Laughter heals. It reduces pain. It protects the heart. But despite hundreds of studies on the healing power of laughter, researchers still haven't answered a vital question.
Does making an effort to laugh stop disease, or do people who are naturally happier enjoy better immunity? Maharishi Ayurveda answers that question by taking the concept of medicinal laughter to a deeper level, to the level of bliss. Laughter is healing when it is a spontaneous expression of bliss.
The Council points out that bliss is a state of unshakable inner happiness, not dependent on outer expressions such as laughter. Not all laughter is happy, nor all tears sorrowful. For instance, Halle Berry cried when she became the first African American woman to receive an Oscar for best actress, and that wasn't because she was sad. On the other hand, a person could fake a laugh and not feel happy inside at all. The real question, then, is how to create bliss. Bliss supports the immune system, the endocrine system and balances the heart and mind. If you sustain a permanent state of bliss, then you will always enjoy the healing benefits of laughter.
What is Bliss?
Bliss (ananda) is a quality of pure consciousness. In a famous definition of health from the ayurvedic text Charaka Samhitå, a healthy person is defined as someone whose mind is full of bliss. Bliss results from a state of balance in mind and body. All of the treatments of Maharishi Ayurveda are aimed at this one thing: to cultivate bliss. That's why we never prescribe anything with harmful side effects, because that would take an individual away from bliss. Every herbal formula contributes to overall well-being and bliss as well as targeting the specific cause of symptoms. The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians describes five components of bliss mentioned in the ayurvedic texts.
Become Established in Ahimsa: Nonviolence
Ahimsa means to be nonviolent in thought, speech and action.
Anger, suspicion, frustration — these negative emotions destroy bliss. They disturb the balance of Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha of Pitta that governs the emotions and their effect on your heart. Nonviolence is one of the behavioral rasayanas, or behaviors that create bliss and longevity in the same way as the most refined ayurvedic herbal compounds, known as rasayanas. Behavioral rasayanas include a wide range of behaviors, from respecting elders to cleanliness to sweet, truthful speech. Of course, these behaviors are spontaneously expressed by those established in higher states of consciousness. But for anyone who wishes to cultivate a blissful, spiritual mind, it's wise to observe them as best we can.
Eat Foods that Create Bliss
Foods that contain more intelligence of nature convert most easily into ojas. And ojas is the material equivalent of bliss. Ojas is the finest product of healthy digestion. It gives a sparkle to the eyes, glow to the skin, and immunity to the cells. Examples of ojas-producing foods are milk; ghee; whole grains; fresh, organic vegetables and fresh, sweet, juicy fruits. Examples of foods that destroy bliss from the ayurvedic perspective are leftovers, red meat, "junk" food, and canned, processed, packaged or frozen foods. These types of foods are difficult to digest and create ama, the toxic waste product of incomplete digestion that underlies most disease, dullness and negative emotions. You want to eat foods that are alive, not dead. Rather than looking at the caloric content of food, first make sure it is lively with nature's intelligence.
Know the Ayurvedic Daily Routine
Knowledge (vidya) of how to manage your day-to-day life brings bliss. When to go to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat — this practical knowledge helps you become attuned with nature. If you stay awake at night and sleep during the day, for instance, you may get the same amount of sleep, but you'll feel duller and less blissful. For sleep to rejuvenate, you need to fall asleep when all of nature settles down, before 10:00 at night. It's easier to fall asleep then, and your sleep will be of a deeper quality. Waking up before 6:00 is also healthiest, because body and mind become infused with the energy of the early morning. Sleeping during the day causes the shrotas (microchannels) of the body to clog up, resulting in a dull, depressed feeling.
Control the Senses
Here is a phrase in Sanskrit, indriya jaya, which means "winning over the senses." For deep inner happiness, your senses can't be ruling your mind. Rather, your mind should be governing them. After all, it's usually the desire to indulge in one of the senses that causes people to make mistakes (pragya apradha) that cause ill-health. For example, if you have a Pitta imbalance, and thus have too much heat in your body, you will feel healthier if you eat sweeter, more cooling foods to counteract the heat. But if you crave the taste of hot chilies, and eat them on a regular basis, you will intensify your Pitta imbalance, which in time could lead to problems such as anger, frustration, peptic ulcers or hemorrhoids. Your sense of taste in this case is driving your mind to make decisions that create ill health and destroy bliss. Staying up late watching TV is another example of being overshadowed by the sense of sight, leading to an overactive mind, the destruction of ojas, and disturbed sleep. Allowing your mind to be overshadowed by the senses destroys bliss. Paradoxically, the only way to break the grip of the senses is to fill the mind with bliss, so that its own nature becomes more charming than the objects of the senses.
Infuse Your Mind with Bliss
Tattvagyan, or transcendental knowledge of life, is the most important component of bliss. The Vedic texts teach us that when you know the transcendent, then bliss comes spontaneously, because the transcendent is a field of pure bliss. The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians recommends Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation® technique, which takes only twenty minutes twice a day. Many studies conducted in major research institutions all over the world have demonstrated that people who practice Transcendental Meditation experience increased happiness, better health, more harmonious relationships and an overall sense of well-being. The interesting thing is that once you start experiencing the bliss of the transcendent, you naturally find it easier to act in harmony with natural law. In other words, it becomes easier to observe nonviolence, to choose foods that bring bliss, and to keep a healthy ayurvedic routine. And as your mind becomes more blissful, your mind will no longer be driven by the senses.
Finally, The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians recommends two bliss-producing groups of herbs, mentioned in the ayurvedic texts. Ojaskar herbs are ojas-enhancing, and include Maharishi Amrit Kalash Nectar and Maharishi Amrit Kalash Ambrosia, the most cherished ojas-enhancing herbal formulas in the ayurvedic tradition. Research supports traditional claims that they promote balance, longevity and higher states of consciousness. The second type is called somanasajaya, herbs which enhance coordination between heart and mind, creating more physical and mental bliss. Somanasajaya herbs are found in Blissful Joy, Worry Free tablets and Tea, and Organic Rose Petal Spread. Youthful Skin Massage Oil for Men and Youthful Skin Massage Oil for Women also contain somanasajaya herbs. These massage oils are ideal for maintaining youthful elasticity of the skin and creating bliss in the mind and emotions.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you'll find that your laughter will reflect a spontaneous state of bliss. That is the healthiest state of all.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.