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Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Retreats/Workshops, travel

How To Manifest Under The Tuscan Sun With Jen Pastiloff.

October 15, 2016

First, discover Jennifer Pastiloff accidentally. This is after the boyfriend leaves, after the mom gets cancer, and after you start asking Is this all there is? Let her crack you open in a crowded Manhattan yoga studio, show her your broken heart, read to her your list of fears, and let her place a hand on your knee and lean in closer. You will sit like that for awhile, with her hand on your knee and all of your tears puddling on the mat. The woman next to you will place a hand on your back, someone will offer you a box of tissues, you’ll hear a voice nearby say It’s ok, I got you. You’ll find that this is what Jennifer creates: space to be heard, space to listen.

Fallinloveable. She’ll say in her deep and raw voice, That’s what you are. Fuck yeah. Completely Fallinloveable. She says it in a way that makes you believe it too. It happens just like that. Then, you laugh through the tears, something Jennifer calls “letting the snot fly”, and the feeling of connectedness will cocoon itself around you.

Months later, you might forget how fallinloveable you are and you’ll scroll through Jennifer’s Instagram feed searching for a reminder. She will be there telling you not to be an asshole, especially to yourself. She will post pictures of her retreat in Italy and you will sit at your desk every lunch period swiping over images of people laughing, drinking wine, and dancing. The pictures alone ignite something inside of you, you will call it hope. You decide to go despite a full-time job with little vacation time and your lack of money. Listen, because this part is important: start with willingness, even if you don’t know how you will ever get the time off of work or the money in the bank, begin with willingness to believe in possibility, willingness to be transformed. Trust me. The rest will take care of itself.

Then, something like this will happen:

You will arrive in a van filled with strangers. Driving down a narrow, dusty road in the Tuscan countryside, you’ll find yourself equal parts nervous and excited. As you pull up to the sprawling villa, all of you will promptly and unanimously decide that none of the photos do it justice. Jennifer will meet you in the main room outside of the kitchen and insist that you take a tour right that minute. Go. Drop all of your heavy bags and follow her.

In fact, that’s pretty much good life advice: Drop the heavy shit weighing you down and let Jennifer Pastiloff show you how to stand in awe and wonder.

You’ll find one perfect-for-napping-writing-and-manifesting-nook after another, a large, dimly lit wine cellar, a gym, and several uniquely beautiful bedrooms with wooden windows that open to postcard-worthy views. You can even see the rolling Tuscan hills from the bathrooms. Take a minute to really see all of the beauty and notice how even the air smells different, fresher, full of hope. Consider this practice because Jennifer will ask you to hunt for beauty all week. She won’t ask you to take yourself too seriously or even yoga for that matter. Actually, least of all yoga. But. She will ask you to listen, to say yes, to sit in your discomfort, and to sit in the discomfort of others. This is the work, she’ll say, not turning away from someone’s pain, from their vulnerability.

You will remember the box of tissues at your feet in the crowded Manhattan yoga studio, the warmth of a stranger’s hand on your heaving back. You will watch Jennifer untie knots in your new friends and you know what you will do? Put a hand on their back, hand them tissues, and tell them I got you. I got you.

This is what Jennifer creates: space. Safe, open space. She asks you only to bring your willingness and a journal. Then, she listens. She listens with no agenda and no judgement. This is why it all works. Because we all begin listening to one another simply to hear, to understand, to say I got you, I got you. Don’t get me wrong, there is as much laughter as there is crying, as many heartfelt secrets being shared as there are dirty jokes, for every long, beautiful hour of quiet, there is another of loud, magical conversation around the dinner table, there is as much dancing as there is … well, there is a lot of dancing.

So, if you are wondering if you should go, just go. You don’t need to go looking for transformation, you don’t need to be sad or lost or grieving to go. You, right now where you are, can be delighted with your life, you may be filled to the brink with gratitude. Go. Share it. Show up with what you have wherever you are and let Jennifer greet you at the door, take you by the hand, and say How unbelievable is this? You won’t know whether she is talking about the view or her hand in yours or this moment in your life and it won’t really matter anyway.

Go. I got you. We all do.

 

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Lexi Weber is a writer, certified health coach, and newbie World traveler. Currently, she is writing at home in Annapolis, Maryland, but she always has her suitcase packed and ready to go. You can find pictures of her latest travels and smoothie bowls on her Instagram account @_lexiweber_ and read more of her writing at lexiweber.com.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany June 17-24, 2016 by clicking the photo above. Please send an email to retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com letting us know why you would like to attend.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany June 17-24, 2016 by clicking the photo above and putting down a non-refundable deposit. Please send an email to retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com letting us know why you would like to attend.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 9-16, 2016. Please send an email to retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com letting us know why you want to attend. Click the photo above to put down your non-refundable deposit.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 9-16, 2016. Please send an email to retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com letting us know why you want to attend. Click the photo above to put down your non-refundable deposit.

Binders, Friendship, Guest Posts, travel

Manolos and Genocide: A Love Story

September 3, 2015

By Hillary Kaylor

“What shoe size are you?”

This is how she hired me. At twenty-three, I was looking for an identity, and found it by becoming the assistant to the publisher of the most coveted foodie magazine in the world. A magazine glamorous in a gleaming midtown office building over a hundred years old that used to house carnival acts in old New York at the turn of the century. The place was wild with beaming chefs’ events and exclusive parties and in its office on the 9th floor, multiple test kitchens roasted whole chickens, prepared six different crusted pies for the November issue in the cold spring months, cinnamon-spiked hot chocolate in July, all manners of honeyed fruits and roasted vegetables, and next to our own wine-tasting room, a nearby counterspace where a bounty of fancy boutique packaged cookies and tins of toffee stood unscrewed and slashed for testing. It was a gate to a heaven of kinds.

As soon as I said 7 ½, she went over to the sleek metal locker. As she slid it to the side, I held my breath.

The shoes. Oh, the shoes!

Prada. Dior. Chanel peep toes. Sky-high wedges by Sergio Rossi. Leather and suede, silk and satin, all colors and styles. There were shelves and shelves of them. All size seven and a half.

“Yes.” I nearly shouted when she offered me the job. I would become like her. I would be queen of New York—gorgeous, rich, important, and well fed. Just like her. I could be someone.

The most beloved pair of shoes she gave me in the years that I worked as her assistant, was zebra pony skin pumps with a knife-sharp toe and an un-sensible heel.

They were also the shoes that I wore to her funeral.

Working for her was complicated, though we formed a close relationship from an intense routine. She was organized and put-together and I fell in line. Because everyone knew her, everyone had to know me, and it gave me purpose. I was important enough to run someone else’s life, and I rose to the occasion in a way I didn’t in my own.  I filled her fridge with glass-bottled organic milk while the cheap stuff curdled in mine. When she needed her designer bags to be curried to the high- end vintage shop, or when she needed a personal trip booked door to door to Hong Kong, and I could deliver, the world changed. It seemed conquerable.

Each morning I shrugged out of my boyfriend’s arms early to pick up the morning papers and arrive at the office. Then, I cut out the front-page news, anything business-related, and the fashion sections. Once the sheets were cut and pinned, I ordered her morning fruit shake: strawberries, de-seeded black berries, skim milk, a shot of bee pollen, blended with extra ice, served with two straws.

At 8:30 AM sharp, she would roll into the office, dressed to thrill in stilettos and a Balenciaga skirt suit, fresh from a personal session at her pilates studio, and I would stand, wearing what I thought at the time to be a particularly good knockoff Chanel jacket.

She’d eye my outfit, furrow her ash blond brows, take the papers and drink and retreat to her office, closing the door.

When she invariably complained her shake was too icy but demanded I did not remove any of the ice, I’d shove it into my lap and cup both sides of it, warming it between my stocking legs.

I continued on. I had broken through to something. It was a world of fast deadlines and style, of travel and class. Once I had to get her a new passport because hers was already full of stamps. I held it in my hands like a badge of honor as I went to the passport office. When I returned, she merely tossed the old one back at me to shred. As if it was nothing! I kept it instead in my pencil drawer for years. I wanted her world for my own. I loved her, and she loved me almost as much. She remembered everything: my birthday, my favorite color, wrote me cards, treasured my work.  I went through boyfriends with a vengeance, but whenever they told me I had to choose between my job and them, I always chose her. The boys came and went. My boss and I were here to stay. Our love lasted through my twenties, as long as it took for the magazine publishing houses to begin to fold.

She began having long meetings in her office with the door closed, and then for a while, no meetings at all. A promotion was pushed upon her to assist another magazine in the company. Then she was fired. Or downsized. Or reorganized as an outside consultant. The company never said why, and I was too polite to ask.

When she walked out of the doors of her office for the last time, she said, “It’ll be an adventure!”

“I’m going to quit,” I told her. “I’m not staying without you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she gathered her favored calendar: a buttery, camel-colored Tiffany book. “Anyway, you know I’m going to call you for help.” She showed me: she’d already marked up the “Hillary” days.

She called often at first. I spent months setting up her home office, reorganizing her contacts, and typing up job prospects in her living room.

Later that year, she was invited to just six of the many usual Thanksgiving cocktail parties. When Christmas came and she still hadn’t gotten a new magazine job, she was invited to none. I attended three, and lost an expensive gift bag in the cab home.

More time passed, and she called me to help her less. She never contacted to see me socially and when I asked, she was suddenly busy. She’d been hard to love in life at times, even harder to love unemployed. Her edges sharpened, her niceties became lax. She seemed bitter and angry; people whispered.

“Did you see how FAT she got?” a pretty and interminable gossip who Anna had been particularly cold to, nudged me from behind, and thrust her phone forward with the offending photo. That’s what people said about her, if they said anything at all. I’d since gotten two promotions since she left. I felt the strange pangs of survivor guilt.

Soon, her presence faded from the circle in New York that she’d valued the most, her place in pictures filled in by fresher, hungrier faces. Once it was gone, she didn’t seem to want to find another. She stopped taking my calls. I walked by her apartment on occasion on the Upper East Side, a far cry from my Williamsburg tenement, and rang the bell. She never answered.

When I was told she was found dead, I sobbed in the ladies’ room as my cashmere skirt dipped into the toilet bowl. The world was big again; dark and wild territory. That summer it seemed to rain every day, hot rain, soaking through everyone’s bright summer clothes. The city itself began to wear black. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, travel

Be All In.

June 15, 2015

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

By Jen Pastiloff.

I got up before the sun this morning. The room was dark and I didn’t know where I was. I am in a twin bed, I am shivering and sweating, the sun is not up, where am I? I’ve been grinding my teeth really badly. I unclenched my jaw a little and felt my plastic night guard in my mouth, but still, I couldn’t quite place where I was. It’s funny when that happens, isn’t it? You wake up and have no idea what day it is or where you are or if you are late to work or what the fuck? Do I even have a job? Am I still waitressing? Am I late for school? School? I am a grown-ass adult, I don’t go to school, where the fuck am I?

 

Okay, okay. I am in Aruba. I remember. Calm the fuck down.

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We are going on a sunrise hike and I have set my alarm for 5. Just 5 more minutes, I lie to myself. My mouth guard cracks inside my mouth. Are you kidding me? I still lay there with plastic pieces in my mouth, refusing to swing my legs over the edge of the small bed. This night guard that cost almost $500 and I just bit it in half. I still don’t get up. Just don’t swallow the plastic and die here on this twin bed in Aruba, Jen, I say to myself, and also, Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?

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Who clenches their jaw so hard they bite their night guard in half? What am I holding on to? I don’t panic though. I lay there calmly chanting don’t swallow don’t swallow and then make myself laugh because it reminds me of blow jobs and I feel like a teenager for laughing. Like when someone’s name was Dick and we’d laugh. Dick and blow jobs and plastic in my mouth. I better get up.

 

At least I can laugh because this piece of crap plastic is going to cost another $500 unless I want to crack my crowns. I recently got two crowns, one of which is gold. Classy.

 

*

 

Now I am on the plane. I am nestled against the window with the best $20 investment I have ever made (EVER): a pillow and blanket I purchased in the World’s Worst Airport otherwise known as Ft. Lauderdale.

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I went to Chili’s in my 3 hour layover and got a vodka soda and salmon. My waiter was very accommodating and gave me black beans instead of rice and when I asked for salsa, brought me a huge Styrofoam container of it and some plastic cutlery. It brought back visions of the people I used to wait on who would ask for plastic silverware. (I guess it was a germ thing?) It also brought back memories of those skinny women who would come in shaking and saying, It’s so cold, when it was 65 degrees, Can I get a hot water with lemon? I hated those ladies. I wanted to tell them to eat a sandwich. (They always ordered the Tuna Deluxe, no rice, no dressing, and they never finished it.)

Anyway, I took a bath in my salsa and drank my drink and ordered another because 3 hours. Ft. Lauderdale. I asked the lady at the table behind me if the chips were any good.

 

“They’re greasy but they’re okay. Have one.”

 

I reached over and had one. She was right. They were meh, at best. I would just eat my salsa out of the Styrofoam with my plastic spoon sans chips. This is my first time in a Chili’s. They play good music. I’ll give them that. Steely Dan, Hey 19. A little David Bowie.

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The hike was 5 hours long. We started before the sun came. Rooi Tambu, a long trail through a dry riverbed within the Arikok National Park of Aruba. I poured coffee into a plastic cup and spilled it all over myself in the car. The sun was still not up when we began.

 

I read a sign that explained that the dry riverbed was named after the sound of the tambu, a musical instrument used by inhabitants from African descent who were brought to Aruba to work as slaves. They used to hide in the dry riverbed to perform their dance rituals and play music, as it was forbidden by the Spanish catholic colonists who occupied Aruba from 1499-1636.

 

Isn’t it amazing how humans have the capacity for self-expression and creativity, no matter what? How art is so often born of brutal circumstances? How survival is contingent upon the making of that art? I bent down low to touch the earth, dirt on my fingers, on the backs of my calves, this is holy dirt, I thought, and wiped a streak on my face. The sun was rising. What was once forbidden flourished here.

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We continued to walk until we reached the coastline. I climbed up on the rocks and tried to do a yoga pose but it was slippery and I was scared so I stood there with my arms in the air as my friend Yulady took a picture. I was wearing a tank top that said Be All In and was I ever. My feet were aching, my skin was filthy, I was soaked from a wave that had crashed on the rocks, but my god, was I all in, knee-deep in, waist-high in, up to my neck in, I was in, and I would keep going in, deeper.

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I thought of Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey as I stood on that rock

 

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

 

I read that poem a lot in my yoga classes so I could almost hear my own voice speaking it. God, I’m so dramatic. I climbed down off the rock, pleased with myself that I got up and did the hike instead of sleeping, that I stood on a wet rock on the beach and heard a poem in my head as if the sky was talking to me, as if I hadn’t been laying in bed just a couple hours before with plastic pieces in my mouth and a deep confusion as to where I was in the world, as if the clouds were reminding me to go out and make art, no matter what, make art, create, stand on rocks, recite poetry, get up and climb on rocks and forge your way through the world and do not be confused as to where you are: You are here. You are here. You are here.

 

 

Yeah, I was all pleased with myself. I am not a hiker. I hopped down onto the sand and laughed at myself for thinking the clouds could talk. Then I remembered that the minute I stopped believing the sky could talk, I was dead, I was no longer a poet, I no longer had an imagination, I would no longer make art despite the unflinching pressing of time on my body- that if I believed the sky went quiet, I might as well swallow the pieces of plastic and confine myself to a life of quiet choking, of relentless blockage, a life of words being stifled in the back of a throat. I would suffocate. So yes, the sky can talk and I can fucking hear it despite my near deafness. I can hear it and I am all in.

 

I am happy I came on this hike. I fly out in a few hours, to go home to L.A. and this will tucker me out for the plane. It will stay with me for days on end, the Manzanilla trees and the crabs with the big eyes, who looked dead until you got close and they scurried away. The way the ghosts of the music-makers from long ago lingered like any good art will. Art does not disappear. The clouds do talk.

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My friend Yulady and her husband Gerry are also with me on the hike.

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Yulady had breast cancer and now has a colostomy bag. She doesn’t complain. She made a video for me the other day where she says, I poop in a bag, and yet, she doesn’t complain. I learn from her.

My legs hurt so I squat down and my friend Mike says, No pooping, Jen. This makes me laugh and I think how poop jokes always do. Like swallow and the name Dick. No pooping, Jen.

 

Yulady has to poop in a bag. She is my inspiration. Amazing, like I said, how art is so often made through brutality? She tells me that life has not been easy for her. But she doesn’t complain. I want to rub her skin and take some of her back with me to Los Angeles.

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I complain that my feet hurt and I have get home to finish packing. That I am hungry. That I am getting sunburned. I tell myself to shut the fuck up.

 

We finally finish the hike and get back to the house.

 

I thought about how I got quiet during the walk. Real quiet. It was nice. It was needed. How unquiet we are sometimes. Me. I am. With the constant ringing in my ears and my own chatter and the nonstop information and distraction of social media- how unquiet. During the hike, you couldn’t look up because of how rocky and uneven the earth was and that was okay.

 

One foot in front of the other, paying attention, getting quiet. How needed it is. I got soaked as I sat on that rock and I thought life is good. At least in this moment.

 

It’s good to get quiet. My legs covered with filth from the walk, my hair tangled with sea water, salt on my skin. Maybe I’ll stay like this a little longer. To remember.

*

 

I place my broken night guard carefully in its blue container and put it at the bottom of my backpack. I wonder if I can superglue it?

At the airport the long is long and women with heavy blue eye shadow and t-shirts that say Aruba: The Happy Island wear too much perfume. My bra strap breaks in line and my boob starts to hang out. I ask a stranger to fix it. (Not my boob. The strap.)

She kindly does. She is flying to New York with her husband. They have arrived at the airport almost 5 hours early. I, on the other hand, am worried I will miss my flight and my bra has just broke.

 

Two hours later, I make it though all the lines and my bra strap breaks again. I get in line at the Happy Bar and order a white wine, which he gives me in a mini bottle with a Dixie cup of ice. I take it to the gate. Thank you, Happy Island, for allowing me to walk through the airport with a plastic cup of wine. In the States, we can do no such thing.

 

Night guard breaking, bra strap busting, what next, Jen? Your head going to roll off?

 

I sit down next to a big guy who is partly in my seat. He sleeps with his head pressed into the tray table in front of him, from takeoff to landing, while his wife absent-mindedly traces the hair on his legs with her French manicure, as she reads a paperback. He lifts his head only once, to turn around and yell at (I am guessing) sons, “There’s enough room back there. Knock it off.

 

In Ft. Lauderdale I somehow have to go through security. Again. Fourth time in one day. I am so cold that I feel like one of those women who ask for lemon water. I am freezing. I buy a pillow and blanket in the airport shop and attempt to find a place to eat. This brings me to Chili’s. The Ft. Lauderdale Airport really does blow. (Ha ha blow jobs again.)

I am sad to leave Aruba. I wish I took more photos. I close my eyes and rest my head on the table at Chili’s and start to make art in my head. I rearrange words and create sentences out of fragments of stone and wind and blue, blue water. I remember a poem I wrote 12 years ago.

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I am in awe of the things that cause change.

 

The forces, natural and apocryphal, that cause us to evolve-

The catalysts, those things working in our favor-

The impetus for us metamorphose, to mutate and transform.

Whether being trapped inside the earth in heat so blasting

A Guatemalan volcano has to spew its ashy breath-

Or having an old friend come to stay for a week.

 

We change.

 

We change shapes and figures over and over again.

We exchange one body for the next, one precious

Stone for a different one.

One pleasure for another.

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I wonder about the things working in my favor. How I have been changed by this trip? By the Rooi Tambu? By other people’s pain and how their music settled into the bones of the earth so that when we walk over it, our feet touch their hearts. I wonder where my waiter is with my drink. I wonder why I clench my teeth so badly. I wonder what life would be like if I went all in, like really all in, like I stood on that rock as if I could never slide off. As if nothing could stop me. I wonder what being all in felt like. I checked to see if my boob was tucked in, if my bra strap was hooked. Yes. I was all in. I made myself laugh. This is important.

I wonder if I will make my flight.

I do.

I get home eventually.

Meanwhile, I cuddle in my blanket and pillow next to a Chinese man with a mask over his mouth. He eats peanuts and I eat salsa out of Styrofoam and I think that both of us are all in. He nods at me as if to say hello with his eyes and I turn my head to the clouds out the window of the airplane because they are speaking. Of course they are. I must get quiet to hear them. Shhh. Goodbye.

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The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for June 20th 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 the March 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 Sep 17-24. 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! It is LIFE CHANGING! You must email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to book.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

beauty, Guest Posts, travel

The Greatest Country on Earth.

November 21, 2014


beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black
By Jill Moffett.

My flight landed in San Francisco on Halloween night. I had $300 in my pocket. I was alone. It was a warm evening, and I paid $12 for the shuttle to take me to my destination. I spoke to no one. Outside the van window I saw fat nuns in silver boots, pink-haired girls on roller skates, a pair of vampires with blood dripping down their jaws and a 200-pound Rainbow Brite in a tutu. Everything sparkled and I wondered about the future.

I was 25 and alone. I had left Montreal that morning because I had to. I was run out of town by my own bad habits. I drank too much, I slept with too many people, I let my untreated depression get the best of me. The streets of the city seemed haunted now, every place I went held memories of bad behavior or an unbearable sadness. I left because it was the place where my boyfriend had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had locked me in the apartment while he talked to a dead telephone, and threatened to throw my off the balcony if I tried to leave. I left because the last apartment where I had lived was too dark and too quiet. It gave me nightmares to live alone. Besides, in Montreal it was cold all the time.

I was raised to believe that to be a grown up was to leave where you had come from without looking back. You did it out of necessity. Leaving your home was like growing three inches over summer vacation when you were a teenager, painful and completely out of your control. After high school graduation I’d gone to Ireland with my best friend, hoping to connect with my roots. I though maybe I’d move there. But it wasn’t like I’d imagined. My grandmother didn’t answer her phone, my aunt was welcoming but harried, overwhelmed by the demands of her two young children. The guidebook told us to visit the Aran Islands, and we obliged. One night two drunk men we’d ignored in the pub that evening climbed through the window of the isolated hostel where we were staying, hunting for us in our beds. I left the country the next day and returned to Ottawa, the city I called home. It wasn’t really home though. My parents had moved five hours away two weeks after graduation.

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Guest Posts, travel, Women

Things That Didn’t Happen.

October 21, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Why not February?

 1)  That day I landed in Paris, alone, no French to pout my lips, anti-gay protests spilled into the streets, shooting rapids of hatred. Queers had to navigate them, no oars. When I walked down Avenue Henri Martin to find an open store, I looked like what I was: an MEC-bedecked North American dyke, shapeless as a continent. Two men radared in. Vitriol tones a language; it hatcheted towards me on streams of spittle. The guy closest shoulder-checked me and I stumbled into a wall, scraping limestone.

Then they were gone, and I still needed oranges.

2)  A week later, Rue de la Pompe, arrondisement 16, outside Casino supermarket. Serrated needles of rain raking sideways. No umbrella, just a thin-wire pull-cart I needed to pile with groceries if I wanted to eat, launder, shampoo.

A Roma girl hunched on the street, no coat, one-shoed, hair divided into oleaginous shanks functioning as eavestroughs. Shoulders heaving. One foot maimed, red, shaped like a soup bone, the socket of a cow’s tibia. A paper begging cup exhausted by rain crumpled under left knee.

Trafficked, I thought, tears and misery the tools of her job. But beyond that: something immediate. Maybe, later, when she was picked up again, the gratitude of Stockholm Syndrome or familial bonds or simple lack of options would keep her in her place, but for now, dropped to the Paris pavement by her pimp or aunt or older brother, she was the picture of all that was wrong and nothing that was right.

My anger in Paris was a simmering thing, small at first, then growing. It was at first the size of the palm of a hand laid against a hot burner, but it flared. It was that worst thing, that touristic thing, impotence with a strangling desire to “help.”

“Madame, ça va?” I said as I pressed soggy pastries, fruit, hidden money into her hands. Nothing that would make it better. Nothing that would buy her options.

What do I want with pastries? her eyes said. Are you kidding me? She was right; I was an asshole in any language.

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Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, travel

Returning to Uganda. By Sabrina Lloyd.

August 1, 2014

By Sabrina Lloyd

‘You can’t step into the same river twice,’ they say, they taunt, they warn. It may look the same; the water may feel the same, caressing skin between toes. The smell might even evoke a long ago memory that feels so refreshing you are tempted to submerge yourself fully, try to grab a current, ride it to your past to reshape, recreate, relive a better yesterday.

I knew Uganda would be different. I had no idea a river could turn into a sea so fast. I still see familiar corners, know my way around this way and that, but everything has changed, expanded, grown. It’s shinier. It’s faster.

It’s happier.

A refrain on endless cycle from before, heard from taxi drivers, shop keepers, dreamers, “Museveni gave us peace, but now there are no jobs. We have our lives but no money to live them.”

As we flew away to Rome, the earth spilled oil.

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Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, travel

Digging To Find Myself.

June 1, 2014

Digging To Find Myself. By Rachel Bolin.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. ~Seamus Heaney

I have never really been very into poetry. I have phases where I have found solace in the words of poets. Robert Frost when I was at the ripe old age of 13, and I had a fleeting love affair in my teenage years of angst with Charles Bukowski. But I never understood it. I could relate to some of the passages and with bits and pieces of them, but as a whole it was completely outside my realm of comprehension. Then I discovered this man from the green hills of Northern Ireland. Where, even to this day, I would swear part of my heart lies, even though I have never stepped foot onto its soil.

I have always, and I mean always, been obsessed with the United Kingdom and Ireland. Anglophile never did seem like a strong enough term for how much I loved it. Even now, I still yearn for this probably very heavily romanticized version I carry around in my head and my heart. Of drinking Guinness in the local pub and watching football on the telly. I have gobbled up music, books, films and everything about it I could get my hands on. From the fascination with the Tudors to the obsession with the Sex Pistols, John Peel and Good Vibrations to imagining living a quiet life with grandchildren in the country many years from now. You name it I am sure I have envisioned that life and wanted to live in that city. It probably seems silly, but that daydream life was something that helped through those dark times. I knew that it would probably never come to fruition, as I was born and bred in the Midwest, but you can not blame a girl for dreaming. I have never felt my heart truly belonged here. Maybe in the beaches of California. Maybe in the mountains of Montana. Or maybe in those green hills were that man came from.

I always landed in those green hills. I think Seamus Heaney was the reason I landed there. I believed for a while that finding him was a sign for me to live there. I had my heart set on Belfast and Queen’s University where he attended and graduated with his degree in English. I was going to do music rather than write. I have tried many different things in my life. I attempted art school, which lasted for a whole 6 weeks, and then off to music production, then music business. Which definitely could have worked if I had the gumption to push myself to do it. But no matter how hard I tried, it did not really fit. I found myself getting disillusioned with the industry, seeing only the bad aspects of it, and realizing that there was a very real possibility of losing my main outlet. Music is, and hopefully will continue to be, my therapy. That is my solace in those dark times and my rejoicing during the good. I end up with music and with writing. I never thought I had the ability or the talent to be a writer for a career, but I kept doing it. Because I found that I have an easier time articulating my feelings and thoughts through it. Even though I write fiction and attempted, very badly, to write poetry, I still found a way out of my head. I have only recently begun to write those personal things. Those things that live and fester in the dark corners of my mind. I have begun to shed light on those demons that for so long seemed like they would overtake everything I hold dear. I have been in traditional therapy for so long, and while it did help, I think giving myself a voice and reaching out to others to realize that yes, I feel alone and unworthy, but seeing in big bright bold neon letters “YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS.” That others have similar demons haunting them, has been such an eye opening experience.

I hopped on a plane and spent a week in the humid tropics of Costa Rica. I went on a Manifestation Retreat with (there are no real words for how amazing she is) Jennifer Pastiloff. I got home a handful of days ago, and I can feel myself flip flopping between the old and the new, who I was and who I will be. I have been so blissful and felt the best I have ever felt in my life. Then I have been agitated and felt suffocated. I can feel the old trying to choke the new blossoming ways out of my mind and my body. I can feel them fighting. I don’t entirely know what happened while I was down there. But apart from being so open with the most amazing, loving, giving and supportive group of women I have been blessed to meet in my life, something major shifted. That dark matter that resided in my belly was dug out, and the fire in my belly began to spark again in ways I have never felt. She holds the space for us to do this, to be open and so vulnerable that it could break your heart, but it doesn’t. Our hearts mend together to create this space for us to bring out our darkness and to confront it and say, “I rule this body, this mind and this soul! You don’t own me. I do!”

It seems almost as far away as one could get from the cold and rainy greenery of Ireland. Something big shifted in me in the sweltering heat of the jungles. It took a man from the rainy countryside to start it, and the jungles to dig it out.

I went down there to dig. That word “Digging” has never been far from my mind (I even want to get it tattooed on my arm), even as the years pass from the first time I read “Digging.” I never fully realized what he meant by any of it. How, by saying he “had no spade to follow men like that.” He was not meant to follow in the footsteps of the men before him. That he was to carve out his own path. He was to dig with his pen. He was to dig his way through himself, and through the world with his words. It was amazing to me to find out that he was all of 27 when he wrote that. That he had his moment of ‘This is what I am meant to do’ at an age not much older than my 25. That he did not have it all figured out until then, maybe even after that. He used his words to determine his path, both for finding himself and his way through the world. His pen and his words became a beacon of light in what could be an overwhelmingly dark world.

That was a calming moment for me. I have scrambled through life believing that I have to know my path NOW. Not years from now, I have to know everything right this second. Truth is, I know a few things. I have a few things that I would absolutely love to have happen, but they may not. I went through my digging in Costa Rica with the wish for a family and some peace, maybe a smidgen of self-love thrown in there for good measure.

But I fixated on family. The calm and ever loving family that I did not have, and still do not really have now. The family that I could do better and be better in. The family where we are not passive aggressive and let things fester over the years, where anger and depression and all other feelings run rampant and rule over the possibly of an unconditional non-judgmental ever lasting love. The family that I would daydream about in the country of Ireland (either North or South. I’m not picky). The one with the mass amounts of children and grandchildren running around, playing the mud, and howling laughter. With my husband and I sitting and just feeling calm love for each and every one of them. Where I could finally have those demons under some kind of control and not over-think myself into a mess that does not exist. When I slip into that bliss from the trip, that future does not feel so far away. It feels possible in some way. I can feel that peace of mind. I can get my brain to shut up for a while. I can get the words flowing again. That is the truest form of bliss I have been granted in my short life. Getting that hamster wheel of brain to stop running in circles that go nowhere but drive me insane, to halt to allow those words of Mr. Heaney to enter. To use that pen snug as gun between my fingers to dig. To really dig to the point where I can almost feel those words as earth between my fingers. Where I can visualize my words being pulled out of the hole in the ground where I lived for so long, and allowing these things to see the light of day so that I can thank them and realize them. I am trying so hard to release them to best of my ability, as I know remnants will always exist, but to dig the majority of it out and let it be gone. So I can stand guard over it and decide what I will allow back in. I will never completely control it, and there will be days in which the old stuff slips back in, but if I can be at a point where I can deal with it, and not shy away from my tough stuff, I will be good.

I went to Costa Rica to dig. And dig I did.

“Between my thumb and my finger

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.” ~Seamus Heaney

May there be many more years of digging ahead of me.

 

At Jen Pastiloff's Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica.

At Jen Pastiloff’s Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa.

Rachel Bolin is a freelance writer who hails from the frozen tundra of Minneapolis. An art school drop out, she turned her focus to music, and has been educated in various aspects of the industry. She has been focusing her writing on Music and the Industry, but is now turning her focus onto more personal writing. She has a small collection of short stories published on Amazon. Her writing can be found on her blog at rachelebolin.wordpress.com.

At Jen Pastiloff's Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica.

At Jen Pastiloff’s Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa.

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

 

 

 

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Musings & Ramblings from London.

February 20, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

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

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

Today's beautiful things in London.

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

“What’s your address, Miss?”

“Love.”

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

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

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

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**

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

Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yea, you need people. We all need people.

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

**

I see lone shoes a lot.

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

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

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

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

I came up with a few.

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

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

The shoe was ugly.

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

What if every shoe had a story?

What if we were all storytellers?

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

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

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

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

Even that.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Jen Pastiloff’s London Adventures.

February 19, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo copy

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

I imagined her writing poems in the air.

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

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

“Yea, for 5 minutes,” I replied.

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

“We’re old,” I reminded him.

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

“We are out of tuna. Have the beef.”

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

I told her to make me a veggie burger instead.

“May I have mayo?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

yhst-13942113699170_2269_5350151

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

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

photo copy 2

**

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

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

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

photo

**

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

photo

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

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

“I’m going to take a taxi,” I say.

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

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

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

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

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

Guest Posts, Inspiration, travel, Travels

Aloneha! Honeymoon for One.

November 29, 2013

Aloneha! Honeymoon for One

By Malina Saval

It’s five days after my well-intentioned but delinquent boyfriend, Jake, has packed up his beat-up, burgundy Chevy —”I’m going to get my life together, I swear“— and moved from Los Angeles back to Phoenix to live with his parents. And I’m sitting all alone on a beach in Ka’anapali, a resort area in western Maui, trying to figure out how I can simultaneously go swimming and prevent my backpack with my travelers checks, credit cards and camera in it from getting stolen. My notepad is in there too, and a pack of blue Bic pens, because I’ve come on this trip to write the Great American Novel (or, at least, the Great American Outline).

Jake and I had only dated three months, but he was funny, sweet, and sent me giant bouquets of flowers with the money that he should have been spending on rent. He would have fit the bill so far as romantic getaway companions go. And yet, here I was, alone, surrounded on all sides by hordes of annoyingly affectionate honeymooners while spitting on my finger to wipe the caked sand off my pen cap.

It started with Drew Barrymore. I had read an interview months earlier in which Drew talked about treating herself to a week alone in Hawaii. She gushed about the vacation in that decidedly Drew-esque way, sprinkling her travelogue with words like “maaaagical” and “phenoooomenal” and “amaaaazing.” In Hawaii, said Drew, she had found her best friend, her soul mate, the person upon whom she could count most in this world: Herself.

It was Drew Barrymore that Drew Barrymore could count on.

A year or so later, after scrounging up airfare and hotel from my paltry-paying job as an associate editor at a small (now defunct) magazine, I’m sitting on my oversized beach towel, repeating the mantra It’s OK to be aloneIt’s OK to be alone until the hotel cocktail waiter, upon serving me my second piña colada of the day (and it’s only 10 a.m.), asks if I would like to see the hotel doctor.

I’m terrified, at 27, of winding up alone.

I had traveled alone before, several times, in fact, through Europe, the Middle East, Mexico. And yes, there were honeymooners there too, but there were also starving student backpackers and art museums and archeological ruins serving as convenient distractions. In Maui, there are just beaches to kiss on and waterfalls to kiss under and the ocean to kiss in.

And then there’s me. Drinking piña coladas at ten a.m. while repeating self-help mantras amidst the sound of gently rolling waves.

Then, late on day one of my solo Hawaiian holiday, I meet Javier and Keith, two single straight guys in their late thirties who were upgraded to a honeymoon suite after being mistaken for a gay married couple by the hotel management. Javier works for the Democratic Party in some vague capacity and Keith is a union leader who got to sit next to Barbra Streisand at the Democratic National Convention and touch her nails.

That night, Javier, Keith and I, the only three single people on the entire island of Maui, reap the glories of their honeymoon suite, star gazing on the balcony while drinking screwdrivers from the mini-bar and making out animal shapes in the navy-blue clouds. We laugh about the string of dysfunctional affairs we’ve all had—I come in first, with seventeen (eighteen?)—and by the end of the night, I slowly begin to rediscover the joys of traveling alone. The alcohol and jokes have done their trick and, for the first time since Jake left—and the dozen or so before him— I’m not panicked about turning 30 (in three years) and not being in a committed relationship with somebody that can take care of me.

The next morning, after walking to the local pharmacy for Monistat-7 (Jake left me with one souvenir), I inhale a breakfast of French toast soaked in cinnamon-vanilla egg batter and macadamia nut syrup, a Hawaiian specialty. After breakfast, I go snorkeling with Javier and Keith. We rent masks and flippers and spent hours gliding beneath the smooth, translucent blue water in Olowalu, just south of Ka’anapali. We spot tropical fish of every imaginable color, and I get to see what a yellowtail sushi roll looks like in its natural environment. I flap my arms up and down and push myself deeper and deeper toward the bottom (which, in this part, is only about 12 feet) until I am sealed off from the rest of the world. Everything falls silent, but not in its usual bad way.

That night, I sit at the hotel bar, writing on my laptop, while listening to a Jim Croce impersonator sing “Time in a Bottle.”  I’m surrounded by couples in love: a man in a white bowling shirt embraces a woman in a floral-print sarong; a twenty-something brunette with a huge diamond engagement ring links hands with her fiancé. At one point, an older couple approaches, asking what publication I write for and why am I here alone?

“I don’t write for anybody,” I tell them. “And I’m here because of Drew Barrymore.”

**

The next morning I stay in bed and watch a local cable access segment called “Hawaiian Word of the Day.” I repeat mahalo (thank you) and Maui no kai ‘oi (Maui is the best) until I am ready to practice them on the hotel maid. I get dressed and take a drive to famous Honolua Bay, where I bathe in the warm, clear waters. I’ve left my travelers checks and credit card in the room, and, anyway, that Visa’s been maxed out since college. I am growing bold and brave.

On day three, Javier and I decide to rent surf boards. The swells are low, and the waves are mushy, but I stand up on the board for what I’m sure is a good ten seconds (4.5 by Javier’s account) and throw my arms triumphantly up in the air. And fall off the board with a fantastic splash. Seconds later, I spot a shark, its mottled-blue fin cutting a cylindrical shape in the water. I shriek and flail my arms wildly like a bad B-movie actress, the theme song to Jaws drumming in my ears. I am moments away from becoming fish food. I am going to die on this trip.

The shark turns out to be a harmless sea turtle, bobbing playfully up and down for breath, and I make it to shore alive. But I am scarred by the experience. I am now officially afraid of sharks (sea turtles). I see a rock in the water and I think it’s a shark. I see my shadow, I think it’s a shark. Seaweed. Shark. Sailboat. Shark. I spend the next day swimming close to shore, alongside an elderly couple in rubber bathing caps, hoping that if a shark does attack, it’ll eat them first (I admit, this is very un-Drew).

Day four I hop from the heated pool to the foamy ocean. I observe people’s tan lines. I watch a man in a bathing suit that says BUDWEISER across the butt read James Michener’s Hawaii (Has he read Poland in Poland, I wonder?). For dinner I go to Burger King (money running low), and watch the sun set while I wolf down my chicken sandwich (no mayo). I sip my Coke and sit for a while, and it occurs to me that I’m not at all embarrassed to be seated at an outdoor picnic table eating a five-dollar fast-food dinner when the rest of the island (or so it seems) is in the throes of mad, first-class love. That night I even turn down an offer from Javier and Keith to go clubbing in Lahaina (We’re at that precarious point in a friends-you-meet-on-vacation relationship and I don’t want them to think we’re traveling together) and, instead, watch St. Elmo’s Fire on Pay-Per-View. As the credits roll, I apply refrigerated aloe vera gel to my brown-red skin, and fall fast, fast asleep.

My last day in Maui. Napili the bellhop insists I visit Hana, a rainforest on Maui’s unspoiled eastern coast. I take off in my red Chevrolet Cavalier rental (after searching over an hour for it in the parking lot among all the other red Cavalier rentals) and head towards Hana. Along the way I pass the plantation town of Pa’ia, a windswept beach favorite of windsurfers, and stop at Twin Falls, where I sample a pure sugarcane juice shake. I hike Twin Falls’s two twin waterfalls, sloshing my way through the swampy undergrowth as cool, fresh water flows over me, and snap a few self-portraits lest I come away from this trip without any photographic evidence that I was actually in Hawaii.

The road to Hana is video game-curvy, winding its way along jagged, thousand-foot high cliffs; the entire time I’m driving I feel like I’m going to vomit up my sugarcane shake. It’s 52 miles of one-lane roads and rickety bridges and I’m stuck behind an endless line of couples that pull over to make out at every vista and snap duck-lipped selfies. After two hours of managing not to retch, I decide to turn around. I suppose a co-pilot would have come in handy, because Hana is considered by some to be paradise on earth, but I don’t really care about where I haven’t gone. Right then and there, all I want is my hotel pool, an icy-cold Coke and a Dramamine.

It’s my last night in Maui and I’m sitting on the beach, waiting for the sunset. Balmy trade winds blow lightly through my hair. My skin is sticky from the salt water and I dig my toes into the cool, plush sand. I’m writing in my journal, awaiting that maaaagical Drew Barrymore moment when the sun turns white-hot and then fiery orange and then a flash of green and then—

Gone.

The next day I say aloha to Maui. After a short inter-island flight I am sitting in a Burger King in the Honolulu Airport. It’s 6:30 p.m. and my connecting flight to Los Angeles doesn’t leave until nine. I snack on McD’s fries and fill up my cup with ice and Coke (I have $18.67 left to my name); a bird is flying around the drink dispenser, flapping its tiny wings. Through the airport window the evening sky is muted blue with leaky streaks of pink and purple. I feel oddly calm, not un-like, I imagine, Drew Barrymore feels on a daily basis. There are no boyfriends to abandon me. No obligations to go clubbing. Just me. In the airport. Eating McDonald’s. Watching a tiny bird flap its wings.

And that, mahalo, is enough.

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Malina Saval is the author of “The Secret Lives of Boys: Inside the Raw Emotional World of Male Teens” (Basic Books, 2009) and the novel “Jewish Summer Camp Mafia.” She has been a featured guest on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” Fox News, the Patt Morrison show and Tavis Smiley. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles TimesGlamourLA Weekly, the Jerusalem PostForwardVariety and “Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers” (Penguin, 2010). Her website is www.MalinaSaval.com.