It was lunch time in Lithgow in 1996, and I felt a desperate need to get a respite, no matter how short, from my somewhat tedious job as the Hospital Social Worker. I invited a colleague, a Counsellor mate of mine, who loved absurdity almost as much as I did, to come with me to a secluded spot at the outskirt of suburbia, where we could laugh our heads off. She was a Playback Theatre tragic, and I was a combination of a Psychodramatist and a Yoga Therapist. I gained accreditation as a Psychodrama Director after seven years of intensive, action-psychotherapy training and by then I also had twenty years of Yoga training and work.
Psychodrama helped me to move from self-consciousness to the consciousness of the self and Yoga taught me, amongst other things, the art of deep breathing and blissful meditation by chanting/singing from the heart.
At this point, I need to warn the unsuspecting reader. Please read on at your own risk. If you are a strictly ‘normal’ person, to whom typical behaviour is the norm and absurdity seems to be either mad and stupid than save yourself the trouble of getting outraged by what I am about to explore here. Please stop reading this article now, for I happen to be a person who loves the absurd.
My life is one of ongoing experimentation with the fantastic possibilities of life. I am interested in penetrating the deeper layers of consciousness experientially to gain glimpses of truth, hidden from ‘normal’, surface consciousness.
As Oscar Wild says: ‘Life is too important to take it seriously.’
So, this friend of mine and I find an apparently secluded spot in the sleepy and ever so mundane Lithgow suburbia, and we begin to laugh in tandem. We are laughing at nothing at all. We fake it, till we make it. Our judgemental mind finds this exercise so ridiculous that it is outraged with us. We imagine that if our colleagues would see now what we are doing, they could be excused for wanting to cart us off to a lunatic asylum. Actually, we must have woken someone up in the neighbourhood. I notice that a curtain is slowly being pulled aside in the window in a house, some twenty metres away from us, and a puzzled face appears from behind the curtain. Well, after all, we might just get carted off to the madhouse if she calls the police.
I notice that a curtain is slowly being pulled aside in the window in a house, some twenty metres away from us, and a puzzled face appears from behind the curtain. Well, after all, we might just get carted off to the madhouse if she calls the police.
I find the scenario so hilarious that my laughter becomes near hysterical, with tears of relief pouring from my eyes. Now, I no longer feel lethargic and bored out of my mind. Those endorphins have kicked in, and I feel high. I am reminded of my intravenous ex-drug addict client who aroused my interest in meditation when he told me that he got much higher on meditation than he ever did on even high doses of heroin. However, as I said, I am an experimenter.
I was not content with just finding out that belly laughter is the most powerful form of ‘pranayama’, that is, vital energy control through spasmodic deep abdominal breathing. But also, for forty years I have been in love with and also experimented with ‘Kirtan’, a musical form of Yogic meditation; an expressway to higher consciousness. I thought, “what would happen if I put laughter and Kirtan together?” To find out, I did, and in doing so I happened to discover something, which to me is the single most powerful meditation that I have experienced:
Laughter Kirtan; the art of singing and crying with laughter.
I love the melody of this achingly beautiful and magically moving aria that Delilah sings to Samson in the French grand opera of Samson and Delilah. I kept playing it on my harmonium and chant with it in a loop, repeating the song as I alternate between singing it with the ‘Ha–ha-ha-ha-ha–’ mantra and whistling it every second time. After I had become comfortable with this process, I added laughter to the chanting of the melody with the mantra: ‘Ha–, ha-ha-ha-ha–’. It took a while to become comfortable with singing and laughing simultaneously. To avoid effort and coughing, I needed to breathe deeply yet effortlessly from the abdomen, just as it happens with spontaneous belly laughter.
I found that once I allowed such joyful, spontaneous belly laughter, the singing synthesised with laughter, creating an extraordinarily uplifting, joyful experience. Within three minutes of such chanting, I feel thoroughly energised and cheerful.
Because I have had many years of experience in practising and teaching deep yogic diaphragm engaged breathing, which is critical to both full belly laughter and singing, it did not take me long to combine the meditation of Kirtan chanting with belly laughter in a seamless union. The resultant laughing Kirtan is novel, and it awakens a sense of humour, as laughter fuses with the heart opening Kirtan singing. Intestinal fortitude is generated, and it supports and blends with uplifting and outflowing love and joy from the heart. I find that such laughing Kirtan, well and truly ‘humours’ me. It can result in fulfilment faster and more powerfully for me, than just doing laughter and Kirtan separately. Laughter and Kirtan each on its own, have already been empirically proven to make a strikingly positive impact on mental and physical health, not to talk about their spiritual benefits.
Journalist, Norman Cousin seemingly miraculously recovered from a highly aggressive form of lethal leukaemia through a regime that prominently included hours of daily laughter. His doctors told him that there was nothing they could do for him and he would be dead within a few months in 1964. Yet he laughed his way to health, and he wrote a book about it. Following his success, laughter research took off with a vengeance.
Researchers found that laughter produces beta-endorphin which elicits euphoria and is a much more powerful inner narcotic than heroin. So laughter literally ‘humours’ us. The ancient Greeks’ medical claim that certain humour, that is, liquids, were responsible for our wellbeing, is not as complete a superstition as modern materialist medicine would make it out to be. Laughter gets our juices flowing. Without it, for example, a person with excessive white bile would be ‘bitter’, or with black bile dominance, ‘melancholic’ or depressed. By contrast, laughter releases mood-lifting, ‘upping’ hormones which humour us as we cry with laughter and smile through our tears.
The ancient Hungarian sages knew the connection between tears and lightening up when they coined the word ‘könny’ to mean ‘tear’ and ‘könnyū’ to mean ‘light’. But if laughter clearly lightens us up, so does the Kirtan of singing meditation. Through Kirtan, we transform our heavy, ‘downer’ energies into ever more subtle vibrations until, ideally, we experience the bliss of loving, pure consciousness. In fact, the empirical evidence for the impact of Kirtan on health and ageing is stunning!
Kirtan has been scientifically shown to stimulate the production of telomerase enzymes which are responsible for replenishing telomeres, a chemical substance that is necessary for healthy chromosome divisions to avoid cancerous divisions, a host of chronic diseases and the ravages of ageing. Thus Kirtan is a vital scientifically proven rejuvenating practice. See the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine and Physiology; Dr Elizabeth Blackburn’s gaining her Nobel Prize for discovering the role telomerase plays in disease and health restoration.
She was quoted in a BBC article saying, “A pilot study of dementia caregivers, carried out with UCLA’s Irwin and published in 2013, found that volunteers who did an ancient chanting meditation called Kirtan Kriya,12 minutes a day for eight weeks, had significantly higher telomerase activity than a control group who listened to relaxing music.” So, combine endorphin-rich laughter with telomere rich Kirtan, and you might have a penultimate recipe for a rejuvenating and joyful existence!
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