Green with Envy or Making Yourself Sick? (Let Go to be Well!)

A newswire article interviewed stress expert Lauren Miller about how jealousy can poison health.

If you know me, you know jealousy has always been my biggest "sin." Oh, God, it's a really juicy hook for me. I'm a 4 on the enneagram–and jealousy a big feature of 4's. (That and being incredibly charming and lovable.) But I read this article and realized it's really killing me in a way. She says it paralyzes productivity and kills creativity. It's true. What do we do about it?

So Miller says that recognizing your own value is the key to untangling ugly stress that stems from envy. She encourages people to list what they are grateful for in their daily lives. Returning to what is good about yourself and your life relieves stress.  As a cancer survivor, Miller believes reducing stress is essential to feeling better and staying well. Studies have linked stress to a stressful string of physical problems. One study demonstrated that elevated job stress leads to an increased risk of heart disease in women. 

I recently took a workshop called Ending Jealousy Permanently, and it really shifted my whole way of being in relation to those emotions and stories. Highly recommend it.

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

Laughter: The “Inner Pharmacy”

Laughter Rx Gita Fendelman is a laughter yoga instructor and member of the Tucson Laughter Club. It's been seven years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and four since she started practicing laughter yoga. Since she started laughing, she's ditched conventional medication for what she calls her "inner pharmacy" – laughter. It's all she needs to feel healthy.

Though Fendelman had been practicing Hatha yoga since 1971, her illness hindered her ability to do her traditional practice. "I heard of laughter yoga, and I figured I could still laugh," she said. She also remarked that laughter can improve many disorders aside from Parkinson's such as depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, diabetes and arthritis. Fendelman insists that the only side effects are good ones – like when you just can't stop laughing. 

 

 

 

Laughter Heals, Once Again

Heal-mind A sisxteen-year-old girl with a rare liver disease that eventually left her paralyzed has made major steps towards recovery with laughter yoga. Unable to speak or move, the teen's family thought she would never recover a sense of humor. Yet with the help of two hospital-employed therapeutic clowns who encouraged lung and vocal chord exercises through laughter yoga, the girl started speaking and gaining back motion. The medical doctors at the hospital claim that the clowns' presence in stressful situations creates a calm environment for both the patient and the physician. One clown said, "The doctors and nurses take care of health care, we take care of the spirit". 

 

Laughter Yogis and Japanese Hypertension Research

Man-laughing Once again, scientist have found that laughter can lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Well, they at least observed an 'association' between the two. The exciting part of the study, is that the Japanese researchers  brought in a bunch of laughter yogis to instigate the laughing under investigation. They worked with music therapists as well, and found that the groups participating in laughing and music not only lowered their blood pressure, but were more likely to be motivated to exercise. 

Though the study requires more scrutiny, one Dr. John Ciccone, a preventive cardiologist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in West Orange, N.J. proposed that relaxation techniques such as laughter yoga and music therapy are "not outside the mainstream anymore… I think a lot of what was considered alternative is no longer alternative."  Here I come General Hospital.  

Laughter + Leg Ulcers = Less Leg Ulcers

Laughing_woman I don't have leg ulcers. I hope I don't ever have leg ulcers. Do you have leg ulcers? I hope you don't have leg ulcers. That would totally suck. But if you do, I hope you are already laughing because that's gonna help. Read on, dear reader…

So it turns out that laughing and regular nursing care heals venous leg ulcers more effectively than ultrasound therapy.

I read this study on leg ulcers that suggests ultrasound treatment, which they used to think would help heal ulcers when used in conjunction with compression bandaging. Turns out the ultrasound doesn't help. Guess what? Big surprise, the study indicates that diet, exercise, and good blood flow is more essential to the healing process. Gee, a healthy diet and frequent exercise are at it again. I would have thought "Twinkies", but good thing we have these scientists doing studies so we know what is good for us. They said that stimulation of blood from the legs into the heart is the crucial factor in healing even ‘hard to heal’ lesions. Thus the focus is on how to get one's blood flowing. Aside from compression bandages, laughter can help the diaphragm immensley in encouraging blood circulation. Laughing is cheaper, more accessible, and a positive solution to the negative impacts on the quality of life caused by leg ulcers. May all beings be free… of leg ulcers. 

Laugh Factory Therapist

Kevin-nealon National Public Radio interview with Clinical Psychologist ILDIKO TABORI and comedian KEVIN NEALON. 

In acknowledging that personal anguish is at the heart of many stand-up routines, Hollywood's legendary comedy club, The Laugh Factory, recently took on Dr. Ildiko Tabori as in-house clinical psychologist to treat the club's comics. Free therapy will be available to performers four nights per week in a soundproof, private office in the upstairs of the club building. NPR's interview with Dr. Tabori and Saturday Night Live alumnus Kevin Nealon explores the need for therapy in the entertainment industry, but especially in stand up comedy. 

Nealon describes on stage performance as an "escape" from emotional issues, or in other words, "going to Disneyland". The ability to laugh off and transform neurosis into comedy on stage provides a platform for forgetting the emotional reality of life. The offstage come-down, that Nealon refers to as sometimes hitting him like "a ton of bricks", is what Dr. Tabori will be available to treat. 

Dr. Tabori explains the difficulty in recognizing psychological symptoms in comedians because of the variable nature of their work. Aside from this, therapy has been stigmatized as inhibiting to the punch-line humor found through pain. Some comedians don't want help because they fear coming out of the therapy office un-funny. Yet Tabori assures that funny is a personality trait and not necessarily a product of emotional pain. Besides, a comedian's funny can't be sequestered by a psychologist.

Chimps + Laughter = Social Status

CommunicationCalls We’ve all laughed at nothing in particular just to keep the conversation going. Researchers in Zambia found that chimps do too. Their study, published in Emotion, observed chimpanzees and greater apes responding to other chimps through expressions deemed laughter. Similar to the laughter in human interaction, the study found chimp laughter to be shorter when conversational, longer when spontaneous, and ultimately serve to reinforce social bonds. The study also observed chimps in new groups to mimic the laughter of the others more than chimps in their established groups. Just like our conversational giggles in a new social setting, chimps use laughs and smiles to promote communication. This suggests that chimp social behavior is more complex and similar to humans than formerly believed. Try laughing the next time you go to the zoo and see if you can crack any other primate smiles. 

 

April is National Stress Awareness Month and National Humor Month

DL-Laugh If you have been mindful of your stress levels this month, well done. April is National Stress Awareness Month and according to the Society for Vascular Surgery, laughter is a key function in reducing stress and hypertension. Fortunately, April is also National Humor Month. You may have never heard of either holiday, but they are easy enough to celebrate.  The two go hand in hand and it's as simple as laughing off your stress.  Attending my laughter yoga class is a great way to start.

Stress greatly impacts blood pressure, which can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), and eventually, cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, Dr. Vivienne Halpern from the Society for Vascular Surgery stated that “laughter reduces the level of stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine, and growth hormone) and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones (endorphins and neurotransmitters)… this can result in a stronger immune system and fewer physical effects of stress.” So heed the advice of April's healthy holidays and get giggling. Maybe it'll help combat these nasty Spring colds that are going around. 

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.