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5 Most Beautiful Things

5 Most Beautiful Things, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Douchey.

May 20, 2015

By Jen Pastiloff.

Confession: I miss my blog. I love that I have been able to turn this site into an online magazine. I really do. But I’m gonna sneak my stuff in now and again. This started as my blog but when I realized I had a big “following” << That sounds so douchey, sorry, but when I realized I had a big following I decided I wanted to create a space for other writers. But I’ll be damned, I never write shit down. I don’t take notes or keep a journal (add that to the fact that I can’t type and I am truly not your “typical” writer.) Because of these failings of mine, as it were, I realize that I forget a lot and the way I sort of half-assedly remember is by blogging. I miss it. So hi. Here I am. (Also- is douchey an adjective?) It makes me feel like I think I am Moses when I speak of “my following.” But, you know what I mean. Social media and such.

Wait- hang on while I go part the red sea.

Kidding.

So, this is just a quick update. So much has been happening and if you follow me on social media, you know I don’t hold back. I post like every five minutes so you don’t miss much. But in case you did. This is for you.

I have to make this quick because I am almost done my proposal for my new book for teens, Girl Power: You Are Enough. Eeeeek! (But wait, don’t we all need this book? This reminder? I am enough. You are enough. I am enough. You are enough.) It’s like: tattoo that shit on your brain. How often do I forget this? Every time I can’t hear because of my hearing loss and I feel lost and stupid I slip into not feeling enough. My not feeling enoughness ate up years of my life. It really did.

I am so excited by this project that I haven’t been sleeping. Have you felt excited by something like that before? It’s been a while for me, I must confess. It feels good. It feels, I don’t know, like I am alive. Some days I feel like a walking dead person. So to feel alive feels real good. Real good. I met this girl, Amymarie Gaertner, and we immediately decided we are sisters. Albeit she is my much younger sister. She has MILLIONS (yes, you read right) millions of followers on Vine (what the fuck is Vine I ask?) and Youtube and Instagram. Anyway, she is an ambassador for my GirlPower. She is self-taught. She taught herself how to dance in her mom’s basement. She created this crazy life and is living her dreams because she wanted to dance. And she did.

Here she is again:

 

So that was amazing.

She is spontaneous as anything. Like me. We started walking down Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood and she goes, “Look! Yhat would be cool to dance right there in that stairwell.” We set up my little tripod and, with people all around, and one dude on a ladder painting a ceiling, we danced and laughed. One take. The song: One More Time by Daft Punk. I had to do a voiceover on Facebook because they kept deleting my video for copyright infringement. You can see it on my (or her) instagram though. Damn you, Facebook. Damn you! Continue Reading…

5 Most Beautiful Things, Beauty Hunting, Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts

BeautyHunting.

September 2, 2014

By Jennifer Pastiloff.

I am so excited that Beauty Hunting is now a thing in the world. As you may or may not know, that’s the title of my book. Beauty Hunting. In fact, type in beautyhunting.com and you’ll see that it leads you….HERE! I want to make the idea of Beauty Hunting viral-a world of people scouring the earth for what lights them up, for what makes then nod their head Yes Yes Yes, for what makes them never want to give up searching for what is beautiful in a world that is sometimes not very forgiving. In a world that is filled with pain and loss and sadness and war and trash- to actively seek beauty.

And look, there isn’t just pain and loss and sadness and trash- there are births and cups of really good coffee and big wide ass smiles and flowers that smell so good you have to stop in your tracks. There’s all sorts of good stuff on the surface and also sometimes, very deep under the surface. Continue Reading…

5 Most Beautiful Things, beauty, Guest Posts

You Can Have This.

August 10, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Jen Pastiloff. 

I want to show you something.

Come.

Here, sit with me.

There’s a cat here. I hope you don’t mind cats. Coffee is curled up on the bed with me. It’s threatening to rain outside and I’m sitting here on a bed at my sister’s house, just south of Atlanta. I’m staying in her back room with the weird exercise machine that simulates horseback riding. My nephew Blaise, proud owner of Coffee the Cat, was given the horseback riding machine to strengthen his core muscles. He has a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome which creates low muscle tone and a feeling like you are literally starving to death. All the time. Starving. To. Death.

Last night, Maddock, his 5 year old brother (proud owner of Sugar The Cat), climbed on it, and with his imaginary lasso, yelled Giddyup! Giddyup! before he tried standing on it like a surfboard. Which, I can’t say anymore without calling it a surfbort. (Thanks, Beyonce.)

So that’s in the room with me and Coffee The Cat and my shit that is sprawled everywhere and the book I have been reading, Once I was Cool, by Megan Stielstra*.

Coffee and Megan.

Coffee and Megan.

 

I want to show you what I mean by beauty hunting since I talk about it so much.

But how can I show you? How can I pull you- you, in your car or the parking lot or your room or your desk or wherever you are reading this, you, with your own set of ideas and beliefs about people and the world and the way things turn out and how people are- how can I get you in this room with me and this cat and this goofy rodeo horseback riding Panasonic machine and get you to believe me that when you listen to people and when you show up, like really show up, there is beauty everywhere.

And I think, who am I to show you, anyway? What the hell do I know? I haven’t gotten out of my pajamas today and I drank too much coffee and I’m just trying to not drown so what can I tell you about how people are and beauty and the way the world is?

I can’t. But I can share with you my journey.

That’s all we can do. Right? Continue Reading…

5 Most Beautiful Things, Awe & Wonder, beauty, Delight

Better Than Magic.

August 6, 2014

by Jen Pastiloff.

I watched this adorable old man cross the street by my house just now as I was running. It took him a lot time. He had a walker. I stopped running and waited for him.

“Can I ask you a question? What made you happy today?”

Silence.

Me: Do you speak English? Where are you from?

Him: I am Armenian.

Me: What made you happy today?

He laughs. He’s got all his teeth.

Continue Reading…

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, poetry

I Love You… But I’m Shy.

March 11, 2014

For Naomi Shihab Nye, who makes me want to be a better person.

The 5 Most Beautiful Things Project. I sometimes forget to write them down here in the blog but I almost always am on the hunt for them. Here’s the latest:

Poetry. Even the found poems, especially the found ones. As if they were left specifically for us. (Maybe they were?) Like the journal I found in my drawer tonight that someone had left at the restaurant I worked at for years. I’ve kept it all this time. I found it left under a table one night while I was cleaning up after my shift.

Some day I will live in the southe of France, wear espadrilles and a long silk scarf flowing behind me as I ride my bicycle to the beach

photo 1

So much time has passed since I found this old journal that I question now if I indeed wrote the words, but the handwriting isn’t mine and there’s these little drawings, which are most definitely not mine (at best I can draw stick figures.) But this gift, this poem(s) as it were, because it is a poem- who can question the image of a long silk scarf flowing behind a girl (who, according to the drawing wears a mask) and how that image will live somewhere inside me so that if I ever visit the south of France, which I have every intention of doing, I will conjure this mask wearing bicycle riding scarf trailing bicycle girl.

The next page:

I love you… but I’m shy.

More bicycles.

One of the riders is only a head. No body. This gift of poetry, which is everywhere if you look.

photo 2

Saturday night I went to a reading of Naomi Shihab Nye’s. (She’s actually the number one beautiful thing on this list.) Naomi has become a friend and what I most love about her, and there are many things to love, is her ability to be present and how she looks at the world with a poet’s eye, or rather, with a childlike sense of wonder. She talked about going to the library as a child and how you’d just let yourself wander until you found a book. You’d explore, as you weren’t going there for anything in particular. As adults, she said, we’re so directive. We make a beeline for exactly when what we want. There is a mission and a purpose and very little letting yourself get lost amidst a sea of books. She has that sense of wander and wonder.

Naomi and I

Naomi and I

My first love was poetry. I started writing stories as a child but when I got serious about it at NYU, it was for the love of poetry. C.K. Williams was the first poet I heard read.

I loved C.K. for how his poetry ran on and on. How it felt like he was talking to only me (isn’t that what all good writing does?) singling me out in a room full of shoelace-faced students—whispering into my freezing ears. Out of all the ears he could whisper to on a packed C train and he chose mine! This is what poetry can look like, he said. This is what words can do. And he conversed with me through his poems and taught me what was possible. If it weren’t for him (and a few other poets who crawled into my slowly-going-deaf-ears, right at that particular moment in time, I might still be riding the C train without the knowledge that words could change the world.) They could pummel and destroy and create and fascinate. I didn’t quite realize the capacity they had until those poets (Donna Masini, C.K. Williams, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Sharon Olds, Stanley Kunitz) quietly, without so much as a word of warning, showed up during my 19th year on the planet. They marched in and planted their word-flags and even when they left, their flags remained waving for me so that no matter where I went, I had a place that felt like home.

Naomi Shihab Nye makes me want to scour the world for poems.

I went digging and found the journal in my drawer which is undoubtedly filled with other poem worthy artifacts. I remember when I found the journal at work that Saturday night in 2001, or whenever it was, how I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I peaked in the book and realized it was nothing confessional (I murdered someone or I’m having an affair.) It probably sucked to lose it but I doubt it was earth shattering (Geez, I hope it wasn’t)- most of it was blank, save a few drawings and dreams and clothing sketches.

photo 3

I stuck it in the safe at the restaurant. No one claimed it for a whole year so I finally went back and got my loot. Then I stuck it in a drawer for a good ten years. Until today. So that’s one (or more) of my beautiful things. The way art finds us. The way poetry is everywhere. Just like beauty. And bicycles with body-less riders and lists of places to go, well, can’t the mind just go wild on that shit nodding madly yes yes yes.

Opening my own notebook and seeing this list.

2014:

Italy

London. Meet Jimmy again.

Go To Hong Kong.

(I remember now that these were my husband’s wishes and I’d just written them down for him.) We were in San Francisco. We’d just had some pizza. It was December and we were in San Francisco at some over-priced restaurant targeted for tourists. I had a glass of chardonnay and the wine gave me that rush of what was possible so I said to him, What should we do, you know? This year, with my pen poised and my little notebook out. Where do you want to go? So I am looking at this next to this old notebook I found at The Newsroom on my waitressing shift and I’m thinking how the same we are. So many of us. How we dream and dream and want and want and how we write things down in little notebooks and maybe we leave them behind or maybe we take them. Maybe we never go to any of the places we dream of going, but maybe we do. There’s so many of us with so many wishes and places and notebooks that surely there is a varied lot- some who make it to the other side of their dreams, some who make it as far as the ink on the paper and some who never have the courage to write it down. I’m thinking there’s all sorts.

Anyway, funny that I have these two books open and both are lists of places to go.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

I wonder if the girl who lost the notebook at The Newsroom ever went to the places she doodled. Her name is in the front cover. Back then we didn’t have Facebook to look her up but now I suppose I could. But I won’t. It would be awkward. If she reads me (wouldn’t that be a funny thing?) maybe she’ll recognize her drawings and her words. And maybe she will shoot me an email saying, “Yes, I made it. I am here in the south of France on my bicycle with a long scarf flowing behind me.”

The joy of quiet. Something Naomi said last Saturday. She loved my essay I wrote about my hearing loss on The Nervous Breakdown, and it struck me hearing her talk of the joy of quiet, that she, along with myself, must think of bursts of silence as holy things. The moderator, Lisa Napoli, asked Naomi how she finds quiet in the madness of the world. Oh, it’s to be found, she said in so many words. And I thought how the quiet is in itself a found art.

I am so unwilling to let myself get quiet most days and combined with the constant ringing in my ears, it seems as if my head is a carnival of sound. Nonstop chatter. I decided I must excavate quiet, I must unearth it and actively look for it as I do with the 5 Most Beautiful Things Project. Beauty Hunter. Hunter of Quiet. I’ve begun making it a project, seeking quiet wherever I can, because surely we all deserve the joy of quiet.

I have been walking to the beach. I have been meditating. I have been listening. It’s nice.

**

Today, a couple kids were yelping loudly so I said, “What’s the excitement?”

“He’s my cousin!” one shrieks, pointing to another, obviously very proud of this relation.

“She is too!” Pointing to another, younger girl, thrilled to be able to point this out to me. That such excitement about family exists. We are related!

Can you imagine being somewhere and jumping up and down to tell someone This is my mom! This is my brother! This is my Uncle! She’s my sister! It was sweet. And I wondered how long they’d stay close. I am not particularly close to any of my cousins. And just then, one of the kids face planted and havoc ensued.

** 

I sort of lost track since I’m rambling, but I think I am at number 5.

photo

#5 then, my friend Angela Patel who is a gifted writer and who sent me this book the other day when I was feeling like shit. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety and she sent this wee book in the mail, so small I thought the package was empty. It’s called The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade. The timing was impeccable. And this little book, surely there are parts where I feel as if I wrote it (again how similar we are! So many of us walking around trying to fight the big motherfuckin’ sad in our lives.) I mean, have you read my friend Maggie May Ethridge’s piece on my site called Sad Fish? It’s one of my favorites and I have taken to reading it aloud to people like some preacher on a street corner. Hey you! You! Over there! In the red jacket! Listen up.

I think that maybe finding the beauty and the quiet is the poetry. And the things we notice when we are the denizens of such particular states of grace will allow us to harness our joy in such way that every so often we’ll feel as if we are on a bicycle somewhere in the south of France, some scarf trailing behind us and nothing existing but that which is waiting to be found by us and has perhaps been waiting forever.

******

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is NYC in March followed by Dallas, Seattle and London. 

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Musings & Ramblings from London.

February 20, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

London itself perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play & a story & a poem, without any trouble, save that of moving my legs through the streets. ~Virginia Woolf.

Hello from London. I’m at a bookstore in Putney that I like to come to when I am in town (Waterstones.) They are already wiping down tables and stacking chairs but it’s quiet. All the moms (mums) with their babies have left and only the hardcore bookstore people remain (read: a woman reading a tabloid, a young girl staring off into space, an older man doing crosswords and man with a shiny face listening to his cell phone and nodding as if he’s getting directions.)

Today's beautiful things in London.

Take the guy on the train, for instance. He must’ve felt some peace with that Rubik’s cube in his hand, some comfort must have been derived from all that furious twisting. He didn’t even look down at the cube- didn’t have to. He recognized the colors, as if by touch it seemed and it must’ve put to bed some anxiety he had. Whereas just watching him gave me anxiety. I hated those things in the 80’s. Still do.

Or maybe it was just a habit he had. Maybe he liked to twirl the Rubik’s cube on trains- maybe that was just his thing? That’s the beauty of it really, what I am getting out with today’s beauty seeking. How we all have our thing.

How just looking at the Rubik’s cube from across the aisle of a train sends me back to 1983 (a particularly shitty year) and reminds me how bad I am at some things (puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, board games, math) and yet it appeared this guy was in no way anxious. In fact, it seemed that the multi-colored cube relaxed him. How beautiful is that? This guy, sharing a pancake from a plastic package labeled PANCAKES with the girl next to him was utterly un-phased by something that, for me, would have given me hives.

photo

Everyone engaged on their devices and cubes and pancakes and I thought how beautiful it is that we all find comfort in different things. Thank God. Because imagine if we all twirled Rubik’s cubes all day long, if we all had to constantly be reassured by the words, “It’s going to be fine?” Imagine if everyone had to masturbate to relieve stress all day, every day? How tedious our train rides would be.

The guy with the pointy little moustache and the plastic cube wouldn’t even be a thing to behold- it would be that ordinary.

I guess the beauty is in how weird we all are in our own spectacular pancake eating Rubik’s Cube way.

**

I was saying something as we were walking in Chelsea which ended with the word “love.” I can’t remember what I was saying exactly, and I guess it doesn’t matter, because the word love appeared right then over a doorway. A pink doorway with the word LOVE written in white above it. I thought about the person who lived there taking taxis and what they would tell the driver.

“What’s your address, Miss?”

“Love.”

Or having a party and telling people, “When you find Love, you know you’ve arrived.”

Love lives here. And there love was. There was love. What you speak is seeking you. All these things popped in my head but mostly I thought, “cool fucking door,” so I snapped a photo and instagrammed it. It did very very well. It got many, many likes. Which gives me insight into what people are looking for-not that I didn’t know really. I guess it never ends, does it? The search for love. The amazement at having found it. The knowledge that oftentimes it’s right over our head.

I wondered what kind of personality lived there because I really couldn’t imagine coming home to my husband splattered in pink paint and saying, “Pasti, look what I did. I painted the door pink and wrote LOVE at the top.” (Although while I was away for two weeks in the fall lecturing at Canyon Ranch and leading a retreat, he did in fact paint the kitchen a kind of burnt orange.)

photo

**

Without people you’re nothing. There’s a truth in that.

Right?

Portobello Road, Notting Hill (would you believe I have never seen that movie?)

220px-NottingHillRobertsGrant

I stopped and snapped a picture of a painting etched onto the side of a building of a man playing guitar and singing.

photoThe background was yellow and he stood in a sort of relief away from the yellow and red circle with the star inside of it. The quote said, “without people you’re nothing” and then his name and the dates he lived and died. I assumed it was his quote, the guy painted  in black who white wore a patch that said Ignore Alien Orders. Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash.

I Googled it later and found out that it was indeed his quote.  There’s a truth in the fact that we need people. I mean, Hey, I love to be alone. More than being with people quite often, which is a mixture of being an introvert (despite leading retreats and workshops, the core of who I am is an introvert,) not being able to hear well, and lastly, the writer in me. (Can’t write when you are in a crowd of people talking.)

But so much of what I teach and what I believe is based on this quote, so thanks Mr. Joe Strummer. Thanks, Joe. Can I call you Joe?

I suppose you could live on an island alone and be fine, for a while. Or if you like to read, you could be the only one on the planet in a sea of books. But after awhile you’d want to die from loneliness. Truth.

Speaking of living on an island alone, did you see the latest celebrity mean tweets? Celebrities read mean tweets people have written about themselves. It’s hysterical. Tom Hanks read one that says “”Whatever. Tom Hanks is a whiner. Oh boo hoo, so you have a tropical island all to yourself. Fuck you. You. I have a turtle sandbox, bitch.”

Yea, you need people. We all need people.

That painting and the quote struck me as beautiful. It was kind of a stark day and then all of a sudden this burst of yellow appeared with a true sentence. I had just been trying to write and thinking of Hemingway’s quote “write one true sentence.”

I couldn’t even think of one. And there it was. Right there. So I wrote it down.

If somebody ever mean tweets about me (which I am sure they have and they will. I am at @jenpastiloff if you want to!), do you think Jimmy Kimmel will have me on the show to read it?

**

I was talking to my friend who’s recently moved out of her huge house. The house she’d lived in was one of my favorite houses. I spent a lot of time there sitting at her big kitchen table looking out into the yard. I asked her at dinner if she missed her old house and she said she didn’t. I dipped my chip (French fry for my America brethren) in mayo and told her I envied her a bit for that because I couldn’t even let go of the house I lived in while I was in high school.

How do some people break attachments? How do you let go? (How how why why how how?)

I it was all a bit too many hows and whys for dinner in a pub so we ordered gin and tonics (and that was a beautiful things because I thought I hated gin) and we talked about Dallas Buyer’s Club. I still can’t get over that movie. She hasn’t seen it yet so I went on and on and oh, as it turns out I don’t dislike gin. Maybe I did at one point? But I don’t anymore. I won’t say I love it but I enjoyed my drink and our dinner. Maybe people change.

I haven’t seen her new flat, but the description of it, especially the way she described the light coming in and how the Thames looked from her balcony, was enough to sustain me. I am a sucker for the way light falls on desktops or slants across the room. Give me light or give me death, I will proclaim when buying a flat or a home.

Watching someone gracefully move from one space in their life the to the next without the kicking and screaming that so often accompanies change is a beautiful thing. Easing into the phases of our lives as opposed to clinging to what we had, well, I’ll drink to that. Cheers.

**

I see lone shoes a lot.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one seeing them because, come on, how often are people dropping their shoes? Don’t they notice? Does it fall off their foot? Out of a suitcase? Maybe it’s a sign meant only for me, but I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be a sign for.

I see lone shoes a lot and mostly they are baby shoes. I don’t know anybody else that sees as many single shoes on sidewalks or in the middle of the road. Today’s lone show in the gutter in London was not a baby shoe. It was an ugly white tennis shoe that frankly, I would’ve also abandoned (although I would’ve dumped the right as well and not just the left shoe.)

In Battersea, outside the French café where my husband and I had walked in the rain to get coffee, the storyteller in me came alive. Whose shoe is that? What happened to him/her? Maybe I could write a whole short story around the white shoe in a puddle? Would I make the shoe the main character? Or maybe like the common thread in a book of short stories, the one thing that connected all the stories, or all of life?

I came home and tried to write one true sentence about the shoe.

I came up with a few.

There was only one shoe. A single solitary shoe for a left foot.

The mouth of the shoe was stretched out as if maybe the person who wore it had wide feet.

The shoe was ugly.

Wait, what if that’s not true, that it’s ugly? That’s not the truest truth of the shoe. What if the others things weren’t true, as well? What if everything could be looked at in this way, as if we studied a thing for clues about what it meant about our lives? About truth?

What if every shoe had a story?

What if we were all storytellers?

(What if what if what if why why why how how how.)

Part of me wanted to pick it up because it made me feel lonely seeing it there by itself.

I came home and thought shoes don’t have feelings. But then I thought if they did have feelings, they would tell us to stop moving, that they were tired, and felt like they had no say in the matter. They would say they were hurting.

Point is, if you look the right way, everything has beauty. Even a wet shoe without its mate lying in the street.

Even that.

photo

Jen will be back in London Feb 14th, 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Jen Pastiloff’s London Adventures.

February 19, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life? ~ from The Swan by Mary Oliver

I took on a new private client in L.A., which I don’t really do anymore, and I gave her an assignment. Send me your 5 most beautiful things every day was the assignment. She said that she would but asked if I would send mine back for posterity.

I lecture about my 5 most beautiful things project in all my workshops and retreats, but I’d kind of fallen off the wagon of writing them down myself.

So here I am in London. Trying my best to be a beauty seeker. A relentless beauty hunter. What better way than to jot them down in my typical rambling fashion? So I will. I’ll post them. My musings, as it were. And it may interest you, and it may not. But hey, my eyes are open. Maybe you’ll be inspired in some way to look at that guy next to you, the one with the plaid shirt and the cane, the one with the really long fingers and bushy grey eyebrows and see something beautiful in him. But even more than how beautiful it is the way his right foot rests on the leg of the table and his hands cover his eyes as if he’s about to cry, it’s the beauty of the moment and how full it is and how it will never ever be again. Because look, already it’s gone.

So I will attempt to jot down my beautiful things everyday. I’ll do my best to post them somewhere. For posterity. Sometimes more than five. Five was just a number I thought was doable. Tweetable. A number we could all manage. Oh, only 5 beautiful things? Easy. I got this.

Shoes and tubes and kids. Here’s a beautiful thing (although it’s perhaps more than one solid thing): I was on the tube wearing my fancy-ish sneakers- the ones with the studs and chains. They’re blue leather, and besides the few coffee stains on them from too much wear, they make me feel good. The tube was crowded so I shared the pole with this little girl of about about 5 or 6 years old. She had on heart socks with gold-tipped sandals and I thought the contrast between her little fancy foot and mine, with the yellow pole in between, seemed artsy. And ironic. So I took a picture.

I showed her and she approved. I took a second photo. (Just in case.)

photo copy

She had a mini-pencil in her hand and started to write in the air. I asked her to write her name. She did, although I’m not sure what it was because from my vantage point it was backwards. Plus, I am not sure she could even spell.

I imagined her writing poems in the air.

She stuck the pencil in her mouth and hid behind her mom’s leg.

My husband noted that I was good with kids. “Pasti.” He calls me Pasti, short for my last name Pastiloff (which I kept,) “Pasti, you’re good with kids.”

“Yea, for 5 minutes,” I replied.

I said I was sort of envious of people who’d gone through it all already. Who had kids and didn’t have to go through the whole rigamarole and shlepping of being pregnant.

“We’re old,” I reminded him.

We went to a Whole Foods on Kensington High Street (so American of us!) and I ordered a jacket potato with tuna. The lady behind the counter opened the potato and stared blankly at me. “Tuna,” I reminded her.

“We are out of tuna. Have the beef.”

“I don’t eat meat. I ordered the potato because I wanted the tuna,” I said as she threw away the potato. (I would’ve eaten it if I would’ve known she would chuck it.)

I told her to make me a veggie burger instead.

“May I have mayo?” I asked.

I think I might have rolled my eyes a little when she said that they had no mayo. Anywhere. In the whole of Whole Foods. I felt very American again.

I wished to have the little heart-footed girl’s pencil with me at that moment so I could write my name in the air.

The veggie burger was old, like a hockey puck made from lentils.

I ordered a chardonnay to wash down the dryness as I watched for children with cute shoes or pencils and other beautiful things.

**

I tried to change my flight coming home before I even got here. I won’t have enough time I thought. Eight days is not enough. Which is absurd, really. It is enough but it’s like when food comes and I’m hungry- It won’t be enough to fill me up, as if I’m Oliver Twist or grew up as some street urchin who never had enough food. (To be clear, I always had enough food except when I was starving myself and that was by my own volition.) I’m not going to have enough: a common refrain. Virgin Atlantic told me that to change my flight to come home the day after I had originally booked would be 5,000 pounds. My ticket was only about 1,300 pounds so I could fly back and forth, LAX> Heathrow 4 times with that cost. I declined the switch. I tweeted Virgin Atlantic that I was terribly #disappointed in their #service and how #ridiculous it was (as if my tweet would make a difference.) It just seemed outrageous to me. 5k pounds!?! Anyway, we get this flight attendant and it was like the Virgin Atlantic gods were trying to make up for my dismay.

He’d walk up to our seats with this shit-eating grin and pull things from behind his back like some kind of magician in the sky. “Here, here’s the good stuff, from upper class,” he’d say as he handed my husband a tumbler of some very fine scotch and me a nice pinot noir. He did it a few times too. He kept coming over to chat with us and couldn’t get over the fact at how familiar I seemed to him. “Well, I’m famous on the internet,” I joked. He asked when my return flight was and when I told him February 23rd, he squealed, “The 11 am flight? I’m on that!”

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And so I felt happy and that things were right in the world again and that I owed Virgin Atlantic a follow-up tweet. And I kind of imagined that with him flying back and forth, LAX> Heathrow 4 times might not be so bad. He’d have kept me amused and liquored up on that 4 times roundabout. And that was a beautiful thing.

At my workshop on Saturday in Hammersmith there were a bunch of Americans and two of them were flight attendants for United. They said they always, no matter what, find someone to over-serve. I was happy we’d been those people on my flight. We made the cut!

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**

My workshop. More than 50 people in a city- Hell, in a country- I don’t live and have never taught. As I was talking about the 5 most beautiful things, a rainbow appeared and someone (it was actually one of the flight attendants) interrupted me to point it out. I tried to take a picture, but the minute I did it disappeared. That’s beauty for you, isn’t it? You can’t capture it. You’ve got to pay attention to it, yes. Let it move you, yes. But to try and hoard it or hold on to it? Well, you’ll stand there empty-handed and wishing for a ship that’s already sailed.

It was there though, that rainbow, and it appeared just as I was telling those 50+ people about the most beautiful things project like it was a nod to what I saying, an agreement- yes, there’s beauty everywhere, it seemed to say, and everyone saw it as if it only existed for us right then in that moment. Who knows, maybe it did?

It was a beautiful workshop. Who knew the Brits were so open? Maybe it was a sign- the rainbow at the beginning of the workshop? Or maybe it was just them. Maybe it’s just who they were. I guess not everything needs to be explained away.

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**

Last night after I sat in Le pain Quotidien off Kensington High Street for hours doodling This is the world. You are a person in the world. The world is full of pain. Each pain has it’s own singular kind of beauty and other weird poemy lines on the colored pieces of paper they had at the table, I stood on the sidewalk and tried to poach their wifi.

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They had closed (I actually didn’t notice they were putting chairs on tables because I’d been so into my work) and I had no way to get ahold of my friend who I was meant to meet. So I stood outside in the cold, in front of the closed café and stole their wifi. She’d said they were going to go somewhere near Sloane’s Square but I had no idea where nor how to get there. I finally gave up on trying to get in touch with her and decided to take a bus towards Sloane’s Square. I really really had no idea where I was going but I was happily lost, partially because I saw the Whole Foods I’d been at earlier and a bunch of shops that I recognized (as if that was somehow a compass) and partially because I felt the itch to write and what that happens I become like a thief, using anything for inspiration. So the man I asked how to get to Sloane’s Square? He’ll show up somewhere, here, or in a poem or story. Wait- here is.

He told me which street to turn left on then right then walk this way then, here is running after me. How sweet, he’s running after to me to tell me he’s given me the wrong directions. He goes on and on and I’ve lost him after about 4 seconds but I listen as best as I can with my deaf-ish ears and his accent and smile. He says, “Got it?”

“I’m going to take a taxi,” I say.

He howls as if it is the funniest thing he has ever heard.

**

My taxi driver was lovely. He kept asking me if I was tired. “Long day?’ he asked. I was yawning a lot.

“No, not really. I was just staring at the computer screen for a long time.”

And I thought about all the pain the world, and how maybe I should put my seatbelt on as I slid across the backseat, and how maybe he had his own singular pains and how maybe they were beautiful.

The Battersea Bridge- the lights on the bridge lit up the sky and I almost took a picture, but then I remembered the rainbow. So I just held it there in my eyesight first, then in my heart, and finally in my imagination, where it will change a bit, with time, and perhaps with this beer I am drinking in this pub in Putney as I write this. Because things change once we claim them as ours, don’t they?

I put my seatbelt on. A few minutes later we arrived at the Overstrand Mansions in Battersea where I’m staying. I got out and muttered the words tube, beauty, taxi, lights, man, lost, bridge, and wondered what would happen if I tried to string them together.

 

Jen will be back in London for a Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human on Feb 14th. Book now as their are only a few spots left.
waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

5 Most Beautiful Things, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love

It’s Everything. By Elizabeth Crane.

September 22, 2013

The following piece was a submission for my #5mostbeautifulthings contest last June. The idea being that we walk around actively looking for beauty, and then, share our findings with the world. Okay, by world I mean the world of social media. But still. It’s a beautiful exercise which truly opens the channel for, not only creativity, but for life itself, because what else is there really, besides paying attention? 

Elizabeth Crane Brandt is a beloved American author and, most recently, my pen pal. Yes, you read correctly. Real. Life. Letters. Gasp! 

She has a tremendous ability to weave words right into your heart and to leave a little something there: a scarf, or note, an imprint of love.

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five most beautiful things today (which is not yesterday or tomorrow)

by 

Elizabeth Crane

1)  My dog’s snout and paws.  This will have to be one thing.  Very often they are seen together.  After seven years, it only just dawned on me that I take pictures of these two parts of him just about every day.  It may seem at first glance like these pictures are largely similar, but if there weren’t nuances, I’m sure I wouldn’t keep doing it.  The snout and paws of today are not the snout and paws of yesterday; today is not yesterday, tomorrow isn’t today, and what if, after he’s gone, I didn’t have all these daily photos to look at from the beginning?  Maybe I’m writing the story of my dog, one snout and paws photo at a time.  More will be revealed.  Snout and paws.  One beautiful thing.

2) My dad’s old barn that just fell down.  I can’t.  Even.  It just happened yesterday; I found out this morning.  I feel like I may as well be under that very pile of boards right now.  We’ve known it was coming, there was a hole in the roof the size of a bathtub, but that barn was a symbol of everything beautiful about my childhood, and there was more than plenty representing what wasn’t.  (Google: NYC 1960s-70s and I promise one of the first three choices will have ‘gritty’ or ‘dangerous’ in it.  There was plenty of beauty there too, but the danger went a long way to canceling that out for me when I was six and eight.)  (Also: cross-reference item # 1 here, as regards number of photos taken/subtle nuances – I do not live in Iowa, but I have taken countless photos on each trip I’ve made there, and I am, now that the barn is partway to the ground, gladder than ever that I did.  Though I’d kind of just like to have it put back the way it was, if requests are being taken.  Not the deal, I know, but I’m in the denial phase of grief.)

3) The piles of letters and emails my dad wrote me over the years from the time I was about eight (parents divorced, Dad lived in Iowa, we lived in NY), encouraging me to be a writer, telling me what a great daughter I was.

4) The sky out the window of our little Brooklyn apartment.  There are some buildings below that sky that I could take or leave, as well an old smokestack (were I given a magic set of paints, I would take out the two taller buildings behind the smokestack but leave the smokestack in, I would leave the rusty sloped roof of the old church in front of the smokestack, which is nicely framed on either side by a street full of trees that are lush from the rain we’ve been having all week, and then I would also maybe erase at least the top floor of building directly across the street, and/or paint in a family counselor for the parents in the window across the way who are relentlessly yelling at their beautiful little boy who obviously just doesn’t want to go to church this week).  The fact remains: you can see a whole bunch of sky from the sofa.  It’s good all times of day.  It’s good in the morning with the first cup of coffee and at dusk (we face west) it’s a whole bunch of those gorgeously moody dusk-time colors that make me feel like everything crummy is going down with the sun, that it’s all getting reset, that the world is good and right.

5) How my husband looks at me.  It’s everything.  It would be pointless to try to describe it, but somebody looks at you like this, they must, and if they don’t today, they will tomorrow, I’m sure of it.

 

For more on Elizabeth check out her site: elizabethcrane.com

Also, although I swore I would never do another contest,  I should stop swearing), I am. This one is themed #iHaveDoneLove.

Follow me on instagram at @jenpastiloff for details. It will involve pictures (why I chose Instagram as the platform) as well as writing. My favorites. You can win a spot at my next retreat over New Years in Ojai, California. The hashtag will be #iHaveDoneLove

At the end of your life, when you say one final “What have I done?” let your answer be: I have done love. 

Thanks Elizabeth. You did. Love, that is.

xo jen

5 Most Beautiful Things, Self Image, Travels, Video

Video: Me, Christy Turlington, Dr. Zucker & More. Plus, a Little Seattle Love.

September 20, 2013

Hello my Tribe!

What a couple of days! Last night I went to see The National here in Seattle with my friend Rachel, who is the lead singer’s sister. It truly was a remarkable performance that left me speechless.

Thanks Matt!

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Then, this morning, I did a video conference on body image and why every body counts with the founder of Every Mother Counts, Christy Turlington, as well as Dr. Jessica Zucer, Jeanne Faulkner and Erin Thornton. It was so inspiring that I wanted to share with you all here. Please continue this dialogue!

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In case you missed my essay on Every Mother Counts, click here.

After that chat, I went to the Snoqualmie Falls. Holy wow!

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Upon entering Seattle I saw a heart made of flowers, so of course, I had to stop. Definitely one of my #5mostbeautifulthings.

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Here’s to wishing you all an amazing beauty filled weekend.

Love, from Seattle, Jen

5 Most Beautiful Things, Awe & Wonder

Boys In The Hood.

September 13, 2013

My friend is a teacher deep in South L.A. Just recently, he lost three students who were shot in gang related incidents. Today, he tagged me on Instagram with this photo below. It’s a photo of his 7th grade boys’ #5mostbeautifulthings. He said they were having their weekly chat and the boys started to get macho with their talk of sex and violence so he used the 5 most beautiful things project to bring them back.

I was so moved by this!

Take a peek at some of the things they wrote. Girls, video games, my mom, Ganesh (loved that one!)

Beauty transforms. I don’t care where or who you are. It transforms.

Follow me on Instagram at @jenpastiloff and post a pic with hashtag #5mostbeautifulthings. Tag me and write why it’s one of your things. I share some of them!

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Please share this post as I would love people to see how powerful this project really is.

With love and beauty,

jen xx

5 Most Beautiful Things, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

Ruptured.

September 12, 2013

The following essay by Marika Rosenthal Delan blew me away. She wrote this about my Ojai Manifestation Retreat over Labor Day, which she won as part of a prize for her winning my #5mostbeautifulthings contest.

Aht-lo-le-Vahd

את לא לבד

You are not alone.

It’s the Hebrew phrase that kept ringing through my ear where I attended my first Jennifer Pastiloff  Manifestation Yoga retreat over Labor Day weekend in the oasis of Ojai Valley, California.
It was a weekend packed full of that which we later dubbed “The Jen Pastiloff Experience”.

Complete with all sorts of awesomeness: karaoke yoga, delicious love-filled food, surprise soul-stirring live music, insightful writing, new friends that felt like childhood besties, epiphanies, life-altering conversation, heart-wrenching stories of love and loss, poetry, natural wonders, a little wine, deep talks around the pool about diamonds and time transport of the Whovian persuasion,  and a midnight swim or two under the brightest stars I’ve ever seen (not to mention a handful of shooting stragglers from the end of the Perseid meteor shower that peaked a few weeks ago- which for geeks like me is heaven.)

I could go on all day attempting to describe what we did there and still not capture all that was the magical time we spent in Ojai. You know how words so often fail where the heart is concerned.

Oh, yes, the heart.

I found mine pounding at the thought of facing my fears – the biggest of which was the fear that I would somehow find myself alone amongst all these people. Virtual strangers.
But something unspoken, somewhere trapped under my tongue, there in my quivering voice, was that phrase once again waiting to remind me….

You are not alone.

I found myself involuntarily muttering it aloud in a circle full of exquisitely and intricately beautiful people atop our yoga mats on a floor that reflects light as if it were glass;  and again this morning as I tried to capture the spirit that embodied our time there; trying to describe the feeling that was at the heart of it all; that which I came out knowing in body and spirit what I before only understood in theory.

את לא לבד
Aht lo le-Vahd

Its only fitting that it would be Hebrew that would echo in the valley and in my ear in Ojai. Not that I’m religious, or technically even Jewish by lineage.

I don’t speak Hebrew aside from a few prayers, although I try. I studied diligently for over a year in preparation for my marriage into a Jewish family but never converted. But if we are being authentic here (and isn’t that the whole point?),  I would be amiss if I didn’t say I have felt Jewish from the time I was a young girl and have spent a good part of my life chasing where that feeling came from.

It’s hard to explain the way I feel it in my bones- the way it pulls me inward like metal shavings to a magnet- all my little pieces I thought were lost underfoot somewhere- pulled like splinters out of the floor boards.

But in this sacred space where the veil between here and the nether feels ever so slightly drawn aside, it can be no accident that I’m here just in time to ring in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and in preparation for the Days of Awe, the highest of the high Holy days.

My last days have indeed been days of awe.

The Universe is clever like that.

Awe? You’ll find it here in droves.

It in the valley rich with succulents thriving in rock in the 100 degree plus desert heat. It’s in the colors of sunrise in the yoga studio doors. It’s in the morning moon where the twilight still lingers and the promise of another day is just over the horizon, a horizon that is literal mountains in 360 degrees. It’s in the trees filled with ripe and heavy fruit, ready to rupture as it hits the ground, giving sustenance as it enters it’s next stage of life, which is death; giving it’s flesh to nourish life still living.

But more than anything I found it in the people who dwelled there together for four awe-inspiring days. It’s in the stories they told of their brokenness.

It wasn’t just figs that were falling to the ground breaking open.

rupture-[ruhp-cher]  noun, verb- rup·tured, rup·tur·ing-  the state of being broken.

I’ve always held the notion that being broken was undesirable, that it branded you damaged somehow.  That even though you would like to forget, that it is necessary for you to carry the scar with you to remind you of your brokenness lest you ever think you are complete just as you are (or maybe that’s just martyrdom disguised as Jewish guilt.)

On the way to Ojai valley, I couldn’t help but notice all the straw hats over bent backs in the fields lining each side of the highway for miles and miles.

Planting,
growing,
sowing,
harvesting—all the things of my childhood on the farm with my own ghosts traipsing through the mud clods and piles of grain so high you could swim in them.

This morning, reading through the scribbles I made in my journal as we drove through the fields on the way to Ojai- an epiphany.

The Divine has been using brokenness to make things whole again since life first began.

It’s when the dirt at summers end has hardened to a tough crust that it must be broken open again in order to bear next season’s fruit.

It’s the rain pouring forth from broken clouds; breaking open to spill the field full of new life pulsing underground.

It’s in the seedling that breaks the surface of the soil as life emerges from the dirt; in the wheat that is thrashed until the beginning of bread has broken.

In the bread that is broken together where strength is born for life to continue evolving.

In the cracks where our hearts have broken now put back together again.

It was seeking my most beautiful things that had brought me to this place and where the breathtakingly beautiful things that happened here brought me so close to the Divine I could taste it. That brought me to my knees in gratitude at the top of the hill behind the yoga studio where I was witness to that neon sunrise reflection in the glass.  In the same dirt from which new life emerges I fell to my knees in awe, in gratitude, in reverence to the life lived before here, while we were here, and to our lives beyond this space- before we packed our things and drove away, before I said my goodbye to the place where I discovered that I’m not so shattered after all.

Broken and made whole again—like this tribe of people, all of us with our own brand of heartbreak, now shining all our light on the mirror, complete with all its cracks, but pieced together for us to finally see the depth of our own beauty.

This tribe of incredible people, willing to bear their souls and their deepest fears; that bear witness to the primordial cry inside all of us.
People willing to bare their broken hearts in front of a room full of virtual strangers.
People with beauty and light so deep and so bright,
if you stared too long it would burn your eyes.

As I drove home with my family and left Ojai valley, watching the mountains and velvet hills and colors and shapes of sunrise in reverse, expecting the sacred space to fade away as we were carried further away from it’s magic, only to find it expanded exponentially as I saw the ocean open up into foreverness. It wasn’t a fading away but a birth of all that was waiting to come alive inside of me and around me.

“But in a way you can say that after leaving the sea, after all those millions of years of living inside of the sea, we took the ocean with us. When a woman makes a baby, she gives it water, inside her body, to grow in. That water inside her body is almost exactly the same as the water of the sea. It is salty, by just the same amount. She makes a little ocean, in her body. And not only this. Our blood and our sweating, they are both salty, almost exactly like the water from the sea is salty. We carry oceans inside of us, in our blood and our sweat. And we are crying the oceans, in our tears.” ― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

Oh, there was plenty of sweat (with a hundred degree plus heat wave we could have called it hotyoga), and an ocean of tears in the stories shared, in the hearts bared.
It was a birth. A death.
A rebirth.

An evolution of no longer holding oneself back, of manifesting that life which is yours for the taking should you choose to take the gift as it was given.
As your birthright.

When I stop and think about it for even a moment, I find my own eyes fill with tears remembering just how not alone I am. How connected it all really is. How the Divine fills all worlds.

And now that I’m home, with the ocean and those majestic mountains no longer in my field of view, with the magical energy of our collective dispersed, I find the fear that I couldn’t bring the magic home with me is unfounded.
It’s just as palpable here in my kitchen with a sink full of coffee cups and toast crumbs on the floor. Here where the birthday sign in the window is long overdue to be taken down.  Backlit with morning sun, still hanging there with my own majestic mountains behind it in a neon sunrise on a blanket of cool Silicon valley fog, beckoning me to take this day as my birthday- every day as a birth.

and remembering these words, I know that it is….

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

Coming Home
by Marika Rosenthal Delan

Leaving, not going

return

depart.

strange

familiar,

weightless heart

ripe figs

ruptured

born strangers
now kin

the words
none come

or gush

from unseen

once hushed

now free
places

remembered now
in
sacred spaces

kept kindled,
the spark,

now a torch,

burst into

full flame

“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend”― Aldous Huxley

“At the end of my life when I ask What have I done? one final time, I want to answer: I have done love.” -Jennifer Pastiloff

We have done love.

Thank you for showing us how it’s done.

 

In awe of you (and ourselves) and with deepest love,

the tribe

 

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My next retreat to Ojai is over New Years and is already selling out so please click here to deposit or email barbara at jenniferpastiloff dot com. I am also doing the Mother’s Day retreat there again. Click here.

Here is a memory album which my mother painstakingly made. Please check it out as it is lovely.

To follow Marika click here. I suggest you do. I am so happy she was the winner of the contest. She is indeed a beauty seeker!

5 Most Beautiful Things

The #5MostBeautifulThings Contest Winner As Chosen By Author Emily Rapp.

June 25, 2013

This was a huge undertaking and much harder than I had originally thought it would be. I literally got hundreds and hundreds of essays and entries. I hope that everyone feels like they won even if they didn’t win the retreat. By becoming a beauty seeker our lives begin to shift. That was, and is, my intention. To help create a tribe of beauty seekers. Sure, I wish I could let every single person who entered come on the retreat but, this is life, I can only have one.

The three runners up will each get a pair of JUIL sandals and a yoga mat bag. Juils are, by far, my favorite shoes. I am a proud ambassador to this company and will be wearing my Juil’s all over Italy in a few days. Click here to see the site. The 3 Juil winners are Mirela Gegprifti, Rachel Popowcer and Jane Harris. Their essays will be published via The Manifest-Station in the next few weeks.

Beauty, unremitting like this, so hard to come by-

And yet it is everywhere, this beauty.

You can’t ignore something so beautiful.

Make your list and keep filling it up and when there is no room get a new paper and keep going and going and going. You will amaze yourself. You will find that you are actively looking for beauty wherever you are. No matter what. And what else is the point? What is beauty for if not to lighten us up from the inside out and sometimes, from the outside in?

There were so many essays to choose from that the only fair way for me to pick was to pass it on. Emily Rapp, best selling author of The Still Point of The Turning World, was the one who chose the final winner. We loved so many of them but sadly, she could only pick one final winner. The winner of the retreat is Marika Delan.

I hope you all got something out of this and will enter my next contest. It was life changing for me to read all of your essays and tweets and watch the videos. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. That’s a beautiful thing. Utterly beautiful. You all took this on as if your life depended on finding the beauty. And doesn’t it?

What if we walked around looking for beauty instead of looking for things to be stressed about or offended by? What if we became beauty hunters? What if we told more beautiful stories? What if it was all we saw, even in the dirt? What if we trained our eyes and our hearts to tune into that which makes us cock our head to one side and close our eyes gently in an effort to memorize what we were looking at. What if it is all we got?

What if all we have is our 5 beautiful things?

Here is Marika’s essay:

Singing silver buttons: Finding holiness in the washing machine and other things rabbis say By Marika Rosenthal Delan

Before I was even aware of my deep love for words and the tapestry we weave with them, I think there must have been a knowing that someday I would meticulously mold the letters that would spell out the words waiting to set me free. That is now if only I could stay awake long enough to find a way to pick the lock where I imprisoned them long ago.

Being a mother of young children I have trouble keeping my heavy eyelids open to wade knee deep in chapter after chapter of carefully chosen and perfectly placed words. I remember the hanging on each word– savoring books for hours when I was a kid. Nights of devouring a book in one sitting, unable to control my hunger for more until I finally closed the back cover in a blissfully warm word coma. Those words that change and morph inside you when your eyes absorb them, incorporating them permanently into the fabric of your young and buoyant soul.

Sometimes that now older, less buoyant soul starts to sink a little. Now my nightly mantra is— “Oh, tonight I’m not going to fall asleep putting the kids to bed.” But I have to keep it real and to what I know I can stay awake for given my child- induced narcolepsy. Nowadays I read and write in bits and pieces in the middle of the night on my iPhone. The truth is, I really haven’t done a lot of reading or writing since I was in high school—that is until Jennifer Pastiloff lit a fire under my ass about what seems like every single thing I have ever avoided in my entire life. So I guess you could say, I have been easing back into my literary self in small doses; trying it on for size.

Bits and pieces and small groupings of words,

phrases, quotes—-poems, essays;

somethings scribbled on scraps of paper.

I love reading snippets of thoughts and dreams and musings of those wise and unorthodox souls who dared record their observings somewhere, someday for someone to discover and say

I’ve never looked at it that way before.

I suppose I’m looking for the answer to some secret of sorts. The secret that each of us brings our own perspective, our own beauty, our own truths waiting to be revealed to us in the most mundane, or pragmatic, and sometimes most profane of ways.

But I keep searching for my muse. Some days I wait for her to show and she comes silently, hiding amidst the lonely unmatched socks somewhere–forcing me look in every pocket and zipper; every buttoned-up, inside-out bundled-up mess.

Today I found it in the washing machine.

What started out as an attempt to win my chance at a coveted spot at a Jennifer Pastiloff yoga retreat, turned into a total and complete shift in my paradigm.

And ironically it wasn’t the obviously beautiful things that were responsible for this tectonic shift. During the course of my commitment to find beautiful things a lot of decidedly not so beautiful things happened….

After losing 3 weeks worth of writing and photos in a tragic hard drive crash (including what was to be this essay), I tried my best to see the blessing in the pain. I told myself that I could get them back, but I knew that they were gone. Like your favorite lip balm you realize you left in your jacket pocket only after its been in the dryer on high heat for an hour. The container is still there, but the contents are empty and there is a stain all over your clothes.

It’s so weird that this computer, this machine, my writing companion, was alive and breathing with my words running through it’s code one day — and pronounced dead the next with all those pieces of me now locked away inside of it forever.

But it was in having to search for more inspiration to rewrite all that was lost that I found this gem, this diamond in the rough……

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” – Rabbi Harold Kushner

Well most days, no, I admittedly don’t see the holiness in my washing machine.

I was still sitting shiva over my beloved companion, mourning the cool glow of it’s illuminated fruit when we lost all water pressure.

When we lost our power for a day and a half, and our water for 2 ½ days because our pipes burst, not once but twice. When I no longer had the privilege of a clean pair of socks, I began to understand the value of this little nugget of rabbinical wisdom I had stumbled upon.

I paid reverence quickly each time I turned on a switch and no light came on. I realized how much I rely on the light when I want to see something clearly.

I quickly noticed when I tried to wash a load of the umpteen loads of laundry I needed to wash and the washer didn’t sing it’s usual pleasant little song when I hit the pretty silver button.

But here I find myself, standing in a pile of dirty laundry the size of Mount Everest looking for something.

That thing.

Looking for it like the 20 I know I left in the back pocket of my favorite jeans.

That thing that I know is the thing I’ve been searching for ever since I remember knowing that I should be searching for things.

That essence of life that always felt just beyond my grasp because of this imperfection or that distraction. That something that could be maintained for fleeting moments when I was with my family, or in some majestic place, or if some shiny thing caught my eye. That intangible something that would always get lost somewhere between the moment and whichever of my insecurities happened to have its foot on my throat at the time, keeping me from fully inhabiting this shell of a soul. This body.

This life.

Looking back, I know now I wasn’t living in my body at all. It was too painful with so much hatred for everything I was. It was more comfortable right outside of my own peripheral vision. The picture light above my askew portrait with it’s dirty bulb blackened and yellow and burned. Colors runny and muddy, grey and all it’s variations but nothing black or white. Dusty oil brushstrokes laid down on the canvas of my life, splashed and spattered; hanging crooked above a dirty plaid couch in a basement somewhere. After having played hide and seek for so long I forgot what I was looking for, it occurs to me that I won’t find it here in this dark and musty place.

But now, stepping into the sun, I find it, pulsating on the ground.

Waiting for me to pick it up and finally fully feel what it is to be alive.

I found it yesterday when my daughter was blowing bubbles. The wind caught a trail of her freshly blown bubbles and carried them in a spiral whoosh up the stairs. Gossamer purple and green spheres, caught in an invisible current, dancing like a DNA helix up into the air where a final gust popped her new fragile and shining baubles into nothingness.

She looked up at me with her huge blue pools of love, full of absolute wonder at what we had seen. And I was there for it.

It took my breath away.

I found it today when my son finished kindergarten. When he looked at me with such inquisitiveness about what he would learn in the 1st grade. When I listened to him read so fluently and effortlessly and he looked at me with such a sense of accomplishment in his eyes, my heart felt like it was breaking open spilling my mama-ness everywhere.

I’m homeschooling him. He’s a challenge, but of course he would have to be because he’s the freaking most amazing kid I know. He’s reminds me of everything it means to be creative and beautifully odd and happy.

He has taught me patience where I had none. Not that I don’t still need a lot of work so he always brings his A game, whether it’s just his extra-kinetic boy-ness or asking me difficult questions. Explaining things so children understand them gives you a new perspective on how you see the world, and ultimately how your child will see the world.

I never considered myself a teacher, although in some sense I have been teaching for a long time. And here I find myself teaching the most important student I will ever have— my own child.

The responsibility on my heart is sometimes heavy with self-doubt and the unknown and everything that comes between, but the edges catch those gusts of wind and floating up I know that somehow faith will carry us through our unmapped journey and he will grow into the beautiful boy he is and will be.

It takes my breath away.

The responsibility we hold in our hands and sometimes treat not so delicately.

Not so sacredly.

To keep seeking, to keep going,

to keep looking for beauty when the world keeps telling you that what you see is somehow flawed or broken or sometimes too asleep to even notice.

Or when what we see is ugly.

And it is sometimes.

Or when life is difficult, or you’re in a funk, or you want to be in a funk (I didn’t even have an awareness of wanting such a thing until this most beautiful things practice- What? Why would I want to be in a funk? Quiet observation showed me a number of reasons of which I may or may not have been previously aware….. I was lazy, or mad, or or I wanted to stay mad, or resentful, or tired, or because it’s someone else’s fault or ….. God forbid it’s because it’s what I always do ).

But the beautiful things.

What are my most beautiful things?

When you start to look,

it’s the catch in your breath.

It’s the pause at the previously overlooked everyday whatever, I’ve seen it a million times before.

It’s most definitely the most astonishingly beautiful thing on the planet.

This being alive, this being here, right now, with this awareness of myself and who I am and in this Eden we live in.

Amok

in this paradise that we sometimes regard as a slum;

amidst the most beautiful people ever I’ve had the honor to share with

this time,

this space;

and all the others—-those amongst the stars and stardust of those long ago born and those not yet birthed—those souls that somehow linger on the threshold of the here

and the once was

or the someday will be.

And all those where are we goings, and what are we doings…..

It’s those goings and those doings where you find your true beauty.

Fragments, and slivers and sub-sets of what you think you are and that which you become when you glue all the pieces back together; the puzzle of your own broken and fragile heart now complete.

Invisible forces are acting all around us without our conscious awareness.

The wind, the mind, the sun.

A huge burning ball of gas searing it’s signature into our skin from 93 million miles away leaving behind remnants of days on boats, and rivers, and pools of anything else a young girl might find herself floating in on those days when the tar in the cracks of the summer asphalt bubbles up like black jelly.

And the mind.

Oh the mind, run wild with weeds of unworthiness and the I’m a horrible person-ness and the I’m not enough-nesses.

The nesses.

I’ve so often put the weak in front of the nesses, I’ve convinced myself that my weaknesses are real and use them as an excuse for apathy, inaction;

for the I’m too tireds and I’m too olds.

Maybe it isn’t weakness at all.

Maybe what we call weakness is our inability to let ourselves be vulnerable.

So what I used to consider my greatest weakness—-maybe isn’t weakness at all.

My soft heart, my inability to override the impulse when I feel it well up inside me; hiding my wet eyes when I look around to see no one else has been so moved by some seemingly small gesture, or word,

or song.

Bringing me perspective each time I blink my eyes and wash away the film that is clouding my vision. Giving me pieces of that which perhaps we must keep seeking and searching for if we want to keep embracing this human life as it unfolds.

To live it with all the breath in our lungs, over and over until we leave this dimension,

this space,

this nothing was ever the sameness;

this nothing will ever be like this again-ness.

Perspective that comes from zooming out on your map, going up into the canopy as my husband always says, elevated where the air is clear;

where you can see the whole picture of this bittersweet life.

And when you do you see that even all the negative, horrible bad, mean, fucked-up-ness of this world pales in comparison to it’s searingly painful beauty.

Somewhere between finding my 5 most beautiful things and this newfound volition for doing things that make my heart pound with fear, I found myself.

Waiting there in the corner, to be noticed; to be seen as beautiful among all the other things I found.

How could I have known that I would be one of my most beautiful things?

This girl, (or rather, would be woman were I to label myself as such and I guess technically am but much prefer the youthfulness implied with girl—) who did nothing but hate myself for so long, now finding herself among the beauty. How did this happen?

By being pushed past my comfortable limits.

Out of my safe zone and onto the ledge where I dared look over the edge to see my fears—some of the deepest ones at the bottom calling out for me to jump.

And my dear Jen Pastiloff, if ever I dreamt of skydiving (I don’t) —-but if ever I did—–somehow I think you might convince me to jump.

I decided to jump (in retrospect to leap, really) with these 5 most beautiful things, initially because I wanted to come to your yoga retreat (I still do). But it didn’t take long for it to become infinitely more than that

Jumping meant I would make a video of myself describing my most beautiful things that day despite the fact that I avoid cameras at all costs (perhaps it’s one of the reasons I stay behind the camera)

Jumping meant I would do it in one take and send it despite having not watched it (I can’t bear to watch myself) and my starting to cry at an unexpected moment in the recording. What with the being self-conscious and all about being vulnerable even to the point of worrying after people started leaving the most meaningful and beautiful comments under my video, about what I said on the video. How I came across. What others must be judging about me. The familiar reel of they’re not going to like me anymore when they see what I’m really like; when I’m not behind a keyboard making everything look like hearts and flowers.

But what really happened took me aback. I realized that to this tribe of astonishingly beautiful people who were watching that video—-

I was beautiful.

When you don’t see yourself as any thing but flawed for as long as you have memory, when another recognizes your true beauty inside of this temporary housing— sometimes it’s only through the eyes of someone else that you can clearly see your own reflection finally free of the fun-house mirror image distorting your true self.

Jumping would mean that I would write my 5 most beautiful things without fail and thrust it out into cyberspace every day.

It meant that the days I was in a bad mood and wanted stay in my funk, I would find my most beautiful things anyway.

It meant that finding beautiful things didn’t allow me the comfort of my old sullen, withdrawn and depressed space in the corner.

It kicked me out on my pitiful ass and told me to find a new place to dwell.

Or the day I was in pain and struggling and in a fit of anger erased my most beautiful things list — after which I felt ashamed and embarrassed wondering how many times I’ve erased the most beautiful things in front of me letting the deceivingly delible ink of self-pity scribble over my artwork,

my muse,

my life.

“The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing.”

― Ann Voskamp

So here’s to the infinitesimals.

To beaches and bubble wands and running water

And washers that sing when you press their shiny silver buttons.

To standing in my most grounded pose, no longer a poser but a deeply rooted tree, in the wake of the Pacific — among the sun-baked and frozen loops of brown kelp at my feet.

To looking out on the horizon that was dark when I began writing , now starting to glow behind massive mountainous shadows,

and children laughing in their sleep.

To learning to read and unlearning the unserving,

To the tiny moments I count with bated breath,

and those I longed for and lingered in,

cherished and cursed.

I’ve learned a new language of Love,

of beauty, of living,

of giving thanks for all things;

And a new sung prayer that whispers and echoes in my ear and it is this:

In all of these moments, let grace be my muse.

These are my most beautiful Things.