I can’t talk about laughter without telling you about Adi Menczel. Adi is a boisterous Israeli girl that I met at summer music camp when we were teenagers. She is one of those people who is funny by accident. The humor just is her. Knowing Adi is not about liking her jokes. It is about being drawn in by her belly-laughter. She has fingers like lightening as she flutters up and down on her flute and when she takes that instrument away from her lips she literally overflows with joy. Her irrepressible spirit is infectious.
That summer when I first met her, she won the illustrious superlative, ‘Person who can fit the Most Words into an Eighth Note Rest.’ I won ‘Volley Ball Queen’, but that had nothing to do with skill. I won by default because no other girls played.
She has a few different laughs and they are all uniquely hers. One is a resounding ‘whoop!’, and often gets heads in the restaurant turning, sometimes with great displeasure. I’ll admit we’ve been told ‘This is not that kind of place’ at a restaurant or two. Another of her famous laughs sounds a bit like African Ululations. If you don’t know what those are, check them out here. Please click that link. I promise it is worth it. Another of her laughs involves snorting and throwing her whole body forward then back in a full body convulsion. I’ll admit, that’s my personal favorite.
You might look at a person like that and think to yourself, “I’m just not funny,” or “I have a serious nature,” but did you know that psychologists extol the benefits of laughter for healing and health? This is corroborated by a Proverb that says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
So how do we make laughter a part of our lives?
1. Dwell on the Good
The brilliant writer Paul said it this way, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Often we do just the opposite, don’t we? Psychologists call these negative repetitive thoughts “rumination.” Ruminating is about as useful as spinning your wheels in the mud. The Anxiety Network says, “Thoughts grow with attention. If you focus on negative thoughts, they will grow and grow and become even larger.” Let’s instead make a conscience choice to dwell on what is praiseworthy.
As a child I got to know and love the great author Alex Haley. His favorite mantra was, “Find the good and praise it,”and he lived his life by that creed. He certainly found the good and praised it in me, and it literally changed the course of my life.
2. Cultivate a Grateful Heart
According to the New York Times, ‘Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.’ When we cultivate a heart that is grateful, we also remove the focus from within and begin to look outside ourselves, acknowledging that in many cases we have done nothing to deserve the abundance we walk in.
Let me give you an example. I remember my father asking my first horn teacher (Dr. Little) if we could pay him more for my weekly lessons since he only charged $5 for half an hour and often taught me for much longer than that. He would never accept my father’s offer to pay him more and continued to give me books, mutes and music to listen to for free. Finally, my father stopped him in the hallway after one of my lessons and said, “We feel like we are taking advantage of you. You are going to have to let us pay you more. If you don’t I am going to pull her out of her lessons!” Dr. Little looked at my father and teared up as he said, “I should be paying you to get to teach a student like her. The only reason I charge you at all is so she will know this is worth something.” My 10-year-old ears heard that loud and clear. Here was a teacher who was grateful to teach me? What a beautiful and rare perspective.
3. Count it all Joy
The great composer Mahler wrote music that has this incredible mixture of sorrow and joy. Those two emotions are indelibly linked and wouldn’t exist as we know them without each other. I’m sure you have all experience bittersweet moments in life where your heart is pulled in two directions simultaneously. I remember feeling that as I played Mahler 3 in Avery Fisher Hall with my graduating class from Juilliard. It was an impeccable performance, but I knew that after this concert we would all move on in our own directions, never to play together in this way again. I remember my teacher from the NY Philharmonic came backstage to meet us right after the performance. He said, “Oh, to be young and fearless,” because we had played with such abandon. It was heavenly, but afterwards my heart ached a little.
So how do we experience joy when we are facing real sorrows? I’m not talking about the bittersweet moments, but the heavy moments of serious illness or emotional pain? How can we achieve that coveted belly-laughter when we are getting pressed in on from all sides? In the book of James, the Bible says it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. …” Notice here that he says to consider it PURE joy. In some translations he says to consider it ALL joy. That sounds like an impossible task, doesn’t it? In order to get there we must cultivate faith that believes that these tests and trials are for our good.
So we can’t all be Adi and just by existing bring light to those around us, but we can deliberately cultivate joy as a part of our daily lives. We can strive to live each day with hearts of gratitude. And we can approach the trials that come our way with a spirit of faith that allows us a deep knowing that God makes all things work together for our good.
And lastly, and I think most importantly, we can remember to not shoot those with loud laughs dirty looks at restaurants. That seemingly obnoxious snorting and convulsing person might be shining a light of joy into their table-mate’s life that is the perfect remedy for what ails them. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.
2013 Copyright by Misty Tolle
All rights reserved
25 Replies to “Laugh Yourself Spiritual”
And I can not look back on the time when we had the Ariel Winds here in Stephenville without memories of great joy. We were so fortunate to have you five beautiful women here, not just for your musical expertise, but the enrichment of our lives with your friendship.
Larry, our time in Stephenville was unforgettable! So glad that we can continue to connect.
loved this, and so timely.
So glad it spoke to you!
Wonderful. Your grandfather, Herman Tolle, loved to laugh and make people laugh. When the doctor first told him he had a deadly lung disease he announced the news to my mother with a smile, “I’m not allowed to run the vacuum cleaner any more. Doctor’s orders!”
I think you’ve inherited his humor gene.
We’ve got to write all these stories about Grandpa down. They’re too good to get lost.
Always a joy
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment! 🙂
Adi is one of a kind, just remembering her now makes me smile. I’m so glad you’ve had these people in your life, they’re gifts from God.
Yes Adi is indeed one of a kind! I sure wish Israel were a little closer. 🙂
THANK YOU,MISTY FOR THIS JOYFUL POST. I’VE BEEN TRYING TO BE HOPEFUL THE LAST COUPLE WEEKS. THE DOCTORS WERE SURE MY HUSBAND HAD CANCER. IT IS DIFFICULT TO HAVE JOY IN THESE TIMES;BUT WHEN GOD PUTS JOY IN YOUR HEART IT IS THERE TO STAY. PRAISE GOD WE GOT WONDERFUL NEWS TODAY. IT ISN’T CANCER. THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH.
. ANXIOUS FOR YOUR NEXT POST.
Our Pastor would reply to this and say, “well did he have cancer and he was healed because of prayer????” Whatever the case I rejoice with you on the wonderful news.
Linda, I understand the challenge of counting it all joy during times like these. I also just recently got two bad reports from the doctor. One of them has already been reversed and we are waiting and praying about the other. I am praising God with you- he does indeed hear and answer prayer!
“Who has believed our report and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Isa 53:1 It is His report that counts!
I’m sure God has a sense of humor, I’m sure he must have chuckled when Adam named that strange looking animal a hippopotamus ,what about mongoose? Do you wonder why he had Adam name them before he created woman? Look dear you named the the last insect an icky bug you can’t name them all icky bug…well they’re icky to me….I’m so glad we serve a God that gives us such a gift that allows us to laugh when its a laugh we need that you for your post I enjoy them and always look forward to the next .
You and Jeremy need to talk. He LOVES to talk about God’s sense of humor. I don’t know how much of it is biblical, but….. 🙂
Reading God’s word cheers the heart of this punster because its pages abound with “play on words” expressions. I have been booed a few times but I do not think anyone is going to mess with God when He comes out with one.
Hi, Misty! So glad I found this. I miss you; thanks for posting that picture so I could see your beautiful smile. I’ll be praying for your health. And I think you can trust me to do a lot of laughing as well :-).
Hi Anne! So great to see you here and to connect again. Thanks for the prayers as well!
Misty, all the blogs have been great, but this one was very special to me. I’m so thankful for HIS joy!
Love to you and Jeremy,
Jenny Chesnut Sent from my iPad
So glad this ministered to you Jenny!
Thank you, Misty, for bringing your friend Adi into my life. I think you enjoy her laughter so much that you, consciously or unconsciously, emulate it. A week or so before you wrote this, I remember you snorting with laughter at some occurrence.
I also enjoyed the Mahler 3rd Symphony. When I was an engineering undergraduate in my token “music appreciation” course, I really did not care for Mahler, Hindemith, and other composers of the same genre. I lean more to music from earlier composers – Hayden, Mozart, Mendelsohn, Beethoven (of course), Tchiakovski (sp?), Rimski-Korsakov, Lizst, Shubert, … But, this was lovely so thanks again!!!
So glad you took the time to listen to the Mahler. It is one of my favorites, probably because of that great emotional and musical moment I experienced when playing it with my classmates. And you are not the first person to tell me that I have learned to channel Adi’s laughter. That’s a great compliment and I accept it wholeheartedly! 🙂
Misty, these are beautiful thoughts, just like you. Thank you for writing and sharing your gifts.
Thank you for taking the time to read!