Carrying Guru Ranjit’s words as inspiration, “Breathing and meditation are the two pillars of life that make the building solid,” I walked in to a local elementary school, excited to begin my first solo lesson of the fall as a certified meditation teacher. Representing Youth Meditation (the non-profit arm of Charlotte Meditation), I hoped to provide these children with tools they can use in order to build a solid life of clarity and peace. Instead, through my interactions with the first and second graders during my first week of classes I rediscovered another essential tool of my own – laughter and joy. By weaving these materials around my pillars of breathing and meditation, I infuse my entire life with a sense of safety, companionship and warmth.

In our Youth Meditation curriculum, we traditionally begin our eight-week sessions with laughter yoga, using the exercises to build an open environment where we can laugh and feel comfortable with each other, ready to have fun with the next eight weeks of practice. Laughter yoga has been around for thousands of years, beginning in India as a way to bring villages together – and yes, while there is something inherently awkward and uncomfortable about forcing foolishness with each other, the awkwardness almost immediately gives way into authentic laughter. By the close of a good laughter yoga session, I end up engaging completely, dropping reservations and finding delight in nothing but the joy of laughter with others. In my Youth Meditation classes, students who were initially reserved, nervous or withdrawn bloomed in front of my eyes as I gripped their hands and looked deeply into their eyes before breaking out in to a smile, chuckling with each other for no reason besides “it’s fun to laugh together.”

This experience with the children impacted me in a powerful way. As someone who has spent a large amount of time in a troubleshooting field, seeing errors and anomalies without even looking (four leaf clovers have always been an easy find!), I often struggled to see positives when a negative was present. Guru recommended the practice of intentional meditation so I practiced purposefully being aware of all things good, positive and right surrounding me instead of the things that weren’t. I was amazed at the immediate difference it made in my interior life and in the way that people related to me and felt in my company. So many wonderful things that were ALREADY present in my daily moments slipped outside my notice when I trained my attention on the failures of myself, the world and others for the sake of “continuous improvement.” I finally saw that the potential for laughter, joy and positive connections with others was present in every mindful moment.

I stand by Guru’s statement that breathing and meditation are the pillars of life – but my experience with my students reminded me that cultivating and maintaining laughter and joy is the next essential step.  If I weave laughter and joy around my pillars of breathing and meditation, I find myself surrounded by contentment and happiness. The positive is ALWAYS present, but I have to maintain openness within my mind and body in order to truly embrace it!

~Ashley Moye~