This one action shifts stress, energy, and yes, often even outcomes, in an instant. Yet, when you feel life is heaping one frustration on you after another, it seems like the last thing you'd ever do.
This particular stress-busting action happened the first time for me years back, and happened spontaneously, without having read or heard anyone say it was an effective technique to use, not that I would have believed them. Now, it's recognized as such; but it's also an easy one to forget or dismiss. The first time I did it, it simply FELT like the ONLY thing to do at that moment, like the only thing that made any sense at a moment in time that ceased to make sense to me.
I was having one of those days when, thankfully it wasn’t emergencies stacking up, but neither was it your basic annoyances. These were the mid-range issues that knock you on your backside and require attention and action. And when I say they were stacking up, I mean just that. It seemed that for the first few hours of that morning, one thing after another kept coming at me. In a number of ways, it seemed that a portion of my life was crumbling before my eyes, and I felt like I didn’t know what to do, because I was in overwhelm-mode. It was the classic multiple fires and only one bucket of water experience.
Then something surprising happened. I suddenly saw all of it as a wave of the ridiculous crashing onto the shore of my life experience all at once AND that though it was happening, I saw the utter absurdity of it all, and of my reaction—and I started laughing, from my toes up. It was laughter that came from my completely letting go of trying to control and even judge any of it. It was laughter from just letting it all be whatever it was or was going to be. And because of this shift in me and my energy—which genuinely-felt laughter accomplishes, everything, and I mean all of it that was happening right then—began to shift—because I had.
I found two brilliant representations I’d like to include here, in the Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban. That title is a fitting parallel, as stress and frustration are emotional, energetic prisons we sometimes find ourselves in. If you aren't a Potter fan, Azkaban is a prison where the guards—appropriately called Dementors—because, don’t we feel somewhat demented when we’re that wound up and life feels that out of control in a particular moment. Dementors suck the joy, and sometimes the soul, out of those imprisoned or those they go after, until those they go after are left to be nothing more than empty physical shells, which is what stress does to us, especially stress we don’t deal with or don’t deal with productively.
The first charm: In this particular book, Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, instructs the class on how to handle a boggart. Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces; they are shape-shifters and can or will take the shape of whatever they think or know will frighten people most. "The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. . . . We will practice the charm without wands first. After me, please . . . riddikulus!" It takes the shape of whatever frightens us most. Our fears do shape-shift. Think of a particular fear you "entertain" often or consistently. How many ways has and does it show up in your life? It's the same boggart in different costumes.
The other charm that particularly fits laughter as a stress buster is the Patronis Charm, where you think of a really good moment in your life and hold the feeling of it. This creates an energy field that is cast at one or more Dementors (fears), which disperses them. They can’t stand or act against it. When I feel the need to bust some negativity, I like to think of a time when I laughed until I cried, or a moment of true affirmation that Source has my back, and let that feeling fill me. You see, when something happens, the first thing we feel it’s natural to do is resist and struggle, which makes us feel worse. More on this in a moment.
A friend had posted this statement on Facebook: "One day, I'm going to laugh about this." She didn't say what "this" was, but I responded that I hoped that, if and when she felt able to, she'd laugh even sooner; that when life sometimes reaches what I call the "absurdity of it all," I sometimes find it makes me laugh—a hearty, spontaneous laugh, not a forced one. My dictionary defines absurd as "so clearly untrue or unreasonable as to be laughable or ridiculous." When a lot of stuff piles up on us as it did on me that day, I consider that clearly unreasonable—and absurd. And what’s really absurd is what is revealed to me when I look at my point of attraction, especially negative points of attraction I may have been consistently and unknowingly practicing.
When stressed, the best thing you can do is put whatever the stressor is down for a while, especially if you watch or listen to something that makes you laugh or helps you to relax. Going back to Harry Potter, but this time The Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione remembers the way to be released from the tentacles of the Devil’s Snare plant is to relax. The more you struggle against it, the tighter the tentacles wrap around you, until the plant kills you.
It seems counterintuitive to relax or let go of struggle when some issue or chaos becomes our experience, but it is the best first step. Think about the advice for getting out of a skid: you have to relax (your mind, as much as you can) and put your focus on where you want to go, not on where it seems the vehicle is heading. You make it worse if you focus on where the car is heading; in fact, you more than likely will make whatever you fear happen. If you shift your focus to where you want to go instead, the spin will eventually release you.
Most of our fears, which cause stress, are boggarts that linger in the dark spaces of our subconscious and conscious minds. Sometimes we "feed" them so well with emotionally-charged thoughts that they pop out of the proverbial cupboard and show up as events in our lives. Sometimes more than one boggart taunts us at the same time, as imagined or actual events, and we feel overwhelmed. Isn't it interesting how often what we think or worry about shows up? It's as though we include them as questions on a test—the questions we fear we won't know or be able to figure out the answers to.
E-mail pages and social sites have a box that lets you post what you're doing and ask the question: What are you doing right now? We might also read this as, "What are you doing RIGHT, now?" It's too easy to dwell on what we feel is not working or what we feel we're not doing right and forget to acknowledge and appreciate what we ARE doing right, what IS working right and then let this guide us into better inner and outer experiences.
We know stress is harmful to us in numerous ways: health, decision-making, joyfulness, and more. It depletes one, more, or all of our resources, as does struggle. Positive thinking (the kind aligned with what-is), Law of Attraction, and other techniques are familiar to so many of us these days; yet, we still slip into the practiced, familiar pattern of engaging and feeding our fears and going into struggle. Don't judge yourself when you do this. The most important thing is to recognize when you do it and then use a method you've used before that helped you then—or, if appropriate, find a way to laugh—not a chuckle, but a belly laugh, or find any way that will help you relax, like take a walk or put on a favorite peppy song and dance for those few minutes.
Laughter relaxes energy and literally does shift outcomes. Please be realistic about the outcome part: what is going on does shift more often than not, but this has all to do with you allowing yourself to release struggle, to let go of judging what’s going on and or resisting it. Feeling crazed isn't going to make things better, it’ll make everything worse. Releasing stress invites possibilities waiting to arrive because stress (the result of judgment) acts like glue that keeps something stuck in our lives, even if the only thing we can shift about an experience is our perception of it. If you find your "shoes" (fearful thinking) stuck in a puddle of judgment "glue," you can choose to leave your shoes where they are, at least until you can do something about them. Or, leave those judgment shoes there and get a pair of dancing shoes.
Later in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin discovers that what he believed Harry's greatest fear (Voldemort) was, wasn't it at all: it was fear. That's true for us, as well. Some of what we fear happens, but most of it doesn't. We abhor the idea of feeling fearful; and yet, we feed it. We’re as afraid of that feeling as we are what we fear. It's a learned behavior. What fear are you feeding right now?
It isn't that you must eliminate fear or feeling fearful from your life. It's not realistic to do so or to put that kind of pressure on you, or even a good idea—because even a fear can teach you something (like how to move yourself through and beyond it); and thinking it is a good idea or your obligation to eliminate fear completely will cause you endless frustration. But, you can pay attention differently. Use one or more methods that help you notice and shift when you're feeding a fear. "A real problem can be solved. An imaginary one cannot."
If and when it feels right for you, find a way to laugh, especially at the appropriate, truly absurd moments. It really is often the best medicine for what ails you. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer