Laugh and Pay Half

The Laughter Festival took place at the beginning of May this year to mark the International Day of Laughter. It is a unique event globally, and while celebrated annually around the globe, this year was a first for Georgia. In any event, it turned into a huge occasion. Some of those involved during the day have since helped create the Monday Laughter Menu at the newly-opened Startup Cafe on Kiacheli Street. Read below to find out more about the unprecedented notion of paying half your bill with laughter.

It is hard not to be happy when you realize that there are people who care about your disposition. Magno Shavdia is a former mathematician who switched to laughter therapy years ago. Now he works for the Osho Meditation Center together with his spouse. “I used to play Rugby too, but when I got acquainted with yoga I did not want anything else. Soon, Osho [an Indian mystic guru and spiritual teacher] became my guru too. The meditation center named after him was opened in Tbilisi in 1980. Soon, we all, members of this center, sold our houses and went to live in India. We got acquainted with lots of people who were fond of laughing and having fun. This center, located in Pune, is the best mix of oriental meditation and Western psychotherapy. It makes sure that a person gets spiritually and materially enriched. I had this idea of having a laughter menu day but only now have I been able to realize this as the cafй has only recently opened.”

Madita Dickhut, Mr. Shavdia’s wife, is a hypnosis specialist and a very skilled NLP [Neuro-linguistic programming] trainer. “It is all about the programs of the mind, how to learn to think in a certain way that is helpful for a better, and more intelligent and peaceful life. I think that Georgian people have discovered individual education. They come and make great insights. They are wonderful students. They are very enthusiastic. It’s beautiful to work with them. I have worked in Brazil, Russia, Italy, India, and I have been almost all over the world…”

Rati Gorgiashvili is a budding law student who has NLP training. “This programming focuses on a person’s self-knowledge. It works on a sub-conscious level. You have to dig deeper inside and change yourself. It shows you that there are no problems at all in reality; rather we create them ourselves. NLP helps people to reach their goals. Many of us often hesitate, and cannot make decisions. NLP tells you: feel the present state, as the problems come from either the past or the future; it encourages you to realize the given moment. At the end of the training day, we have trances. Every person’s life changes after these trainings, as their attitudes towards the universe change. Before that, they might well have some negative attitudes towards particular events, but NPL makes you feel positive and teaches you how to seize this positive feeling from the outside world. There are plenty of positive things that we sometimes simply don’t see, and which might stay out of our sight; but once you pass NLP training, you don’t miss them. It also helps you change attitudes towards yourself and modify self-perception for the better. One of the main elements of NLP is to never repent, as any decision you make is a result of your consideration right at that moment, and even if you could return to that moment, you would have done the same. Therefore, to repent is absurd.”

Georgia Today went to the Startup cafe on Monday to see what all the noise was about. We were sat at a table, given a menu to order from and then encouraged to laugh. At first the feeling is forced, unnatural, strange. But then, seeing the genuine joy on the faces around you, memories of your care-free childhood surface and real laughter breaks free. But the secret to joy, the cafe owners say, is not to think about the past or future but to live in the moment.

We spoke to fellow diner and laugher, journalist Dea Tavberidze. “I like the situation here in the cafe very much. It has an incredibly happy atmosphere- something that our people and country often lack. Everyone should come here. They’ll be sent back to their carefree childhoods at least for a few hours. It’s enough even to see so many smiling faces to become happy at once. The main thing is for each of us to realize our presence at the cafe and to enjoy every minute of it! At first, it might look a little bit weird, as we’ve grown out of the habit of laughing as adults, or have even quit altogether; but gradually, people will come in greater numbers and try to make their time here more beautiful.”

I myself had a chance to ‘pay’ for a pepperoni pizza (usually costing 4 Gel), with only 1.50 Gel, as the rest was paid with my own laughter, recorded on the spot. The weekly event is highly original and such cafes, as the organizers claim, cannot be found anywhere else in the world. After ordering, a stream of laughter follows, as each and every client is encouraged to laugh along with the positivity that is in the air: “Oh my god, I remember how much I used to laugh in my past…” Then, it’s suddenly time to dance.

The organizers promise to make the process even more refined in future, in order to make the whole thing feel more natural. No need, I say - it was joyful hysteria. Why not, after all? After so many negative emotions, tiredness and stresses, why not eat and laugh at the same time? And more importantly, why not forget all your problems and be happy? As Bobby McFerrin sang: “When you worry, you make it double!”

Maka Lomadze

30 July 2015 21:46