Laughing is a non-verbal expression of understanding
and laughing at aging is, in a sense, the very same.
Extolling laughing is not a new idea. Summarizing the world as he saw it, in fact, the 14th Century Tibetan Buddhist monk Longchenpa succinctly advised “…One may well burst out in laughter.”
Longchenpa’s world is different from ours. For we wired moderns raised on a potent mixture of science, religion and media, why try laughing at aging? It is a tool that works. The brain is wired so we benefit even from intentional laughter, releasing dopamine, serotonin and endorphins even if we only “fake” laugh. Since our mind is smarter than our brain, we use that to our advantage.
If that seems too scientific, however, just laugh and try it. “Fake it till you make it” as we say in laughter yoga.
In its simplest terms, laughing at aging is physical fun, using techniques of laughter yoga that combines childlike exercises with group interaction, that prime and then pump beneficial substances into our bodies in real time. It is especially effective in groups to share intentional laughter that spawns spontaneous laughing.
In larger terms, laughing at aging is part of deeper understanding that,most people alive today will age long and will be able to age well. There is a growing movement toward conscious aging, empowering us to see our life course holistically. Laughing intentionally is a modern shortcut to mind and body health, reducing blood pressure, improving cardiac performance, boosting the immune system and even producing gamma brain waves of the sort produced by monks in deep meditative states.
As more people grow older than ever while remaining healthier than ever, there is a two-fold mental process unfolding collectively, a rejection of the status quo deeming seniors irrelevant; and inklings that an exciting new paradigm for elders is possible or even necessary for society.
Human life need not be viewed as a harrowing roller coaster that ends with us breathless at the end of the ride, but instead, life can be viewed as a process whereby humans develop emotional and spiritual skills, using our ingenious intellect to explore the magnificent mysterious reality enmeshing us.
In this view, life is not a journey that ends badly, but a challenge for unraveling mystery, and making connections with fellow travelers.
Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, founder of the Spiritual Elder Institute, suggests older people accept the role of spiritual pioneers. His influential book “Aging to Sage-ing,” “…envisions the elder as an agent of evolution, attracted as much by the future of humanity’s expanded brain-mind potential as by the wisdom of the past.”
Some may see it as laughable that older humans can serve as pioneers for conscious evolution.
Life is not a laughing matter or, as Betty Davis famously put it, “getting old ain’t for sissies.”
But events and discoveries since Schacter-Shalomi wrote in the 1990s has only strengthened the case for human potential. Like Universe itself, boundaries of human knowledge are expanding and accelerating, revealing powerful and malleable mind body combinations, suggesting and developing new ways to extend life and health. The myth of aging as a time of senescence is yielding to findings that humans are programmed to age well if they want to accept the challenge of creating a glorious final act.
There are as many ways for laughing at aging as there are ways to age well.
The monk’s insight and rabbi’s advice might be combined; One may be well advised to burst out in laughter, for many reasons.
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Long Chen Pa
Since everything in life is but an experience perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one may well burst out in laughter.
What then, is the right way of living? Life must be lived as play.