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And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing, Manifestation Retreats

The Changing of a Life by Katie Devine.

January 30, 2014

 It happens to be Katie’s birthday on January 30th, the day of this posting!)

I walked slowly, accompanied only by the broken disc in my spine and a fuzzy Vicodin hangover, to Cedars Sinai Hospital for back surgery.

I can hear how it sounds when I tell people now about my solo venture. Strange, desperate, crazy even, though I suppose it felt normal then, or at least like the best option I could come up with at the time. I had only been in Los Angeles for two months, and had no “in case of emergency” person programmed into my phone, or into what was supposed to be my new, perfect life. I had left New York feeling defeated by a city that I could never make feel like home, only to end up feeling beaten again, just by a different coast.

Two weeks earlier, I had taken a cab to my first-ever emergency room visit, because I was too embarrassed to call an ambulance for help while sobbing in my sunny, yellow and white kitchen. As I cried in the backseat of the taxi, not-so-silent tears running down my cheeks, the cab driver seemed nonplussed, as if he had seen it all before, as if there was nothing original about me, especially my pain.

So when my scheduled surgery date arrived, I chose to walk the half-mile to the hospital instead. I remember calling my mom, across the country in New Jersey, straining to hear her voice over the traffic noise on Third Street in a city where no one walks, trying to reassure her that I was fine. I was testing myself, perhaps, proving I could still walk a half-mile, before going under the knife and whatever would happen there. They make you sign a release form that says you might not walk again. It also says you might die, but you can’t dwell on that.

A nurse, who smelled faintly of antiseptic and rubber-soled shoes, checked me into pre-op before the doctor arrived and asked who was waiting to bring me home after surgery. No one is waiting for me; I’ll be fine, I told her resolutely, silencing her questions. She didn’t inquire further; she just looked at me sadly, as though being alone was the real tragedy rather than that broken fragment of disc floating around my lower back.

There is a difference between the look that says Oh you poor thing, going into surgery, and Oh you poor thing, going into surgery, and you’re alone.

She didn’t realize that alone is what I know. It’s where I’m comfortable. Loneliness has been a faithful companion to me, the kind of loneliness that comes from never showing anyone your truest self, because you’re sure if they saw the real you, they would run the opposite direction and you would be alone anyway.

The weeks following surgery were mostly spent in a self-imposed solitary confinement, on my couch, watching trashy TV or just staring out the window. June gloom, they call it in Los Angeles, where a cool mist hangs over everything, sometimes allowing a hazy sun to shine through in the afternoons, but not that summer. That summer the darkness never lifted, outside or inside. It pressed down on me like a lover whose weight was crushing the breath and life out of me, but from whom I didn’t know how to escape.

At night, I would cry. Because I thought I might never feel better. Because I feared I would never be able to run, or practice yoga, or do anything I wanted to do, ever again. Mostly because I worried I would feel this alone forever.

I didn’t know how to ask for help. I didn’t know how to accept the help that was offered. How could I let anyone know what was really going on, that I was not fine?

Who was I to ask someone to save me?

*******

I wonder if I have ever felt like I was good enough.

There have been glimpses, here and there, certainly. Maybe for a few longer moments, like the time in the sixth grade when I got to play one of the leads in the school musical, and had the most lines in the show (I counted). There was me, center stage, with my ill-advised bangs, and braces, and acne, and I think I even had a perm, and my costume was my own souvenir t-shirt from our trip to Florida with something scrolled across the back in neon.

I must have bragged about my stardom more than once. A family friend made some remark to the effect of, “well, aren’t you proud of yourself” with her eyebrows raised, and I knew instantly that this was a bad thing, being proud of myself, or maybe just talking about it. I can still feel the flaming in my cheeks and the burning pit of shame in my stomach.  And I immediately was knocked back down to not good enough, remembering that I hadn’t even gotten the role in the first place. I had only gotten it because someone dropped out or got sick and they needed someone else to fill in and I was available since I hadn’t made the cut the first time around.

And then I remembered that I also didn’t make the choir that year either, the special choir that you had to audition for that got to go to Hershey Park at the end of the year. You could smell the chocolate in the air all the way from the highway, and the ones who made it would get to spend the whole day running around the park, eating chocolate and riding roller coasters before they got on stage to sing “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Candle on the Water” in a competition that would award trophies to the winners.  I got to go anyway that year, at the last minute, because someone else dropped out, or got sick, and they needed someone to fill in.

I resigned myself to being the fill-in, since I never seemed to be good enough to be what I wanted: the first choice.

******

So I adapted. By following things that came easily, that involved less risk, that were safe. But always looking over my shoulder for that voice that would tell me that I wasn’t good enough.

And what you look for, you find.

When the soccer coach suggested that I wasn’t likely to be a starter on next year’s team, I took it as a cue to stop playing. I’m not good enough.

When the algebra teacher said, “well, I’m not trying to make you feel stupid”, I accepted that I was doomed to fail algebra. I’m not good enough.

When I was dumped, from yet another failed relationship. I’m not good enough.

When the voice teacher said “you’ll never be one of the great opera singers”, I said ok, and thank you and I guess I’ll transfer into the business school. I’m not good enough.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me that it might not be true.

When the refrain of I’m not good enough plays on an endless loop in your head, you start to hear it in surround sound. It becomes easier to just not try. You can avoid rejection if you never open yourself up enough to be rejected.

You reject yourself before anyone else can.

Until you meet someone who doesn’t allow it anymore.

******

Another surgery, nearly four years later. This time I can drive myself, to the dentist’s office where my gums will be fixed. The nurse here gives me that Oh you poor thing look, but it’s not the one I had dreaded, full of pity and judgment. There’s just simple empathy this time. I settled on my couch afterwards, anxiously prepared for a repeat performance of lonely, party of one.

Except, this time, things are different. I am different.

The evidence was all around me. There was my friend, outside my house that first night with a balloon and cookies for me, unexpected and uninvited, but not at all unwelcomed. And then the next day, another friend stopped by to visit and eat ice cream and remind me that I wasn’t at all alone. Yet another friend offered to bring me soup or mashed potatoes, and checked in on me regularly. And the next day it happened again. All at once, there was no room for loneliness on my couch.

And in the spaces between visits, there was no crying this time, no gloom. Instead, there was reading, thinking, writing. Not ever knowing if it would be good enough but doing it anyway. Coming to understand that maybe, just maybe, there is no good enough.

What was closed is now opening. What was dejected is now hopeful. What was empty is now filling, slowly but surely.

This is what happens, I think. This is what happens when a life blossoms.

******

You asked me to tell you how my life has changed and I couldn’t tell you.

You asked me to write about what was different and I couldn’t find the words.

But I can point. To what was before, and what is now.

This. THIS is how a life is changed.

A single email, sent to you in desperation, late one night, that opens the floodgates.  The unearthing of the art that opens my heart, and fills my soul. Five retreats, each of them moving me closer to the life I didn’t even know I always wanted. The self-confidence, and also humility that comes from traveling to foreign lands, bringing experiences that forever alter my perspective and expand my thinking. The safety that exists within a supportive tribe of people, who allow for trial and failure, and picking myself back up again and doing better next time. The stripping down of relationships, often painfully, to their core, in order to rebuild them, this time from a place of truth. The forming of new ones, for all of the right reasons this time.

The softness brought on by vulnerability, after so many years of the hardness of I’m fines. Learning to actually say, out loud, I’m not fine. Countless yoga classes, with mantras like kindness and gratitude, which brought about the gradual quieting of that I’m not good enough refrain, no longer looked for or heard in surround sound. Posing in downdog atop a horse, unsure of what it looked like, or what might happen next, but feeling both free and grounded instead of my usual anxiety. The awareness and acceptance of the need for help, and the grasping for it when it arrives. Taking risks, small ones perhaps, but risks nonetheless. The sighting of beauty all around me, where before there had been blindness.

The right person, at the right time, answering that desperate email, believing in you, and in who you can become.

This. This is how a life is changed.

***

Katie chronicles her journeys on her blog Confessions of An Imperfect Life. Her work has appeared on sites including Thought Catalog, XOJane, The Manifest-Station, MindBodyGreen, Medium and Rebelle Society. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 

And So It Is, Guest Posts, Making Shit Happen, Manifestation Retreats

Are You Full Of Things That Aren’t Serving You?

January 13, 2014

One of the women from my last retreat wrote this, and, with permission, I am sharing. 

*                                                           *                                                      *

Okay, I am not a writer or a poet but I am compelled to put in writing the changes already taking place in my life not 48 hours after closing circle of Jen’s retreat. Going into the retreat this past week, I was stuck. Really, really stuck. Scared of connecting with anyone because I already felt completely depleted.

Isolation was the only thing that felt safe.

I found this retreat because I was looking for space to find my true authentic self again. Throughout the retreat thoughts, images, and a feeling of who I was “before”, started to emerge.

Jen’s words “begin again”. Jen asking “How will you serve?” Her words “what do you need to let go of?” These stuck in my mind and I found myself unable to sleep thinking about them.

Then Jen said something life changing thing for me, “You have to let go of things you don’t want to make space for what you do.” It clicked.

I was full of things I needed to let go of leaving no room for the things I wanted. I am kind of amazed her words stuck like they did considering at the time I was trying to keep up with the whole Vinyasa’ing thing. But I heard her and I watched others let go of their fear and then I felt myself begin to let go of my own.

I could then begin to hear what my heart had been saying all along, “I want connection”, “I want my purpose to be revealed to me”, “I want to use all of my gifts.” I hit Fawntice’s gong on the New Year’s Eve and sent it that sound, that vibration out -knowing opportunities for connection were all ready on their way.

Which brings me to yesterday morning….

Scouring Facebook for more photos from the retreat, missing my new friends already, I noticed a post on a local mom’s board from a 17 year old girl who is due to have a baby girl in 3 months.

She posted, asking for help. Clearly scared, with no job and only a few baby clothes. She was asking for any used baby items to help her prepare for the baby admitting she didn’t really even know what she needed. I smile a deep soul smile. Jen’s voice “how will you serve?” echoed. Not even 48 hours after the Manifestation Retreat and in front of me on the computer screen was an opportunity for connection.

Of course I could just donate baby things since I have a 6 month old baby girl. But I also have gifts. I am a trained birth and postpartum doula but I have never used the training.

I wrote her and offered all the baby essentials I have to give but I also offered support. I offered love and connection. She was thrilled and was willing to meet today. There are so many excuses I could have and would have given myself for not reaching out in this way, I am a recent single mother to 3 kids under 5, I don’t have business cards and should go to school and get more training first. More schooling and a complete website with business cards, tend to be my favorite excuses.

But reaching out is beginning again, it’s letting go of fear and it is one way I can serve someone else. So I did it.

Jen reaching out to me, and a room full of beautiful others inspired me to reach out.

**

I was going to end this here but what happened today at the meeting with the girl was so moving I have to share.

I spent an hour with her at a coffee shop just talking. It took an hour of letting her talk to get to her real problem. She doesn’t have a safe place to live and she doesn’t have enough food eat. It was midday and she had not had food since lunchtime the day before. I could tell she didn’t want me to know this. She went from being in AP classes, playing 3 sports, performing spoken word poetry and running girls empowerment workshops to doing independent study because she didn’t have enough money to take the bus to school and eat.

I started with getting her lunch and a bag of groceries. Next up: cooking classes and diaper changing 101 at my house. This girl was meant to be in my life. She’d realized we crossed paths at a bus stop 3 months ago and had a short conversation.

I didn’t need a website to connect with her and make a difference. I just had to let go of my shit and say yes.

Thank you Jen and each one of you for putting me in a place where I could open my heart to this girl. It is just a small thing, but it’s the beginning.

This is going to be a great year.

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To learn more about retreats with Jen or to book one, click here. http://jenniferpastiloff.com/Yoga_Retreats_With_Jen_Pastiloff.html.

And So It Is, Guest Posts, Making Shit Happen, Manifestation Retreats, Tribe

Making Sh*t Happen: The Experience of a Lifetime.

January 2, 2014

New Year #MSH by Martha Meyer Barantovich

photo by Linda Hooper

photo by Linda Hooper

A perfectly perfect day.  A perfectly perfect time of year.  A perfectly perfect opportunity for relaxation.

It would seem that flying to LA and driving the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH for all the cool kids) while watching the sun set into the water was a brilliant idea.  Ojai, California was the backdrop for an amazing retreat with Jennifer Pastiloff, of the New Jersey Pastiloffs and of Karaoke Yoga/Manifestation Workshop fame.  I had signed my beloved husband Joe (heretofore “My Lobster) and myself up for Jen’s Inaugural Manifestation New Year’s Retreat.

I walked in feeling like I was hanging onto my last ounce of sanity and left more than transformed, with enough life changing memories and lessons that will stick with me forever.

Broken, Battered, Bewildered and Beautiful.

Walking into a room full of strangers, on my 47th birthday, and trying to express in a circle what it means to be at a Manifestation retreat (where people come to “Make Shit Happen”; hashtag #MSH), is like being dropped into the middle of Siberia. In the middle of winter.  With no coat.  And no Russian. And no vodka.

Like whoa.  Who does that? Who decides at the end of the year that they are going to allow themselves to be ripped open and peered at by strangers? Who decides that spending their birthday with the unknown and the unknowing would be a the way to celebrate life? Who gathers in a space during football bowl season without a TV or a sports bar? Me. And My Lobster. And everyone else there too it seemed. Because we had to.  Because, as Jen repeated (she does this a lot…repeats…and repeats… so you’ll get it, I mean get it, no, I mean really get IT), “like attracts like”.

So there we were 40 some odd strangers who were broken and battered and bewildered and beautiful. This is my observation that came from the self talk in our opening circle. We had collectively broken up, gotten back together, changed jobs, changed life statuses, changed coasts, moved in, moved out, retreated before, manifested before, worked our way to just being, and some just showed up because that’s what they needed to do. We needed to speak our truth (notice the little t) so that we could start “drawing to us” our desires/manifestations for 2014.  We had to open the door to our souls just a little and let a little light in and a little darkness out to get things rolling.  And let me tell you.  When you are broken and battered and bewildered and beautiful, it only takes a speck of sand on your mountain of shit to start the avalanche of healing.  Deep soul healing.

What are you manifesting? What are you doing to be inspired? How are you setting up your life to experience “Joy for NO Reason”? And we begin.  We OM.  I mean we really OM.  I love to Om. (Side note…not the OM that you may read about that involves half naked women and pillows and such).  I could drop and cross my legs and close my eyes anywhere and OM from the depth of my soul because the sound and the connection and the vibration totally rocks my world.  Imagine a room full of broken, battered, bewildered, and beautiful people letting their walls fall and OMing from the depths of their soul.  Together.  In a room that has nothing but positive, radiant energy in it.  And you’re sitting almost knee to knee with strangers creating a vibration that moves through the rafters towards heaven and bounces off walls and to you and ….wow.  I wanted to hold on to that sound forever. Like a musical snapshot.  I don’t ever want to forget the power that was in those voices.

Because I knew that I had come to a place that was going to heal me and my broken, battered, bewildered, beautiful self.

I needed this so I could get out of this horrible place in my head that I have been in since January 7, 2013, my quit smoking (again) day.  I’m coming up on my 1 year anniversary.  My lungs are happy, my skin is happy, my family is happy, My Lobster is happy, society is happy, everyone I know keeps telling my what an awesome thing it was to quit smoking.  And it has sucked.  Everyday for the past 359 days has sucked. There have been varying degrees of suckiness, from lying on a bed in the fetal position with a knife in my hand just wishing I could die to just feeling generally meh. Quitting smoking, while making everyone else in the world happy has made me miserable.  It was the last thing I had to hide behind.  It was my thing that removed me from uncomfortable situations, that allowed me to separate myself from the crowd, that allowed me opportunity to disconnect for a while, that occupied my time and my thoughts, that generally just owned my life.  Good God.  I was owned my nicotine (that is an absolute breakthrough in those words…never said that before or even thought it).  And in its own sick way, nicotine and cigarettes saved me.  They were ALWAYS there for me.  They ALWAYS protected me.  You need to know that because I was left alone. When the cigarettes left I was exposed.  And naked.  And vulnerable. And I didn’t know how to do any of those things.  Because, let’s be honest…who messes with the chick who smokes and is built like a linebacker? Ya….nobody.  And I liked it that way.  For 30 of my 45 years I was safe and protected and ok.  And then, just like that, I wasn’t.  And how I made it to my 47th birthday is beyond me.

 

If it Jiggles, It’s not finished.

And so the whirlwind manifestation retreat comes barreling at you…stampeding straight towards you.  There’s no time to think, there’s only time to be real and authentic and to SHOW UP.  You don’t have time to question or judge or be concerned or worry or shoulda/coulda/woulda about anything.  Because you open yourself up by calling forth your #MSH (manifestation/desire) and BAM Jen is taking you on the ride.  Cat/Cow, downdog, crescent lunge, hiya, warrior 1,2,3, breathe, sigh, inhale, hands to prayer, repeat the mantra, 6 more times, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Sweat, start to cry.  Listen to the music.  You’re moving collectively, individually, in your own space and in others and you’re concentrating and calling forth and meditating and oh my GAWD…Why am I fucking crying again? Is it this song? Is it Jen’s words on repeat? Is it the moving? The space? the breathing? STOP.  DROP.  “PICK UP YOUR PENS”….what? I can’t breathe woman…can’t you see me heaving with emotion and trying to catch my breath after the 174 vinyasas you just made me do? Can’t you tell that I’m in no condition to write a goddamn word…oh…and I have to answer questions as I write? And dear …what…? I’m not the only mess in the room.  There are sniffles and heavy breathing and silence…as I am surrounded by people who are being authentic and vulnerable and honest and raw and true and sad and joyful and amazing and not finished.

We are all just getting started on this part of the journey and Jen is forcing us to confront ideas and realities that are amazing and painful and beautiful and awesome and ridiculous and…..huh??? Did I just hear my name? Oh you want me to share out loud with these people my raw truth that just came from, I swear, the center of the earth.

I am

What people say I am: giving, kind, joyful, caring, a good teacher, friendly, fun. What I say: fat, not worthy, not good enough (I am sloppy crying at this point), useless. The truth is I am a caring, giving, enthusiastic supporter who will take on the giants for others but is afraid to follow through with the little things. I can’t breathe at this point.  I’m pretty sure I have snot dripping everywhere, but I feel so free because the truth is: I never take stock of the Truth. Truth with a capital T, not a little t.  I think that I mostly allow the little t to fake represent the big T.  And so I’m not done.  I’m still jiggly, like the ganache baking in the oven that isn’t ready (I’ll be glad to share the amazing insights from Caspar Poyck at another time).  It needs more time.  And whoa again….jiggly is ok.  It’s like more than ok.

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Caspar Poyck

It’s awesome and freeing and beautiful and I think I’m experiencing “Joy for No Reason”.

And I’m pretty sure that I want this feeling to last forever.

Vulnerability is Sexy

And this goes on and on and on and we breathe and move and listen and sweat and stop drop and pick up our pens and write and share and laugh and cry and do it again and again and again.

And looking back it was over in a minute.  But while there it was like this roller coaster that has these little dips and I’m like “Ok..this is cool…not too scary, not too safe” and I can’t see in front of me so I don’t know what’s coming and then the car turns a corner and    dropsofastyoucantthinkastowetheryoushouldscreamorcryorvomitorhitsomeoneordieorliveorgetofforstayonorahhhh

and you laugh.  This laugh that sounds like someone has lit you on glitter fire and filled a room with butterflies and chocolate fountains and all the things that make you fill loved and safe and wonderful and joy.  And in that first second I think, “Do I deserve this?” And Jen comes up with another one of her Jen-isms like, “Choose love” “Let go of fear” “Be Fucking Awesome” and the feeling of love and letting go and being awesome is so overwhelming I just want to open my mouth and scream and laugh and burst forth and hug strangers (oooohh…that’s big…cause Martha don’t like strangers in her space), and tell people how beautiful they are.  And I know it wasn’t just me that felt that, because I watched people who were sitting hunched over in our opening circle look up and smile and lift their hearts and breathe deeper. And I saw people who don’t cry, cry.  And connect.  And love.  And open.  And blossom.  And share.  And be vulnerable.

And after every class and writing session I think, how can I possible do anymore of this? How can I not? 

Begin Again

And so I leave California and head back home to Miami, to reality, to my life.  And I’m full. Full in my soul. And connected to a tribe.  And I’m full of love for these wonderful people who have been a part of a change.  An individual/collective change that is going to individually/collectively make 2014 amazing.  Because 2013 is gone.  The rock that caused the flat isn’t important.  What’s important is to change the flat and move on.  And find your true self.  So I leave you with these manifestation retreat insights:

  • Drink good wine.
  • Eat good food.
  • Laugh.
  • Love deeply.
  • Have an energetic clearing.
  • Attend a yoga class.
  • Move your energy around with sound bowls.
  • Hit a gong.
  • Listen to nature.
  • Sit in a chair as the sun rises and stare at nothing and at everything.
  • Take pictures.
  • Dance.
  • Sing.
  • Write.
  • Share your story.
  • Don’t box people up so that you feel better.
  • Let go.  Open up.  Be free.
  • Get your fingers dirty with your food.
  • Write a love note to yourself.
  • Look someone in the eyes as they speak so you give them your undivided attention.
  • Make new friends.
  • Be real and honest.
  • Put down your phone.
  • Thank someone who loves you for loving you.
  • Be vulnerable.  Good grief.  Be vulnerable.
  • Share your gift(s).
  • Manifest your Lobster or your dream job or money or time or whatever you need.  Hashtag #MSH.
  • Say thank you aloud and to things and ideas and life.
  • And when you get a chance, find Jen on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or the web and join a room full of strangers with shit piles just like you (because there are no accidents) and manifest.  Inspire yourself to be inspired.  Everyday.  Bring your hands to prayer. Place them in front of your heart. And repeat when necessary “I am worthy”

Because if I am worthy, so must you be.  

by Martha Meyer Barantovich (click to connect with Martha.)

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May retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

May retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Owning It!, Self Image

Comfortable In My Humanness.

December 16, 2013

Comfortable In My Humanness by Emily Beecher.

What Happened When I Went To A Retreat in Another Country With People I Didn’t Know….

I was, quite frankly, FREAKING OUT!!!!!

My normal hairdresser had left the salon so I was trying someone new. Someone she recommended. Someone who had just dyed my hair the completely wrong colour. It was too dark, too purple-y red, not copper-y and very much completely not me. I hated it. I hated the way it made me look. I hated the way it made me feel. In less than 72 hours I was getting on a plane to fly to Vermont for a yoga and writing retreat led by two incredible people I respect immensely. And my hair was ALL WRONG. What would people think of me? Would they think this is how I WANTED my hair? That this was the way I normally look? That this was the real me? There was only one thing to do. I had to cancel.

I mean it wasn’t just the hair – I hadn’t been away from my daughter for more than 48 hours since she was born (four years ago) and she’d JUST been up all night with a bit of a cough which was clearly going to turn into something like pleurisy if I went away, and really? What was I thinking? Me at a yoga retreat? With my fat post baby (ahem) body? Bending and stretching and being all zen and tree like surrounded by tall, long, lithe, young, obviously all blonde, glamazons who could do headstands for hours on their immaculate pony tails whilst I had trouble touching my toes because my boobs and belly created a formidable Berlin wall between my upper and lower body. And it’s not like I’m really a writer anyway. I didn’t even know I could write until a couple of years ago but I hadn’t written for myself anything more than a grocery list for months. What delusion had I suffered to make me book this retreat?

Actually, I knew the answer to that. Devastation. Five months previously a project I had been working on, a musical about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, had imploded. Spectacularly. I was betrayed by people I called friends, my professional reputation was tarnished, I lost my life savings and almost three years of hard, unpaid work, my sense of determination and belief in myself demolished. I was a wreck. I literally wanted to die. Broken, I had booked a trip back to Canada to spend time with my family and put some distance between the raw chaos of London and my wounded self. It was there, late at night, I read about the retreat. I fired Jen an email, essentially saying that I didn’t do yoga so how much of the yoga/writing retreat was about yoga. She responded saying its not at all yoga yoga-y, she thought that I was funny and she’d decided I was going. She thinks I’m funny? I booked it.

And now here I was, with hideous hair and a plague infected child and with some distance from the show’s collapse I could clearly see how I must have been delusional when I booked it.

I told my best friend that I was going to cancel it and he looked at me, shook his head and told me to shut up and get packing. Not usually one to do what I’m told, I’m so grateful I did.

My flight was the first sign that something was different. This was the first time in four years I was flying without a child attached to me. Anyone who has suffered the particular circle of hell that is flying with a child will understand what this means: an intoxicating freedom of choosing a movie you want to watch and not having to repeat “Please don’t kick the nice man’s seat” eight hundred thousand times. Just to make sure I didn’t forget how much of a luxury this experience was on all four of my flights the seat next to me was always empty. Just me and my phantom child flying 3000 miles to take a few days off, to do something for myself. Even if I didn’t look like myself.

Somewhere around 35000 feet in the air I made the decision that I would NEVER mention my hair while I was on the retreat. I mean if I was constantly apologizing for my hair I wouldn’t really be able to apologize for not being bendy or a good writer, which were, I figured, even worse things than my fucked up hair. I would just pretend that this was actually me and maybe they wouldn’t notice.

They all noticed my hair. In fact I think, over the four days almost every person at one time or another, whether in person or in creating our lists of Five Most Beautiful Things, told me how they loved my hair. The first time it happened I had to forcibly choke back the apology of how this wasn’t the way it was supposed to look. But then the magic happened. Or rather, twenty-two magical people happened.

I noticed it the first evening, in the hot tub, drinking wine (this really was my kind of yoga retreat!) when an absolutely stunning girl with a smile to rival the moon tried to tell me, through the guise of of an off hand appology/explanation how she couldn’t really be in her new relationship, couldn’t let herself be loved by this amazing man because of all the things that were not right about her. Things I couldn’t even contemplate seeing in her because all I saw was her beautiful smile and welcoming warmth.

As the hours passed I repeatedly tripped over the same message. These incredible people who shared stories of loss and pain didn’t see their own strength and beauty – only the reasons why they were never enough. They hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t given enough, weren’t nice or accommodating enough, weren’t beautiful enough, weren’t deserving, were too fucked up, too selfish, too hurt or angry or beaten down or useless. Given the way we spoke about ourselves you would have been forgiven for expecting the room to be full of broken, grey, miserable people. But it wasn’t. It was full of smiles and encouragement and hugs and a collection of the most brilliant laughs I’ve ever heard. Then a little tiny seedling planted itself in my brain… if these people were so wrong about themselves – could I be wrong about me?

As Jen repeatedly reminded us with the Marianne Williamson quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And Emily made us write our truth in feverishly bursts that forced us to pour our words out onto the page as quickly as possible so we could outrun our built in editors, that seedling thought started to flourish and grow.

I settled into myself. I dressed for dinner (I mean if there wasn’t a chance of a child pouring food all over me then dammit I was going to put something nice on). I didn’t put make up on to do yoga. (I know right?) I stopped prefacing every piece of writing I read out with “well this isn’t very good but…”

On the last night some of us had an impromptu kitchen dance party. I was still in my sweaty yoga clothes. My immaculate blow dry replaced by my crazy natural curls. My face bare. I didn’t think about it as we sang Call Me Maybe and danced and lassooed each other. Someone took pictures. A week or so after the retreat, when I was back to my old life, trying not to apologize for who I was, I received a facebook email telling me the pictures were online and I was struck by a lightning rod of panic. But, but, but I didn’t have make up on and I wasn’t holding in my stomach and I wasn’t trying to have my best side captured and my hair – oh god my hair was frizzy and that terrible colour and now someone has produced photographic proof of how hideous I am. (It doesn’t take long for all that good work to be replaced by bad habits!)

It took me over a week to look at those pictures. Over a week, and half a bottle of wine. Ready to be repulsed I hovered over the mousepad until finally, I clicked. Then cried. Then laughed. I didn’t see a hideous person, I didn’t see my belly or fat arms, I didn’t see purple-y frizzy hair or a lack of polish. I saw love. Big, fat, giant smiles of joy and play and LOVE LOVE LOVE. Love for each other, love for the opportunity to share, to listen, to be understood and even, maybe, a little bit of love for ourselves.

Opportunities like this are precious – even though we know we’re changing at the time, the true value of what we are experiencing is only truly shown in time. As Elizabth Kubler Ross once said “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Our retreat was the proverbial bellows to my tiny light. Now, two months later I write this changed. Striving. Opened. Comfortable in my self. Comfortable in my flaws. Comfortable in my humanness. No longer FREAKING OUT. And full of love. Whatever my hair looks like.

Emily and some of pother retreat go-fers at Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp's retreat in Vermont.

Emily and some of pother retreat go-fers at Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s retreat in Vermont.

Arriving at the airport in Vermont, waiting for the other retreat people ;)

Arriving at the airport in Vermont, waiting for the other retreat people 😉

THE RETREAT a poem by Emily Beecher

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we stand

tall

as the hours pass

we spill hot anger and resentment

forcing our hearts to sweat in stillness

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we cry

silently

touching the sweet earth,

our bodies bent like willows

surrendering to icy storms

We reawaken our passions

like buds opening to bloom,

slowly, carefully, then freely

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we dance

loudly

to the songs of our youth

later, skinny dipping

under the ripened Vermont moon

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

We abandon our self-consciousness

replacing it with connection,

rediscovering our selves

before packing them away

Like antique cars restored to former glory

so are we

rebuilt anew

amongst the trees of orange and gold

Emily Beecher lives in London and most recently attended Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s writing retreat in Vermont. 

Emily is a film & tv producer, writer, actress and proud single mama to her precocious two year old daughter.

Her acting work includes the cult classic short film Making Juice: The Making of JUICE (Charlie Productions) as well as appearing in Coma Girl (Vista Films), The Power of Love (Script Stuff), The Paper Trail (Hot Little Biscuits) and presenting Plugged In! and Are We There Yet? for Rogers Cable in Canada.

She conceived and produced the documentary/concert series Voices for Bulembu which raised over $1 million for the Bulembu charity in Swaziland. She has created commercials for Hasbro, Activision, Universal, Nintendo, Warner Brothers, Mattel and Nickelodeon. Her corporate film clients have included the Labour party, Amicus, TUC, and Shelter.

A published writer, Emily helped with the creation of blush magazine (Canada) and has consulted on several video games, film scripts and the Patient Zero comic book series.

After stepping away from the world of media to indulge in all facets of motherhood Emily is incredibly thrilled to be back with her new baby, The Good Enough Mums Club.

Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, Manifestation Retreats

Thank You Big.

November 20, 2013

Bali… One Year Later…..

By Lockey Mitten Maisonneuve

A year ago this month,  I left my two children, my husband and my job for an 11 day adventure. I went to a Manifestation Retreat led by Jen Pastiloff in Bali, Indonesia.  As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, The retreat dates included Thanksgiving.  So not only was I traveling half way around the world, I was also missing Thanksgiving with my family.   It was the first time in my life that I did something solely for myself and I was determined to not only go, but for this to be a life-changing trip.

The process of getting ready to go in and of itself was a transformative experience.  In preparing to leave my family and go to the other side of the planet, I was doing what any guilt-ridden, control freak mom would do;  I was trying to plan for and create plans and contingency plans for every possible, albeit unlikely, scenario that might occur in my absence.  I quickly turned this amazing opportunity into a problem, for me and everyone around me.

I always knew I was a control freak and that mommy-guilt was my achilles heel.  But isn’t “knowing” our stuff really the “booby prize”?  It’s when we can actually observe our stuff holding us back and in the moment and consciously choose to make the change – that’s when we get the real prize.  Having this experience in front of me allowed the space for me to observe where guilt and control stop me, and that I can let go and be okay with the situation.

From the very moment my friend and I boarded the plane to fly to Hong Kong for a 19 hour layover, our first leg of the trip, then a 4 hour flight to Bali. The first thing I learned is that a 3 hour flight is very, very different from a 19 hour flight.  Let’s just say that putting a hyper active woman in the middle seat in the back of the plane for a 19 hour flight was not the best idea.  My sincere apologies to the man who sat on the aisle seat in my row. While my friend slept like a baby on the flight, I couldn’t sleep. I had to ask this man to move so many times, we quickly went from polite smiles, to dirty looks and muttering under the breath. Lesson learned; I will never not have an aisle seat on a plane again (it’s sort of a public service.)

During our short stay in Hong Kong, I discovered noodle dishes. Let me just say I would happily get back on a plane for 19 hours just for a bowl of noodles. I just wouldn’t sit in the middle seat.  While enjoying a breakfast of noodles and shrimp a thought occurred to me;  for the first time in my life, I am in a country where I know exactly one person; my friend who is sitting across the table from me.  That’s it.  One person. I’ve never felt so isolated and empowered at the same time.  I knew anything that would happen would be left for us to handle.  I decided then that I would flow like water throughout this trip. I wasn’t going to try to be in control, nor would I feel guilty if I did or didn’t want to do something.  I didn’t want either my friend or me to feel obligated to have to do (or not do) something just because the other one wanted it.  It was a liberating feeling to know that we were on our own.

We met some of our fellow retreat-goers at the airport in Bali.  We got to know each other along the drive to the Soulshine Villa, where we would be spending the next week together. I don’t want to sound all woo woo, but from the moment I met the people I would living with for the next week, I felt a connection to them.  Each of the 19 people attending this retreat had their reasons for being there some shared with the group and some were private. But all 19 of these people touched my life in such a way that I think about them every day.

From the very first day we were a cohesive group.  Due to the time change, we all woke up very early (between 4 and 5am), we would gather in the reception area for tea, some would watch the sun rise, some would be catching up with relatives at home, some would be chatting.  We got to know each other in these early morning hours.

Jenn would lead us in morning yoga at 7am.  I should point out that yoga with Jen is not your average yoga.  There are the traditional asanas (poses), meditation and music (I can’t listen to Elton John or the Notorious B.I.G. without thinking of Jenn).  What Jen brings to the table is unique in that she creates a theme for her class, forgiveness, gratitude, love… she reads relevant poetry, then invites class participants to journal about their thoughts on the theme for the class – in between the poses.  Somehow the mix of the out door yoga studio overlooking rice patties, the monks chanting in the distance, the thought that I was doing yoga in the same place that Michael Franti does yoga (he owns the Soulshine and I am, by far, his BIGGEST fan), she creates a space of safe, self-reflective discovery.

Walls are broken down.

My walls-breaking-down moment was during a forgiveness-themed class. To understand this, I have to provide a bit of background. When I was 12,  I was abused by my father and some of his friends.  Even sharing this is part of my life is a testament to what Jen provides.  Previous to this retreat I would never have told anyone this, let alone writing it in a blog!

In this forgiveness-themed class, Jen asked us who in our lives we could forgive.  At first I did what I always do when I’m asked this question, I thought I’d try (again) to forgive my father.  I started writing the same things I’d written in therapy and on my own. I was getting the same result – I just wasn’t ready to forgive him.  Then, it occurred to me; I never wrote to the other men who abused me. In this letter I verbalized what they took from me, how deeply I hate them and what I have become in spite of what they did to me. I wrote that I am free of them, all of them, they will never have control over me again.

As I wrote this letter, I didn’t realize I was crying until I saw that my paper getting wet.  For some reason this seemed funny to me. I couldn’t stop laughing. Then it was over.  No drama, no anger, no nothing. For the first time in my life I experienced truly letting go. This was also the first time I was able to be in a room full of “strangers” and feel peace.

After class I walked out with Jen, I shared my experience with her.   She turned to me with a smile and said (almost to herself) “huh, you just never know who is going to be in your class.”  We hugged. It was the response I needed to hear.  She didn’t judge me, she didn’t give weight to the experience or get emotional.  She gave me the space to process my feelings in a whole new way.

Throughout the retreat we practiced yoga twice a day, we ate breakfast and dinner together and explored Bali during the day.  The space at the Soulshine seemed to become part of our group as well. (In full disclosure I have to admit that I loved the Soulshine before I arrived simply because of who owns it.) But, in truth, I believe that space provided the opportunity to transform 19 strangers in to a family.  The staff is a living example of the culture of Bali. This culture is one of gratitude, community, spirituality and genuine love. This culture and the space we lived in infused itself with our family of 19.

Throughout our time in Bali we shared, expressed gratitude and loved one another.  We celebrated Thanksgiving, we rode elephants, we saw monkeys, we spoke with Michael Franti on the phone, and I may (or may not) have eaten cat at a restaurant.

I am grateful for every moment I spent in Bali, at the Soulshine, with my family of 19.  I am grateful for what it took for me to get there and for everything I’ve learned since my return.

Thank You Big.

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Lockey began her fitness career as a personal trainer in 2004.  In 2006 after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Lockey underwent chemotherapy, bi-lateral mastectomies with saline implant reconstruction and radiation.  During this time, she saw a real need for recovering cancer patients to exercise.  Not just for the physical rehabilitation, but also the mental aspect of regaining control over their bodies.  She believes that if you gain a little more strength and a little more flexibility in your body every day, you gain a little more strength in your soul to continue on.After completing specialized exercise training through the Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Lockey created ‘MovingOn’, a rehabilitative exercise program for cancer patients. With the creation of the MovingOn program, moving through her own experience of survivorship and discovering yoga, Lockey soon learned there is more to MovingOn than simply moving the body.  It became time to share a long held secret that could no longer be hidden.  Lockey shared her story on Positively Positive, of being sexually abused as a child.  Sharing her story and practicing yoga saved her life. When she let go of both the cancer and the secret of abuse she was able to heal in both mind and body. Lockey openly shares her past with cancer and child abuse to help others in what ever they are surviving in their lives.Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio, and blogs. Print:  Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, Overlook Magazine and ParkPlace Magazine.  Television: The Couch, News12 and ABC7. Blog Contributor:  SheKnows.com and MindBodyGreen.She is featured in The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer by the Editors of Prevention Magazine.  Recently she presented a vidoechat for the GE Healthcare Breast Cancer Mosaic.

 

**To go on a retreat with Jen visit jenniferpastiloff.com

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

Dear 16 Year Old Me.

November 11, 2013

Below is an exercise I do at my retreats. I was so touched by Marika Delan’s letter to her younger self that I had to share here. Marika was the winner of my #5mostbeautifulthings contest & attended my Labor Day Manifestation Retreat as the prize!

Image 11

Dear 16 year old me,Let’s not sugar coat it. We aren’t going to live forever, so let’s just get right down to the important stuff.Do I have your attention now?  Because I have secrets for you that can only be learned via a DeLorean in a lightning storm.

Time isn’t waiting for you or me.

You make everything so complicated and you are wasting all these moments, all this time!
Yes, older, wiser you might seem to be a little bitchy,  but you mistake my urgency and passion for harsh reality which you clearly aren’t ready for. I guess that’s why you skirt around it as if it were an ice rink.  You could use a little tough love, in fact, you could use a whole lot of it and thank God you meet some people along the way that love you the hard way.

You don’t even love you yet, but I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. What you don’t understand is you can’t get by without it. You can’t fake this one. It seems indulgent and selfish to you. You think that if you love others it will be enough, but that is an illusion. You won’t know how to love completely until you learn how to love yourself. You’ll want to scream by the time you are my age, you will have heard this so many times, but heed my advice, the sooner you get working on this one, the better.

You are beautiful so stop wasting so much energy hating yourself.
And isn’t a physical thing, although you could stand to take the bangs down an inch or two. Then again it was the 80’s, so the obligatory tower of tease is the only way I found you in this age range as I sifted through yellowed and stuck together photos.  It isn’t your first bad hair and it won’t be your last. (p.s.- never try to color your hair red in your dorm room. Just. Don’t.)

But true beauty isn’t superficial. It goes to the depths. You already know this, you just haven’t learned to dive that deep.  You haven’t learned to internalize this message because you have a checklist of things you think you must become in order to be loved. It’s all bullshit.  You haven’t learned yet that beauty is being what you already are and owning it like one day someone secretly let you watch the time-lapse security footage of God building you. One knit, one purl. One knit. Two purl. The evidence right before your eyes of your creation, of being stitched together with deliberation and care; all in careful preparation for your future as a torch bearer. So it isn’t about your hair and makeup. Next time you look in the mirror, open your still unlined eyes.

You will have to bear witness to both the beauty and the pain one day so take it all in and tuck it away for later. You’ll be sorry that you didn’t write more down (don’t lose those teenage angst-filled journals!)  You will regret that you didn’t use words more often to capture the moments you are having right now so that we can remember them together one day when you are ready. There are a lot of lessons and gifts in those things that you think “ruined” you. Those are the things that made you, but only time will reveal these things to you, so just live while you can where you are.
Learn how to be wherever you are.

Don’t close your heart when it gets crushed—and it will.
Keep loving anyway.

You will be sad beyond words like you were when we were 10, and some days you will pray that you be left to die, but those days will pass and you will know and revel in your aliveness like you did when we were small.
Don’t lose hope while you wait for that day to come. Better yet, don’t wait for that day to come. Go find your happy and hold on to it. Don’t let anyone steal it from you.  It’s already in you, buried beneath all the fear that holds you back. Beneath that pile of dirty laundry are the things that keep you from singing out loud. That keep you hiding in the back row hoping no one will call on you even though you know the answer to the question.

Keep trying to answer the ones you don’t have the answers to, just don’t get hung up when they don’t come easily or they aren’t the ones you had hoped for. The questions will lead you back to where you began and you’ll wonder why you wasted all that time being sad.

You’ll feel life rushing through your veins again when you hear that first heartbeat on the ultrasound, when you hold your flesh and blood in your arms.When you look in their eyes and see their smiles and hear their belly laughs echoing through the halls (yes, you will have children and not end up a cat lady, so dear Diary, you got that one wrong. You got a lot wrong, but that’s ok- that’s part of the gig.)

You’ll feel it when you meet your true love and follow the signs and know without a doubt that the Universe conspired to bring you love when you opened your heart again. He will breathe life and light back into you just when you had started to believe that there’s no such thing as true love.
He will show you there is.

You’ll feel it when all you are bursts forth after having hidden it away for so long.
So don’t hide your light.

It will light the paths of others when their light has grown dim, just as others will light yours when you are sure it’s gone out.  When you finally make it out of darkness you won’t want to spend any more time there. If you keep love at the heart of everything you do, it will follow you wherever you go because time has shown me that it always comes back to us.

Stop being afraid to be who you are and that alone will not only keep you going, but it will allow others the freedom to do the same. Keep that at the core of everything you do and it will never steer you wrong.

The things you think are signs. They are. Don’t ignore them. It’s how you’ll find the love of your life. Look for them. Listen to them. They are words off the page penned by your inner voice. The one that knows why she is here and what she came to do.

Never stop seeking answers.  Your never-ending curiosity will open the next door. Your quest for understanding will lead you to the threshold of your truest essence and therein you will finally see what you could never see before.

If you want others to see it, you will have to take the risk to be yourself. If you don’t take that leap of faith into who you already are, you’ll spend your life as an impostor.  You will spend your life searching for me. You won’t know what you are searching for… but it will be me, the girl, now the woman you left behind.

You won’t be what you are meant to be until you fully embrace who you are right now (it’s what you will still be when you get to be my age, just you wait and see)

Now, go think on that one for 23 years.

And when you come across someone named Jennifer Pastiloff, a crazy wise yogi/writer/teacher/manifestation guru, follow her.  She will help you begin the next chapter in our book of transformations.  She will make you write this letter after losing touch all those years ago. She will help you find me when I thought we were lost forever.

Until we meet again.

Love,

39 year old you

The Layers

By Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.Thank you Jennifer Pastiloff for sharing Stanley Kunitz and so much more with me. Thank G-d,  I am not done with my changes….

courage, Manifestation Retreats, writing

Take Risks.

November 6, 2013
designed by Simplereminders.com

designed by Simplereminders.com

 

Take risks.

That’s what I got out of the writing retreat I just led with Emily Rapp and a whole bunch of bad ass writers last weekend in Vermont.

There was the fifteen year old who came with her mom because she thought she’d “get to miss some school.” Turns out she wouldn’t get to miss school as it was over a holiday weekend, but she came anyway. She came, and we all watched her rise to the occasion—in her writing, in her relationship with her mom and with the world.

I have everyone give each person at the retreat a note with the five most beautiful things about that person—so essentially you leave with twenty-six or forty (or however many people are there) love notes. It’s part of my 5 Most Beautiful Things Project.

The note I received from the fifteen year old blew me away, as did the email she sent me right after the retreat, which read:

“Dear Jen,

I can honestly say this has been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. A few months ago, I overheard my mom talking to my dad about wanting to go on a yoga retreat. When I heard, I told my mom I wanted to go, too. I wanted to go because I thought I would miss school for it. Then about a month ago, I found out it was over fall break, and I would miss no school. But I am so glad I still came. I am only fifteen, and everyone was a lot older than me. It was a different experience, but a great experience. I learned so much from every single person there. I learned that writing is more than just words on a piece of paper. It is meaning and feelings put into a story that you can share with people or keep to yourself. Jen, you are truly an amazing teacher. Like I said in my most beautiful things about you, you may be hard of hearing, but you are one of the best listeners I know. Whenever I said something on the retreat, even if it was just a little sentence, you would give me the most amazing advice that I will keep and remember forever.”

Take risks. Do it anyway. Show up, even if you’re scared. Especially if you’re scared.

I loved watching the teenager at our retreat. She stepped out of her comfort zone and became our teacher. All of us sat watching her to see what she would say next and next and next. To be that free, that uninhibited at fifteen. How about at twenty-seven, at thirty-eight, at fifty-four? we all thought as we sat amidst our yoga mats and notebooks and blankets. To be that free.

Same with the lone guy who showed up. Twenty-five years old and the most beautiful and vulnerable man I have met. To be that free. Even if it’s scary. (Which it was, for both of them. For all of them.)

Sit down and write. (Or, whatever it is you do, do that.)

I look back on old writings of mine and see where I could have taken risks but chose not to. Why? (Who knows? Why do any of us stay in our comfort zones?) Laziness, safety, fear of what “they” will think. Who knows? Who cares.

From here on out, I am deeming myself a risk-taker, a live-lifer, an I will not take no for an answer kind of person, even when life seems to be saying No No No.

From there, I will write. From that place, I will show up, in my writing, in my life.

Playing safe is for the birds. I am tired of being a bird. Show up. Go big.
@JenPasstiloff (Click to Tweet!)

**this post originally appeared on Positively Positive.

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!

Manifestation Retreats, Video

La Dolce Vita! Live from Positano.

July 15, 2013

This was my vlog from the Amalfil Coast. Excuse my face as I was having a crazy allergy where I had a rash and swollen eyes but I did my best 😉

Love you guys xoxo jen

ps I am indeed doing my Italian retreat again next summer. Email me to inquire. I am being selective with you I bring so let me know why you want to join. It is not a “yoga” retreat per se. jennifer@jenniferpastiloff.com

Gratitude, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Manifestation Workshops

Why Every Mom Should Leave Home Sometimes – The Restorative Effect Of My First Yoga Retreat

February 26, 2013

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This blog post is taken from a great site called Do You Yoga. It is only an excerpt. To read the whole thing please click here or below. Nicole Markardt was at my Kripalu retreat. I will be back there again Feb 20-22, 2015!

By Nicole Markardt.

In many respects, I have travelled down the road of tradition in my life. I am a working mother that began creating my family at a fairly young age (by today’s standards). By age 31, I had two beautiful children and a wonderful husband.

While I feel incredibly blessed, the idea of going on a weekend retreat without my family seemed like an impossible feat. That was a far-off idea born in the land of the single woman.

Since discovering, and immersing myself in my Bikram yoga practice, I’ve uncovered a deep passion that resides in me to pursue this journey within. In the last year, I have managed to find the time in my schedule to consistently practice yoga. I began to read more about this ancient spiritual and physical discipline and soon began following other yogi’s that inspire me. I’d been following Jennifer Pastiloff on facebook for quite a while. After reading her amazing essays on manifestation, I was truly inspired.

I read about her -Manifestation Yoga retreat @Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness and was instantly intrigued. I discussed this idea with one of my dearest friends, whom I am also incredibly inspired by. Having been to Kripalu before, she was very enthusiastic. I knew that if she and I shared in this together it would surely be memorable. At first, I felt immense guilt. My inner dialogue was full of self-doubt, “can I really leave my children and go away for the weekend?” “Is that self indulgent?” “Am I a ‘bad mother’?”

After much contemplation and I went.

Read the rest here and make sure to leave Nicole a comment!

Why-Every-Mom-Should-Leave-Home-Sometimes-The-Restorative-Effect-Of-My-First-Yoga-Retreat

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Awe & Wonder, Beating Fear with a Stick, Manifestation Retreats

What Will Never Go Up In Smoke.

February 22, 2013

It was hard leaving Maui today but not hard in the way it is to leave a vacation or a beautiful place. Hard in the way falling in love is after you’ve been hurt. The way you want to trust it and say Yes, come on in but you are afraid and that But I am afraid wells up in your throat like a stone and you can’t speak for it. And although you are happy you are also sad because you recognize this feeling of having something and yet not trusting you have it. Not trusting that it’s a thing to be had. It’s a football rushing at you and you’re going I got it! I got it! and then I don’t got it. All at once. If that’s possible.

The stone in your throat is hard, as stones tend to be (especially stones in the throat) which is the place things often get stuck, even if they aren’t stones. Even if they are people.

Stones and words and anger and all the rest. All the things.

Before we ended the retreat this morning, the girls gave me a necklace to say Thank You. One of the most beautiful necklaces I have ever seen and as I held it in my hands I thought how I shouldn’t look up at them because I probably wasn’t reacting in the way they expected of me (Tears? Emotion?) so I kept looking down at the gold chain, at the purple stone, at my ugly hands holding this beautiful gesture. Don’t look up, keep looking down. Don’t ever look up. (No tears? No emotion?)

Well, no. I wasn’t there. I was looking down on it all. A million hours passed and I finally looked up and they all had tears in their eyes and were nodding thank you’s. 

There’s been a mistake. This can’t be for me. I shall float away and keep looking down (no tears, no emotion yet.) But I look up and they are still there nodding their thank you’s in the most knowing way, as if we have known each other our whole lives and this moment was simply a confirmation.

There’s been no mistake. The necklace and the thank you’s were for me so I put it on and touched it repeatedly. Sharp and smooth and tiny enough to fit in my fingers. I pressed hard into it to pull me back into the yoga room there at Lumeria. But still no emotion because I didn’t trust my body was sitting there on that floor or that the floor wouldn’t cave in.

So many things we think are mistakes. So many mistakes we think are things.

When they’re not. They are hallucinations. They are non-existent. Or maybe they are just long gone. Over and done. Maybe they once were things, but they have longed since stopped being things and now are just that happened once or I turned left instead of right.

I turned left instead of right and there I was at Lumeria in Maui leading a retreat with a gorgeous group of women but if I’d turned right I would’ve been __________.

That’s right. Blank space. Who knows. So many blank spaces.

Look right there. There’s one. And there. Another.

Not mistakes. Not things. Just that happened. And then that happened.

It was hard leaving today because I was afraid to leave what we created.

Then, just like that, one of the girls said she had a letter to read. She had written a letter to the group which was moving and brave and lovely. She turned to me and said Jen, your dad would be so proud of you. And just like that: emotion. Magic. Just a few words and the idea of a man long dead in his physical body and bam! I am re-rooted back into the world as if I had always been there.

A double rainbow appeared after we finished our closing circle and we all ran out onto the lawn and pointed and snapped photos and cried a little because it was, again, like falling in love. What if we never see something this beautiful again? How can we make this stay?

I am afraid that was it for me. I am afraid that I will never have that again. I am afraid that. I am afraid of.

I am on the plane, where I do most of my writing, wondering if I turned right instead of left would I have even been to Maui? (Who knows but most likely, no.) Would I be on this plane sitting next to a sweet but loud nut-eating Russian couple? Could I ask the pilot to steer us back, and, if he agrees, would it be the same? Could I stay as safe as I felt this week with all my women during my retreat? (Probably not.)

I feel for my necklace and repeat So many things we think are mistakes. So many mistakes we think are really things and my necklace lays over my heart and doesn’t move or suggest it knows the difference so I decide to make a list. Mistakes and Things.

Mistakes:

~Dropping out of college with one year left after I had won an award for having highest GPA at my school within NYU (Oh, that’s a thing. Things and accolades and this and that which I think makes me me but in reality is just a thing signifying nothing.)

~Filing taxes for the wrong year.

~Saying yes when I meant no.

~Saying no when I meant yes.

~Saying nothing.

~Saying too much.

~Overpacking.

The rest I can’t write here because the Russians might read over my shoulder and that makes me nervous.

Things.

My necklace the girls gave me this morning.

The airplane I am sitting on.

The book in my lap.

The glasses on my face.

There are too many things in the world to list them all.

I feel for my necklace and think if it could grant me one wish it would be to hear perfectly. Then I think I would like to change that wish to I would like to be here perfectly.

If I am here perfectly I can see that dropping out of college wasn’t a mistake but it was my left turn and if I hadn’t turned left I would be _______.

And the filing taxes bit, eh. The IRS will figure that one out.

The rest, the yeses and no’s and the overpacking aren’t so much mistakes as they are ignoring my gut in the way I used to ignore my hunger. I hear you and I don’t care. 

It was hard leaving today because I am not yet perfectly here.

I worry. I send vessels and ships into an imaginary future stockpiled with fears and toilet paper and anxiety. I worry that I will never have this again. This being what I had there on that island. That it was a fluke. That there wasn’t a group of women who flew from all over the world connecting in the way everyone dreams of connecting or maybe there was but it was a blink and it will never be back as things we love sometimes choose to do.  I am happy. This is working out. You are alive. I love you.

Then Poof! Up in smoke. That’s what the things we love sometimes do as unfair and shitty as it seems (and as it is.) That’s what the life we love sometimes does. It just goes.

And yet and still, I am happy they gave me a necklace with such texture because I can press it into my thumb and have it bring me back on the same ship I sent off into the future with toilet paper and regret. The necklace can send me sailing back into my seat on an airplane with the smell of nuts in the air.

I keep looking at the letters everyone wrote me this morning. I had everyone write down the 5 most beautiful things they saw in each person so each woman left today with a pile of letters.

The one thing in every one of my letters, the common thread of beauty that all the ladies saw in me was, one word: Inspire.

I can’t go anywhere on this airplane. I can’t float away because I am already floating up here in the sky and I am trapped next to the Russians in my window seat so I must sit with that word. Inspire, inspire, inspire.

What does it mean? I ask my necklace like a crazy person.

I actually didn’t think I was crazy until the necklace answered back. It said it means keep speaking your truth and you don’t need a degree from NYU to inspire. 

Now, did the necklace say that? I don’t know. Maui is a sacred and magical place and they bought it there, so maybe it did? Maybe I need to suspend my disbelief for moments at a time so I can get over the I can’t believe they mean me. I can’t believe this will last. I can’t believe in my own happiness. I can’t believe this is my life.

Maybe I need to suspend my disbelief and let my necklace remind me of its heritage. How it traveled through the hands of some gorgeous women who love me as I love them. How it hung in a store and when it caught their eyes it spoke to them. (So they told me.) It literally spoke to us, Jen. 

Maybe my necklace isn’t a thing at all. Maybe it’s a reminder that happiness is possible for me and those I love fiercely. And maybe, when the necklace is gone, however necklaces go, the reminder will remain: That I deserve to be happy. That I don’t have to be afraid. That one day, some incredible women who I led through a life-changing journey, walked into a store in Wailea and wiped the sand of their feet so they could find something to thank me. A thing, something, they said knowing they would never find that thing, so they wrapped up their love in a purple stone on a gold chain and we all understood that it would never go up in smoke.

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And So It Is, Awe & Wonder, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats

In The Voice of Someone Who Loves You.

February 19, 2013

**This essay is dedicated to all my Manifestation Maui Retreat Tribe members.

I am on Maui contemplating lost continents and lost lives.

It’s rainy and windy and mostly gray. Ronan passed away the day I flew here. He was almost three and he was suffering, badly. It was time. But, just because it was time doesn’t mean it made sense or it was fair or you didn’t want to pound your fists on a table and watch the shells and lamps fall onto the floor in millions of pieces and it also didn’t mean that you didn’t want to step on the broken glass with bare feet so you could feel something akin to being broken.

I got on the plane anyway, despite the sad news. I had a retreat to lead in Maui. People paid thousands and thousands of dollars to be there with me, and besides, me not going wouldn’t un-lose any lives. There’s that.

When I landed on the island my husband texted me from Los Angeles to tell me that his cousin and dear friend had had a heart attack as he was driving and died right before he crashed the car.

Lost lives. 

Yesterday morning, in the Manifestation workshop at my retreat, I asked my group to pick someone who loved them. They sat their on their mats and got misty eyed and nodded their heads to signal me that they had the image of that person in their minds, that their person had been picked.  Now, I said, write a description of yourself in the voice of that person. 

They read them aloud. One said this: 
Kelly you are beautiful, strong and important. You don’t need to change to be accepted. You are enough – good enough – kind enough. I love you for your compassion. You are beautiful and strong. You don’t need to struggle so much with who are. You are enough just the way you are. You aren’t how much you lift or how much you workout or how skinny you are. You a beautiful – you are strong – you are enough. You need to just believe it yourself. Love, Dad.

People started writing. Some sobbed. After the pens came down I asked why it had been so hard for them.  A woman in my group said because he believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. 

The things that break me. One: people saying Your dad would be so proud of you. A knife in my gut. It’s a here take this blade right in your heart. It’s always been that way and I have surrendered to the fact that it may always be that way.  

One of the girls on my retreat who is here from South Dakota told me at dinner last night that her 17 year old son was having a hard time. Melissa Shattuck showed me the text message she’d sent him: 

Only in stillness every day do we touch the realm of infinite potential, that space of our highest self. What are your intentions….put them into that space where you are in a deep state of quiet and calm. Talk and listen to the Universe/God in this way. Let it know what you want and that you want it with every cell of your being…..and then sweet heart you let it go…..the Universe/God will bring it to fruition at just the perfect moment and has a grander plan for our lives than you or I could ever think of….You are loved and adored and treasured!! And I think you are the most amazing person. And you’ll do it. You’ll live the life of your dreams…..no doubt about it. You are good and you are deserving, so deserving of everything you want. Much Love… Mom. 

I passed her phone back to her and let the knife stay there in my heart.

I went and meditated the next morning in a group sitting.There was this man there, Claudio, who apparently was “enlightened.” Now, I am not sure what that means but this man was special. He looked into my eyes for about 5 minutes straight without blinking. His mouth did these little twists and turns at the corners so it looked like he was going to cry and then a smile would sweep across his face as big as an ocean and he spoke something about oceans and being the ocean and not the wave and sitting in infinity. I didn’t really understand and yet I did.

Lost lives.

I started crying when he looked into my eyes because I felt safe and loved and his face turned into my friend’s Steve’s face who had passed away last year.

Lost lives.

Lemuria, the lost continent of the Pacific and I am here and there are no more lost lives when I look into Claudio’s eyes. He is saying we are the ocean. There is no separation. 

So when I asked my retreat folks to write those descriptions of themselves in the voice of someone who loved them you see, it was like asking for the infinity. There is no separation.

Their voice is my voice is your voice is the ocean is the baby is the I behind the I and then who is the I?

I am here thinking of lost lives and lost continents and lost beliefs. When did I lose this belief in myself? some of the people here have asked me. Not so much me as they are asking the wind and the lawn and the journal in front of them. It’s not lost, I tell them.  Nothing is lost. You are right here, where you always were, I say pointing to the place where they know their heart should be but where some think there is nothing but a windy hole. 

I am leading my retreat at a place called Lumeria in Maui, on the north shore of the island. 

Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical lost land located somewhere between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Stories of Lemuria vary, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean.  An ancient civilization which existed prior to the time of Atlantis simply disappeared. Gone. Lost lives. Lemuria is also sometimes referred to as Mu, or the Motherland (of Mu). At its peak of civilization, the Lemurian people were both highly evolved and very spiritual. You can’t help but feel that here. You are infinite in all directions, says Claudio, and even though you have no idea in God’s name what that means you understand and know it to be true.

Concrete physical evidence of this ancient continent is difficult to find just as you may feel that any concrete evidence of you may be hard to find. Who is the you? Who is the I? Where are the lost lives? You may scribble in your journal or think in your mind which is always thinking thinking thinking.

(Look harder. Listen closer.)

Those descriptions written in the voice of someone who loves you, you might read them and think this person they are speaking of has sunk into the sea. This person does not exist anymore and in fact may never have existed. It may be a myth. You know nothing.

It is the concrete evidence.

Continents can move and float on the surface of the ocean so why shouldn’t you be able to do the same? Maybe you simply shifted or some geographical error occurred or maybe it wasn’t an error at all, maybe you forgot where you were? Maybe you were lost at sea. But see that description there? The one you wrote in the voice of someone who loves you? That is your map. You are no longer lost. You are no longer one of the lost lives or lost continents. You are here I say pointing to the place where your heart actually is. The place where I will now take the knife out of because my father wouldn’t be so proud of me.

It is not a hypothetical thing. He is proud of me. He is. The would be makes it myth. The would be makes it legend. It is fact. He is proud of me. As I am proud of me. My voice is his voice.

I don’t know if Lemuria existed or not but I am here at Lumeria and I fancy the idea. I am contemplating all that was lost and all that thought it was, but wasn’t lost at all. That place, right there. Your heart.

The ocean is the I is the heart is the you is the everything. 

I hope the son of the woman gets the text message she sent him and prints it. I hope he he saves it so one day when I ask him to write something about himself in the voice of someone who loves him, he can reach for it in his pocket and say I have it right here. In fact, I memorized it.

It is the ocean is the I is the everything is the love.

It will never have been lost. I hope that for him.

For all of us.

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