Mary Stallings: To me, life has been a series of events that I have labeled as either good or bad. I’ve carried these experiences around with me and have given them power to prevent me from doing certain things. I have been continuously worried about what others would think of me that I have not been able to enjoy life. I have felt as if I were walking on eggshells everyday to try and please everyone else when really I felt no pleasure within my own existence. My joy was conditional and based upon making others happy, which honestly did bring me temporary relief. However, what I have come to realize is that the best way to share joy is to experience it within yourself first. It is similar to the notion of loving oneself before loving others but I never truly grasped this yet either so I just sprung myself forward in a fit for survival and led my life trying to cheer everyone else up, even if it meant overlooking how miserable I felt inside.
I get intense pleasure and satisfaction in helping people work out their problems and from being able to make people laugh, especially in their times of need. However, I am not easily convinced that I deserve the same in return. I have felt like a hypocrite because I would instill this belief in my friends and loved ones that they could reach out to me whenever they needed anything but when I needed something or was distressed, I would turn inward and self-soothe instead of reaching out.
I would feel this dissonance within me, one part yelling for physical and emotional connection and the other a belief that others’ had better things to do than to hear me out. This is where I have realized I have robbed people the opportunity to do the same for me as I have done for them. I have to learn to trust others and that has been a huge barrier to developing and maintaining relationships.
I have lived my life through fear. This fear manifested itself in my avoidance. I avoided things that made me uncomfortable or that I couldn’t control which meant I avoided life and the many unpredictable experiences it has to offer. Afraid to show my imperfections because I was insecure about them, led me to rely on isolation because it felt right and safe. A certain level of solitude is refreshing in the sense one can come to cleanse the mind and spirit but what I was doing in my isolation was feeding my fears. I was validating my negative cyclical thoughts through partially accurate statements. I became a living example of the self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t have friends because they wouldn’t love me in my mind but in reality, I never let them in far enough to love me and I kept them all at a distance.
I sat continuously for multiple hours for years thinking about what went wrong and what I could have done differently instead of doing something about it. Pain and regret became emotions that I felt comfortable with rather than affection, love, and even human touch. In my interactions with others, I radiate energy, love, and positivity and I do/did that to keep people at a distance. What I didn’t come to understand until lately is that I have been projecting out all of the love and energy that I needed inside my own inner being. My soul has longed for relationships that are fulfilling and reciprocated. I just haven’t wanted to get hurt and in protecting myself, I was only hurting myself. Funny how things seem rational but really aren’t. Afraid of not being able to control the reactions of others and their judgments made me apprehensive to trust and open up. Really though, I have not been able to open up to myself and allow me to love and appreciate everything I have been through without judgment and condemnation. I placed blame, guilt, and shame on things which led to a deep seeded level of self-hatred that only I was fueling.
Tired of knowing that there is more to life but not being able to locate my joy and passion amongst my rational mind, I came upon the idea of laughing for no reason. When I intellectualized going to Laughter Yoga conference, all I kept thinking to myself was ‘I have nothing to laugh about’. However, I knew I had to do this for myself. I kept my anxieties at bay by reassuring myself that I would never see these people again and that it would be okay to be myself. Now that I have had this experience, I want just the opposite. I want to be involved in this movement of love, laughter, and peace, especially since it has brought my own life those essential components.
I know I used to love to laugh and I know I love to make others laugh, so I went to a Laughter Yoga conference where I came to understand a great deal more than my body and soul needed to laugh more often. I had placed myself in a situation in which I didn’t know what to expect, uncomfortable with sharing my emotions, being touched, or with group social interactions and blossomed to a new level of understanding and compassion for myself and the capacity of others to accept me. I gave others the opportunity to love me for who I am and in turn was able to love myself a bit more. After releasing my inhibitions I was able to feel for the first time in what seems forever, love and acceptance towards myself and others.
Laughter Yoga has provided me with an outlet for all of my emotions to flow in accordance with one another in harmony without judgment of myself or others. I have been able to let go of some of my insecurities and genuinely laugh. My perspective on life has changed and is constantly evolving, especially with a new creative and positive frame of reference gained through the Laughter Yoga experience itself. I want to thank my rational mind for not talking me out of this life - changing conference and for each and every one of you who joined me in laughing and bringing about such a wonderful movement in my life and in the lives’ of all those we will reach.