Meeting Tim Ferriss circa 2006

Tim Ferriss 4-Hour WorkweekOne morning ten years ago I woke up at 4:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had the fire in me.

The week before I had done a shamanic medicine journey and my life was changing. But I didn’t know exactly how. The sun wasn’t up yet. Somehow, searching the internet, I found a recording from the SXSW festival with this guy talking about his totally ridiculously incredible life, created from scratch. He said all you need to do to create your own f-ing incredible lifestyle is just determine what you want to do, to be and to have. Here’s what I wrote I wanted ten years ago in 2006:

Do: perform standup, travel, have a family
Be: comedian/visionary/inspirationalist
Have: time, love, god, peace

This guy said that to have this kind of ridiculously amazing life, you have to focus solely on what are good at and amass resources to help you do the rest. All I wanted was to be an amazing comedian. But it felt like my jokes weren’t “good enough” to make that my life’s work. I struggled for years as a lone wolf in the standup world, isolating myself. Maybe I was shy. Maybe I was bitter because I wasn’t succeeding like I’d hoped. I knew most comedians spend all their time with other comedians, marinating in one anothers’ comedic juices (ah, yeah. yum.) and somehow that morning, it hit me that I didn’t have to be alone in my creative work; I could join forces with other funny people and make my jokes as “good” as I knew they could be. Suddenly something shifted. I don’t have to be alone.

And the shamanic medicine journey work tipped this realization into another realm entirely: that whether the jokes were “good enough” was a moot question all together. All they needed to be was true enough. Me enough. Real enough. The sun started to rise and I felt rich beyond belief. Nothing was in the way any more of me having my dream of becoming a powerful, and hilarious comedian whose humor lightened people’s dark parts.

Thanks to that guy, Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week.

That morning, I looked up his website, and ordered his book. I wanted to email him to thank him, but his website said, “I hate email. Call me instead. Here’s my phone number. I walked up the hill to Red Rock park in San Francisco as the orange sun started to hit the tops of the buildings and left this guy a message of utter gratitude and joy and invited him to tea if he was ever in San Francisco. I didn’t know where he lived. (I’m still embarrassed about the tea part… it was like my inner lesbian coming forth. Who drinks tea? I do. I drink tea.)

And then get this: Tim called me back a few hours later and invited me to his book release party at a club in North Beach that Friday night. We met, he bought me a drink. The only other person who showed up was another woman who seemed to be kind of annoyed with me, maybe because he had bought her a drink too? I had no idea what to say (other than THANK YOU) to this muscle-bound guy with the ridiculously amazing life. So I didn’t say much. Was he socially awkward? Was I boring? Was he? Who knows. After an hour I left.

And then a few months later Tim Ferriss’ book exploded into the stratosphere.

I feel so much gratitude for this meeting, for Tim, and for everyone who takes the lid off limits. Thank you, Tim, for opening my mind and my heart to utter abundance and good fortune. We’re not alone! And we’re rich! Do only what you love!

 

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

Laugh Away the Pain? It’s Evolutionary.

Once upon a time, Charlie Chaplin said, "Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain." Last week, The New York Times agreed. The reported on a recent study which found that,"laughing increased pain resistance." In this story, the science of modern times sides with the clown. The Oxford study also suggests that laughter has provided primates with an age-old evolutionary advantage.

Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar concluded that laughter triggers endorphins that allowed test subjects to resist pain longer. Test subjects watched a variety of video. Some subjects watched "The Simpsons," Eddie Izzard routines, and other comedy clips. Other participants watched  footage considered feel-good without being funny, like nature programs. Others  were subjected to boring- er- 'neutral' golf and pet training videos. All participants were monitored for laughter during the shows. The participants who laughed proved better able to withstand pain resistance tests adminstered after watching the videos. Another experiment, conducted live at an Oxford Imps improv show, supported the findings that laughter eases pain. 

The study reports that laughter, not just a general sense of well being, is key to the endorphin response and pain relief. Dr. Dunbar hypothesizes that laughter has been key to the social evolution of primates. Like singing, dancing, and other physical activities, shared laughter strengthens group bonds. A laugh today may play tonic to your pain, and shared giggling echoes age-old evolutionary rewards. I think may be time to rewatch Charlie Chaplin…

Dunbar's study was published in the proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences.

Laugh it up!

Alicia

Laugh and Eat Chocolate! It’s Good for Your Heart!

Chocolate Any fool knows that laughing and eating chocolate will make you feel good. Now scholars agree too! Let's sing it from the rooftops! (And support it with peer-reviewed science!) "EAT CHOCOLATE AND BE MERRY! Your heart will thank you!"

As explored in blogs past, laughing helps the heart. It reduces stress and increases healthy hormones in the same way exercise does. (Check out my blog entry 'How Many Chuckles = a Chinup?") Add to that happy science a recent study which discovered that habitual chocolate eaters showed a 37% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and 29% reduced risk of stroke.

It sounds too good to be true. No- this study was not sponsored by the Bay Area Hedonists Club. Scientists from the University of Cambridge announced the news at the European Society of Cardiology convention at the end of August. The respected British Medical Journal published the findings. Any google search yields pages of slavering support. It must be true! 

So, is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" passé? Probably not. Researchers caution that there are plenty of unhealthy ingrediants in chocolate treats. Going hog wild with calorific chocolate pudding on a regular basis is more likely to damage your heart. However, 'plain' chocolate (the less added sugar the better) can be considered healthy. So relax, chuckle, and chew a little chocolate while savoring the concluding words of the University of Cambridge study:

"Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption."

This fool may volunteer for the Cambridge crew's next experiment!

Of course, you all know by now that I'm on a refined-sugar-free diet, so I make most of my own chocolate, and I like to keep it all raw…  no cane sugar for me! I make it all with maple syrup or coconut palm sugar… I keep trying to make a stevia-sweetened chocolate… and keep failing..  But I digress…  

Ha ha ha! Hee hee hee! 

Alicia 

 

These be my sources, yo:

"Study: Laughter and Chocolate Can Boost Heart Health." Huffington Post. August 29, 2011.

"Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-anaylsis." British Medical Journal. August 29, 2011

How many chuckles = a chinup? (No joke!)

Laugh-with-abandon_14-things-adults-can-learn-from-children Growing evidence confirms suspicions that laughter is not only fun, but good for us!  WebMD reports that laughter and moderate exercise share a host of healthful effects. According to Dr. Lee Berk's research, appetite hormones behave the same way after a good giggle as they do after a few workout reps. In science-speak: leptin goes down and grehlin goes up. Berk's volunteers watched stressful videos and hilarious videos (in no particular order) while their hormones were monitored. The results show comedy may be good for more than a chuckle.

Berk hopes his findings can assist patients who have lost their appetite. The elderly, handicapped, depressed and ill might benefit from repetitive laughter research. Overachievers may well enjoy a chortle during exercise for added benefit. Though a small study, Berk's work joins other science in supporting laughter as good medicine. More conclusive work may cause this writer to re-evaluate the association between 'cackles' and 'evil'. What can't hurt may heal!

Wanna come try laughter yoga with me?

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The original study

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.