Rainbow Magic Laughter Festival 2017

The 2017 Laughter Yoga UK Conference and Laughter Festival: A Reflection of Love.

On Friday 9th June 2017 under the light of a full Strawberry moon an incredible group of positive people met to focus their attention on having a good time and opening their hearts fully to the healing power of love and laughter. We danced, we sang, we laughed and we played. The woodland echoed with the sounds of joy and we shined brightly for three whole days of summer. Hahahahah

Finally, after 12 months of hard work, today is Sunday. A quiet day of stillness and rest. A day of meditation, connection and listening….deep listening and in this post I’ll be sharing that quiet, reflective space with you, sharing my thoughts and hopes and outlining how by coming together as one we can easily co-create an even more beautiful world.

 “If you put out a vessel it will fill full of rain.”
Co-creation is at the heart of everything we do at the Laughter Festival and 2017 was no exception. The reason LF17 was such a massive success was because of all the amazing people who came and gave so much of themselves for the benefit of others. When we all dig just a little bit deeper, when we share the load and bring a little more to the table than we personally need for ourselves, then abundance is the inevitable result.

© Giles Atkinson

It’s true that Tim and I are good at bringing the component parts together and as such our small but happy training and events company www.laughtertime.co.uk is the main sponsor of the Laughter Festival, but it is the amazing people that come and the gifts that they all bring that makes our weekend so very, very special indeed.

A good friend of mine once told me “If you put out a vessel it will fill full of rain”.  With the help of a brilliant team, we put out the vessel. The venue, the website, the health and safety, the facilities, the equipment etc….. though it is the heart-centred beings that come from all over the country and beyond that are the sweet summer rain that fills the vessel to the brim, and last weekend our cup was truly overflowing.

Wow! I am always blown away by what we can achieve when we focus our attention and pull together as one. Thank you all so much. I’m proud to be part of such a talented group of co-creators and change-makers and my deepest gratitude goes to everyone who gave what they could.

A lesson in trust
Of course, running an annual event of this size involves some levels of risk. The first one that springs to everyone’s mind is financial and yes, that is a major consideration. Even though we are a not-for-profit community event that is supported and co-created through the generosity of many people, the costs are still significant and run into the 10’s of thousands of pounds (no small sum for two Shropshire country bumpkins). But putting those pesky pound notes to one side, there are many other, more subtle risks that have only become apparent with time and experience.

There is the risk that people will let you down, of equipment failure, bad weather, illness, accidents etc and then, as a festival organiser, there is the risk to one’s own personal health and wellbeing as a result of the stress that comes with managing all the risks (something I am acutely aware of since my experience of burnout)….. The list goes on and on. It’s quite a ride and not for the feint hearted. Hahahahah

But despite all the known and unknown risks, the hurdles and barriers, the haters and deliberate saboteurs, we continued, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, step by step. With love as our guiding light, with faith and the unshakable confidence that comes from a deep sense of knowing that what we are doing is for the benefit of all. It’s bigger than us, it has its own momentum and a mission to help as many people as possible to live happy and healthy lives. It’s a beautiful energy and I feel so grateful to be able to be in service with my friends in such a positive and fun way.

I have learnt from my own direct experience to have total trust in the journey of life. As long as my intentions remain good and for the benefit of all, then everything works out perfectly. It always does. It is only when goals become ego-centric, based in fear (often lack of money) that they become harmful to others and things start to go badly.

Go towards the light
We’ve all met them. Those people that undermine your confidence, that shoot you down at every opportunity. Those that can’t bare not to be the centre of attention and cannot abide the success of others. The trolls, the naysayers, the parasites that seem to suck the energy from others. Sadly with the rapid growth of social media this form of narcistic sociopathic compulsive behaviour disorder seems to be massively on the increase. The trick, I think, is to become quicker at noticing them and then avoiding them altogether. “Don’t feed the trolls”.

One of the many things I am noticing about myself whilst I am on this journey of self-discovery is how intolerant I am becoming of those who aim to cause harm and prevent others from shining their light. Sometimes this can be overt by way of deliberate sabotage but more often than not it can be disguised and hidden from public view in the form of emails, covert messages and gossiping. Energy vampires I have come to learn are simply those people that deliberately take up your head space….. ie those people that you think about, that you don’t want to think about.

The way I see it is that we have 24hrs in the day. In those hours what do you want to think about? If you are spending any time thinking about something or someone other than what you would like to think about, then this is a drain. A friend of mine tells me “Some people are energy drains and some people are energy radiators”. Don’t give the drains your time or attention. Just cut the cord now and think about what you would rather think about…. The garden, your children, your holidays, your love or whatever. We get what we focus on, so focus on the things you want, not on the things you don’t want. Just turn your back, walk away from darkness and towards the light. Do your thing to the best of your ability and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Buddha says… “There are some who are moving from darkness into more darkness and there are those that are moving from darkness into lightness. Then there are those that are moving from lightness back into darkness and finally there are those who are moving from lightness into more lightness”.

Focus on the light, hang out with the people that make you feel good about yourself. Focus your attention on all the good things you are grateful for and turn your back on what feels bad. Our emotions are our guides. They are a brilliantly designed energetic feedback system designed to nudge us towards a state of love. Do what makes you happy and don’t let anyone hold you down. Just shine your light, laugh out loud, sing your song and dance your dance with all the passion you can muster. Like attracts like. Light attracts light.

By recognising separation as the illusion it is and seeing everyone as another physical expression of our own true Self, we immediately stop causing harm to others because to do so would be to cause harm to ourselves. True enlightment comes from the knowledge that we are both one and yet separate at the same time. Hahahahah. That’s why the Buddha laughs so heartily. It’s all so hilarious! The cosmic joke.

© Giles Atkinson

Connection
Laughter Yoga, LYUK, the Laughter Festival, Laughter Time, Tim, me and even Simba the wolf dog are all about connection. It’s what Yoga means. Removing the illusion of separation, connecting with each other as one. One family, one community. All brothers and sisters under the same sun and moon. “We’re all just walking each other home” ~ Rumi

I love the way that laughter deeply connects us all and those feelings of connection were very strong at the weekend as we laughed and cried and hugged together. It’s really beautiful to see so much love and support within the LYUK family. There are so many good and wise people here to share our journey with.

Laughter Yoga helps us to connect with others, with ourselves and with the present moment in a very powerful way and when that all comes together in perfect balance, at just the right time, then amazing shifts in perspective can (and often do) happen. It is for this reason that our healing area is such an integral part of the Laughter Festival and I’m very grateful for the support that our healers provide.

Of course, some connections were only brief. I guess there’s only so much we can do in one weekend and I accept that some of those new connections need more watering and more time to flourish and achieve their full potential. Luckily, I no longer suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and accept that everything is perfect in any given moment. Yes, there’s always more that could be done, more workshops I could have attended, more conversations I could have had but chasing those goals is a sure fire way to a very stressful life as they constantly remain just out of our reach. Been there, done that and I can testify that I am happier now with just accepting everything exactly as it is. Perfectly imperfect.

Rest and Relaxation
There’s no doubt about it, modern western life is busy and the wheel never really stops spinning for any of us and so I recognise the importance of getting some quality down time at every opportunity.

I have to admit that I absolutely love my work. I love creating and working with amazing individuals to help others and yes, I am probably guilty of working too much. Hahahah. However, I’m very grateful that my work is about helping others to live happier, more peaceful, less stressful lives so in my down time I get to walk my talk, practice the techniques and experience the benefits directly so that I can teach more effectively.

For me the best form of rest and relaxation is meditation which is something I do formally for at least twenty minutes every day. I find that the rest my brain gets from meditation keeps me feeling fresh, grounded and centred. The more I meditate the better I feel and the better I perform.

For me, meditation is not a religious practice in any way and I do not follow an official path or doctrine. No, for me meditation is a form of brain training….. teaching the brain to focus on just one thing….. the breath in this case. By focusing on just one thing (the breath) it stills our thoughts, quietens down the monkey mind and gives our brain the rest it needs to operate optimally.

If you’re new to meditation then you might like to give this simple 20 min exercise a try.

  1. Posture:
    1. Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
    2. Make sure you are unrestricted around the neck and the throat.
    3. Uncross everything (fingers, legs, arms etc)
    4. Place your hands loosely onto your knees or into your lap with the palms facing upwards if that’s comfortable.
    5. Neck, back, head in alignment and your back away from the chair so that you are self-supporting and sat upright in a ‘dignified’ position.
  2. Timer:
    1. “If you can’t meditate for 20 minutes then you should meditate for an hour” ~ Goenke
    2. Set your timer for 20 mins (I use the free Insight Timer app).
  3. Breathe:
    1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in before slowly releasing out through the nose.
    2. Observe the breath as it comes in through the nose, travels down the throat to the bottom of the lungs. Hold for a moment and then observe the same breath, the exact same particle of air as it leaves the bottom of the lungs, travels up through the throat and out through the nostrils.
  4. Repeat:
    1. Breathe in deep…… hold…… and breathe out long.
    2. Each time the mind wanders to other thoughts…..just bring your focus gently back to following the breath.
    3. Breathe in deep…… hold…… and breathe out long.
  5. Enjoy:
    1. Meditation is a highly pleasurable experience. With practice it can become like entering a state of pure bliss. Nirvana.
    2. Like learning any new skill it can be frustrating at first but I guarantee that each time you practice it gets a little bit easier and the results are well worth the effort.
    3. In time you will likely experience an increased sense of calmness, less stress, more laughter, better performance, less tiredness, improved relationships, more clarity and many more benefits.

Laughter Festival 2018
We’re already far too excited about our event next year and it’s clear from the number of ‘Pioneer rate’ tickets that have already been sold that many of you are too.

Buying your tickets early for this amazing event is important for a number of really good reasons.

  1. The ‘Pioneer rate’ saves you ££’s. As a first mover you get the advantage of 40% off the gate price.
  2. LYUK members can get an extra 10% off.
  3. Buying your tickets early gives us the capital to put down deposits and invest into the festival for next year to make it even better for everyone.
  4. We have a limit of 499 tickets available to sell and only 100 places at the 2018 LYUK Conference. Buying your tickets early secures your place and prevents disappointment.

Advance tickets to #themostpositiveweekendoftheyear are available here: http://www.laughterfestival.org.uk/buy-tickets

The Laughter Festival is a not-for-profit event for happiness, health and wellbeing so you can be assured that every penny is used to make the event even better for everyone. We have a policy of ‘everyone buys a ticket’… even the organisers. We all contribute to the pot so that we can all share in the joy that results. It’s the way we roll and we know that co-creation is where it’s at. By working together and helping each other, we all rise and achieve sooo much more for everyone. Consciously co-creating the more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. <3

We can’t wait!
If you’re keen to get involved then please do step forward and make yourself known as soon as possible.
The sooner we sort the programme offerings and music and speakers and and and…… the easier the whole process becomes.

If you would like to run a workshop or speak or volunteer or know of a band, therapist, artist or trader who would fit right in then please contact us at info@laughterfestival.org.uk.

Next year is gonna be awesome.

Training and Workshops

We’re off to the 2017 Faculty of Public Health conference tomorrow to share the power of laughter and relaxation with those at the sharp end of public health. It’s a brilliant opportunity to spread the message even further that happiness and health is easily accessible to us all with some simple changes to our mind set and behaviour. We’re really hoping to get Laughter Yoga into the hearts and minds of medical professionals so that they will have more confidence to prescribe it as a complimentary practice in alignment with the likes of CBT and other Positive Psychology interventions.

On Friday we’re laughing with a group of 12 unemployed people as part of a programme sponsored by the European Social Fund and in conjunction with Bangor University. Bringing joy to those who have suffered for so long.

It really is beautiful work and if you’d like to bring more laughter into your life or the lives of those within your care, or perhaps you’re interested in training to become a Laughter Yoga professional and deliver your own workshops and programmes then please do contact us.

Our next training courses are in Birmingham and Congleton and early bird rates are still available for those that want to join us.

It really does seem that the time for laughter is now.  Hahahahah J

With love and laughter,
Wes.

PS – Save 40% with ‘Pioneer rate’ tickets to the Laughter Festival and LYUK Conference (offer ends 01/07/17). Don’t miss out! Tickets available here: http://www.laughterfestival.org.uk/buy-tickets/

PPS – Experience the true power of laughter on one of our many training courses here: https://laughtertime.co.uk/training/

Subscribe to our blog here or for more information about our workshops, training and events please visit www.laughtertime.co.uk.

Mind, Body AND Spirit

Mind Body Spirit Birmingham 2016 4th October

The whole healthy body healthy mind mantra is on overdrive here at Laughter Time HQ.

As well as boosting our endorphins and immune system on last weekends Laughter Yoga Leader Training course in Cheshire, we’ve also been charging our bodies with as many organic vegetarian superfoods as we can.

When laughter, relaxation and mindfulness are combined it often follows that awareness is placed on the quality of the rest of our lives. Our lifestyle, our food and our relationships all come into focus as we become aware of how everything is connected .

Whilst laughter cannot directly help you with the quality of your diet (perhaps look to a company like www.suma.co.uk for that kind of guidance :-)), it is proven that the quality of our lives is dependent upon the quality of our relationships….. and that’s where laughter can really come into it’s own.

We instinctively know that laughter is good for us and now’s your chance to come along and experience the very real benefits and insights of treating laughter as an exercise and daily routine to stave off depression, lower blood pressure, improve immunity and increase resistance to glum people 😉

We’re getting super excited about MBS Birmingham on the 4th of November!

We’re on the Main Stage at 11:00,
in the Wellbeing Studio at 12:00
and in the Ceremony Space at 14:30.

Come and join us and experience the full power of Laughter and lots, lots more.

Hahahahahah.

To add more juicy laughter related tidbits to your daily diet, be sure to check us out at MBS on Friday 4th November in Birmingham NEC.

We are changing the world one chuckle and one chickpea at a time 🙂

Mind Body Spirit Festival
Join us for 3 full days of festival shenanigans

Mind Body Spirit Birmingham Festival – Birmingham NEC – 4 to 6 November, 2016

The Mind Body Spirit Wellbeing Festival at the iconic Birmingham NEC
MINDBODYSPIRIT.CO.UK

#MBSFestival @MBSFestival #LaughterYoga #Laughter #Wellness #Mindfulness #Relaxation #ThePowerofLaughter

Burnout is a thing and it happened to me.

I did it again. I created a massive challenge for myself, where none was needed, took too much on (again), ignored the warning signs and learnt some valuable lessons about burnout (and mushrooms) in the process.mushroom-forest-floor

This is extremely exciting from a live research point of view and as you can imagine, I find it both fascinating and absolutely hilarious from the stand point of a Laughter Yoga Teacher. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the experience as it has given me an even greater understanding of stress, more insight into its causes and more knowledge of how to help others to quickly and sustainably recover from it.

It can happen to us all and I hope that by sharing my own experience these words might help someone else along the way.

“We are all just walking each other home” – Rumi.

As you’ll discover from the first blog (below), I’ve been thinking about and planning our cycle tour of Scotland for quite some time and probably talking about it for a year or more. The incredible buzz of the Laughter Festival was behind us, I’d cleared two weeks in my diary, psyched myself up to cycle 35miles per day in all conditions, the bikes were ready and our kit had been sorted.

lake-district

It was then, at that exact point, when I was on my laptop, in the van, working out the average daily mileage and combining that with where we might sleep along the way, then cross referencing that information with possible Laughter Yoga venues, whilst at the same time writing and sending out press releases, emailing local contacts for support, making announcements and working out costs (I could go on). Suddenly the amount of work hit me and it all very quickly went pear shaped. And man! What a ride. Hahahahah

The pressures that come from running a growing small business were combined with the everyday life and money stuff and now the trip to Scotland and everything that it involved. It was all too much. My body and mind reached a tipping point and my wheels completely fell off.

I appeared to have physically collapsed under the sheer weight of it all, like hitting a wall of physical ability, and for a couple of days I felt unable to move, plan, speak, think, get dressed or even switch on my laptop. Everything completely stopped….. and I cried… which felt good and I was grateful for the relief they provided.

And then it came to me, in a flash of inspiration. I suddenly remembered that in the lead up to the Laughter Festival, my amazing friend and business partner Tim had said to me in private conversation, when I’d been announcing even more plans and ideas, “I just don’t want you to burn out”. Of course, I did not realise the significance of this statement at the time nor that it would prove to be both a prediction and a great blessing in disguise.

In a sudden flurry of activity I immediately Googled ‘Burnout’ and discovered it to be defined as “multiple stressors over an extended period of time”. It was like a Eureka moment and such a blessing to discover this information. I wasn’t alone, there were many others, I hadn’t lost my marbles and it wasn’t that any one of these pressures was too difficult to handle, it was more like there was just too many of them, that I was being stretched too thin, pulled in too many directions without adequate resources and not getting the rest that my body needed. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I felt better as I read through the list of symptoms: not eating properly, working harder, exhaustion, frustration, lack of enthusiasm and motivation. I had to accept the evidence before me and smiled kindly to myself. I knew that I had struck gold, a bit like when I discovered the true power of laughter for the first time, and I knew that the healing process had already started.

mushroom-hoard

I followed my nose further (which has never let me down) and over the next few days I started to list my ‘perceived’ stressors before bringing them all neatly together under the following headings:

  • Money
  • Home
  • Health
  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Learning
  • Van
  • Work/Career
  • Other

Each of the headings then had a further list of items below of all the issues that I felt were not right in some way.

The page quickly filled up with improvements to be made, jobs to be done and goals to be met. The very act of writing as many of the issues down as I could think of and then sorting them into their relevant headings was useful in that it gave me the information I needed within a framework which formed an overview of all the areas of my life that I felt were important to me at that time. From this perspective I could more easily see the main issues that were causing me problems and those that could be easily resolved for some quick wins. I smiled and felt better.

Two things became instantly apparent.

  1. I had to offload some of my work and cancel the Scotland trip. It was always a bit of an ambitious project and I just had to accept that I wasn’t physically ready to manage it at this time.
  2. Smiling made me feel good. So I resolved to do even more of the things that would bring me joy and even less of the things that caused me stress. I went to see Tim to share the good news and then I went to play in the woods on a fantastic foraging course with renowned mycologist Jesper Lauder and then to the coast (hence the photos).

canaerfon-marina

Needless to say that the whole tornado of emotions and thoughts eventually passed and to be out on the other side again was like a breath of fresh air.

As a Laughter Yoga Teacher, I smiled at the irony of the situation, which felt good. How was it possible to teach others how to create their own reality and choose their own emotional state and yet still fall victim to the stresses and strains of my own life? I chuckled kindly to myself, which felt great.

It’s impossible to say which straw it was that finally broke the camel’s back or maybe even which combination of straws or in which order. Who knows? But what I do know now is that Burnout is a thing and as the world gets faster and life gets busier, more and more people around the world are experiencing it, even Laughter Yogis.

The good news is that the quicker the acceptance of the situation the speedier the recovery (so I hope this post will get picked up by those that need it most) and there are some easy and practical steps to help bring you back on track and in alignment with your true purpose.

  1. Recognise the symptoms of burnout.
  2. Stop what you are doing and take some deep breaths.
  3. Write down your list of stressors and elaborate on each point.
  4. Organise them into a few key headings.
  5. Write down what you can do in the short, medium and long term

Some people think that Laughter Yoga instructors should be laughing all of the time (even in our sleep I assume). I strongly disagree and in fact, I think it is quite dangerous to be in denial of your true feelings. Life’s just not like that and anybody who tells you different is either a) not human or b) not telling you the truth.

There are good days and bad days, ups and downs for us all and to pretend that everything is just peachy all of the time is unrealistic, unsustainable and can be very damaging to our mental (and physical) health. No, my work is in being authentic, in speaking the truth from my own direct experience and sharing my discoveries and insights along the way with others.

All emotions are good and should not be avoided. They point us towards what is good for us and away from what is bad, helping us to go in the direction that brings us the most fulfilment and joy (defined by love and laughter). The trick is to not to react to them in haste or indeed, to ignore the warning signs, as I did, of what is actually a highly evolved and awesomely sophisticated bio-chemical energetic feedback system. Instead, we must learn to forge our life deliberately in order to become fully conscious creators of our own reality and, as I have found time and time again, coming back to and maintaining a regular practice of deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation (and laughter) is of real value to our lives.

club-banner

Yes, it’s true that even I ignore the nudges and pinches sometimes, but luckily, when I do find myself in a bit of a dip, I address what’s really going on and thankfully have learnt the techniques that help me to not dwell there for long, to focus on what I do want, not on what I don’t want, to remember who I truly am, get back on the horse and continue in the service of others.

Regardless of what is happening in the outside world and no matter how you are feeling on the inside, always remember that you can simply take a few deep breaths, safe in the knowledge that this moment too will pass.

You’re amazing and don’t you forget it.
It is time to shine.

Namaste,

Wes
Hahahahahaha

Subscribe to our blog here or for more information about how to positively combat stress and prevent burnout in your workplace please visit www.laughtertime.co.uk.

“Miles of Smiles”. Adventures in Laughter Yoga.

Eeeek!
Only 4 weeks to go before our epic 500 mile cycle ride and Laughter Yoga marathon around the north coast of Scotland and I’m starting to feel pretty excited. Hahahaha.

BikeFrom the 4th to 16th September I will be cycle touring the NC500 with two friends (Darren and Sammy) as part of the Laughter Time “Miles of Smiles” UK Laughter Yoga Tour.

NC500

“Miles of Smiles” is simply about helping people to come together and feel good in a way that is easy, sustainable and fun. Making connections, building relationships and laughing out loud.

It’s our wee mission to share health and happiness throughout the communities of the Northern Highlands and the 14 day tour will include Laughter Yoga workshops in Inverness, Gairloch, Ullapool, Thurso, John O’Groats, Wick and Dornoch before ending in Inverness on Friday 16th September.

Combining my love of the wilderness with a passion for Laughter Yoga, I’ll be sharing the true power of laughter, mindfulness and meditation with as many people as possible along the way. Connecting communities with laughter for happiness, health and wellbeing. Spreading a wee bit o’cheer o’er the hills and doon ta Loch Ness. Hahahahah.

Image result for loch ness monster

The press have started to support us, we’ve got some venues and dates coming together and the Laughter Tour map has been updated here: http://www.laughtertime.co.uk/tour

We always feel better when we laugh and that’s for some very good (and scientifically proven) reasons but laughter is also the fastest, easiest and most natural way I know to directly connect with our own inner sense of joy and peace. Laughter is the very point of life itself and that’s why it feels so good!

It’s about setting our intention to be happy, giving ourselves permission to laugh, going with the flow and helping others to smile along the way and that’s exactly what the Laughter Tour is all about. Well, that, and the small matter of 500 miles on two wheels. Heheheheh 😉
NC500 logo
Now to shave my legs (I’m not sure why but it seems to be the thing).

With love and laughter,
Wes. Hahahahah
😉

PS – If you would like to support our not-for-profit community outreach work then you can do so by making a donation to the Laughter Foundation. Thank you.