Lee Davy sits down with Andrew “luckychewy” Lichtenberger to talk about the inspiration behind his book Yoga Poker, how pick up lines from Tony Dunst helped him improve his communicative skills, the importance of healthy living and much more.
Why Yoga Poker and not a strategy book?
“In part, it was because there are so many strategy books in existence. I may write one in the future, but at the time I wrote this one – yoga, stilling my mind, expanding my awareness and cultivating my consciousness was at the forefront of my mind. When I sat down to write that’s what wanted to come out, and I didn’t prevent it.”
You start by talking about your upbringing and how you developed a belief that working hard to acquire wealth in the material form was connected to happiness. How did this change?
“When I first became successful at poker I was still on the path of acquiring material wealth, but I saw how fleeting the feeling of happiness came and went with it. Buying something new feels cool for a minute. Then you have a nice object, but your life is the same. I think, to a certain degree, material necessities exist, but maybe sometimes our culture takes things too far.
“I genuinely felt happiest when I was doing yoga and meditation and neither required physical wealth. Yoga is more about giving things up than acquiring them. I didn’t feel an urge to give away my possessions, but I slowly I felt they didn’t offer me what I thought they did when I first acquired them.”
Did you get the urge to cleanse and give away your possessions?
“At the time I got ready to sell my home in Vegas, I had so many things I gave away the majority of them, but no. I wouldn’t say I delved to deep into that particular aspect.”
I grew up thinking materialism and wealth was important, my teenage son is like that, because I raised him like that. I would like that to change, what advice would you give to someone trying to change the mindset of a teenager?
“I am not a parent, so I can’t speak from experience, but throughout my own childhood I realized that although we should accept our parents wisdom we like to rebel. I think over time, as people grow, what’s important in life becomes clearer. I think the universe leads us towards what makes us happier.
“I have found that one of the most powerful ways to be in the world is through inaction – to withdraw, in certain situations, and not pass judgment. Letting people sit with their own decisions is more powerful than trying to create a change.”
Your communicative skills are exceptional. Is that natural or did you work hard to improve learning in this field?
“It came naturally to me. I didn’t purse specifically my ability to articulate my thoughts and communicate. When I was younger I was extremely shy, and today not so much, so I have experienced both ends of the spectrum. In large part it was the poker community and the friends I made that helped. I started to feel comfortable around people who felt comfortable talking to each other all of the time. Poker is a unique game, and so to describe a situation you were in, to get another person to feel what it was like to be there, they always want all of the components that you can bring back to memory and articulate. That helped a lot as well.”
Do you think because you were quiet and withdrawn that you naturally grew your listening muscles whereas a big mouth like me was too busy talking all of the time to hear anybody?
“It’s possible, I suppose. I can speak from my own experience: when I was younger and shy, I had many thoughts in my head, and I just didn’t know how to put them out there. I think the right balance between an introvert and extrovert personality would produce a very balanced communicator.”
Do you read books or take in other forms of learning to improve your communicative skills?
“My friend Tony Dunst was very much into the pick up artist community. When we first moved to Las Vegas he was my roommate, so being around him and going out and socializing with women helped improve my communicative skills.
“Being more introverted you are more open to listening. You already know what you know, but finding out what other people know can be a really benefit. Seeing how the people who became successful in that particular industry communicate themselves was really helpful. When you watch someone else approach a certain situation, you can figure out what might work for you.”
Talk about the types of peer pressure that you have experienced in the past that prevented you from finding real joy?
“I call them peer pressures, but in the end it’s something you force onto yourself. Nobody can force you to be a certain way (beyond physical force). It’s up to the individual. Anything that your friend, and/or community, are involved in, that you feel you don’t want to be involved in, but aren’t strong enough to see other options and take a different path.”
Where does that strength of change come from?
“It’s said in Taoism that we pick things up to put them down. Once a certain weight in life gets heavy enough we decide to choose a different life, or pursue something else other than what has been.”
Was there a catalytic event for you?
“There wasn’t any particular moment for me. It’s always coming when you are in a meditative state and are in tune with your thoughts, feelings and emotions, and something comes through strong enough for you to realize that it’s time to try something else. It could be the first time you enter a yoga studio or take a martial arts class for example.”
You said you felt more fulfilled through removing the aspects of consciousness that aren’t in alignment with who you are. How do you achieve this because I find this difficult? I am prone to outbursts of anger, and I can’t catch them in the moment.
“Maybe I have been fortunate that I am more of an introvert so when I feel a rush of negativity I am more likely to keep it in rather than blurting out. What worked well for me is if you feel like you are entering that particular experience take some time for yourself and write all your thoughts onto paper.
“Then you can identify the ones that are of a loving and eternal nature and the ones that aren’t. The ones that aren’t are thoughts that have entered into your mind from the outside, perhaps 20-years ago, who knows? All that matters is that you identify with the loving thoughts, feelings and emotions.”
It’s important to remember the positive things that happen in your life, and not just the negative things.
“Absolutely, I am a big believer in looking at how far you have come and not how far you can go. There is no ceiling to how cultivated and wise you can become. If you look at your shortcomings, inevitably, you will cause yourself some degree of suffering. Looking at how far you have come is inspiring and it motivates you to cultivate self improvement.
What does freedom mean to you?
“To be ok with who you are and to have enough courage to be able to do what it is you feel is right. To not be held back and to be ok doing what you think is right.”
Talk about the importance of healthy eating.
“It was a huge change for the better when I decided to eat a vegan diet. It’s simple. It made me a lot more aware of my body. I saw how addicted I was with food in as much as overeating and over indulging. I also suffered a lot of health problems during those times as we have spoken about before.
“I eat simply: I like avocados, rice, hummus, lettuce wraps, green juices, spirulina, chlorella – pretty simple stuff.”
What’s your view on sugar and alcohol? Some people view them as toxins and poisons and others feel they are ok in moderation
“As far as transitioning goes there is a certain level of tactfulness that has to be applied. If you have a high sugar diet and you try to cut it out the next day, chances are it won’t work for you. I am not a doctor but I think sugar is linked to feeding cancerous cells in the body, and alcohol is converted into sugar, so the pair go hand-in-hand for me. I don’t enjoy eating high sugar; it gives me a lot of phlegm, and increases mucus in the blood stream. It gives me a boost, but then I feel the crash.
What’s next for you?
“I have been in Austin for the past fortnight. My friends and I are taking a music course to learn how to mix in sounds that are rhythmically coherent and a little bit of vocals, playing various instruments. Basically getting the lowdown on how music works and how it affects the human body and the universe as a whole.
“We are going to be putting in a brief little performance at a fitness show my friend is hosting at the beginning of October and I will also have a charity poker tournament there. I have been working with the Fantasy Poker League – a gentlemen named Lance who does fund raisers year round – and I am very much looking forward to that.”