When It Comes to Patience, First Learn the Math

(Written for the LA Times Magazine’s ‘Rules of Hollywood’ column.)

Everyone in this ‘I need it yesterday’ town is waiting for something: the overnights, the weekend read, the end of the day when they can finally take the edge off all the waiting with a drink.

More than the play, in this business, the waiting’s the thing. Which is why the image of the Sardi’s booth, with a post-show cast huddled in anticipation of the early edition, is one of the stickiest images in show business iconography.

And it’s why waiting tables is the quintessential Hollywood day job. “Can I help you,” the waiter asks. “Yes,” says the diner. “Let’s see. I’m not sure. Hmm. Give me a couple more minutes will you?” And what does the waiter say? Nothing. They just wait. Because you if you do not learn how to hurry up and wait when you are a waiter you do not get your tip.

But I never did wait tables. Ironically, I learned my waiting lesson at MTV, a network devoted to an aesthetic of impatience. We’d made a pilot of my talk show for them. A pet project. A dream project. And it was looking good. The show was announced in the trades, people were telling me they’d heard great things, there was buzz. But we were waiting for an official yes. Then the network “asked”, if we’d wait beyond our contractual ‘end of wait’ date.

Unfortunately I had not yet learned the primary axiom of Hollywood Math: the absence of yes over time equals no. So I kept waiting. And not doing anything else unless you count burning candles and chanting.

The night that we finally got the call that we were not ‘getting picked up’ – cruel phrase meaning put down – all we could do was play “Let It Bleed” over and over again. At least that was one thing I could control. And I felt oddly reassured every time I heard that if I wanted to I could bleed all over Mick.

And then I had one of those you’re going to have to change moments where the sound gets narrow and the light start pulsing. I knew that if I was going to continue on in this business, or even in life, I was going to have to get good at waiting.

But what would it take? I’m a very be in the moment girl and waiting is not being in the moment. Waiting is future focused. It has an element of hope. And if you’ve lived in Hollywood for more than ten minutes you know that it’s the hope that will kill you. So I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I upped my yoga practice. And one day, while I was waiting for my teacher to release us from a chatarunga hold, I noticed I was waiting and yet not waiting. I was waiting with grace. And that when waiting is graceful it’s called patience. And patience means waiting without waiting. Waiting while breathing. Waiting while moving on to the next project, celebrating your anniversary, devoting yourself to world peace, napping, tracking the moon, trying not to keep other people waiting any longer than necessary. In essence, living. Waiting without waiting means that you are prepared for a positive outcome of the thing you are waiting for but that you proceed as if the possibility of the thing you are waiting for does not even exist.

Recently my people told me I would definitely be receiving a particular offer. A few weeks went by. No offer ensued. Applying the absence of yes over time formula I figured the deal was dead. I called said people, to confirm my suspicions. They checked and said that the offer was in fact still in the works and now had a number attached. A nice number. A few more weeks have gone by. And by a few more weeks I mean a month. No offer. So I continue to wait for the offer without waiting for the offer. Because every rule needs to be broken and sometimes the absence of no over time equals yes.

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by Beth Lapides and Greg Miller (Originally published in FitYoga Magazine)

We practice (write, perform, produce) a form of comedy known as “Un-Cabaret” but that we think of as the comedy of love. It’s a more conversational, open-minded and open-hearted type of comedy. We also teach it. And what we found was that in order to teach this style of comedy we first had to teach people to get into their most authentic voice. To not “sound like” comedians, but to be themselves.

You can’t be truly funny without being yourself. But you can’t be truly your Self without being at least a little bit funny. It’s like leaving one of the colors out of the rainbow! And the benefits are huge. Laughter connects people, brings us into the moment, raises vibration, activates the third chakra, increases endorphins and is fun! Here are some tips to help with this new asana; ‘laugh-asana’.

1. OPEN UP. Start by giving yourself permission to be funny. Open up to it. The same way you might open to grace. Or open your hips.

2. GIVE LAUGHS. Let go of the idea that you have to make people laugh, or get laughs. Think about letting them laugh instead. Think of giving laughs.

3. USE YOUR REAL VOICE. Everyone’s voice has a particular rhythm. In the same way that comedians often have that “stand-up comedy voice”, yoga teachers sometimes have to work to stay out of that monotonous “yoga teacher voice”.

Record yourself in class. Later, playback softly or at a distance. It’s not so much about what you are saying, but about what you “sound like”. The tempos and rhythms of your voice.

Use words you love, words you make up, words you grew up with; sciencey, arty, geeky, pop culturey, words you use with your friends. Use your own vernacular. These are the words that keep you in your own rhythm.

What we’re talking about is naturalism, but even more so. Super naturalism. Being totally organically wholly yourself, but in an exaggerated way for comic effect. Exaggeration is a key tool in the comedy toolbox. Do you have voices, accents or imitations that you naturally do in life? The nagging mother? The Indian guru? The redneck yogi? Little songs you sing? Do it all. Variety creates dynamics. Dynamics create surprise. Surprise creates funny.

4. USE YOUR BODY. Use physicality for comic effect like doing demos with an exaggerated impression of a common student mistake. Even better, do an impersonation of yourself, which requires self-knowledge, humility, and a willingness to be foolish.

5. USE STORIES. Humans love stories. Tell stories of your own practice, breakthroughs you’ve had. Stories from your life. Stories from the sacred texts. Ask yourself what is funny about a story in the same way that you ask yourself what it means. You can also think about your asana sequencing as a story. In the timeline of the class, is there a place that clearly calls for comic relief? Maybe a particularly intense sequence where a little light-hearted offering will help students surrender?

6. DON’T PUSH. Trying to force a laugh is over-efforting. Relax and remember that a little goes a long way! It’s the lightness you’re after.

7. BE IN THE MOMENT. Of course. In fact if you can nail a moment, a mood, that everyone is aware of, there’s often a laugh of recognition. And if you can respond authentically to something happening – a cell phone, not enough space, forgetting the name of a pose or doing one side of a pose – say hallelujah Ganesha, because you have just turned the obstacle of an awkward moment into an opportunity for laughter.

8. BE THE STRAIGHT MAN. (Not gender-wise!) Offer set-ups, or questions, and let students get the laugh. Once you open the door it doesn’t matter who’s the first one through.

9. KNOW YOURSELF. Here’s a way to practice svadyaya (self-study) in a different kind of triangle pose. Draw a triangle in your notebook. In one corner write ‘yogi’. That includes yoga teacher, student, scholar, whatever.

In the other two corners you’re going to write other major aspects of yourself. Maybe you’re a parent, surfer or artist. Maybe you’re a healer and a control freak. Or a drama queen and a Big Sister. You are (at least!) three-dimensional. In each of those dimensions there are stories or funny references that make you you.

10. WRITE ON. You are the author of your classes. (That’s what gives you the authority!) Keep a notebook. Use it to keep track of fleeting thoughts but also to explore recurring ideas and stories in depth.

Think of it as a place to play, to overwrite, to explore what you want to get across in class. What are your thoughts about pain? About flow? About balance? What would you tell that stuck student if you had the perfect words? Go ahead and write out whole classes.

Write down what you said to your friend on the phone that made her laugh. In fact the phone is a great place to hear your real voice. Write things down exactly as you said them. Also note things what sparks laughter for you? What do you think is funny?

11. USE BETH’S PAGE TO STAGE METHOD. A class, or audience, has a certain energy, and will act like poultice and elicit things that a page can’t. Your prep work on the page will help you channel that energy. And your classes will fuel what goes into the notebook. You alternate. Page to stage (class). Stage back to page. Writing and teaching out loud use opposite sides of the brain. Alternating them is a powerful creative tool, and a 100% renewable resource!

12. PRACTICE. We think of the sense of humor as the seventh sense and, like any sense, it needs to be cultivated. The seventh sense, like the seventh chakra, is light-filled, subtle and so worth working to open! So be patient with yourself. Being funny is a practice that requires practice.

And remember that Buddha passed his teachings on to the smiling disciple not the serious ones. So enlighten up and have fun out there!

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