Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolution #1: A New Blog!!


It's a new year and I feel like a new person and it's time for a new blog!

Check it out:
www.comedykarma.blogspot.com

I won't be blogging here anymore, but I thank all of you for tuning in and getting to know the contents of my mind. Please check out my new blog, Comedy Karma, where I'll be blogging about navigating the waters of the comedy world as a spiritual being.

My meditation/creativity workshops for both artists and self proclaimed "non-artists" are going strong and helping people meet themselves, free up their creative process and gather some tools to deal with life. So I wanted a new blog that reflects where I'm putting my energy these days. And you can find out about workshops and events and shows at my new blog.

See you at Comedy Karma!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Out With the Fear, In With...the Fear?

[As 2009 comes to a close, I wanted to re-post a blog I wrote earlier in the year. Actually, it's been updated a bit. Enjoy!]

Recently I had a dream that I was swimming across a lake that was filled with tall grass, so that I couldn't see in to the lake. I only saw blade after blade of thick, green reeds as I swam. I got halfway across the lake when I had the thought:

"Oh no! This is the lake that's filled with the poisonous snakes!"

I was filled with fear. And in the very next moment I thought:

"Well, you're already halfway across the lake. If you get bitten by a snake, so be it. If you die, so be it. You will meet whatever comes your way. Now keep swimming to the other side."

And I was suffused with calm. The fear completely left me. I swam the rest of the way feeling still, blissful and at peace. The swim was actually enjoyable. I made it to the other side, got out of the lake unharmed... and woke up.

For most of my life, fear ruled me. Every choice of action or inaction was driven by fear. You could say I was fear's bitch. Several years ago, I began to slowly open my eyes to this way of living and to choose differently. In 2006, I told myself to do things that scared me, rather than to do what I always did: avoid things that scare me. It was a practice. I started with seemingly benign things, like making a call to an old friend to ask for a favor or saying no to someone. Then things like speaking up or walking in to a party alone or trying a new food or doing stand-up comedy for the first time. I said yes more than I said no and I began to see that after each experience, I was still breathing, still intact...and a little more alive.

I continued the practice in to 2007, a year that seemed to summon fear over and over again. It was a year that was chock full of challenge: I left a decade-long relationship, which was perhaps the most excruciating choice I've ever had to make. I was homeless for five months, I started a new career path, I asked for help, I turned to myself for help and I kept getting up on stage as a comic. And through it all, I surprised myself. I began to see other things besides the fear. I saw I was resourceful, determined and resilient. And full of fear. But all those other things too!

And fear persisted. My old friend, fear, was always lurking and ever present. I wished it would go away. I tried not to look at it and I tried to will it away, hoping I'd never have to deal with it ever again. And then in 2008, my Buddhist teacher suggested I sit with my fear. Get to know it. Invite it in for tea. What?! That sounded like going on a long car ride with your worst enemy. Who would want to do that? But without even so much as a pause, I dived in.

I began to do some Tibetan Buddhist practices with my fear. All through the spring of that year, I called in and faced my demons; I experienced what shape they took, what they said to me and how it felt when they had hold of my heart and mind. I gave myself to them. And then my practices were interrupted by appendicitis, along with acute infections, two surgeries and a four month long recovery after which my doctor said I nearly died. Perhaps my demons had been brought to life and they were actually devouring me, like in my practices? My doctor had a different prognosis, but I felt as if something was being purged. And wouldn't you know: during that whole scary time dealing with intense pain, hospitals, nurses poking at me and my body rebelling and failing in many ways, I...felt...no...fear. It was as if I was swimming across a still, blue lake, present for every stroke, every breath and feeling peace. How was this possible? When I asked myself this, I saw that I had surrendered to whatever happened the entire time. So maybe surrender was an ingredient in this whole fear thing? Maybe I had kicked the fear addiction for good? After all, it was nowhere to be found.

No sooner had I realized the fear had gone, it came back. I was crushed! Wouldn't I reach a point where I'd no longer have to deal with fear? Aren't I trying to defeat fear? It certainly felt like it was trying to defeat me. And it came back even stronger, larger, more vivid than ever before. It haunted me day and night. This time, it had teeth. So I took my teacher's instructions - once again - to sit with the fear. And I did just that. I went on a meditation retreat where I sat on the cushion, called in my fear and then just sat in it, day after day, doing nothing to stop it or change it or fix it. I allowed it to simply be. I realized my fear of fear was what really tortured me. And also the fear. And the fear that the fear would return after the fear had left. How exhausting - one big fear sandwich! And so I simply surrendered to the fear. I let it do it's thing.

Fear is not a problem. There is nothing to be fixed or solved or changed. And, as the fabulous Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron says, "The same is true for any other experience we might have."

This past year - 2009 - I have taken more risks than I have in years. Risks like pushing myself in my writing and performing over and over again, and in speaking my truth to people who may not want to hear it. I've put myself in uncomfortable situations time and again. I've taken risks of the heart by letting go of people I love, welcoming in new people to love and learning to love in new ways. Every experience is just that: an experience. Not something from which to shield myself nor cling to.

So I have a different relationship with fear now. We have a dance, fear and I. When I feel it rising up, I welcome it. I let it run through my body in a hot wave, making my heart race and my palms sweat. My mind speeds up and I notice: "I am afraid." I am often in awe at it's strength and vividness. I respect it. I hear it. I taste it. I feel very, very alive. I don't try to control it, handle it, direct it or hang on to it. And somehow, as quickly as it rolls in...it rolls on out just like the tide leaving me softer, smoother. I experience the fear but I am not fused with it; it's not "my" fear. It's simply fear. And each time it comes, I say hello to it and keep on living my life anyway. And wouldn't you know? It tends to stick around for shorter amounts of time. I wouldn't call this fearlessness. I call it fearwithness. Fear mixed with awareness. I am living a life of fearwithness. Fear is no longer going to stop me. I'm in the lake and I'm going to keep on swimming.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Web Series

I'm in a web series called "In Gayle We Trust" and you can find it on NBC.com as well as Hulu. Please check it out on those sites and rate it and leave comments. My hope is the NBC execs will see comments that say: "That Sarah Taylor really knows how to play a Midwestern mom" and they'll give me my own series. Hey, a girl can dream.

The episode is "Gayle And The Teen Driver"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fog

When there's no parking in Santa Monica and you have a comedy gig, what do you do? You pull up to the passenger loading zone right in front, drop off your guitar (yes, comedy sometimes includes silly songs), come back out and then drive off to find parking. Right? Wrong. When I returned to my car - within a minute of parking - I found a Santa Monica Parking Enforcement Officer writing me a ticket. Well, he was typing stuff in to one of those hand held parking-ticket-giving-machines.



"No, no, no! Please don't give me a ticket! I just went in for a minute!"

I really had been in there a minute. OK. A minute and a half.

He kept typing. "Sorry. Passenger loading only." He didn't even bother to look up at me.

"Hey!" One of the other comedians poked her head out. "She was only there a minute! You can't give her a ticket!"

"Yes I can", he replied without missing a tip-typey beat on his machine. "Passenger loading only."

I tried pleading with my eyes but since he refused to look at me, this proved futile.

"Officer, I'm a comedian. I don't make much money. Please don't give me a ticket."

The words tumbled out of me because I felt they had to be there. Someone gives you a ticket, you fight it, right? You try to change their mind!

"Passenger loading only means that as soon as you got out of the car, you were in violation", was his stiff response. I imagined him having to repeat this many times a day.

Alright. I was in violation. I relaxed. I stopped resisting.

"OK. You're giving me a ticket", I said and I leaned against the car and took in the night air.

He looked up at me, confused.

I smiled. "Well, what are you going to do? This is what's happening, so why fight it, right?"

He squinted his eyes at me.

"You know what I mean?" Hmmm...I guess not. I'll just be silent.

He went back to his work, head down. And as he typed away, I marveled at how many things had to take place to make this very moment happen. This man was the officer on duty tonight - no one else. It was uncharacteristically foggy and that probably caused the slow traffic I hit at Santa Monica Blvd. I then took a different route, making me late...and tense. My anxious feelings caused me to not fully take in the meaning of the "passenger loading only" sign as I rushed inside. At that moment, the officer must have rounded the corner and spotted one tall, hurried comedian scurrying in to a building with a guitar over her shoulder.

Once inside, I was introduced to another comedian who was new to this particular comedy show. She seemed nervous. I noticed this and wanted to make her feel welcome, so I asked her a question about herself. She and I laughed over something that was said. I was in there longer than I had planned and by the time I headed out the door again, the officer was busy on his hand held parking-ticket-giving-thinga-ma-bob. Leaning up against my Toyota, I had a deep appreciation at how everything unfolded, an intricate web of causes and conditions creating results that we Buddhists know as karma. It's pretty cool.

The officer finished his typing, the ticket popped out and he handed it to me. As I reached for it, I looked him in the eyes and said:

"Thank you."

He laughed and shook his head at me. "You don't mean that."

"Sure I do!"

He looked puzzled, for the first time not taking his eyes away from me.

"Well, I'm a Buddhist. I appreciate challenge. It wakes you up."

He narrowed his eyes and walked past me. I was sure he thought I was nuts but I didn't mind. I started to open my door.

"Wait." He had stopped and was typing in to his machine thingy again.

Oh no! Is he giving me a second ticket, perhaps for being a lunatic who appreciates parking tickets?

"Here." He handed me a slip of paper and took back the ticket he had so painstakingly created. "I'm just giving you a warning."

Surprise and gratitude filled me and I instinctively put my hand on his shoulder.

"Why?"

He just smiled at me. And that smile would not leave his face.

"No one has ever said anything that you've just said to me."

"Really?"

"Yes. So have a great night."

I clapped my hands like a child. "Ooooh can I give you a hug?"

He chuckled and said "Sure", and I squeezed him hard. Impulsively, I kissed him on the cheek.

"OK, you can't do that."

"Oops, sorry."

He laughed his way to his driver's seat and called out to me, once more wishing me a good night.

I was thankful at what had happened, but I could see that so was he. I knew why I was thankful. But why on earth was he grinning like that? Who knows. But possibly his grin will cause certain things to fall in to place as he drives away. Causes and conditions. Karma.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sexy Is As Sexy Is


I've been awarded "The Sexy Blogger Award"!

It was given to me by The Laughing Idiot, whose fabulous blog can be found here:

http://www.lifemakesmelaugh.blogspot.com

The rules go something like this: To receive said award, state 5 things about yourself that are sexy. Go!

1) My sense of humor. Most of the time it's directed at myself. Rarely is it directed at others. Mostly it's directed at the ridiculousness of being a human being.

2) My openness. The most recent object of my affection found this insanely sexy. I would unabashedly admit something, be emotionally revealing or frank and this prompted delight. And kisses. Who knew?

3) My big heart and my kindness. I see the best in people. And I speak kindly about what I see in others, even if I've been hurt. I am able to see the shades and complexities in a person and appreciate the best they have to offer.

4) In recent years, I've been following my heart and not my fear.

5) I have a great ass ;)

Whew. There.

And now I get to pass "The Sexy Blogger Award" along to the next recipient. Drumroll, pleeeeeeease:

Diana Burbano!
Juggling sexiness while being a full time mom, partner and actor ain't easy. And Di STILL manages to embody hotness. Here's her blog for further proof:

http://loladiana.blogspot.com/

Keep being sexy...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Bomb


Sunday, May 3, 11:56PM

As a comic, sometimes you bomb. That means no laughter. The audience just stares at you. As you leave the stage, the applause is lukewarm, if at all, and maybe - just maybe - they're shaking their heads. This happens. It's part of the whole dealio. Hey, you want to eat a strawberry and not ingest any seeds? Then try a Jolly Rancher candy. But if you want a real strawberry...you're going to bite down on those crunchy little tan colored seeds that get stuck in your teeth. Crrrunch.

Now, I've only been doing stand up for about 2 1/2 years. For almost 2 of those years, I was a wimp and barely got out to perform. It's only been in the past year that I've been keeping up a kooky pace of getting on stage anywhere and everywhere I can. But in the past 2 1/2 years I have bombed three times. Yes, I've had a "bad set" quite often. But real bombing - the kind where you can hear crickets instead of laughter and you're sure the audience hates you - has happened three times.

The first time was at The Larchmont Country Club and it was my second time ever doing comedy in front of an audience. It was so quiet during my set, save for the operatic vocalizing that I used to punctuate one bit, that afterward, the ever gracious Rick Overton (that night's headliner), in an attempt to search for something to say, told me:

"You have a lovely singing voice."

The second time I bombed was December 6, 2007 (yes, we sensitive artists remember these details). It was a storytelling/comedy show where I read from my childhood diary. The response from the audience was so icy, I needed a jacket once I got off stage and my inner child had gone to her room and refused to come out.

After each of those bombings, I packed away the material I had used and it never saw the light of day again. And it took me a while to get back on stage.



Which brings me to the third time I bombed: Three days ago, last Thursday, at a place that shall remain nameless. Now granted, the setting there isn't ideal for comedy: chairs are packed side by side in to a small bar space above an Italian restaurant on La Brea. While you're on stage, people mill about in the back carrying on loud and often drunken conversations, oblivious to the fact that there is a real live person on stage talking in to a microphone. But no matter: this is the world of comedy and a gig is a gig. I took the stage at 8:35. By 8:43, that audience was glad to see me go and I was glad to oblige. Throughout my set there was silence. I caught a few rolled eyes. When I finished, almost no one clapped. The host jumped up on stage after my set, and actually made fun of me and how the audience didn't laugh during my set. And as I left the building, I understood why it's called bombing: I felt like I had just emerged from a war zone; I was stunned and shell shocked and needed a hug.

So why in the hell would I get back on stage after that? Because I am nuts. And because now, I don't give up quite as easily as before.

Tonight I had a show at The Comedy Store on Sunset in Hollywood. And I decided to use the same set I used for the show three days ago when I bombed; some of it was relatively new material and I wasn't ready to send it to the trash. I resisted the urge to re-write and tweak the material. After all, this was an experiment. So: same material, same set...would I get the same response? Stepping on stage, I launched in to my first bit and the audience roared with laughter. And then they kept laughing. And laughing. Aaah, the delicious, delectable, delightful sound of steady laughter. As I left the stage, there was hearty applause. Wow. Night and day. I felt humbled and grateful...and vindicated!

I do realize that so many factors come in to play when it comes to making people laugh: my energy, the audience's energy, astrological alignment, comfortable seating, comfortable shoes. But I now trust myself. And I stood by that set, even though 50 people on Thursday wanted to walk out on that set. So it goes to show: sometimes the audience doesn't know best. And maybe the next audience won't like that particular set. But I'm sticking by it.

So I just may break out my childhood diary again and revisit that set from December 6th, 2007.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Avoidance, Resistance and Other Fun States to Visit

Writers avoid writing. Sometimes. It's just part of the dealio, yet I'm always surprised when it happens to me.

Things I Do When I'm Supposed To Be Writing:

Clean the kitchen. My kitchen is very, very clean right now.

Check Facebook.

Watch Oprah. Cry. Oprah is emotional laxative for me. I always cry, whether her guest is a two-legged dog or a woman who lost her uterus in a house fire.

Watch another episode of Oprah.

Go to the store to buy Kleenex.

Shop at Forever 21. I have a whole new fashionably cheap wardrobe and nowhere to wear it since I’ve decided I will be chaining myself to my computer for the next few weeks.

Google other successful people and see what they’re doing with their fabulously productive lives. Get agitated. Promise myself to write more. Promise myself I’ll stop comparing myself to others.

Check Facebook.

Go to You Tube and watch videos of the Carol Burnett show. Revel in a flood of memories that entail watching the show as a child and deciding that I would grow up and make silly faces for a living.

Pluck my eyebrows. I am very hairy so they often need plucking. But I’ve over plucked them and now they just look weird. Which doesn’t matter. No one will see me anyway - I’m chaining myself to my desk for the next few weeks, remember?

Check Facebook.

Convince myself I’m writing by blogging about not writing.

Surrender to the fact that no writing will get done today.

Meditate.

Write. Oh yeah, meditating gets me there. Funny how once I empty my mind... I'm ready to sit down and face the empty page.