Yoga, probably in its early phases of building a movement / industry in the US, experienced similar elements. It takes a while before a new “movement” takes root. And because Americans have a proclivity to instant fixes, the movement must include other elements to keep people practicing – like selling mats, books, DVDs, CDs, cushions, vacation retreats, including celebrities, sharing stories of the wonderful health benefits and how yoga makes us feel glorious, etc.
It's quite a feat to create a movement along with keeping the stamina growing so it becomes a “normal” type of business or industry. Recently I saw a film called "Yoga Unveiled" where the directors specifically said that the type of strenuous stretching style of yoga practice in the United States is not even practiced in India. (The film Yoga, Inc. stated that the yoga industry is making more money than MacDonalds; see the trailer at http://hopedance.org/community-media/videos/499)
But the main point I wish to make in this exploration is not how to create a laughter yoga industry but to understand various resistances and to write about it and speak about it when we lead sessions or talk about laughter yoga.
When it comes to all the various spiritual modalities and practices, we need to explore what is at the root of all these practices. Are they for us to become enlightened, as ineffable as that word is, or to enter into the reality of Happiness and Joy where Service becomes the path? And having a practice that encourages and cultivates such positive values as compassion, kindness, generosity, non-duality, acceptance and unconditional love that is palpable. So, the question is: do these various modalities create a foundation whereby its practitioners change, change the fundamental characteristics of humans which are typically competitive, blaming, whining, backstabbing, getting ahead at the expense of another, lying, cheating and all the other manifestations of an ego–obsessed direction.
Is psychiatry creating happy people?
Is yoga creating more happy people?
Is basketball or all the varieties of sports (a form of western yoga) creating happy people?
Are ecovillages, intentional communities, co-housing, etc. creating happy people?
Does it have to do with socialism, capitalism, communism, fascism?
This is an exploration. Let's look at our own lives – does massage or cannabis or alcohol encourage people to become happy?
I personally don't see a lot of happy people. I don't know a lot of happy people. I see people in pain, fearful, competitive, at war with Reality, obsessed with feelings, or being stuck in their head – but when it comes to joy or happiness it doesn't seem to be a priority for them. At least, they don't talk about it. Perhaps that's the real elephant in the room?
The other question I'm posing as what kind of practice do we do to get what we typically want in life? We usually have to study subjects so we can “earn a living,” make money to pay for the essentials and hopefully there's extra to take care of elders and children, buy things that make our lives a bit more comfortable, go on a vacation, etc. We go to the gym to workout so we feel good about our bodies but don't necessarily question our root motivation that we may already be great the way we are; we may already be the gift to the world just as we are; imagine that!! Or we stretch into various postures to gain something, or we express our anger and sadness so we can feel better not taking into account that they are simply emotions coming from a core belief that we usually don't explore.
I'm very tempted to say that most modalities are selling us a bill of goods that we are not okay the way we are. The various industries are exploiting a core belief that we/I bought somewhere along the line that that elusive “happiness” is just around the bend, never here but over there, heh! it's over there.
So, what examples are there or signs that typically give us a notion that a person is “happy”? What are the manifestations that convey a spiritual practitioner or master to be “happy”? Their kindness, their look, their behaviors? An inner glow? And what about laughter? And I'm not talking about laughing at people. According to Osho, and I completely agree, that laughing at people is the worst type of laughter there is. It's mean. But somehow laughing can and does convey a significant value of joy if a person laughs. It seems to be a switch to turn on a more enlightened mode.
So, when people take on a practice they do it in the hopes and aspirations of taking on the inherent quality. If one meditates I imagine that the goal is to have a mind calm of chatter and irritation. If a personpractices the piano, the hope is that it can give the practitioner a method by which to create, to express, to articulate the music that wants to be created, that wants to come through. And on and on...
However, does one ever practice laughing to be happy, or to emulate the value underneath the laughing action, like connection, calm, resilience, a sense of being content with what we have?
Do people practice crying so they can manifest the emotion behind the behavior – sadness? No, most people would prefer not to be sad and more importantly seek to never cry. Of course I'm making generalizations but it's all for the sake of exploration.
Do people practice anger so they can manifest being a cruel person? Perhaps some people need to express their anger so they are no longer controlled by it. And of course there are actors who are trained to laugh, cry, get angry, so they can play the part.
I think I'm getting somewhere. We never would imagine that we might need to practice laughter(laughing for no reason) to see if it has anything to do with cultivating happiness or joy? Why is that? This may be the key but I sense it is also the reason the movement is not spreading as fast as I think it ought to. We leaders and teachers need to include this interesting phenomenon – that we need to practice laughter. I need to practice laughter, not unlike any other spiritual discipline not only for the health benefits but for the incredible manifestation that I now have choices. I can now laugh at situations that would bug me, irritate me, and “make me” miserable, drive me insane. I now have a choice – but it's just not because of laughter. It goes much deeper. It touches a core belief that we have every right to complain, bitch and thinking that by changing the external can somehow make us happy. We need to switch that thinking around – that it is up to us to change ourselves and when we change, then the world changes. I cannot emphasize this too much.
For example, I would see and taste my judgmentalness which is basically a manifestation of a core belief that I am a separate being and other people are not family; or I can treat them like I treat myself (with judgmentalness, etc.). That it is okay to believe that it's okay to be at war with Reality. That I know without a doubt what others ought to be doing and how they ought to be behaving.... what audacity! what pain! Well if that core belief is challenged and that if I love myself then that love will naturally evolve into loving the other because I would no longer see the difference between me and them. We become family in the broadest and yet most intimate sense of that word.
And that is the beginning of genuine Happiness, in my book. Can you imagine the incredible energy that will be unleashed when unconditional love starts spreading!? Watch out!!
Bob Banner is a certified Laughter Yoga Teacher (leading sessions throughout San Luis Obispo county). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.