Tuesday, December 31, 2013

above myself

Before a holiday even begins I am already compiling a list of things to do.  The list begins in my head and then gradually sneaks into my floral notebook, turning into a smattering of words in various colors of ink.  Soon that page is ripped from the notebook and copied carefully onto a new page.  As soon as I jolt awake and my eyes open on the day of the holiday I scramble for the notebook, flip to the current list and set out to cross off the items.  I feel as if I am taking the ropes that constrain my inner harmony, piece by piece, and lassoing my list, until it is firmly reigned in.  I then proceed to ferociously crumple it and toss it into the wastebasket.  I should probably admit that I do this on any day that I have off from the library and holidays are no exception. 

But yet holidays are an exception.  I still create the list and wake with the normal zest to tackle it.  But as the day creeps along the list is eventually abandoned. 

My family has always celebrated Christmas even though I was raised to believe in many Gods, the greatest being a healthy reverence for life.  I guess I view Jesus as just one of many sacred threads that comprise a hacky sack full of the abundant plastic beads of wonder.  Or something like this.  I change my views a little every day.

While we have always celebrated Christmas, my family hasn’t always put any particular God first on this day.  Christmas has always been about family.  And while I still firmly believe this I abandon it every year because of my to-do list.  Only at the very end of the day do I realize something is amiss.  Fortunately what I lose during the holiday is never far away and always ready when I get over my ding-dong foolishness. 

This year I woke up with my list, but before I could even get started on it Robert’s mom, Audrey called with an emergency.  Her roof was leaking.  We had just received about 3 inches of snow, and because it was warmish (a whopping 30 degrees) the snow was melting.  Audrey hadn’t cleaned her gutters in awhile and they had turned into solid blocks of ice and leaves.  It was decided that her gutters needed to be cleaned out immediately.  So Robert and I crawled onto the roof and got to work.  We hosed down the gutters with warm water and knocked the ice and leaves loose.  This took time, effort and humor.  Because we were up so high I could see most of our neighborhood.  There was something grand and singular about being on top of the world, watching loved ones arrive at the houses below – their excited yet careful walk to the back of the car as they threw open the doors and piled themselves high with glittering boxes.  One gentleman wearing a Santa hat opened the back door of his car and with a few bobbles of his Santa pompom, reached in and flung a sleepy toddler over his shoulder like she was nothing but a wisp of air dressed in jammys.  Another gentleman pulled a crock-pot and a tinfoil wrapped mystery from his trunk.  It was simply magical.  As Robert and I slid around on the icy roof and tried not to giggle ourselves to an early death it occurred to me that this year I wouldn’t have any regrets.  I had climbed above my to-do list, and more importantly, above myself. 

After the eerily peaceful gutter-cleaning excursion I was ready for a relaxing bath before spending the rest of the day playing cards with Robert and Audrey.  As I was slipping into the tub my mother facetimed me.  Robert threw me a shirt and my phone and left to secure some grub and tidy up before Audrey arrived.  Before I could tell my mom that I needed to get out of the tub she proceeded to pass around the phone to everyone at her Christmas party.  It was pointed out immediately that there were some underthings hanging behind me.  Of course there were because there is a rule that states that if you get facetimed in the tub it will be after you hang your brassieres up to dry.  No worries though, once everyone got to see me in the tub I was able to hang up, put some clothes on and call them back.  And what a delightful facetiming experience!  I watched them open packages and goof around, and for a moment I was there, completely consumed in their celebration.  As I said my goodbyes and shuffled back into Kansas in my fruity tooty socks and freshly- washed brassiere, I couldn’t help but hear the laughter trailing behind me, laughter that continued late into the evening. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Laughter Yoga

I must share my latest review with you.

When I stumbled upon Laughter Bank Volume 1 at the library I was deeply intrigued.  I had never heard of laughter yoga before watching this video, and had never tried any laughter exercises.

I should tell you that when I sat down to watch the DVD I was eating soup.  Like most others I tend to multi-task and because I have simultaneously eaten and laughed before I thought I would have no problem eating soup and practicing laughter exercises. 

I was wrong.

As soon as Dr. Kataria demonstrated the first laughter exercise - Namaste Heeheehee, I nearly lost all of my soup via my nose.  Lesson learned – I abandoned my soup.  

Before the DVD begins there is a Precaution that warns people to see a doctor before attempting any of the laughter exercises.  I had a good little chuckle while reading the Precaution.  But as the movie progressed I understood the importance of the Precaution.  One of the exercises, Swinging Laughter, proves to be quite strenuous.  Somewhere between a cuddling party and square dancing, it involves a lot of arm movement that can be quite aerobic.  Even the instructor flirted with peril as he flung himself into some camera equipment while attempting this exercise.  Contrary to its name the One Centimeter exercise also proves to be somewhat taxing as it entails movement that could be better measured in yards.  So please make sure that you read the Precaution before attempting any laughter exercises.

You will also need to be completely alone while you attempt the laughter exercises for the first time.  You will need the can-do attitude of Richard Simmons and comfortable clothes and nothing fragile nearby.  With the Funny Laughter exercise you will need to forget everything that your grandmother taught you about ignoring bodily noises.  If you cannot master the Spring Doll exercise you should pretend that you are on a pogo stick with a full bladder.  And if you feel angry for a moment when you see that Dr. Kataria has stolen your best dance moves in the Ice Cube Down Your Back exercise (A.K.A. the Shriek and Leap dance) remember that this is yoga and anger is only going to clog up all the cleared passages you have worked so hard to laugh clean.

You may think I am making light of a very serious and advantageous type of therapy, and you are absolutely right.  The first time I watched the DVD I giggled and howled my way through every exercise without really taking them seriously.

But then I watched the exercises again, and I can honestly say that there may be something special about laughter yoga.  I could see myself in the faces of the people who opened up and let the laughter out.  Like the folks in laughter yoga, I share the same open yet hesitant enthusiasm for alternative healing.  Alternative medicine has always appealed to me so long as it is noninvasive and rooted in positivity.  I am also a huge supporter of anything that brings people together.  Laughter yoga has the potential to heal and encourage healthy relationships.  So yes, I may poke a little fun at laughter yoga, but it’s a funny way to exercise and it encourages laughter in multiple ways.    

If everyone around you is in a slump and their lips are starting to drift into frowns you can try out one of your laughter exercises.  You can also ask them to join you.  They may surprise you by lifting their arms and laughing manically as they dance towards you, ready for anything, even the bizarrely comforting Double Handshake exercise.