Do you laugh at least 400 times a day?

s-LAUGHTER-largeFree your mind.  What does this feel like for you?   How do you free your mind?

One way I can describe freeing my mind are those times when I am with a friend and we are absolutely helpless with laughter.  Bent over, sides hurting, and howling with laughter.  There is just something about experiencing this kind of laughter and being lost in the moment.  It is like a transaction of abandon that feels like I left the planet for a brief while.  And it is such a pure connection with another human being.  A moment when I feel free to be exactly who I am.

1373And the moment lingers long after you have parted ways with your friend.  You think of it the next morning when you are standing in line for your morning latte and you feel the power of that very same laugh burbling up from within.  A small laugh escapes you and the person ahead of you turns around and smiles with you.  Another connection.

Laughter is a gift that is one of life’s daily miracles.  It redeems us from those moments that do not feel exactly stellar.  It invites us to embrace spontaneity and maybe even some forgiveness.  Laughter leads to a moment of exquisite freedom.  It is you feeling like what it is to be totally you.

AmygdalaOne of my research projects involves looking at the effects of laughter in an educational setting.  The statistics that I uncovered in my reading vary a bit, but it is said that the average child laughs approximately 400 times a day; the average adult somewhere between 4 to 11 times.  What do you think?  Do you laugh anywhere near 400 times a day?  Do you laugh more than 11 times a day?  This disparity would be funny if it weren’t so sobering.  It has definitely encouraged me to seek more moments of laughter in my day.  The more I laugh, the more I free my mind.  Or maybe it is the other way around.  Either way, it is a cycle that I happily embrace.

A-laughIn the ways of research, the findings regarding laughter in the classroom were somewhat predictable and also somewhat surprising: Laughter can be a wonderful way to make amazing learning connections in the classroom; additionally, learning can be enhanced by engaging the limbic system — which is great for learning.  Have you ever wondered why you simply didn’t feel comfortable in a learning environment?  Laughter, used with empathy and sensitivity, is also effective in lowering the affective filter — a term Stephen Krashen has used to describe how negative factors in the classroom block how we learn and how we process a learning experience.

But caution is advised concerning our use of laughter.  What you think is funny, could very possibly offend or confuse another –> thus spiking the affective filter to go up and to raise a wall — which is not not so good for learning.  So there is the whole respect factor where laughter is present.  You have to be aware and you have to be sensitive to others when you’re trying to have fun.  It’s all good when you think about it: the presence and the absence of laughter.  They both signal connection and respect.

Which, I believe, are two good components of freedom: connection and respect.

Free your mind.  This Playing for Change recording is so very captivating.  If I listen to it once, I have to listen to it again.  So simple and complex and rich.  And beautiful.  And speaks to collaboration, beauty, talent, and freedom.


Color – Such a Pleasant Quality

color. such a pleasant qualityColor does not add a pleasant quality to design – it reinforces it. – Pierre Bonnard

Happy Color-filled Friday!  For today’s journal prompt, download the prompt below and get out your favorite Friday pen . . . you will be recording five “colors” . . . five “things” that reinforce pleasant experiences in your life.  Yippee!  And yippee for journaling!

For me, the first “color” that comes to mind is helpless laughter — the kind that is snorting, gasping-for-breath, cheek-hurting, and side-splitting.  There is something that is just so enriching and bonding about this kind of laughter.   When I experience helpless laughter, I feel as if my entire system has been rejuvenated, restored, and reset.  It feels so good!  I can remember a time when I was going home after a night of dancing with some friends, and I thought I was going to simply split with laughter.  We were telling stories and just hooting it up and having so much fun.  We eventually pulled until we could get it out of our system.

The funny thing is I can’t remember what it is we were laughing about, but we sure were having fun.  I don’t remember what any of us were wearing that night or who the band was or who I danced with that evening. But I can distinctly remember the moonlit night and the the Joyful White Noise of Laughter that boomeranged throughout the car.

It strikes me that this kind of laughter doesn’t happen nearly enough in my life.  I think about the “features” of this “color” that bring back such happy memories . . . spontaneity, camaraderie, an enormous feeling of letting go.

Here’s the thing . . . one cannot simply summon or command a moment of helpless laughter.  It’s the sort of thing that just happens.  However, I can look for opportunities to create moments that involve spontaneity, camaraderie, and letting go.  Are you with me?  Simply being open to what I value may very well lead me to different shades of happifying.

Maybe I am stretching here.  But this is what I enjoy about journaling:  stretching and growing my perspective in ways that embrace newness that feels good and that enlivens my life.  I am suspecting that the very act of seeking joy in my life is going to bring me joy in return in unexpected and new ways.

Record your five “colors” and let me know what you think.  Click on the aqua-blue link below to download and happy journaling!

Colors. Such a Pleasant Quality. journaling prompt

[Print this prompt out, 3-hole punch it, and start your journaling binder.   Take the writing journey and listen . . . you can’t get lost when you are following your own heart.  After all, you are the only one who can hear what it has to say.  The only one.  Relax, read, think, feel, listen, write.  Repeat.  And enjoy the journey.  It is a fine one, and one that is perfectly-made just for you, I promise.  Life is meant to be grown.]




Runs with Goats

changing from jeans to pajama pants

changing from jeans to pajama pants

What is it about goats?  Goats.  They are just such interesting animals. Goats are known for their lively and frisky and erratic behavior.  It is believed that goats discovered the coffee bean.  Goats have rectangular eyes so that they can see well in the dark.  Wild goats don’t sleep.  The proper name for a group of goats is a trip — not a herd.   

Goats express so much with their faces, their voices, and their antics.  People refer to a willy-nilly and unmanageable situation as a goat rodeo.  When I see a video of a goat being a goat, I don’t see chaos.  I see Par-tay!!  Were I to have a piece of land that would allow for a happy goat habitat, I would invite a small trip to come and party.

There is something about animals that tug at our heart strings in ways that humans cannot.  When we see a roly-poly puppy at the park, we drop our defenses.  When we see a little kitten pogo-hopping across the floor, we say, “Awwww!” When I see a goat, I crack up.  Goats are just so comical.  There is something majestic and regal about having the power to be so funny.  Anything or anyone that can make me laugh out loud has my utmost respect.  It’s not easy being the jester for a human.  It sometimes takes a lot for us let go and laugh out loud. Goats.

The Way Things Stack Up

Stones pyramid on sand symbolizing zen, harmony, balance. OceanThe way that things stack up don’t always make sense.  You look at a rock cairn and you see dissimilar shapes and textures and sizes.  What doesn’t naturally fit together neatly and perfectly into one whole structure has the potential to allow for balance to offset the dissimilarities in size and shape.

Cairns represent a balance that requires delicacy and a measure of hope. They offer natural beauty presented in a random-deliberate-natural sort of way.  A lot like life.  They do not ask for some added adhesive that will make the balancing act a little easier.  The rocks defy gravity by leaning on each other. Cairns have the potential to  stand for a very long time.  They represent the possibilities that I might have overlooked otherwise.

I am thinking that cairns in the right setting appeal to me.  I do like to see them on the beach below high tide such that the tide will roll in and eradicate the evidence of man — restoring a different natural order.  The ocean is persistent that way.

I have an old scale that I bought at an estate sale.  This scale has seen better-balanced days.  In order for the pointer to balance the beam, I had to add several tiny antique French coins in one of the weights pan.  The coins bring everything up to true.  Balance.  What is it exactly?  We seek it.  We desire it.  We believe that we would appreciate how it feels . . . if we could only be certain that we are actually experiencing it.  There are books and poems and songs written about balance.  Still, I do not know exactly what it means or how it feels in my life.

Vision Board 058We weigh decisions.  And justice.  And mercy.  And priorities.  And options.  We weigh fairness and love and life.  We somehow intuit when something isn’t feeling quite right, so we start to mess with the scale.  We add more coins.  Or we pick up a different rock to add to the cairn.  We deliberate.  Or we sometimes say the-hell-with-it and just give it a go.

Life’s events tumble together, and my carefully-constructed towers of well-thought-out plans are strewn all willy-nilly.  Sometimes I am left with the oddest of pieces to balance back together again.  I see the beauty in the pile of rocks that are before me, and I seek guidance and allow my intuition to lead me.

I recently read a great Irish proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”   I so agree.  A good laugh is like medicine and a long sleep restores the body and the soul.  Along the vein of cairns, I was thinking about which life blessings provide me with balance: laughter, sleep, forgiveness, appreciation, humility, kindness, patience, travel, adventure, discovery, learning, courage . . .

The way that things stack up at times doesn’t always make sense, but I continue to attempt to counterbalance with those things that point me to true.





What does your Frozen Face say about you?

I was taking a truck load of items to Goodwill the other day.  Getting to the drop-off point for our local Goodwill is a bit of a maze that requires more than just good navigating.  It helps if you have been there before a few times or you are with someone else who has been there before.  You need to take a right off the freeway, two lefts through a shopping center with confusing 3-way stop sign setups, then a right turn up a steep driveway into an obscure parking area of the shopping center.  You then circle around to the backside of a major discount store and drive through a hotchpotch of abandoned rusty trailers, towers of Jenga-esque pallets, and precariously-stacked bales of cardboard.

The secret to reaching the drop-off point is to then follow the path of orange cones.  All of this navigating is required with no aid from any helpful signage such as Turn Here for Goodwill Drop-Offs or Keep Going or You Are Not Lost.   If you execute each turn just so through the labyrinthine path, you will find yourself in the waiting lane where people are ultimately filling the wheeled canvas bins with soon-to-shared treasure.

The adventure is usually enhanced by having to dodge someone careening through the orange cones in a forklift.  Judging by the happy and sometimes-crazed look on the face of the forklift driver, you can guess that this is a fun and new and important component to the job description of Goodwill Greeter.  Perhaps he has never driven a forklift before, and it is fun as hell to balance a crazy-heavy bale of clothing and load it into the back of a trailer.  At least it looks like a lot of fun to me.  My Bucket List: drive a forklift through traffic.

There are two lanes that snake toward the drop-off point.  The lanes are clearly marked, yet I have never seen two vehicles approaching in parallel fashion.  The standard protocol is to get in line, inch forward as each vehicle completes its drop, and then wait until you can inch a bit farther.

It is interesting to watch what comes out of the vehicles ahead of you as you wait in line.  Some people get out of their vehicle, rummage in their trunk, and produce a neat Rubbermaid tub of goodies.  Other people have simply tossed their no-longer-wanted items all willy-nilly into their vehicles.  They hop out and start pulling ski poles and lampshades and toys and old computers and sweaters out . . . the friendly greeter taking it all in stride as he or she fills the canvas totes.

As you wait in line, you assess each vehicle that is waiting ahead of you, assuming the amount of content to be proportional to the vehicle size.   But there are surprises.  About the time you pull in behind a van and simply know that you are going to see the haphazard piles spewing forth, the driver gets out and hands over two boxes of books and then gets back into the van.

But some cars have all the appearance of those crazy clown cars.  It is as if the more stuff that the driver pulls out, the more that is being filled through the doors on the opposite side.  I have waited in line and marveled that so much crazy stuff could be pulled out of a Toyota Yaris.

I would not call this experience to be exactly entertaining.  Still, it is somewhat interesting to watch people divest themselves of those things they no longer deem valuable.

I was in line the other day.  The line was moving at a pretty good rate of speed, and I was doing what I normally do while waiting in the string of vehicles.  I was making up stories about the drivers, the cars, and the items that were spewing forth into future Goodwill sales.  I was next-up in the queue, and I pulled too far ahead in the line . . . past the invisible, unmarked-stop-sign line in the maze.  I knew the second that I had pulled too close and thought, “Oh-oh.  I have violated orange-cone protocol.”

I don’t know exactly why, but I expected a stern-looking response from the greeter . . . a look that said, “Look, lady.  Don’t be in such a hurry.”   But I received the exact opposite reaction.  The greeter put up his hand in the international stop-sign gesture and smiled as he did so.

I don’t really have the words to describe how this felt.  It was like this huge double-back-flip surprise of delight that just flooded through me.  I knew I had violated the Goodwill-waiting-in-line politesse and was expecting a righteous grumpy look from the young man and, instead, received such a sweet smile of Please, wait.  We are almost done here.  I felt this jolt of Wow!  So much for assumptions!

I remembered scheduling a class for my students on professionalism that addressed what the Professionalism Speaker called “Our Frozen Face.”  In other words, if we were to look in a mirror when we are not really thinking about anything or when we are concentrating at work or when we are befuddled, what would it look like?  The speaker said that for many, our default look is either a neutral, blank look or, even worse, a decided frown as a result of concentration or frustration.  We furrow our brows or we turn the corners of our mouth down.  Rarely do we smile like a Lottery Winner when we are at work.

But this person’s Frozen Face was dialed into smiles and happiness and benevolence.  When I got out of my truck to deliver the goods, I said to the young man, “Thank you for being so nice.  You have a very nice smile.”  When everything was out of the truck, I said, “Thanks for having such an awesome attitude.”  This young man had no idea why I was expressing such thanks to him, but he smiled again in response and told me to have a great day.

be-positive-and-always-smile-1I suspect that this young man had not attended anybody’s Professionalism classes.  He just looked happy on the inside.  Since that day at Goodwill, I have made note of when I am in line at the grocery store or I am on the phone with someone who is holding the fate of my future health insurance in her hands or when I am daydreaming in a coffee shop.  I wonder what my default is and am consciously smiling more when in these sorts of Frozen States.  It feels as if it is making a difference.  People are smiling back at me, and I am finding that people are going above and beyond to help me.  I am hearing more laughter and more stories in my daily transactions.  There is more sharing in the midst of the various exchanges.

All because someone who was working outside on a loading dock on a below-freezing winter day had the grace and the patience to go with his own flow and be happy in the moment.  And to extend it to me.

Sometimes I think am being too hard on myself, and it is possible that I was smiling when I realized my blunder.  I don’t know.  But it is my hope that my awareness to smile more and to be more gracious in the face of a blunder has been inspired and activated to a new level.  When there are so many blessings in life that abound, it is good to remind myself to be happy, smile, and appreciate the abundance.

toaster oven