Games, playfulness, the pursuit of fun: theses are the gifts I’ve brought to people who practice Laughter Yoga. The laughter they evoke is the kind that, in this article, at least, I call “purposeless.” Though Dr. Kataria likes to talk about “laughing for no reason,” the kind of laughter that my kind of “pointless” games evoke is very different from the intentional laughter of Laughter Yoga, and adds something that Laughter Yoga practitioners have found of real value.

I make it a practice to engage strangers, playfully. I do it whenever I can – when I take a walk, when I’m shopping, even at the doctor’s office. I make little jokes, ask them about their babies or pets, say generally stupid things. And the smiles that get generated in the process, certainly the smile on my face, is quite genuine – not because I’m making myself smile, but because of the little dance we’re engaging in, that little moment of playfulness. Granted, it’s kind of an art. Or, certainly, a “practice.” But it brings with it the same kind of purposeless delight that games bring. Only instead of high energy laughter, I get chuckles, and almost always smiles.

I wrote an article a while ago on what I call the Competitive Blessings Game. At the end of the article, I describe a deeply instructive moment I shared with my friend and mentor Zalman Schachter-Shulami. I only recently realized that what he does with his blessings is the same as what I do with my little silly exchanges. That moment of playfulness goes very deep into the soul. The smile that it generates changes consciousness – mine and the people I share that moment with. It comes from my heart. It shows on my face. And theirs.

I originally posted this message in response to a friend, Laughter Yoga teacher, and frequently commentator on Deep Fun posts. You can find it in the comments section of My Kind of Laughter. It’s is an elaboration that I thought would be worthy of a separate, but equal post.


  1. Lily on August 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I have to say, I am enjoying this thread. I read your Blessing Game article, and I was giggling already at the mere idea of “outblessing” someone.

    I like to think of smiles as a non-contact hug. Often times, people just need a smile from someone, and I’m willing to hand them out. Sometimes the “smile exchange” itself is a conversation of sorts, and sometimes they are the opening for a conversation. Sort of a flag on the face that says, “I’m friendly, feel free to talk to me.”

    I was on a subway a few days ago. Being a small-town girl, I’m new to subways, buses, and trains, and I don’t understand the protocol of looking down and keeping to oneself. I understand the safety purpose of it, but I literally can’t help but make eye contact and smile at people. I did so to a young man on a subway, and he immediately launched into a description of the movie he’d just finished watching and a litany of movies he’d recently watched. I listened, and his face was lit up, and I wondered how long it had been since someone had smiled at him.

    I’d like to think that my smiles are genuine, at least by the time the smile exchange is over, almost all the time. I certainly feel that little warm piece in my heart, so it must show on my face. Every now and then I have to force it to begin with. Sometimes it’s an etiquette thing, the same way laughing at a not so funny joke is an etiquette thing. Sometimes it’s a way to de-escalate a difficult situation. It’s my way of saying, “we’re off on the wrong foot, let’s try again from a friendlier place. I’ll start. [smile]” It’s my little way of “being the change I want to see in the world” (as Ghandi might say).

    I love that you start the playfulness first. I’m not sure if it’s that I’m not quite playful enough, or perhaps not quite brave enough, or perhaps I’m just too tired (physically and mentally) to come up with something playful to do, but I seldom start with that. I find that many times the smile exchange leads to that playful place though, so I think it’s just a chicken or egg thing.

    Love and laughter (as always),

  2. Caroline Finley on August 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I’m sure I’m an oddity… I grew up in New York City, at first kind of shy. I would laugh in a nervous response. But somehow that developed more into some sort of humor. Eventually I found I could talk to almost anyone, engaging them in lots of different places. Unlike other New Yorkers who might shy away from eye contact, I am very acutely aware of my surroundings, frequently making eye contact. This often leads to smiles… And conversations. I can’t seem to resist talking with people, getting to know them! I love laughing and find myself just talking randomly to strangers… I ended up being a Child & Family Therapist, which seems to work for my personality. Friends of mine will sometimes ask who that person was after I was talking to someone, and I say, “No clue!”

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