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Posted: Jun 21, 2005  08:15



Barbara Lund
Where does one go to see the Wizard? To the Emerald City, of course!

Having heard that my Wizard would be in The Emerald City this weekend, (Seattle, that is) I went off on my own hazardous journey to the Emerald City, a place of near-mythical beauty, nothing short of impressive and breath-taking. Especially breathtaking was the traffic.

When I hit the traffic in the Emerald City, I knew in an instant that I was not in Kansas anymore, L.A. maybe, but definitely NOT Kansas. That traffic was worse than the infamous L.A. freeways….is that even possible?

Driving bumper to bumper, I shot through one after another of those scary, long and dark tunnels that worm their way through downtown Seattle. Fearlessly, I impelled my Ford through the bewildering tangle of freeway interchanges. All the while, I remained undaunted, because my mind was on the real prize -- seeing the Wizard.

Who is this Wizard, the guy for whom I’m risking life and limb? He is none other than the Wizard of Ha Ha, Steve Wilson. Steve is the founder of The World Laughter Tour, an organization leading the laughter movement in the U.S. and indeed much of the world.

And, why am I so keen to see the Wizard of Ha Ha? Because, this is a golden opportunity to get my own training to be a Certified Laughter Leader (CLL), from Steve Wilson, the Wizard of Ha Ha, himself.

If I’m crazy, then I have a lot of company. People are traveling from all over the world to take Steve’s training. They’re coming from: Chilie, England, Australia, Iceland, the Philippines, Mexico, Scotland, South Korea and Canada. As of April 2005, nearly 1,500 people, worldwide had completed the CLL training.

Have you heard about the health benefits of laughter? Updates on this work have been popping up on the TV News regularly. The media loves something new and it’s keeping a sharp eye on this unique phenomenon. One recent news flash to hit the morning shows last week said that laughing 15 minutes a day will result in a weight loss of four pounds a year. It’s a small thing, but it’s true…. and every darn pound matters in the battle of the bulge.

Laughter heals the mind, body and spirit.
Today, 1,000 laughter clubs exist around the world and all over North America. Hundreds of laughter clubs are being conducted each week in such diverse places as elementary schools, fitness clubs, yoga classes, nursing homes, adult day care centers, senior centers, YMCA’s, health support-group meetings (i.e., cancer, fibromyalgia, lupus, heart disease, diabetes, etc.), also, employees of banks, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, military, etc. The need for more laughter is global and laughter itself is universal.

How did this all get started, anyway? Back in the 1960’s, a doctor by the name of Norman Cousins was diagnosed and hospitalized with a serious illness: the outlook was grim. So, he decided to cheer himself up by watching old movies of his favorite comedians - The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin and the Lucy Show, for example. He laughed so hard it was disruptive to the other patients in the hospital, and the hospital staff requested that he move to the hotel across the street. He moved to the hotel, kept on watching and laughing and in a few months he was well enough to go home.

Dr. Cousins enjoyed nine more years of an active and fulfilling life. During this time, he wrote a best-selling book about his experience, The Anatomy of An Illness As Perceived by the Patient. The book has been considered a seminal work on heightening public awareness of the benefits of laughter.

The use of humor and laughter to benefit the health of people has been known, possibly as far back as 5,000 years, when Tibetan Buddhists used laughter in their practices. Dr. Cousin’s book gave the theory a modern-day shot-in-the-arm.

The science of laughter has been the focus of increasing research over the past quarter-century. Research findings are most compelling. Listen to a few of the things that have been discovered about laughter:

• Laughter strengthens the immune system in several ways. It appears to stimulate the thymus gland, activating the immune system. Levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are reduced, enabling immune cells to function more effectively. It liberates interleukin2 and other immune boosters.

• Arterial blood flow is improved, a factor in preventing heart attacks, and improving mental function

• Digestion is improved because of increased peristaltic action in the intestines

• Relaxes muscles throughout the body

• Conditions the abdominal muscles

• Improves respiration and chronic respiratory conditions

• Releases natural endorphins, which provides natural pain relief.

• Helps move nutrients and oxygen to body tissues.

• Gives your body a cardiovascular workout. Heart rate and blood pressure increase at first then drop to normal levels for as long as 45 minutes after the laughter.

• Laughter can improve sleep due to relaxation and it can aid healing because it lowers levels of adrenaline.

The above is obviously a short list of the full benefits of laughter as it does not address the body’s many and exquisite reactions/ interactions to the numerous enzymes and brain chemicals that are released during laughter.

We all know that laughter makes us feel good and that’s all we really need to know, isn’t it.

To create more laughter for myself and help others put more laughter into their lives was the carrot that motivated me to make that last- minute dash to The Emerald City to see the Wizard of Ha Ha. My Wizard, however, was not a fake like the Wizard of Oz, he didn’t hide behind a curtain, to conceal his real self. No, not my Wizard of Ha Ha! A smiling Steve Wilson stepped before the class of 26, gave a hearty belly laugh and flung his arms wide open, embracing and welcoming us to share his wonderful world of laughter.

Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, told us how he got the idea for the World Laughter Tour, Inc., World Laughter Tour, during his 1998 lecture tour to India. While in India, he met a physician, Dr. Kataria, who along with other Indian physicians, were proponents and teachers of various laughter/ healing/health methods. He became friends with Dr. Katari who took him to observe the laughter clubs in action. “The rest, my friends” says Steve, using the old cliché, “is history.”

Steve took us through all the paces, which exhausted and energized us all at the same time. It feels so good to laugh!

We were practically vibrating with energy that afternoon as we returned to our hotel in Lynwood, about 20 miles north of Seattle. We had worked up a good appetite, too. An Indian restaurant, “Café India,” was right across the street. What serendipity! Without any discussion, that’s where we headed. This was some of the best Indian Food we had ever eaten.

How good it is…. I mused to myself as my head hit the pillow that night… laugh all day, enjoy a fabulous Indian dinner, and then crawl into a comfy bed in a quiet, dark hotel room.

The two-day workshop did not disappoint me other than it whizzed by too fast. As we were given our Certificates, which were made official by the signature of the Cheerman of the Bored, Steve Wilson, the Wizard waved his hand and proclaimed that we were now Certified Laughter Leaders and bade us to go forward and spread laughter as far and as wide as we could, along with the philosophy of Good Hearted Living.

As I made my way onto the freeway Sunday morning – alas! All those excess drivers were gratefully still tucked away in their beds and the freeway was more like a freeway ought’a be – flowing smoothly like river. What a relief after shooting those Class 5 rapids of last Thursday afternoon. It could have been 1950 again. Wow…I must be relaxed! I’d almost forgotten how that feels. Is it really the lack of traffic, or is it the two days of laughter? What do you think?


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