Monthly Web Columns

LIFE 101


By Coach Cary Bayer

“This line of thinking reminds me that true joy is living in the present — be it creating onstage or walking your dog on a cold February day.”
--Philip Markle, Artistic Director, The Brooklyn Comedy Collective

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One of the most important rules of improvisational comedy acting is to always say ‘Yes, and” to whatever your scene partner has given you—rather than “Yes, but,” and to flow with it.  My niece Shanna, an improvisational actor, incorporates what she calls the three As—accept, absorb, and add.  In other words, the improv acting student is taught, there is no making wrong what your collaborator is bringing to the scene.  Even if you don’t like the suggestion that he or she has presented, you have to go with it and find something to build upon it.
This improv rule is a metaphor for the formula for living the happiest life possible.  In other words, to say yes to whatever life gives you each and every moment that you live.  As they say in the East, your previous karma has brought you each current moment, so be at peace with what you’ve created from your past.  By the way, this approach of saying yes to what you’re presented is also a model for the happy marriage, where each spouse says yes to the other’s requests.
A second rule of improvisational performing in a class setting is that when the teacher says, “Scene,” the actors have to stop whatever it is they’re doing.  In other words, they have to let go of all their desire to say one more funny thing, and simply be.  If the teacher shifts the dynamics of the scene from, say, two people meeting on a blind date to being passengers on a train, they have to immediately and flexibly readjust and move into a whole new mind set and location.  This kind of adaptability trains the actor to think on his feet, to stay unattached to a previous reality, and to freely enter an entirely new situation that he has found himself in.  Once again, this is a wonderful metaphor for living the higher life, one in which a spiritually evolving soul remains unattached, and adapts easily to the changing flow of life without complaining, getting stressed out, or depressed.  Most people lack the flexibility to flow, improv actors have cultivated that gift for the stage and for life, the evolving soul has tapped it for his own personal peace.
Second City
About a decade and a half ago I spent a week studying with teachers from Second City in Chicago at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, the great adult spiritual education center.  Second City, in case you might not know, is the world’s best training ground for comic actors. Their Chicago center has graduated the likes of Bill Murray, Steven Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Key & Peele, Mike Myers, John Belushi, Joan Rivers, Chris Farley, Robert Klein, and Harold Ramis, among many, many other huge comedy stars too numerous to mention.  ( - Chicago_Mainstage_(1959-present))
And their Toronto counterpart has cultured the talents of Martin Short, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, and Dave Thomas, to name just a few. ( - Toronto_(1973-present))  A great many of the dozens of people who’ve been in the casts of Saturday Night Live cut their teeth at one of these Second City groups.
What I learned from these terrific improv teachers was how to stay even more open-minded in the present, without storing up funny things to say once my partner was finished speaking the way I did in stand-up comedy when I engaged the audience with questions.  Instead, by remaining in an open-minded/open-hearted place, I was able to listen more fully and react naturally to what my scene partner was presenting to me.  This cultivated an ability to think even more quickly than I was used to as a stand-up comedian on stage, and as a life coach in my practice, responding to the pressing needs of my clients in the particular moment we were working.
The Power & the Comedy of Now
“Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy.”
—Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

            This Now moment is infinite.  Some years back, Eckhart Tolle wrote a best-selling book about this truth called The Power of Now.  What talented improvisational comic actors show you is the infinite comedic power of Now.  Because each moment has infinite possibilities, you can be, think, say, or do almost anything.  In truth, consciousness itself is infinite at its source in the transcendent part of your mind, where your higher Self just is.  The enlightened person lives out of this place, enabling him to be far more spontaneous than the average person.  The improv actor, through his training, cultivates the ability to tap what’s infinitely available in each moment, to find funny and provocative things to say or do as he or she shares the stage with another performer.  This provides enormous laughter for you when you’re in the audience, as you are watching comedy being created literally on the spot.  Nothing is scripted, nothing is planned, nothing is rehearsed.  Watching an actor find these comedic gems in the very moment that you’re living with him is thrilling for you in the audience, because your mind is right there with his or hers in every moment of every scene.
If you’d like to enrich the quality of your life in many ways, consider enrolling in an improvisational comedy class.  This will culture in you the ability to find more of the humor that’s always latent in every situation, to listen more consciously, to stay unattached, and to more easily go with the flow in life.  As the comic in you grows, so will some of the cosmic, as well.


Emotional and Spiritual Skills for Success-  #4 in the Love Yourself,
Lose the Weight series

by Patricia J. Crane, Ph.D.

Have you ever used your weight as an excuse not to participate more fully in life, not to have a relationship, to avoid sex in the relationship you’re in, not to look for a new job? Are you willing to let go of your excuses? They are just a way of not loving yourself.

Mirror work- talking to yourself while looking in the mirror – is a powerful technique for learning to love yourself as you are making changes in any area. Look into your eyes and say to yourself, “I’m done with excuses. My weight is not the issue. I am willing to participate in life regardless of my weight.” Notice how you feel. Then tell yourself “I love and accept you just the way you are. I support you in all your new habits. You have been doing the best you can. It’s OK. I support you in making positive changes.”
Then tell yourself anything else that is important for you to know/hear.  You are claiming the wonderful being that you are. If you feel a lot of emotion coming up as you do the mirror work, that’s OK!  

It’s important to become aware of emotional triggers for overeating or making choices you know aren’t healthy. Almost everyone uses food to deal with emotional issues at some time or other. It’s how often you do this that determines if it’s a problem.

Starting now, every time you eat (especially outside of meal times), ask yourself first, What am I feeling right now? Can I resolve this feeling without eating? Take some deep breaths and acknowledge that you want to eat, “Yes, I want to eat now, but I can wait out this impulse for 10 seconds. I am willing to feel my feelings and deal with them.”

Here is an exercise to help you develop more awareness around emotions and eating.

Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and relax your body. Keep doing some deep breaths until you feel relaxed. Now, as though you are an observer of your own life, go back over the last two weeks and notice your eating patterns: when you ate, what you ate, where you were, and who was with you. Don’t judge or criticize, simply notice. When you ate for emotional reasons, what was going on?.......

Now go back even farther in time, letting your mind go to the time you first began overeating…. How old were you? What was going on for you? What feelings were you suppressing?  Accept that this was your way of coping at that time. Feel compassion and love for yourself. Go to another situation where you overate….. What emotions were you feeling then? Find a few others………… Then imagine you are looking at yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself, “I understand more now. I truly do love and accept you just the way you are.”

Bring your awareness back to the present moment. Take some deep breaths and stretch. Open your eyes.

If you found a connection between feeling stressed and eating, here are some easy ways to deal with that. Stress increases your metabolism and so you feel fatigued. This can prompt you to want to eat something like a candy bar for fast energy. Ultimately, this leads to more fatigue because your blood sugar plunges after spiking. First, as much as possible plan your meals so you eat on a schedule. Eat low fat, high protein meals to keep your blood sugar balanced. Second, have some healthy snacks available, like protein bars or veggies and a low fat dip. In other words, prepare ahead of time. Third, practice deep breathing exercises to help you reduce stress.

Learning to handle your emotions effectively is truly an ongoing process. If you started eating emotionally and gaining weight as a child, then talking to your Inner Child can really be healing.

 If you gained a lot of weight after some traumatic event in your life, you may need professional help in dealing with it. Look for a therapist who offers a spiritual approach as part of their therapy. In the US, you can find them advertising in spiritual newsletters. Or ask some friends for a referral. Affirm that you are guided to any resource you need to create a healthy relationship with food. 

A spiritual course, A Course in Miracles, says, “Guilt holds the behavior.” So if you are feeling guilty (or ashamed or embarrassed or even angry at yourself) for gaining weight and not losing it, it’s time to let go of the guilt and any other emotions associated with your weight. True, easier said than done. Begin with “I am willing to let go of the emotions that have kept me stuck.”

For some people, prayer is a potent force for changing behavior. Asking Spirit, God, the angels, or ascended masters to assist you in your desire for changes takes the burden off you “doing it all yourself.”

Are you willing to forgive yourself? At the highest spiritual level, there is no need for forgiveness, but in our human selves it is another piece of the foundation for permanent change. And sometimes that change can occur very quickly when you stop feeling guilty, forgive yourself, and love yourself right where you are at the moment.  Be kind to yourself. You are worth loving!

--Patricia J. Crane, Ph.D. studied personally with Louise Hay and, with husband Rick Nichols, is authorized to lead Heal Your Life® training programs in Louise’s philosophy. She is also the author of Ordering from the Cosmic Kitchen: The Essential Guide to Powerful, Nourishing Affirmations. and