"In actuality, misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything. So, when feeling miserable, we must look wider than what hurts. When feeling a splinter, we must, while trying to remove it, remember there is a body that is not splinter, and a spirit that is not splinter, and a world that is not splinter.”― Mark Nepo
There is a laughter exercise I teach called, the challenge. It's supposed to represent how we see and process challenges when they pop up in our lives.
We start the game by covering our face with our hands, so that it's dark and we can't see. Our hands represent, the challenge. We begin laughing underneath our hands, and with each round of laughter, we move our hands farther away from covering our face. The challenge soon becomes visible for what it is, we can see other things around us that aren't the challenge, and it's not so dark.
At the end of the game, when our hands are as far away from our face as they can get, I give people the option to let it go - our hands spread open and we release the challenge. Some people cry during this potent game. Many ask to do it several times in a row.
One takeaway from this game is to illustrate the effect laughing with our challenges has on our emotions and perspective. We're not laughing at our challenges, more with them and through them. This also isn't an abdication of responsibility to face and cope with challenges - to "just laugh if off!"Nor does this game encourage sadistic, angry laughter around our struggles.
As Mark Nepo writes about the splinter in his quote (above), this exercise reminds us that everything is not the challenge. The more we can laugh with our challenges, the more manageable they become emotionally. The less all-consuming they feel. Our perspective shifts. It's brighter in our worlds.
I created this game because it's exactly how Laughter Yoga has worked to relieve the inner pressure of trying to cope with challenges in my life. When I started practicing laughter yoga, my whole life felt like an unbearable challenge. Gradually, and with great ease, the more laughter I allowed in, the more manageable my life felt. Eventually, I felt safe enough to let what I was trying so desperately to control, go.
Because my own laughter did all of this internal work for me - these shifts were subtle and effortless. My only effort was show up and laugh every week. I ditched my laborious self-help books.
Laughter was our first language, before words. Perhaps it's the language of the soul. It's ancient. I wonder if we would have survived the many challenges of being human without it?