5 SWITZERLAND, PART ONE:
Friday 14 May – Gabi and I meet up at the end of this first train ride, transfer to another train or two, and arrive in Interlaken in the early evening. It’s raining lightly (which makes it hard to find a taxi) but eventually we snag one and get to the lovely Villa Unspunnen. I receive warm welcomes from the staff who recognize me (this is my 4th visit in 5 years)- most of them have better English than ever! They misinterpret my knowledge of 50 fundamental words such that they say “Oh, so you’ve learned to speak German?” but I correct them soon enough and they do their best to struggle with my queries. I’m to have a room with two other guys, but first I dump my bag of “for sale” items in the cozy main seminar room. I meet roommate #1, a tall lad from Scotland named Micahel (who could pass for 25 but is actually 32) – a resident of the Findhorn community. A handful of us early arrivals stroll down to the nearest recommended restaurant where a plate of lightly steamed veggies (with cheesy sauce), a plate piled deep with French fries and a hefty mixed salad sets my back $45. Hahahahaha! I am glad at the thought that my meals in the days ahead (when we eat the vegetarian fare at the Villa) are included in the cost of the room.
Dr. Kataria is at the restaurant and we share a deep hug, swap greetings from mutual friends and engage in some laughter-loving chit chat. Back at the hotel Michael and I negotiate roommate etiquette: he likes it very quiet when we sleep, no music or ticking clocks. All is harmonious.
Next morning, before the start of the training, I resolve to start my day with some vigorous exercise, so I go on a stroll-and-jog to the nearby ruins; also swapping stares with some of the local cows). It is certainly cold, and the rain is imminent. (Later that day I found another tick on my left forearm – I think I shall curtail my strolling in the woods this trip!)
The 2010 Laughter Yoga Teacher Training: Lots of Swiss and German folks, a goodly number from Eastern Europe (Croatia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, etc.); yours truly is the only American… and there are no Asians at all this time. Most of the material is familiar, but a few highlights:
-> via the traditional opening exercise (of saying your name - and laughing; where you’re from - and laughing; and what you do - and laughing) Kataria explains more clearly than ever his linking of Laughter Yoga with traditional Yoga in interpreting the word “Yoga” to mean “Union” and pointing how Laughter Yoga unites people in friendly relations, and unites each individual with their True Nature (this “Nature” being their “Inner Child”-like nature). I like this new “slant” on a classic concept.
-> Gibberish is back, as an integral tool for Laughter teachers’ use (Gibberish was almost ignored at the Chicago training a few weeks ago). The better part of 90 minutes is spent exploring gibberish expressions, with and without listening to others, and in the ever-popular “Group Discussion.” What a relief!
-> Every morning (as of Day 2) starts with an hour of Breathing Exercises and “How to Laugh Alone” laughter techniques. Dr. Kataria wisely sees that this is serving to get us well-worked-out, so we don’t do very many laughter exercises during the day (as had been done in most of the previous trainings I‘ve attended). He also shares that is an integral aspect of the spiritual component of Laughter Yoga. He insists that every laughter teacher practice solo laughing for at least 5 minutes daily.
The weather has been the least attractive of any of my four visits here: always overcast, too many clouds to see most of the valley or glaciers, occasionally very strong winds and heavy sopping rains. Fortunately the friendship and fun of the participants makes the lack-of-scenic beauty (and sunshine) less noticeable.
The food ranges from quite good to stunning – a thick, heavily spiced Indian soup was so universally acclaimed, the kitchen staff was hauled out of their workroom to receive a loud ovation from this very appreciative crowd.
My “Laughter Buddy” (a pairing for working to memorize and practice presentation skills) is Vlasta, a woman from Croatia now living in The Netherlands. she interviews war victims and does translations (preparing them for testifying at War Crimes trials). What a gig! She came on short notice, has no laughter club experience, and is intuitively seeking a method for stress-relief. I expect this will do the trick for her (so long as she keeps practicing). There are three or four people who are attending who decided to sign up almost spontaneously, and without any laughter club experience. After just a few quizzical minutes, they leap right in along with the rest of us.