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!

 

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. 

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