering, tears-streaming-down-the-face belly laughing. She led us into the process gradually, and incorporated breathing and body awareness into the stream of laughter exercises. We talked gibberish, we pressed our laughter buttons, we did anger and forgiveness laughter (flapping our ears no less – I giggle at the memory) and at the end we sat in a big circle and just laughed. For ages. It was hard to stop.

Laughter yoga is an international program that was begun in India in 1995 by a doctor who wanted a new way to help his patients deal with pain and illness. There are laughing yoga chapters in many cities – check it out if you want to learn the language.

I do want to laugh more. Apart from releasing those great endorphins, it helps keep me from taking myself and everyday events so seriously. Everything feels lighter after a good laugh. And I don’t mean a laugh at someone else’s expense, or at a comedy skit or joke (and most jokes are at someone’s expense). I mean a real laugh that bypasses the mind and goes to the heart and spirit.

Anger laughing yoga sure helps deal with those irritations that get me snarling – try shaking your finger in anger at someone while laughing. Even forced laughter does great things, and leads to the real thing. Substitute “ha” for the Monday morning “humph” on waking and notice the difference!

And when I feel peaceful relaxed and joyful at  my core, I am much more likely to live in a way that takes the well-being of others (including the earth) into account. When I am present and not focused on getting just what I want, I am more likely to speak out on behalf of those with no voice and not be so concerned that I may be disadvantaged as a result. I am open to the reality of interconnection, to the truth of my part in the web of life, to the amazement of God in creation.

My voice sings the songs of life. And my heart is open. And I laugh.

Ellen Turnbull is the Editor for Wood Lake and insight, and a seeker of the holy in everyday life. She has an abiding interest in the embodied spirituality and interconnection of all beings.


Categories: Ellen Turnbull, Embodiment, Healing and Wellness

Author:Wood Lake Publishing

At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at


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2 Comments on “Laughing into Life”

  1. January 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    It was a pleasure to finally connect with you in person at the Epiphany Explorations conference, Ellen. Great write up. Keep laughing your way to unitive being. Yes! I will pass your write up to Sheelah in case she hasn’t seen it. Susan

  2. Ellen
    January 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Hi Susan, It was my pleasure also to connect with you in person. Thanks for passing this on to Sheelah. Haha, hohoho.

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