It was 1969. I was 18. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the famed spiritual guru who brought Transcendental Meditation to the United States) was in town. My girlfriend had just gotten initiated at the Transcendental Meditation Center. They gave her a special, sacred word/sound to repeat silently during her meditation. She was told never to speak it out loud. She didn’t even tell me, her best friend! I knew, then, I had to get one of my own.
When I arrived at the meditation center, I was asked to wait in a candlelit room. The scent of incense was in the air. I heard soft footsteps just outside the door. A young woman came in and asked me to place the flowers I was asked to bring on an altar next to a photograph of the Maharishi. He had a subtle smile and a little glint of mischievousness in his eyes. I liked him immediately.
The woman sat quietly with her eyes closed. When she finished, she leaned over and whispered into my ear. That was it. I now had my very own mantra.
A few months later, I went to a group meditation with my friend. We entered a large room. The only sound was the whisper of fabric and bare feet on the floor as each of us found a spot and sat down.
I closed my eyes and settled in, preparing myself for the 20-minute meditation. Each of us was to recite our mantras silently for the duration.
I pictured my friend sitting next to me, smiling. It made me giggle. When she heard me, she started to giggle, too. I knew we were in trouble.
I focused on my mantra to try and stop the sensation rising in my body. The energy between us was growing. The more I tried to hold it in, the harder it was to control.
Suddenly, a loud guffaw shot out of my mouth. I was horrified. I tried deep breathing to slow it all down, but there was no stopping it. Another surge of energy rose and another wave of laughter poured out of us. We surrendered in unison and just laughed and laughed. I felt the tears flowing down my face as my whole body convulsed and shook uncontrollably.
When we finally quieted down, I noticed all the tension had left my body. I fell into a deep state of relaxation. Now, with a quiet mind and still body, I was free to wander the Universe. I could have sat there all night long.
When we got up to leave, the others glared at us. I could see they were displeased. I gave a silent apology and, grabbing my friend, rushed out into the cool air.
I was rested. I was relaxed. I was free!
I later found out the Maharishi himself would get the giggles from time to time during his own meditation. (I knew there was something I liked about him!)
I also learned that laughter is one of the all-time best stress relievers around. It calms the mind, heals the body and lifts the spirit in ways virtually no other relaxation approach can.
So my advice is this: If you have an opportunity to laugh — or better yet, laugh uncontrollably — embrace it! And if you’d like more opportunities to laugh, by all means go in search of them. My guess is that you’ll start finding giggles in places that surprise you.
For more on the benefits of laughter in meditation and yoga, check out these videos:
“God and I have become like two giant fat people living in a tiny boat. We keep bumping into each other and laughing.” –Hafiz