A Lesson about Commitment: Laughter Zen Playshop Experiment at Melbourne Law School

Let my commitment be the cause of my life, not the effect of my life.”

This is the new understanding I gained about ‘commitment’ after having recently finished running six weekly Laughter Zen Playshops (experimenting synthesizing laughter yoga, imaginative play and creative meditation as a new way to counter-stress and promote well-being) at Melbourne Law School.

I feel grateful to have had this opportunity, because this is the very place where I started my journey searching for ways to deal with stress, anxiety and negative self-talks. As a former law student, I know how demanding it is to study a law degree, especially in a highly competitive school like Melbourne Law. Understandably I was worried that no one would turn up.

The day before I started the Six-Week programme, in my morning meditation I made a commitment to myself: "I will run the session even if only one student comes, and I will stay the entire session time, even if no one comes or I will just laugh and meditate by myself".

There I was at 12:50pm on a Monday, waiting in Room 605 of the Melbourne Law School building, overlooking the familiar Lincoln Square. My mind was overwhelmed with anxious thoughts: "What if no one comes?” “What if laughter yoga and play are too ‘silly’ and not serious enough for law students?” “Oh dear, what will my law professors think of me?”

Then I drifted into the memories of all those years ago when I was a law student in this building: highly stressed, as younger “I” found it challenging to comprehend the language of law in English, which is not my native tongue. I was constantly worried because I felt that I was not doing enough, not smart enough or not good enough.  Looking back, I wish I knew earlier that the most important gift I can give myself is self-care and self-acceptance. I wish I knew better that instead of getting more frustrated with stress, I could respond to them in a more positive way. I wish I was not SO serious with study, work and life in general. 

Back in Room 605, I gently closed my eyes and took a deep breath - "remember your commitment? Even if no one comes, you will be here for the entire time.” For the first time, my commitments are genuinely for me, instead of being conditioned upon my perceptions of others' judgement and acceptance.

A. Do I make sure that everyone thinks Laughter Zen Playshop is a great idea and everyone likes it first as a proof of its worth and value, then I commit?

Or

B. Do I commit fully to it and give my best effort, without needing to make it perfect right from the start and without needing to please everyone as the basis of my own commitment?

This time, I took a risk and chose Option B, because Option A has never really worked for me anyway. Guess what? Every week, I had at least ONE student that came to laugh, play and meditate with me in Room 605. Lucky that at least I did not have to laugh with thin air by myself (which would also be quite fun, I guess?!) Whilst I hoped that more students would have joined me, whoever was meant to be there came. If I could help one student, then I already have fulfilled the purpose of my Laughter Zen experiment at Melbourne Law.

When I received the beautiful testimonial from one of the participants, I was very touched. I know that my commitment was much more than worthwhile, and now I am even more committed to Peace Lab and to this new path I have embarked upon. 

"Laughter yoga is like nothing I have done before and it is brilliant. After trying many different methods to ease my anxiety I attended Elva’s Playshop laughter yoga classes at University. I felt a little nervous at first, because it feels strange to start laughing intentionally without something funny happening. However, through Elva’s classes, I came to realise that letting go of the ‘normal’ way to behave as an adult for a short period of time and laughing at everyday life was a great way to fight fears and stressors. 

 Elva inspired me to see life from a different angle and, as a result, feel a sense of calmness, self-acceptance and gratitude. She was very understanding of the pressures of work, study and relationships and how they could cause feelings of anxiety and discontent. But she showed me, through laughter yoga, how we can change our perspectives and surpass these feelings. I am very thankful and grateful for Elva’s guidance and her passion for helping us find our inner peace. - SA, final year JD Student at Melbourne Law School "

So, what does commitment mean to you? Is it a cause or an effect of your life?