What’s in a Birthday? Notes on turning a thirty-something

Guess what? Today, I turn the ripe old age of 34! I was just starting to get the hang of 33. "The Jesus year."  

Now, it might be hard to believe… but I wasn't always the comedy rock goddess you see before you today. It's hard to admit that some things have been tough for me – except when I'm on stage… then I apparently love to admit it. But we all want to look good, myself included, and to be respected and to make a good impression. But by doing so, we essentially lie. And my job as a comedian has always been to tell the truth. So here it is.

Yes, I've spent a over decade performing comedy, but it was largely unpaid and for give minutes at a time. It was easy to sleep in until 10am every day. Working day jobs that I didn't really feel passionate about. Since I was little, I had always felt like there was something different, something wrong with me, some way I didn't fit in.

I struggled for many years with an eating disorder, with a love and relationship addiction. It was easier to fall in love with men who had some quality that I wanted to possess, rather than actually developing my own self. Continually disappointed that true love was not forthcoming, I'd eat myself into a fog. And it's hard to pursue your life's purpose and make a real living when you're suffering from a love hangover and a food coma. The emotional vicissitudes were so intense–nothing felt stable or lasting or fulfilling, and I never really managed to create the kind of sustainability or impact or sheer good quality work I longed for, and was afraid I could never have. 

Seven years ago, I hit bottom. Not human bottoms. Ok, I did hit human bottoms. But I also hit low points. And I went into recovery for these various addictions. I've now done volumes of spiritual and growth work, from learning swing dance to doing a series of shamanic medicine journeys, to 12-step recovery programs.

And the most amazing thing happened four years ago. I became ready to cut the crap, and get serious about my comedy career. But this time, I had to walk my own path. And I had to let go of all my ideas and concepts about what "real comedians" do… real comedians perform at dark and drunken comedy clubs where you can literally smell the bitterness and competition… "real comedians" aren't spiritual. "Real comedians" eat ramen and live with 6 roommates. Well, my path, it turned out, was to take what I had learned through 10 years of standup and years of acting classes, and start telling the stories of my life in my own way, injecting humor into the pain and healing with laughter. And, often, inspiring others to take themselves less seriously. 

Last Wednesday, I put on my show "Eat, Pray, Laugh!" at my friend Jim's house. It was one of the best shows I've ever done… and one of the most fun. At the end, they brought out a cake and sang happy birthday. What a gift. That night, I realized: I have worked my ass off to to find my own comedic voice, one that is truer to my spirit than ever. Wow, it's okay to be funny AND earnest AND vulnerable! And I found my true audience–not in comedy clubs, but in alternative venues, theaters, yoga studios, and the houses of friends. God, it feels good to speak the truth and make people laugh like this. It's taken over 20 years to figure out how to embody this kind of truth and humor on stage, but it was worth working for.

 And it's amazing to have it pay off. This past Saturday, I played my highest paying gig ever at the Iowa City Yoga Festival, plus all those expenses paid (!! – flight, hotel, etc.) and they brought my boyfriend out to teach a workshop as well. That, and winning awards like "Best Local Comedian", "Best of the Fringe" and "Best Storyteller" confirms that I actually have found my path, and I'm walking it. But what's most exciting is that I know that, even with all the years I've spent working at it, it's just the beginning.

I recently met Julia Butterfly Hill, who has a totally amazing life story and a powerful impact on the world, and she confirmed for me something I'd been thinking. That we don't have to stop being who we are. Those of us who are different, who don't fit in, we are gifted. We are can be sensitive, intense, frustrated, angry, sad, and we sometimes overflow with passion and desire. And we don't have to change who we are–we just have to learn how to focus our energy in the right place. 

This has become a passion of mine to now share with others. I've developed a new coaching technique that allows you to accurately tap into your higher self, your soul’s deepest source of wisdom. and show you how to integrate it into your life – powerfully, compassionately, & effortlessly. I'm currently calling it Higher Self Coaching – which is designed for people who are tired of going to others for answers, and who just want to be able to access the real answers they know are locked somewhere deep inside, and move forward with clarity certainty. Some of my specialties include life purpose, relationships, and recovery. 

 If you're interested learning how to focus your energy in the right place, to find your own path, your own voice, your own gifts, let's chat – we'll set up a "Get Your Own Answers! Session." Email me, or you can schedule a time online here

Finally… I have several projects in the works that I'm excited to share with you soon. For now, enjoy a little feel-good music, on the house. This is a song I recorded, and it's dedicated to you. 

No matter how well we do or don't know each other, you've been an important part of my path. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to walking on the road of life with you. 

Sending blessings for a year filled with laughter and light!

Alicia

20 sec. Hugs are Better Hugs (or, It’s Your Oxytocin)

Happy Hug Day (61) You can create a deep connection with a long hug. Of course. You know that. What you might not know? The amount of time matters. We're not talking about the half-second hug-cum-chest-bump.  Or the 5 second clench-to-coax. No, indeed! Apparently, a loving embrace held for 20 seconds taps our sweet spot. The folks at The Shift Network say that 20 seconds is the "magic" length needed to release oxytocin in the body.

News organizations from the BBC to USA Today have reported on the University of North Carolina's discovery that a longer hug reduced cortisol (stress hormone) and increased oxytocin in the couples studied. Oxytocin is the "bonding hormone" the inspires the feeling of meaningful connection with others. This happy hormone is also linked to reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. With whoever you are close to, try staying close longer with a 20 second hug. You may feel the difference. 

 

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Sources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4131508.stm

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-03-09-hug-usat_x.htm

http://theshiftnetwork.com/tsn/main

Fake it till You Make It (Laughing, That Is)

 

IStock_000002713101XSmall You and I both know how good it feels to really let go and laugh.

 The science behind that feel-good feeling it isn’t all that complex. The human body releases endorphins in the act of laughter, and those endorphins relieve stress. It is a natural physiological responseTurns out, the body has no way of knowing if your laughter is genuine, or if you’re a big faker.


A study done way back in 2003 documented its participants' emotional state after 60 seconds of "real" laughter and then compared it to 60 seconds of "faked" laughter. Turns out that both kinds of laughter have the same affect on the body. Check it out:  http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/03/31/1048962698891.html

So… If the human body has no way of knowing if the laughter is genuine you can reap all the same benefits by faking it. Fake laughter turns into real laughter in my Laughter Yoga class all the time.  Go ahead, just try it. 

 

Is your laugh genuine or strategic?

Did you know we've been laughing for 7 million years?

The Quarter Review of Biology recently published a study on laughter.  There are two kinds.  (Of course, Osho wrote about four kinds, so science is still lagging behind on this front…)

Thee first kind of laughter is a) spontaneous and b) stimulus-driven.  The study says that just because someone is laughing with you, doesn’t mean that it is spontaneous or stimulus-driven, which is the natural kind of laugh that mirrors ape play, which arose around seven million years ago.

The second, “dark side of laughter” kind of laugh is strategic and sometimes can be cruel. "One type of laughter arises spontaneously from the perception of a certain class of events, while the other is used strategically in interaction to influence others or modulate one's own physiology," said Gervais, who is a researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University in New York.  Here's where I read the article.

In laughter yoga, I aim for my laughter to always be the first kind of laughter.  But I don't think this study gets at the whole picture.  Laughter needs to be practiced to become part of one's life if it's been missing for a long time.  That's why in laughter yoga, we encourage one another to laugh, through exercises designed to create that spontaneous first kind of laughter.  Don't feel discouraged if it takes time to remember how to laugh spontaneously.  It's still a practice for me.  I'm even starting to laugh at standup comedy again after years of training myself to slap the table with a straight face and say in a deadpan tone, "That's funny."  But it takes practice.

So come practice.  Come take a laughter yoga class with me.  Or come see a standup comedy show!

-Alicia

Creativity Workshop Starts January in Oakland!

Six to One : Six Weeks to Complete One Creative Project

Are you ready to kick your creative work into high gear?  

Starting in January, and meeting for six weeks, the Six to One course will challenge and hold you to complete your chosen creative goal.  Each week, we'll meet, set intentions, check in about our work, and set about the task of completing a creative goal.  We'll also have guest co-leaders teach a new skill each week that will empower you to get closer to your goal.  

Life is short:  If you've had a creative project on the back burner–or the front burner–for months or years and needed that special combination of kick-in-the-butt and holding-the-hand to really get it done, this is your chance.  Life is short and it's time to live it up!  

Small Group, Special Attention:  With eight participants, you will divide into four pairs.  Your partner for the course will be your daily action partner (you'll let each other know at the beginning of the day what you plan to do and at the end of the day what you did do.)  We'll also have a mid-week phone call to check in about your progress each week so that you don't have any chance to slip through the cracks.  

The Syllabus:  

The evening meetings will be approximately three hours; the first hour will be for checking in, and a new guest co-leader each week will join us for two hours and lead us in the following skills.  

Week One:  Visioning, clarifying and setting intentions for your project.  We'll get really clear on what your project is, get a timeline worksheet to break the work into manageable sized tasks, and then give each participant the attention of the group.

Guest co-leader and I "circle" the group regarding desire and fulfillment and letting the deep heart lead.

Week Two:  Writing and the unconscious, opening the channel to creativity.

Guest co-leader and I lead the group to unblock the heart and the pen and help you "blow out the pipes" to get the creative juices flowing.  We'll write until we get blisters on our fingers.  Well, almost.  And this will be a practice you can take into the next five weeks to increase the speed and reduce the censorship of your creative flow.

Week Three:  Making your dreams sing, using your voice.

Guest co-leader and I lead a voice session that will allow you to purify, align and express your intentions, and make them manifest through sound.  As you speak your dreams, you reify them.

Week Four:  Embodiment and aliveness.  Your life is a performance.  We are working from the subtle levels to the gross, from inside out in this course.  This is the process of manifestation.  This is not airy-fairy stuff, it's just plain creation.

Guest co-leader and I will take you from thought to word to speech to body, and awakening your whole being.

Week Five:  Support, self-care, and stepping into a bigger you.  One reason we don't step into a bigger Self in our lives is that staying small keeps us "safe".

Guest co-leader and I lead you in learning the essential skills of self-care and boundary setting that allow for a sense of safety and security which ultimately allow you to take your wings and fly. 

Week Six:  Celebration and integration.  If you have ever found yourself caught in a never-ending cycle of doing without rest and appreciation for the hard work you've done, you may not have learned how to enjoy yourself properly.  

Guest co-leader and I offer a celebration and integration of music and party (!) where you will learn to truly celebrate your accomplishments and allow yourself to receive the benefits of your work.  Authentic joy and celebration builds in such way that it pervades every area of our lives and warms the hearts of all those we come in contact with.

It's not where you are that matters.  It's how far you've come.

Early bird signup: now until December 11 for only $195.  After December 11, the course is $295.  

In this project-based course, you get the support of:

-Special attention with a small group

-Community building with fellow artists and creators

-Eighteen (18) hours of class time

-A daily action partner to check in with

-A midweek conference call with the group to keep the momentum high

-Email access to Alicia for questions

Writing a Solo Show, Part 1 of 7

So you want to write a solo show? Not everybody does. It used to
be most people felt they had one good novel in them. One good album.
Five minutes of good standup. Maybe one good screenplay. You take the
particulars of your life and assemble them in a funny or touching or
absurd or poignant way and they become universally understood as human.
And after that, you have to actually get good a the craft and technical
know-how.  There's charisma, and there's skill.  Possessing charisma
might bring you to the stage, but building skill is what can keep you
there.  But let's not worry about the skill part yet.  Plenty of time for that.  What's important right now is that you want to create.

Today, especially in the San Francisco theater and
standup comedy scene, solo shows or monologues are becoming a great
venue to speak your life.  And many people are taking the form to the
level of mastery.  You've heard Eric Bogosian on CD, you've seen
Spading Gray on DVD, maybe you went to the theater and saw your first
solo show in person.  And now you're Inspired.  "This is it!" you realize.  This is how I want to tell my story!  (I'm
chomping at the bit to go see two shows at the Marsh in San Francisco:
Ann Randolph's Loveland, and Dan Hoyle's The Real Americans.  I'm on my
way in the next week to see Dan Hoyle!)

So if this is your first
foray into the world of possibility in creating your first solo show,
where do you start?  Well, you start where only you can.  You already
know in your heart why you're reading this.  Something incredibly
important, intense, and powerful occurred in your life.  It may even be
connected to some issue out in the world that is equally important,
intense, and powerful.  That's where you start. 

Begin by
allowing yourself to speak what that is.  But keep it to yourself for
the moment.  This is a precious moment, when you acknowledge to
yourself what it is you know you have to tell the world.  Take 30
minutes and sit.  Let yourself write the it down.  Write in whatever
form: bullet points, a poem, short pieces of prose…  Write what comes
about the CENTRAL MOMENT of this powerful event or truth in your life. 
During this central moment, where are you?  What time of year is it? 
What are you wearing?  What does the air smell like?  Who is with you? 
What music do you hear?  What did you eat that day?  What are the
sensations in your belly?  Write with a pen and paper if you can… 
let those images and emotions wash over you and spill onto the paper
directly from your heart through your hand to the page, and make
Natalie Goldberg proud.

When you finish, don't yet show it to
anyone.  It's a tender and sweet piece of work you're doing, and you
deserve to have it held with your own utmost compassion before opening
it to others. 

Ready for Part 2 of 7 on "So You Want to Write a One Person Show?"  Stay tuned!  I'll be writing it in the next few days.

Ending World War Through Laughter

Babylaughing

 I came across a little blurb in the New York Times a couple of years ago that intrigued me, and I clipped out… I started using it as a bookmark and it would pop up at various times when it seemed coincidentally apropot.  Here is the gist… it’s, well, possible end to the world war… So Yoki Kamuar of Kansai University (Osaka, Japan) believes he might have the answer to ending world war. It’s simple, healthy doses of laughter.

Yoki, an expert in communications, has invented a machine that charts laughter in a unit of “aH”.  He says adults tend to calculate weather it’s appropriate to laugh and in a sense forget how to do it.  Children, on the other hand, laugh more freely and put out almost double “aH’ measures. Yoki Kamura’s goal is to measure laughter and to make the measuring device as small as a mobile phone and sell it as a health and amusement device.  He wants to use this new information to “shift from a century of wars to a century of humor and tolerance.”

I wonder what would happen if we actually started recommending a certain aH for people?  If we had a government-suggested Recommended Daily Dose of Laughter?  Vitamin A 20 mg, Vitamin B 30 mg, Vitamin L 50 aH…

At the doctor’s office, along with weighing you, taking your blood pressure and temperature, they could also measure your aH!

Doctor to man in office, “Ok John, turn your head and laugh.”

I wonder if they laugh much at terrorist meetings…  I’d like to see what a couple of Marx Brothers movies would do to their vengeance level.

So I’m going to find one of these machines and get my laughter up to the RDDL to end some world war here.  You in?

Creative Care

Humanpyramid
Sometimes in my creativity coaching practice, my mind flashes to an image of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  It is a pyramid that states what the basic necessities are for people to become self-actualized, i. e., to become our fully-expressed selves.  Remembering to care for the foundation of one's pyramid, the first three levels, is pivotal to having the space needed for creativity.  I believe that creativity can work inside every stage, but it's hard to
feel excited about cooking a creative meal when you're too tired to
stand up. 

I like to remind myself every day that I need to care for my basic needs so that I can feel free to create from a place of security and not from the place of fear that my needs won't be met.  The base biological and physiological needs are: air (breathing!), water, food, shelter, sleep, sex, and warmth.  The next level is safety: needs like protection, order, limits, money, and stability.  After safety comes the need for belonging and love: affection, partnership, family, community, working with people. 

The needs for esteem, meaning, beauty, self-fulfillment, and helping others toward self-fulfillment (transcendence) build upon all those.  Covering these needs at each level is really an act of self-love.  If you were to design your own personal hierarchy of needs, what would it include?

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    "Self love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting."

    -Shakespeare

What is “coaching?”

Free_woman_2
You've probably heard lots of talk in the last few years about Life Coaching.  Everybody and their dog has a coach these days.  Your mom has a personal trainer.  Your brother has a financial coach.  Your uncle has a comedy coach.  Your wife has a relationship coach…   :)

Life coaching is a process whereby we are supported to discover and live out our deepest desires and highest aims.  Coaching differs from therapy in that it does not diagnose or treat any condition.  Coaching deals with the condition of being human (as any good therapy, art, or relationship does.) 

My aim as a creativity coach is to assist you on the path to getting what you really, really want.  And as an artist (performer, writer, comedian) I know what it's like to walk this path.  I do this by helping you to hold your vision and stay in integrity with your vision.  And the way I've gotten what I really, really want is simple.  I follow Gandhi. 

        "Be the change you want to see in the world." (or in your life.) -Ghandi