The plane to India

I'm sitting inside a giant piece of metal and plastic hurdling through the sky to visit a distant and exotic land.  I hope the pilot has had more sleep than I have.  Times in my life have been more meditative.  I don't sit and meditate every morning these days.  Turbulence rattles the wings outside like a floppy plastic toy.   Flying on the big taxi to India is a 5 hour trip to Newark plus a 14 hour trip to Delhi.

I love how the wings are aligned with the horizon and the wing tip tones match the sky and the clouds.  The clouds above blend into the water below as if there is an active process of transition between aqueous and gaseous forms occurring.  We've just traversed some body of water I can only assume to be a great lake..  As if all lakes are not great, but anyway.

Gazing below at the patches of red, beige, and various shades of green, seams dotted with cars, the land shaped like the "crazy quilts" they make in fabric shops and display at quilt festivals.  These crazy quilt landscapes are more likely sewn by men.  Bedazzled with streetlights and swimming pools.  The trees and forests look like fluffy feltish material.  I want to know that moment when everything changed.  The tipping point.  The constructional pivot point at which there came to be more land cultivated or paved or bulldozed or housed than there was land with those fluffy tree things.

I imagine a unified effort throughout the country to radically change the way we buy products.  A partnership between the community and the company, whereby both parties step up to the challenge of sustainable living.  A growing awareness that all life is really one life.

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 5)

[Finishing the story from the last blog] "So for the first time, the two monks spoke and said, ’We are laughing because this man has won. We were always wondering as to who would die first and this man has defeated us. We are laughing at our defeat and his victory. Also he lived with us for many years and we laughed together and we enjoyed each other’s togetherness, presence. There can be no better way of giving him the last send off. We can only laugh.

But the whole village was sad. And when the dead monk's body was put on the funeral pyre, then the village realized that the remaining two monks were not the only ones who were joking, the third who was dead was also laughing. He had asked his companions not to change his clothes. It was conventional that when a man died they changed his dress and gave a bath to the body. So the third monk had said, 'Don’t give me a bath because I have never been unclean. So much laughter has been in my life that no impurity can accumulate, can come to me. I have not gathered any dust.

Laughter is always young and fresh. So don’t give me a bath and don’t change my clothes.' 

"So just to respect his wishes, they did not change his clothes. And when the body was put to fire, suddenly they became aware that he had hidden some Chinese fire-works under his clothes and they had started going off. So the whole village laughed and the other two monks said: You rascal, you are dead, but you have defeated us once again. Your laughter is the last.'"

The last post on Osho tomorrow.

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 3)

"A joke moves in two dimensions. First it moves in a logical dimension. You can conceive it. If the joke goes on logically to the very end, it will cease to be a joke; there will be no laughter. So suddenly the joke takes a turn and becomes so illogical that you cannot conceive it. And when the joke takes a turn and the result becomes illogical; then the expectation, the tension that was created in you, suddenly explodes. You relax. Laughter comes out.

Laughter is the relaxation. But tension is first needed. A story creates expectation, suspense and tension. You start feeling the crescendo. Now the crescendo will come. Something is going to happen. Your backbone is straight like that of a yogi. You have no more thoughts in the mind. The whole being is just waiting. All the energy is moving toward the conclusion. Suddenly something happens which the mind could not think of. Something absurd happens – something illogical, irrational.

The end is such that it was impossible for logic to think about it. And you explode. The whole energy that had become tense inside you suddenly gets relaxed. Laughter comes out through this relaxation. ”Man is bored. Hence he needs laughter. The more bored, the more laughter he will need. Otherwise, he cannot exist.

Thirdly, it has to be understood that there are three types of laughter. The first is when you laugh at someone else. This is the meanest, the lowest, the most ordinary and vulgar when you laugh at the expense of somebody else. This is the violent, the aggressive, the insulting type.  Deep down this laughter there is always a feeling of revenge."

Up next, Osho describes the other two types of laughter…

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 2)

If you ask the question, "What is the meaning of it?", you will feel meaningless. And when meaninglessness is felt, one will be bored. Animals are not bored. Trees are not bored. Rocks are not bored. They never ask what the meaning and purpose of life is. They never ask; so they never feel it is meaningless. As they are, they accept it. As life is, it is accepted. There is no boredom. Man feels bored. And laughter is the antidote. You cannot live without laughter; because you can negate your boredom only through laughter. 

You cannot find a single joke in primitive societies. They don’t have any jokes. Jews have the largest number of jokes. And they are the most bored people on the earth. They must be bored; because they win more Nobel Prizes than any other community. During the whole of the last century, all the great names are almost all Jews – Freud Einstein, Marx. And look at the list of Nobel Prize winners. Almost half the Nobel Prize winners are Jews. They have the largest number of jokes.

And this may be the reason why all over the world Jews are hated. Everybody feels jealous of them because they win every competition. When you cannot compete with someone, hatred is the result. Jews must be feeling very bored. So they have to create jokes. Jokes are the antidote for boredom.

Laughter is needed for you to exist. Otherwise, you will commit suicide. Now try to understand the mechanism of laughter and how it happens. If I tell a joke, why do you laugh? What makes you laugh. What happens? What is the inner mechanism? If I tell a joke expectation is created. You start expecting. Your mind starts searching for what the end will be. And you cannot conceive the end.

More from Osho coming up…

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 1)

"This is worth considering. It is significant. The first thing to understand is that except for man, no animal is capable of laughter. So laughter shows a very high peak in the evolution of life. If you go out on the street and see a buffalo laughing, you will be scared to death. And if you report it, then nobody will believe that it can happen. It is impossible. Why don’t animals laugh? Why can’t trees laugh?

There is a very deep cause for laughter. Only that animal can laugh which can get bored. Animals and trees are not bored. Boredom and laughter are the polar dualities, these are the polar opposites. They go together. And man is the only animal that is bored. Boredom is the symbol of humanity. Look at dogs and cats; they are never bored. Man seems to be deep in boredom. Why aren’t other animals bored? Why does man alone suffer boredom?

The higher the intelligence, the greater is boredom. The lower intelligence is not bored so much. That’s why primitives are happier. You will find people in the primitive societies are happier than those in civilized ones. Bertrand Russel became jealous when for the first time, he came into contact with some primitive tribes. He started feeling jealous. The aboriginals were so happy, they were not bored at all. Life was a blessing to them. They were poor starved, almost naked. In every way, they had noth-ing.

But they were not bored with life. In Bombay, in New York, in London, everybody is bored. The higher the level of intelligence and civilization, the greater the boredom.  ”So the secret can be understood. The more you can think, the more you will be bored; because through thinking you can compare time as past, future and present. Through thinking you can hope. Through thinking you can ask for the meaning of it all. And the moment a person asks: ”What is the meaning of it?” boredom enters, because there is no meaning in anything, really."

Osho's satsang on laughter continues…  Stay tuned for part two.

Solo Performer and Comedian Bill Santiago Interview

image from assets.nydailynews.com Alicia Dattner> I remember you'd been performing for a year when I first started and we met… How did you start doing comedy?

Bill Santiago> I had friends that were interested and got me hooked. But it appealed to me right off. Say what ever you want to say. Use your wits. Get people to see things your way. Laughter. Applause. What's not to like?

AD> What was your motivation to write a show about dancing?

BS>Whenever I'm dancing I have this inner monologue going on, about about how well it's going or not, all the characters out there that you see and meet and dance with, whether I just nailed a move, or someone's foot, the constant frustrations and occasional moments of unparalleled joy, and the simple human interaction of being that close to someone you don't know and trying to synchronize. Plus how obsessive people can get about their dancing, and how far it's come, the Latin dancing, from the way that my parents danced, how people are taking it now to a ridiculously Cirque du Soleil level that is frankly laughable. 

And the way the different people dance the different dances, and how each dance has its own tricks and personalities, salsa, versus tango, versus bachata, versus samba, versus flamenco, versus cumbia, versus merengue, and on and on. And the teachers, my God, they're all such crazy gurus! And the whole process of learning, how you have to train yourself to absorb these movements into your own being, and how thrilling it is to be learning. There's a lot there. 

The quest to become the dancer you'll never be and enjoy yourself as much as possible along the way. It's a comedic gold mine, really. And combining standup so closely with dance is new for me, allows me to be physical on stage, and look for the humor in the physicality as much as in the words. And I get to work with super musicians, and invite people from the audience to come up on stage and dance with me. It's very interactive. It's always a different show, you know.

AD> What's your favorite thing about dancing?

BS>My favorite thing about dancing is the connection that you have with where you come from, this music stirs that in you, and the escape that you have from everything else in your day, in the periphery of the present. I love that when you're dancing nothing else matters, and if you're lucky you can let go, and maybe connect with someone else in a very unique and beautiful way. But it's high stakes because there is a lot of pride on the line, that's the stuff of funny. 

image from www.speakoutnow.org  AD> What's your favorite thing about comedy?

BS>My favorite thing about comedy is whatever latest the line I am working on to perfect, or idea that I am trying to get traction on. When it works, when I finally get it to gel and I hear the laughter, it's very satisfying. I like that bulls-eye feeling. It's also nice when people remind you that you are doing good work, that it has affected them, that it matters, that they want to see more and that you are appreciated. 

AD> How would you classify what you do? Is it standup? Is it solo performance? Is it something else?

BS>It depends on the project that I am working on, the particular show. The "Funny of (Latin) Dance" show is way beyond standup, but standup is the basis of my approach, I apply that skill, those chops to this new topic, and hopefully renders an entirely new kind of show. 

AD> Anything else you'd like to share with us?

BS>I'd love to share some of the spontaneous magic that happens on stage when I invite folks from the crowd to come up on stage and dance with me in this show, but you are just going to have to come out and experience it for yourself.

Bill Santiago performs all over the country.  Go see him. 

-Alicia

Michelle interviews me on Laughter Yoga

So I got a call last weekend when I was in LA from a youngster named Michelle doing a report on a topic of her choosing: laughter.  She was charged with interviewing an expert on the topic, and it was fun to talk together.  I asked if I could post the paper she wrote, and she said yes:

I slowly walked into the hallway and turned the knob on the door leading to the teacher’s lounge. I was tightly clutching my cell phone as I sat at the table rearranging my papers again and again. I got up and started pacing as Michelle, my classmate, reassured me that it was going to be fine. The blend of leftover pasta, soup and banana filled my nose as I nervously looked around for any excuse to put this phone call off.  I finally came to the conclusion that there was no excuse and I just have to conquer my fear and get it over with. My fingers shook with terror as I carefully typed the ten digit phone number wondering if it was a cell number or office number. This number belonged to Ms. Dattner, a laughter yoga instructor and comedian in San Francisco, who has toured the world bringing smiles to people’s faces. I figured she would be the perfect person to talk to for information on laughter.

After we got the introductions out of the way I started to breathe normally again and I relaxed my tensed up shoulders. She started by telling me about her laughter yoga class. Ms. Dattner started her own club that has breathing exercises based on yoga techniques but also laughter incorporated into the class. When people told her about laughter clubs she was so intrigued that she immediately wanted to become a laughter yoga instructor. Since she is also a comedian, laughter is in her blood and it comes very naturally for her.

Laughter yoga is used for relaxation as well as relieving pain. “When I have a really good laughter session, I feel more present and I feel way less pain and stress. … [Laughter is] way more effective than taking an Ibuprophen.” Ms. Dattner believes.

Ms. Dattner claims that laughter has changed her life. She finds herself laughing just for the sake of laughing. Laughter gives us adults a feeling of playfulness that you lose as you grow-up. The way she keeps that feeling in her daily life is by doing her job. Her comedy and laughter yoga reminds her to laugh. To incorporate laughter in her daily life she is even thinking about holding a daily class on the internet.

By this point I was completely relaxed and comfortable with talking on the phone as she started to explain that at first most people think that laughter yoga is just plain weird. Although that is just a first impression, for most people that is their only impression. Ms. Dattner admits that it is a little challenging finding pupil but once someone goes and tells people how great it is, the word gets around. She says that a lot of interest is attracted over the internet. Laughter yoga originated in India and is a huge thing there. Some schools have even adopted it into their morning assembly. It won’t be long until laughter yoga takes over the world as the universal way to relax and release stress and tension.

This was the first time I got to hear one person’s opinion about laughter. I could tell that she genuinely loves what she does and she truly wanted to help me. At every pause in the conversation she would fill the space with either laughter or some sort of noise to let me know that she was thinking of more to say.

Our conversation winded down but this was the most powerful and touching moment. One word inspired me, it’s simple yet meaningful. “Kids naturally laugh, and that is one thing that no one can take away from you…ever. “My advice is simply, not to stop laughing when you get older” Ms. Dattner remarks. I came away from that interview with pages of notes but only that remark planted in my brain forever, and it will stay rooted in my head just as a reminder for me when needed.

Because my topic is laughter it has really changed the way I look at life. I laugh at any possible opportunity, and I am more conscious in observing the things that make me laugh. This interview was so uplifting because she (Ms. Dattner) has made a career out of something she loves.”I’m inspired to teach things I want to receive” Ms. Dattner states. I make others laugh in hope to get some chuckles back. The reason why I chose laughter as my I – Search topic was so I could have an excuse for doing something I love for two and a half months and call it schoolwork. I aspire to have the same principals as this very inspirational leader that I got the honor of talking to.”

bombay to kerala… om!

hari om… so… we last left our heroine in bombay… (that sounds so strange to say–like we stashed our smack in an alley in india) she was just finishing a performance of her new comedy show "eat, pray, laugh" along with her comedian friend samson at the jewish community center. she–ok, i–was worried that the indian jews wouldn't really enjoy or understand the racier bits of my indian travel tales… 

but it turns out that those were the parts they enjoy the most. i capture most of the show on my awesome canon elph camera, which i then leave in a rickshaw the next day, along with all the other photos i took in england of jasper and i. jasper is six weeks old and adorable.
letting go
i am sad for a couple of days about losing the photos. and the camera too. it served me well on my last trip to india. so now i am learning lesson number 8,341 on letting go. but like i'm actually getting it. i mourned the loss, and then i got that, hey, this shit is all temporary. and it's a great addition to my losses. meaning, now i don't have a laptop, a cell phone, or a camera to distract me from what's right in front of my nose. 

nothing exists but here and now. and what i'm seeing in the here and now with my eyes is also marginal on the reality scale.
whispering woods
co-incidence of strange co-incidences, the method acting teacher i studied with for four years, who has never been to india, is in bombay the exact same week that i'm here. i visit him at the film school where he's teaching and sit in on a couple of classes. the studio is called whispering woods, and it's like the canyon in LA. lush, green, undeveloped. i even get to do a deathbed scene while a kind of famous (so i'm told) actor is in the class. talked with some of the other professors there and the head of the film school and might get to teach a class on standup the next time i'm in the hood. 

anandashram

i remember sam and his sister alice dropping me off at the train station, but i don't remember anything about the ride. all i know is that it was overnight and i arrived in khanangad as the sun was coming up. one of my kirtan heroes, krishna das, told me after a concert that there's a place in india where they chant "om sri ram jai ram jai jai ram" continuously. an ashram called anandashram. so that's where i'm going. i arrive and somehow i'm not in the guest book, but they let me stay anyway–give me a private room and everything. and it's a very special time to be there because a saint from tamil nadu (a state in india) is visiting for several days named thuli baba. i've never heard of him until now, but it's very exciting. after each meal, i have the opportunity to have satsang and prasad with his group of devotees. the skinniest, frailest, loudest cat i've ever seen curls up next to thuli baba every day. they tell me that the cat was a guru in the last life and is working out some heavy karma for the world by coming back as this cat and not eating.
sun and moon
friends of my friend haridas bring me to the ocean to see the sunset and the full moon rise on the opposite side of the earth. i climb the mountain behind the ashram and leave all my worries there hanging in a tree. 

letting go for the 8,342nd time. you know what they say… "8,342nd time's a charm!" the next day (or the day before… who knows!) my german friend sandra and i are walking back from a beautiful little temple in a field and we pass the cows' maternity ward. on the ground is a five-minute old calf being licked by its mother. they milk the mamma cow and i peer into the giant milk pail of colostrum saying, "whoa." "you like?" the guy says. 

the next morning they knock on my door with some cake for me made from coconut milk, sugar, and this thick cow colostrum–let me tell you–i have never eaten anything more rich. plus, when i was trying to "om" it started coming out as "moo" that day.
i joke!
i'm getting daily two-hour massages from these two young women with medicinal hot oil. after five days, it actually gets to be kind of boring! they don't speak much english, so i'm cracking them up with my mime humor for two hour straight. "cheery" means smile in malayalam. and "tamasha" means joke. (these words strangely come in handy later when i'm being harassed at the train station.) 

"ichally" means ticklish and "idally" is a kind of breakfast rice dumpling. and they kind of rhyme so i'm just saying "ichally, idally, ichally, idally…" there's nothing funnier than jokes between people who don't speak the same language. i'm joking with gestures about how the oil they're using smells like cooking oil and that i'm afraid all this basting means they're going to cook me for dinner… and on and on…… stuff that's way funnier without words.
i know by ths time in my trip that i'll be spending more time in india in this life. it calls. 

i hope your day of giving thanks was full of grace. i have returned from my time in india and i'm back in the bay, so blessed in so many ways. have a gander at the next installment of my adventures below… more to come about Tiruvanamalai in my next note.. 

In the meantime, I invite you to join Suzette Hibble, Erin Brandt and I, for the next Creativity, Sexuality, and Spirituality Workshop! Please register for the December 10th workshop event with me if you're interested–soon–it is filling up–only a few spots left!
Namaste,
Alicia

Hey 2009, You’re Looking Mighty Fine…

Dear Fellow Humans from the year 2009,

As 2008 passes like a gall stone, I'm laid up for the first day of the new year, high on early episodes of The West Wing and the belief that the inauguration of our new president will rescue this country from free-fall. It's been an endlessly interesting year for us all. Electing our first black president, losing 40% of the capital in the stock market, seeing Tina Fey look so much like Sarah Palin, I can't tell who's who.

Personally, I've had an interesting year as well. It began with a ten-day silent meditation course in India. You all followed my travels throughout India, Thailand, and Cambodia for three months starting last February. I gathered parts and memories of myself scattered in many lifetimes during that trip. 

I also joined a year-long training course for life coaching and workshop leading in August, and began coaching people in creativity and spontaneity. After doing standup, working and playing with others to break through to what is most true for them is my favorite thing to do. And after almost two months of work on my solo show, "The Punchline," I played to sold out houses at the Fringe Festival. It was an honor to win Best Female Solo at the Festival and be selected for the Solo Show Festival in Marin in February (the 24th.)

I'm sending out this new year's wish to you because I want to reach out and connect with you. I've been very affected by the intensity and fear of the world's events–the end of easy oil, the reluctance of auto companies to completely re-invent themselves in order to protect the environment, the blindness and greed of the mortgage industry, and the sense of scarcity the downturn in the economy has had on us. And the message I want to convey is that it's time to open our eyes to what's really happening in the world. And to take a stand. To speak what we believe, and to align our actions with our values and our words. But I also want to say that there is so much more to life than the what's in the news. Our own thoughts and actions are what truly build the fabric of reality, moment by moment. And together, we have the power to focus our thoughts to send an asteroid crashing into Bernard Madoff's living room. (But read some of my beloved Krishnamurti and you'll realize we are all Bernard Madoff.) 

So stay tuned for info about my gigs, laughter yoga classes, and workshops in the coming year. I'll be premiering the full version of Eat Pray Laugh! at some point, and I'm also putting together a down and dirty old-school standup set for the clubs.

To 2009, may all beings be happy.

-Alicia

http://www.aliciadattner.com
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Comedy at Morgan Hill

I did a set tonight in Morgan Hill, California.  Far far away from, well, anything it seems.  I'm very uninterested in political material, partly because I never feel as informed as I'd like to be to back up my arguments, partly because it's annoying to talk about something that I care about and find out who the Republicans are in the audience.  Then I wonder what they're thinking of me, and if they're thinking as poorly of my opinions as I am of theirs, and in general it's just unpleasant.  So I did some of my new material about my trip to India and meditating, and it went incredibly well in a room mostly full of Christian Republicans.  They had fun, I had fun.  They heckled, I heckled back.  People always apologize to me after shows where they heckle me.  Like somehow we're old buddies.  Ok.  Be my buddy.  Fine.  But so I was surprised that my material, which is designed for a room full of new agey spiritual types actually went over with the straight crowd.  Good to be doing standup again.