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Guest Posts, Inspiration, Travels

Degree of Latitude

February 5, 2017
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By Josephine Ensign

This is a test of your mental state.1

  1. Where are you right now? (But first: Who are you? What’s the story of your true name?)
  2. What’s the date—day, month, year? (Where did you come from and where are you headed?)
  3. Repeat these three words after me: whale, map, stone. (Don’t question them; they’re important words.)
  4. Spell world backwards. (Now spell world spinning.)
  5. Repeat the phrase: ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’ What do you suppose it means? (Be careful of your answer. It can indicate instability.)
  6. Take these stones in your right hand. Roll them slowly in your hand like dice. Drop them on the floor. (Repeat. Gently, rhythmically. Imagine ocean waves lapping the shores of a pebbled beach.)
  7. Write a sentence. (Now write another sentence connected with the first. Repeat.)
  8. Tell me the names of the three items I gave you earlier. (Remember them? Whale, map, stone….)

 _________________________________________

Whale.

August 11, 1980. Time: 1720/ Position: 49.39 degrees N, 60.29 degrees W. Sea level. Banc Beauge, Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada.

Call me Josephine, although at the time I went by my childhood nickname: BJ. I’ve just turned nineteen and I’m at the helm of the Westward, a 125-foot topsail schooner oceanographic research vessel out of Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We’re under full sail. I’m steering a course SE toward Lark Harbour, Bay of Islands, Newfoundland. I glance down at the glass globe crystal ball of the compass binnacle in front of me. We’ve been blown off-course by a Force Nine gale lasting two days and nights. Today it’s passed by to the north, leaving us in sight of the desolate flat-lined coast of Labrador. The heavy grey clouds undulate above us, breaking in places to lapis sky. The breeze is stiff and steady, whipping small white-frothed waves against our hull. Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, Travels

The Lasting Impact of “One Last Thing”

January 5, 2017
nourished

By Kristin O’Keefe

Of course she paced the van’s third row. Zoe knew what suitcases signified and she did not like to be left.

Abused as a puppy, our rescue dog would flinch when strangers raised a hand to pet her. She got better over time, but she was still frugal with affection. Zoe loved five people: my husband, our two children, my father and me. She tolerated everyone else.

Unfortunately for the dog, we promised friends in Europe that this was the year we’d visit.

At least Zoe wouldn’t be kenneled; she was old and sensitive and keened mournfully the times we dropped her at one. She’d be with family: first my sister-in-laws’ home for a few days, then off to my parents, where she’d rest her head on my father’s lap and patiently wait to be petted. Our dog was in good hands. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, Travels

I Never Want to Leave Here

October 24, 2016
love

By Jillian Schedneck

At 21, it was stomping through the streets of Bath under a perpetual pissing of rain, reading the obscure poetry of Anne Finch and Lady Mary Montagu, hanging around pubs in between class waiting for English men to talk to me. It was liking myself more than I ever had before. I had left Boston a shattered, friendless virgin, but after only a few weeks in England, I was rapidly turned into someone new: a version of myself I’d only dreamed of. I spoke up in class, made my new friends laugh, and managed to capture the attention of English men, at least for a little while. And this was only the beginning.

I fell in love with waking up in Bath, blinking into the light from my bedroom window. I fell in love with ravenous lunches of Cornish pasties or brie and ham sandwiches, sitting on a bench in the Abbey Square with my knees pulled up, a book resting on the curve of my thighs, listening to the clipped accents of tour guides. I fell in love with Great Pulteney Street, a long stretch of limestone colored terrace houses that I liked to imagine myself living in one day.

My body felt different, lighter, as if I stepped on springs, as if the great knot of tense energy that had once existed in my chest was now unraveling. What had taken me so long to get away? After all, I stood on the same earth, breathed the same air, and lived by the dictates of the same sky. And it was so much better here; more than that: it was as if life, my now luminous life, happened only here, and the rest—before and after—could only be grey, dull filler.

Strolling the streets of Bath, I saw myself following in the footsteps of the eighteenth century women writers I’d so admired last semester in my survey of British literature course. I had improbably recognized myself in these women—countesses and literary hostesses, austere wives and the scandalously single—and their struggles to write. I hadn’t read Alexander Pope or Samuel Johnson in this personal way, but as old men in wigs, penning polemics that never stuck with me. But when I came to those women’s poems and diaries, I wondered, what would I have done in their places? If writing meant I would likely appear foolish and incompetent in the world of men, would I have had the courage? I didn’t think so.

That unnamed fear nettled me, made me pause and finally decide that on this fleeting, life-altering study abroad, experience was key. I had to gain that courage. In order to create worthwhile stories, I told myself I needed the insight that come from chance encounters, longing and love. And I wanted to see my see my transformation in the eyes of another, this new version of myself reflected back at me. So one night, when an older man asked if I’d travel to Barnstaple with him the next day, I said yes.

He approached my friends and me as we sipped black ciders at our local pub. “Smile for me please, ladies!” I squinted up at him and flashed a smile.

He was in his early thirties, barrel-chested, with hazel eyes and thick lashes. “I thought so! You are American. I had a bet with my mate.” I glared at him, confused. “Because you all have perfect teeth! Most of us English haven’t been so fortunate.” He let out a roaring laugh. I was the only one to join him.

My friends quickly found other men to talk to, and soon it was just the two of us. Aaron didn’t ask me the usual: how long I had been in England, my impressions so far, or where I was from in America. Instead, we made fun of each other’s accents, sang along to cheesy pop songs playing in the pub, and ordered several more rounds. I learned he was a regional salesman for LazyBoy furniture, and when I said I was studying eighteenth century women writers, he looked at me with a kind of wonderment.

After half an hour of chatter, he put his hands on my shoulders. “Listen, I’m going to Barnstaple tomorrow for work, so you might as well come along. See a bit of the country while you’re still here.”

I took a step back. Was he serious?

“Don’t you fancy me?”

“I don’t know!” I shouted. But I did like the way he was looking at me, determinedly, willing me to fancy him. “Ok,” I said, figuring simultaneously that this was just the kind of invitation I was hoping for, and that I could change my mind in the morning. “I’ll go.”

“Brilliant.” He grabbed my waist. “Can I kiss you?” Then he leaned in, soft lips on mine, hands pressing into the small of my back.
The next morning, I couldn’t work out if I was being romantic and adventurous, or insane and duped. But he exuded a kind of light, an effervescence. I liked it. Why make things complicated? I nearly skipped down the steps and waited outside in the bright, fresh morning for Aaron to pick me up. Wearing the new red coat I had bought in London, I felt pretty, magnanimous, in love with the turn my life had just taken.

A white hatchback slowed and then stopped. Aaron stepped out of the car, handsome in the daylight wearing a dark grey suit.

“Happy to see me? Or do I look too old for you now?” He said, squinting at me.

“You look fine,” I said, rising and walking to the car, and then worried that sounded wrong. “Good!” I shouted. “I think you look very nice.” Aaron laughed as we got into his car and gave my thigh a big squeeze.

Then he tossed a spiral bound book of road maps onto my lap. “You’re in charge of directions.”

For the whole day, we drove around the English countryside, visiting quaint towns. His job seemed cursory and cruisy. He checked in on furniture stores nearly as an afterthought. Aaron even made a house call, fixing an ailing chair in an old woman’s living room. Throughout the day, I learned that he was thirty-one, a vegetarian, and, crucially, that he lived in a flat in Great Pulteney Street. I couldn’t believe he lived on the most beautiful street in the world and he wasn’t even famous.

By the time we got home that evening, the sky was deep pink and the sun was falling beyond clusters of brown roofs. I wished we could remain just like this: anticipating our entrance to the stunning city below and marveling at the night ahead. A great sense of possibility overwhelmed me, and I saw myself following in the footsteps of some of those bold eighteenth century women writers, Hester Thrale and Lady Mary Montagu, who wrote diaries and letters about choosing love that would defy their worlds. Like them, I was a woman who could fall in love deeply, recklessly.

“I never want to leave here,” I said.

Aaron glared at me, his hands perfectly still at the wheel. “You can stay with me.”

And so I did. Even when I cooked at home with my roommates or went out for pizza, Aaron would pull up at my corner of North Parade when I was through, and we would travel the short distance to Great Pulteney Street. It was always a relief to slip into his car, his green eyes flashing, his laughter booming.

We spoke of a life of travel. Aaron wanted to take me to the Canary Islands, Majorca, the Maldives, places I had never heard of. For my graduation, he said we would ride the ferry over to Calais, in France, and drive through Belgium, Germany and Holland. England suddenly seemed so ordinary.

When the semester ended, we had a tearful goodbye at Heathrow airport. But I saw Aaron a few months later, when he visited me in Boston that summer. Suddenly there he was, my connection to Bath, the embodiment of my transformation into someone desirable and worldly. While lazing in the Public Gardens, we solidified our plans: I just had to get through my senior year at Boston College, and then I would move into his flat in Bath. It sounded like a dream, to live on Great Pulteney Street, to wake in Aaron’s apartment every morning and take ruminative walks in Victoria Park with notebook in hand, teaching myself to write a novel.

When the new semester started, Aaron and I emailed and talked on the phone regularly. What in the world did we tell each other? The papers I wrote, the dramas of my roommates? Footy scores and his loneliness without me, driving through the Southwest of England alone? He went for broke on calling cards and visits to Boston, and paying for my flights to England. I was continually elated that someone who lived in Bath wanted me to return there as badly as I did.

Did I mention he was barrel-chested? A big frame, overweight: fat. Even now I cringe at the word. On his first visit to Boston, my twin sister wondered what I was doing with him. Her gay best friend sneered and asked why I was with a fat guy.

“He’s not fat,” I replied, exasperated. But he was. He was vegetarian, but not the kind who ate tofu wrapped in lettuce leaves. He consumed cheese and onion flavored crisps, pasta and pizza and veggie burgers with plenty of chips. He purchased a can of Coke wherever we went. His only exercise was a jaunty walk to the service station to pay for petrol. But I never tried to change his habits. I could overlook anything when it came to Aaron.

He was my first. We had sex on his first visit to Boston, on my summer sub letter’s bed, to the background rumble of the T on Commonwealth Avenue. I wasn’t very impressed with the whole thing, and just happy to get it over with. I figured we wouldn’t have to do that again for a while. But of course, it was only the beginning.

I woke to his entreaties for sex one morning in Spain—a trip we took just before my graduation. He told me to stop checking my emails and become more dedicated to our sex life. I was waiting for notification of a writing award from my university, and had begun to correctly presume that I hadn’t won. I wasn’t like those 18th century women writers—Hester Thrale, Lady Mary, or Anne Finch, and the many others I had admired. I wasn’t gutsy or talented. I didn’t have a vision that went beyond my years, let alone my century. I hugged Aaron and said I would do better. My chance encounter, my longing and love, had achieved the opposite intention. Instead of increasing my courage, I decided that Aaron was all I had.

That spring, I bought a one-way ticket to Bath. It seemed inevitable, the fruition of my worldly transformation, and my lack of any other plan. I didn’t envy my classmates and all their worries about jobs and moves after graduation. They were only staying in America, and their concerns seemed so small. I convinced myself that I had everything sorted for a life of love and adventure abroad. Once I got on that one-way flight, everything would truly begin.

Yet something twisted inside me as my roommates spoke about their nascent careers. In contrast, I imagined my post-graduation life, spending every day with my fat boyfriend in his small, drafty flat. I wouldn’t have a job; I hadn’t even organized a work visa. My favorite professor encouraged me to approach a local US newspaper and write a column on my life in England, but I couldn’t imagine who would want to read about my cruisy life in Bath. I began to envision my immediate future as a failure, trudging around Bath alone, totally dependent on Aaron: financially, emotionally, socially. This dream life I had concocted suddenly seemed utterly boring and unproductive. It became crystal clear that this situation was intolerable.

Still, I hesitated putting this decision into action. Quite frankly, Aaron had spent a lot of money on our relationship, and I felt I owed him for that. But what did I owe him exactly? Another year? A few months? The idea of translating his financial investment in our relationship into days and weeks began to seem so preposterous that one night, a few weeks before my flight to England, I called Aaron to say I wasn’t coming. I didn’t think I would actually do it until I had dialed his number and said the words: “I’m not getting on that plane.”

I was back at my mom’s condo in New Hampshire by then, suitcase open in my old room, filled with the clothes I had planned to take to Bath. Aaron pleaded with me to use my ticket, promising to buy my return flight whenever I wanted to leave. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t go to Bath and then leave again. If I went, I would end up staying.

I cried for a few weeks, and then moved back to Boston for the summer. I spent my days waking at 530am to work the early shift at Starbucks, taking afternoon naps in the Boston Commons, and dating a sweet guy who showed me what great sex really was. When the summer was over, I moved to London on a student-work visa with my friend Katie, a wonderful girl I had roomed with in Bath. I got a job editing ad copy in a poorly lit office. Katie and I went out every night with the aim of finding British boyfriends. We found a few. But for me, Aaron was always in the background. I met him all over England, wherever he was headed for work: Nottingham, Brighton, Dorset.

On the trains to meet him, I would take out my notebook and write about the surprising pleasure of looking for a London flat, visiting all those otherworldly pockets of the city and imagining my life in each one. I wrote about the guys I kissed in bars. When they asked me to come home with them, I would just laugh at their proposals, because I had only slept with two people and the idea of having sex with a near stranger seemed hilariously preposterous. I wrote about how different it was here than in Bath, only a ninety-minute train ride away. Those trips, watching the dark English countryside zoom by as I headed toward the first man who ever loved me, are still the purest memories I have of the thrill of writing.

Whenever I arrived back in London after another weekend with Aaron, I would remind myself that this was the grand city of pleasure, enchantment, temptation and vice from the eighteenth century novels and plays I had studied. This had been the glittering, magical world of gardens and palaces and concerts, beautifully attired young people dancing at assemblies under golden lanterns, strolling arm in arm through the mall in St. James Park. This was where the women writers had lived, where they wrote their letters and diaries, treatises, novels and plays, and this was where they had fallen in and out of love. This was that same chaotic place where Katie and I had arrived, jetlagged and useless, where we had gotten our laptops stolen in the first flat we rented, where we shared a two-pound kebab sandwich every night. Our lives in London were neither enchanted nor disappointing, but real, and I was grateful to be there, with or without Aaron.

The last time I saw Aaron was three years later, when I was twenty-five and in graduate school in West Virginia. On my way to a summer course in Prague, I flew through London. He picked me up and we travelled to Cornwall for a few days. Even though he had moved out of Bath by then, I still fell in love with him once more as we strode through the streets of Newquay and ordered a pizza. It had been four years since we first met, and already that person reflected in Aaron’s eyes had changed dramatically.

I was no longer dependent on him for my connection to the wider world; he no longer served as a reflection of my worldly transformation. In a few years, I would move to Abu Dhabi for a teaching position; I would write a book about my life there. At 30, I would move to Australia to do a PhD in Gender Studies, and fall in love with an Australian man. All of this was ahead of me, and when I looked into Aaron’s eyes I saw a love for the soggy streets of Bath and the old dream that that would be enough.

Jillian lives in Adelaide, Australia with her husband and daughter. She runs the travel memoir writing website Writing From Near and Far, and is the author of the travel memoir Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights. She holds an MFA in creative writing and a PhD in Gender Studies. Her writing has appeared in Brevity, Redivider and The Lifted Brow, among others.

Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their signature “Writing & The Body” Retreat in Portland March 17-19 by clicking photo.

Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their signature “Writing & The Body” Retreat in Portland March 17-19 by clicking photo.

Guest Posts, Travels

Chasing The Other

October 16, 2016
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By Rae Pagliarulo

I spotted a payphone on the rainy sidewalk and hurried inside, slamming the Plexiglas door behind me. It felt good to have the persistent drizzle off my face, to give my pounding feet a break from the never-ending avenues. My polka-dotted rubber boots had each sprung a leak, and all day long I had walked in two personal puddles. People walked by the phone booth holding hands under big umbrellas. They laughed as the taxicabs splashed water near their feet, and crossed the labyrinthine streets without looking. Every other person in Paris seemed so effortless, so comfortable. They had woken up here. They knew where everything was – the deli, the convenience store, the pharmacy, and the coffee shop where a friend was waiting. I had no friend waiting. I had a payphone that would charge me forty dollars to make a five-minute call to my mother.

I jammed my debit card into the slot and dialed my mom’s number carefully. After one too many trills, my mother’s voice rankled the receiver, sounding much too far away. I interrupted her cheery greeting with panic. “Mom? Mom, it’s me! Hi!” She screamed into the phone, asking me a ton of questions – how were the Parisian streets? Was the city as beautiful as she’d heard? Did I see the Seine? Did I drink wine, or meet anybody nice, or see the Eiffel Tower, or eat amazing food? Continue Reading…

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.

5 Most Beautiful Things, Self Image, Travels, Video

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

September 20, 2013

Hello my Tribe!

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

Thanks Matt!

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

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

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

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

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

Love, from Seattle, Jen

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Why Bali?

December 1, 2012

Why Bali?

by Bianca Martorella, life coach.

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When I first learned about the trip, I was so excited to go. My friend (in order to protect the innocent, let’s just call her …) Sonia, initially told me about the Yoga retreat, led by Jennifer Pastiloff. We had just finished our coaching certification program with IPEC (Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching) and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. With some initial supportive coaching and a minimal down-payment a day later, I committed. The more I talked about it, one week soon turned into a month away from work and loved ones, as a sabbatical of sorts. In addition to the yoga, I also decided to volunteer at an orphanage. Also referred through friends and with much additional research, I signed up with Volunteering Solutions for a 2 week program in Bali. Fortunately, the timing coincided nicely with the retreat. Planning was easy and therefore meant to be.

As I started to talk more and more about my adventure, I was often asked why I was going. To be clear about my intentions, just in case you’re curious, I thought I would share them here …

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To immerse. One thing has become clear to me over the past few years, is that I love immersion experiences. Experiences that will challenge me to grow and learn. Experiences that are so far out of my comfort zone, that I have no choice but to embrace them. Although it may have always been the case for me, it first became clear through my experience at Landmark Education. For better or worse, the experience transformed my life and my way of being. Among many other things, I found a sense of courage and confidence – that again, may have always been there – but wasn’t realized until that time. Next, came running the NYC marathon which took months of focus and training to run 26.2 miles through my beloved city. With that, I realized my humility and ability to commit. And most recently, IPEC, a coaching certification program. Throughout the course, I learned to embrace people fully, love openly and to be vulnerable. A tall order for this type-A, tough and feisty New York’er. Regardless of the experience, there are always lessons to learn when you immerse yourself in something new and different. You never know what it will be …

To give back. This is an obvious one. Life in the big city can get pretty selfish sometimes. I have done some volunteering in the past, but not like this. I always thought about it, but never really had the courage until now. This would be an opportunity to give my full time, attention and focus on to others. Time to not care about myself, what I am wearing, how my hair looks, or if my toes are perfectly pedicured. This would be an opportunity to embrace, support and love others selflessly.

To love and nurture. If there is one that I’ve learned over the years is that there are many sources of love that can be experienced and expressed … first and foremost the love that comes from within. I was never really sure if having children was in the cards for me. I have always wanted a family and children to love on, but I’m 36 – rounding the corner to 37 – and up until recently, very single. I do of course believe it’s still possible and I will never give up on wanting a family of my own, however, this is an opportunity to explore the lover and nurturer from within. A chance to embrace that side of me that seldom gets to be expressed in this ‘cut-throat world’.

To embrace spirituality. I’m no expert … but from what I know … Bali is dominantly Hindu, and being home to thousands of temples and holy shrines, is a spiritual place. The Balinese embrace tradition, are constantly praying, believe in karma and focus their whole existence on worshiping their ancestors through rituals and offerings. Families stick together through thick and thin – love, support and accept each other. Although I believe in God, I never truly embraced my religion and I want to define for myself what spirituality means to me. I want to embrace the act of prayer and really get what it’s like to give of yourself in blind faith.

To heal. There is nothing like a good stretch and some meditation to heal the mind, body and soul. After a few years of some hard running, I realized I needed to take a break. I need a form a exercise that has less impact on the body. Additionally, it’s great to be a able to take time everyday to focus on your health to kick off some new good habits into your daily routine back home.

So, there they are … without judgement and without needing to prove anything, those are my reasons.

Namaste,

xoxo B

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by Madison Rosner

by Madison Rosner

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photo by Madison Rosner

photo by Madison Rosner

thank you Simplereminders.com

thank you Simplereminders.com

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To book a coaching session with Bianca please email binxmarto@yahoo.com. To read her blog click here.

Jen’s next week long retreat is in Maui with The Travel Yogi feb 16-22. Assisted by Sommer Dyer, daughter of Wayne Dyer. Click here to book.

Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Steve Bridges, Travels

The Unearthing of Things

November 27, 2012

photo by Madison Rosner

Sitting outside our private villa in Ulutwatu, the breeze just enough to be deemed perfect, and I wonder if I am really here. I must be. Awan, one of the staff here at Uluwatu Surf Villas, just brought us out our morning eggs (yes, he comes into the villa every morning and prepares us breakfast to our liking.) My eggs a little less runny, Robert gets the toast and the weird flourescent jam. We both drink the coffee, me always going for the second and third cup, my husband always the moderate one, taking one cup and sipping it slowly. I must be here. I can see the ants crawling all over the table. (They don’t bother me.) I see the ocean just past our private little pool (a private pool!). I hear the sound of the waves crashing, one of the rare occasions the ringing in my ears is lessened. I must be here. I must be.

So it’s established. Here I am.

Is it the being here or the memory of being here that I am after?

Is it the having had it happen or the ability to write about it in such a way that I can make you feel as if it happened for you too?

I am not sure.

From Wikipedia:

Memory is the processes by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. 

I am equally in love with floating in the pool naked, a light rain falling and an almost full moon above as I am with the drinking of a Bintang and the being able to tell you about it in words that will (I hope) last forever, longer than the sea, longer even than me. I know there are different types of people. I get that. The types of people that are so present, who wouldn’t dream of the moment meaning anything than what it was.

You’d think I would be that way, being a yoga teacher and everything. I am here. I am. I strive to be present but there is something in me that screams Hey! This is your dharma. You were meant to share this. Who are you to keep this locked in your mind? Go! Go now and write!

So I am here, indeed. I am here with every intention to send my experiences out in capsules for you to open and discover what it is you want to share. What it is you want to feel. Where it is you want to go.

People often ask me how I have such a steel trap memory. My sister and I both. (Although as I have aged my memory has become less steel-like and more sponge-like.) Here’s the thing: when you lose a parent so young, all you have are your memories of him bringing you home chocolate covered marshmallows and carving magic wands out of sticks and seesaws by the Cooper River Park in the rain. That is all you have so you preserve them and seal them so they can never disintigrate into I don’t remembers. You become an expert memory maker. You have no choice really, because how else could you survive?

Your imagination must have someplace to call home.

My imagination is calling this home: The rain clicking its heels on the swimming pool here in Bali. The nothing to do-ness that comes with being on vacation and just how inspiring that nothing to do-ness can be. Floating on a surfboard in the Indian Ocean, the red sun a character in your life like an ex-lover or a grandfather with its legendary personality. The twin girls dancing a traditional Balinese dance, moving their fingers precisely, elegantly, in a way my stubby hands could never coordinate themselves to do on their own. Their eyes darting left and right, each sharp movement a story with a beginning, middle and end. The sky opening up and letting in color that no camera can talk about. Not even on a good day. Secret colors and gestures that fall apart when an iPhone tries to lock them in. The happiness here. The happiness here is where I am calling home. It is getting placed next to: my father eating his nightly chocolate ice cream in between two waffles with powdered sugar on top and my summer at Bucknell University churning out poems before bed like they were sleeping pills. I will place it next to my retreat last February in Mexico, the last time I saw my dear friend Steve Bridges before he died and how close our eyes were there, for that long moment above the beach there in Puerta Vallarta as he told me he could never leave the earth before having a family and how we became that family because he did leave the earth. Too suddenly and too soon not a month later and that moment we shared was the best conversation and the most treasured I have ever had with anyone so as I sit here in the rain in Bali I am placing this pool and this palm tree and these offerings for the gods right there next to Steve.

My imagination is that large. It can hold it all.

That line above makes me feel Walk Whitman-esque: Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. 

Who can explain why the value of something increases, decreases. Or what we choose to store as memories? Why we fall in love with someone, as quick as the pressing of your face into their shoulder blade as you ride on the back of their motorcycle, the wind slapping you with confirmation- Yes! This is love! Or a moment like the one when you watch them sleep and a surge of protectiveness knocks you awake. You want to make sure they take the next breath, and the next.

You want to watch them forever.

We never know where we will find our history, where we will discover what has formed us, what we will find in the rice paddies. Exhuming beauty from the soil, excavating remains.

The unearthing of things long forgotten.

Part of the way memory works is by being able to locate it and return it to our consciousness. How can we do that if we haven’t saved it? What are your ways of saving it? What are you saving?

This is an important question. Think hard before you respond. What are you storing up in there? I hope it isn’t traffic jams and being pissed off and upset and gossip although, hey, I am not perfect and I have some of that up there. I am making room though. I am pushing it aside and making room for this watermelon and these flowers and my husband at Padang Padang Beach in Bali and what it feels like to have achieved a dream like this.

And what does it feel like?

It feels like a sigh. It feels like a dropping the shoulders down away from the ears and returning as well as a departure. It feels like a bumpy car ride along Balinese country-side and it also feels like my sofa at home with a glass of wine in my hand. It feels like all of me and also a part I have yet to know. Or rather, yet to remember.

Because it has always been there, hasn’t it?

It has always been there next to my father and my grandmother and my little 3 year old nephew showing me how he “drops in” on the skateboard ramp and all the other memories I have sought out to bring back into consciousness, it has always been there but like the red sun I had just thought it was a myth.

I did not believe it until I saw it and felt it and reached up into the sky to call it mine before sending it back into the world.

 

 

by Madison Rosner

by Madison Rosner

Steve Bridges and I. www.stevebridges.com

Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Had We Loved In Time.

November 24, 2012

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff

“In which at last I saw what a child must love, I saw what love might have done had we loved in time.”Mary Oliver ‘The Visitor’

Isn’t that what I am searching for? What we all are searching for? To love in time?  Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Under all the layers of hard rock and hurt and in between the rain and the spurts of sun across Southeast Asia or Southern California or Santa Fe? Just past the temples, past the shore, past the man washing his chicken in a dirty creek as he gets it ready for the fight. Isn’t this the great journey, this pilgrimage to love, to not running out of time, to dying with a heart empty of misgivings and misunderstandings rather than a heart full of I am sorries and I wish I did it better?

Here I am in Bali. My Manifestation Retreat in Ubud has ended. A sold-out retreat with all women (minus my husband who gave us the room to create the sisterhood we needed.) The retreat was very much a retreat toward love. One of the definitions of retreat according to the dictionary is: an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable. And that is just what we did. We withdrew from the comparisons and the judgements and the traffic and the old beliefs and the children and the cooking and the phone calls and the heartache and the sameness of daily life. We withdrew towards our center.

Our mantra: May I always be this happy, May I always be this free. At least for this moment. And then this one. And this one. All of it in moments.

Moments experienced with a presence that could be likened to an offering. Here: Here I am, offering you my undivided attention and acceptance. This is my offering. There is nothing in my way. There is no past, no sickness, no going back to work, no dreading the plane ride back, no discomfort. There is just this. This perfect morsel in time. And I am here. Fully. This past week we retreated towards our center and as the sun rose in the morning and we looked out towards the temple and the men in the fields and the ducks waddling all along in a row like a cliche, our hearts knew what they have known all along: That this is what love feels like. This is what it is all for.

To know a beauty so precise that it aches in the place where pain has lived and also heartache, loss. This ache is more of a returning, a piece of ourselves we thought we may have lost along the way is slid back into itself without any kind of hassle or confusion. An offering. The term achingly beautiful finally and rightfully understood. And yes, it is felt in the same place. The heart doesn’t know any different, it just knows to feel. If we let it.

This past week was a letting. Take this offering and feel it. Tie yourself in knots and the undoing is a retreat, a coming home.

We all want to love in time. To think we could possibly run out of time is what causes traffic and wars and broken hearts. The actual running out of time is less common but it does happen. We can die without fully loving the things right in front of us and inside of us. We can let that happen. When I asked what everyone was manifesting many of the women said vulnerablity. It came up a lot during the week in journaling and class themes and throughout our visits to the temple. My heart should be this vulnerable, this open, so I may feel this beauty inside of me as I feel my own breath breaking the air above me as I snorkel with the most colorful fish I have ever seen and may I know this beauty in the way I have known other facts about myself, like I am this or I am that. This beauty is the knowable part of me just as any other. But to feel this beauty, to really see it as it is means I must be vulnerable to the pain as well.

Here is the sunrise with the knowing that the sun will indeed set, the sky will open at some point today and the rain will come down without explanation, the flowers will die, but that to miss it while it is right there in front of us means we are not accepting the offering. We are not accepting what has been inside of us all along, no matter how dormant or inactive. In Bali, they give offerings to the gods three times a day. It is their daily ritual to give back what the gods have given them. They do not take this lightly, it is a duty and an honor at the same time. Why should we not have the same system? I will take the love offered to me. I will take this gorgeous spicy food and the flowers left on beds and towels and the lily pads and the terraced rice fields and the silent Thank You from the toothless woman washing her clothes in the stream and the not so silent Thank You from the thunder. I will take the I love you as fact and the I believe in you as a Go signal. I will then offer back my heart since it is mine to give away. I will offer my support and my mistakes and what I have seen here and what I know to be possible and the smiles the Balinese wear which you might think to be myth and which I can assure you is not. I will offer back my words and my imagination and describe to you in the best detail I can just what I saw and how in the healing waters at Tirta Empul I prayed for my nephew and my dead father, and how my friend, just before she ducked her head under a spigot said And this one is for me and how I held her back as her shoulders shook under her sarong, under her sobbing. I will offer them all to you without holding back at all so you believe me when I tell you that there is time.

You will believe me when I tell you that if you let yourself be the beauty and never stop seeing the beauty, no matter if you are in Bali or traffic or a yoga class, that you will never run out of time. That although your father will still have died and you cannot take back what you said, that although you will still have had your heart broken or gotten hurt, the offering is this: You. You are the offering.

We are the offering.

We must place the beauty in our hearts right there next to loss and pain and whatever else is we have in there and we must pass it on. We must love like the Balinese do. Shamelessly and fully without any but this might not last. With acceptance and duty and honor and grace. When Agung, our beloved driver and host brought us to his home for dinner and so his twin 11 year old daughters could do a traditional Balinese dance for us, he spoke of his son. With a huge smile he said his son was artistic. So proud he was. We then realized he was saying “autistic.” His son came out and said hello to us, and Agung hugged him close and with a pride I am not sure I have ever seen as he introduced his whole family. They all live together in the compound with his father-in-law (it was his wife’s home first, a rare thing in Balinese culture.) A lot of the girls on the retreat cried, as I did, not because it was a sad thing, but because the love that came from them, that little clan standing there in front a of a bird cage, was more perfect than anything I’d seen. With its lack of judgement and story and shame it was a divine moment in time and we all felt blessed to witness it and we all made a mental note to love more like they loved. To be happy in the way they were even though a few of them shared a bed and the son was autistic and they had never left the island of Bali. And so what? What did they know besides love? No, they aren’t perfect. But they were loving in time.

May we all love in time.

With love from Uluwatu, Bali xo jen ps, I am doing Tuscany next rather than Bali.

If you visit Bali you must see Ugung’s daughters dancing!

thank you Simplereminders.com

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All of Jen Pastiloff’s events/retreats/workshops listed here.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff at a writing retreat in Mexico this May!  Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty in 2015 at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at ovbooks@gmail.com. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

Join Jen Pastiloff at a writing retreat in Mexico this May!
Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty in 2015 at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at ovbooks@gmail.com. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

Inspiration, loss, Travels

The Perks of Being a Time Traveler.

August 22, 2012

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

You wouldn’t forget things.

You wouldn’t lose things. Or people. That in itself is enough for most people. Never having the gut wrenching realization when you wake up in the morning, that Oh My God he is dead. Having been blessed with a certain forgetting in your sleep. Never knowing what that remembering feels like, that feeling of a limb gone suddenly missing, without warning. Never forgetting a book that you stayed up 3 nights in a row like a  lover only to realize 6 months later you don’t remember a single detail of those nights.

You would have an escape when all you wanted to do was close your eyes and slip into time and be part of the fabric of its wings. It would be like you finally knew what it meant to get somewhere.

My own time travel machine is a subtle bubble, fragile as a bird. When you climb inside it takes you back to before you were born even, back to when you were just a thought that hadn’t been thought yet.

It takes you back to moments of your life like the summer you spent in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for a poetry fellowship at Bucknell University where you read poems in a beautiful old church and ran naked through a football field at night with a bunch of other young “fellows”. Back to when you ran through cemeteries that summer, and green green grass. It was July and humid and greener than you’d ever known green to be, and you ran because that was all you could do. It takes you back to these moments that when you were in them the first time, you thought you were unhappy, but upon revisiting them again in your time machine you realize that you could have never been unhappy running through green like that. How could you have been?

Unhappiness was invented along with the time machine and it is a matter of belief when it comes to being able to enter either.

Upon revisiting moments in your time machine you will realize that it was always better than it seemed, that you were never fat and that you could write your ass off. This is a perk of being a time traveler.

When you close the door to the hatch and tell it to go back to 1983, you can see your father carving sticks in the backyard at a wooden picnic table. The plastic on the chairs in the kitchen and how they stick to people’s thighs in the summer and you can take back all the things you ever said. You can un-say them. That is another perk of being a time traveler.

For example, if the last thing you ever said to your father was “I hate you” before he died, well, you can undo that. You just set the dial back a little farther and then get out and plant your feet firm on the brown carpet, your hands on either side of the doorjamb and remain silent. Or say I love you. Really, the choice is yours. Another huge perk of time travel.

You can go back to before you found out your baby was dying and either decide to not have a baby at all or to just go back to when he wasn’t so sick. To stay in the moment when he had a light in his eyes and could still move his body. Maybe you’d just stay there. You could, you know, with your time travel machine.

Any event that occurs in the universe has to involve both space and time. Gravity doesn’t just pull on space; it also pulls on time.

When we time travel we actually bend gravity so we become light sinewy things that don’t know what it means to be held down, that fly through space and back into the arms of people we thought we’d lost and grandparents we never even met. We can bend and alter and climb the walls of time, which is a huge perk of time travel.

There’s also things to take into consideration, like getting stuck in a moment of time. Say you go back to that May in 1982 and decide you want to stay. Fine. You have that choice. You do. But remember, when you go back, you are also still here. Your body is still sitting on the train reading a book, is still doing a backbend, is still having dinner with your husband. Only part of you will be missing. Part of you will be stuck in 1982 eating pizza with your father as you drink wine with your husband. Your eyes will reflect this missingness. There will be an emptiness behind your eyes that over time will turn into a deadening. Although you have mastered time travel you cannot master being in two places at once. So really you must decide if the perks are great enough.

How badly you want to be there. How badly you want to be here.

Join Jen at a writing retreat in Mexico this May!  Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty in 2015 at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at ovbooks@gmail.com. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

Join Jen at a writing retreat in Mexico this May!
Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty in 2015 at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at ovbooks@gmail.com. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

 

All of Jen Pastiloff’s events listed here.

 

Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Travels

How Long Before We Feel That Alive Again?

July 21, 2012

               Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.

                                                            – Margaret Lee Runbeck

 

                        We are what suns and winds and waters make us. ~ Landor

Suzhou, China. I went to China with the NYU Scholar’s Program I was in.

The flight back from China and I am so close to Hui I feel his breath on my neck. Over the engine, over all the cranky people folded into seats too small for their rice-filled bodies I almost don’t hear him tell me his secret:

Always smile, Never worry.

But when his hot breath settles on my left cheek, I understand what he is saying-

A potion for your stomach, for your chi

through that yellow smile of his.

He presses a small bottle of Hui’s Chi Liquid into my palm.

I have a lot of poison in my body he can tell this just by looking at me, he says.

I am seduced by people like him: Clairvoyants.

Hui, what’s going to happen to me?

His shoulder pressed into mine and I don’t mind. I like Hui.

I am safe up here in the sky with my smiling clairvoyant.

He is thin, a slip of a thing, and I wonder if large numbers of people spend their entire lives crammed on boats, earning their living moving goods and people over the lakes does that mean that Hui and I can survive up here in the sky in this airtight cabin?  Forever?

Coasting over clouds, viewing everything from such a height that nothing seems so bad anymore.

We would be so far removed from it all. Our perspective would change accordingly.

We had ridden together on the houseboats in Suzhou as old women pushed water out of their way, the geography of their bodies as various as that of their land: dense and vital to the earth.

Those women understood the interaction between a natural environment and human patterns; they have broken the code.

They know who they are, what they must do.

They will not be broken.

What has made me?

Which materials am I built from?

Have I been broken?

Hui and I had sat on the boat shivering, slapped by the January air. A kind of cold you can never prepare for.

The personality of the cold there on the Suzhou River strong willed and ancient.

Upon returning to New York we will have a new understanding of temperaments, of tenacity.

It was that kind of cold.

The kind to teach us lessons, to trigger our memories when we are feeling slack and numb to the world- the kind of cold to wake us from sleep and remind us what it means to be alive and sliding down a river in China on a dark and dreary dinghy.

Trace decay hypothesis is where information in the long term memories decays with time. This will not happen in our minds!

Our fate is sealed! The cold has entered us!

Whether we will remember it isn’t the question.

It’s: how long before we remember it again?

How long before we will feel that alive again?

 

In Shanghai. Me on the end.

**This piece was originally written when I was about 21 years old.

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Travels

The Traveler of Here by Caspar Poyck.

July 19, 2012

The traveler of here.

~ Guest Post by Caspar Poyck C. Ht.

Tuscan sunset

One of my very dearest friends in the whole world; Jennifer Pastiloff is in Italy for another one of her amazing Manifestation Yoga Retreats. 

Before her travels started she wrote a blog about kindness that inspired me to write this.

I love exploring and traveling into hearts, minds and into life itself.

When I came to the U.S. from The Netherlands at age 21, I took trains and busses and hitch-hiked to California from New York without much of a plan. From 2003-2005 I traveled a big part of our physical world and have gone on many 1-3 month trips before and since.

On these trips through Central America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe there have been many moments with people who picked me up and gave me rides. New friends who showed me secret spots, who translated for me and had conversations in hand-signals and facial expressions. People took me in for lodging and for food.

These “strangers” showed me “their world”, I was wide-eyed and grateful, at times we sang and we danced together. Kindness was always there in abundance !

When traveling, my eyes and ears, my mind and heart are wide open to experiencing the world and the people around me.

I expect nothing yet I expect everything !

High expectation to have great experiences, yet no expectation as to what they should be has me say “yes” to almost everything.

This creates potential and manifestation; this creates pleasure and learning.

Our mind has an amazing filter: our senses take in more than we can consciously process so only small amounts of what “the system” perceives comes into our awareness.

HOW this filter is set up is how we see our world!

The world is a reflection of ourselves.

Remember when you bought your most recent car? Remember how in the first few weeks you saw that same model everywhere? There weren’t more of them on the road; your filter was just tuned into seeing them more.

Are you a parent ? Do you remember how when you or your spouse were pregnant it seemed like everywhere you looked there were pregnant women? Same thing.

This is what happens on a trip. The filter is set-up to see the new, the good, the beautiful, the playful, the interesting, the delicious and the kind.

Thus we see and experience them more.

 

I can bring this into my day-to-day life as well. The place I call home is a destination that many people dream of one day visiting on their “vacation of a lifetime” !

 

I LIVE IN A PLACE I COULD EXPERIENCE AS A TRAVEL DESTINATION if I set up my filter to look at it that way!

 

When I choose to I look at the things around me with (literally) wide eyes and feel a sense of wonder. I check out buildings, people and their body-language, trees and flowers, etc., and I remember when I just got here and the city was new and how it filled me with interest, hope, excitement and joy.

 

I can experience that kindness here at home as well !

One of the ways it came to me this week was in the form of the stranger who gave me a $20 bill so my daughter could camp next to hers.

(I erroneously thought my back-country pass covered that campground and appropriately they don’t “take plastic” in the woods).

 

 

We can’t all be in Italy with Jennifer this week, but WE CAN choose how we filter the vacation destination we live in.

 

Meditation, prayer and affirmations are all exercises to entrain our conscious mind to perceive the world as it’s best for us.

 

Make this playful “Traveler of Here Meditation” your practice of the week.

 

Spend 10 minutes every morning looking at things around you as if you’re a child, as if you’re on vacation, as if it’s all new to you.

 

Really exaggerate it !

 

Look at the world with your eyes a little strained open and your brow pulled up. Do it with a smile on your face. See new things and things anew.

 

Have you seen the frescoes at the top of the buildings downtown ? How about the way that biker is humming to himself as he zips by ? The woman’s original shoes in line at Peet’s Coffee ?

 

Feel like a traveler while you’re here; in a greater spiritual sense you already are anyway.

 

Feel the pleasure and gratitude of knowing that wherever your home is, if you didn’t already live there you would be the traveler there right now!

 

To the people around you, you are the kind stranger I ran into so many times all over the world. We are the same people !

 

Tomorrow I will smile at people as a kind stranger on my travels and will look at my world again as the “traveler of here.” Meet me on the road ! Let’s tell stories, eat a meal together and look at our world in wonderment.

 

 

To Jennifer, my sister: have an amazing trip, take it all in with wide eyes and share in the kindness as you always do.

 

Happy travels to you all,

Caspar

The above post was written while I was in Italy last week leading my retreat. As many of you know I got very very ill and my internet service was spotty but this delicious post was worth the wait. Caspar and I will be together again hosting a retreat Oct 19-21, 2012 in Ojai, California. You can even take a cooking class with him. Click here to sign up.

Connect with Caspar here.

 

Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Manifest-Station Message of the Day.

July 18, 2012

Manifest-Station Message of the Day for 7/18/12

Happiness Tip #1:

To live your happiest life, you gotta have a sense of humor, especially when it comes to YOU.

My friend Karen Salmansohn made this amazing poster from one of my Italy retreat pictures. Karen and I will be hosting a retreat together in 2013!! Stay tuned for details!

 
Tweet me #laughingatmyself by clicking here 

Delight, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Re-Entry into Awe and Wonder.

July 17, 2012

Confession: I am having the blahs.

I am back from my the retreat I led in Tuscany and my post-retreat vacation in Paris, with an empty feeling like I came back a shell, having left the meat of me somewhere in Monteriggioni, inside the walled city, perhaps eating gelatto or maybe in a field of sunflowers as the light splays down on them in such a way that my eyes burn, not so much with pain, but with an overwhelming sense of wonder.

One of the things I asked my retreat attendees (a fantastic group that I am still pinching myself over) was to carry their journals around them with during the day, whether they were in Siena eating a slice of pizza or in Florence with the ghosts of Ponte Vecchio, long dead but still floating around with their gold and jewels somewhere just above the ether. I asked them to carry their Awe and Wonder Journals and jot down every singe thing that cause them to feel awe or wonder. Whether it was a conversation with someone who didn’t speak a word of English or the way the Tuscan hills looked at 9:30 at night as the sun was going to bed or a piece of Pecorino cheese and the way it lingered in the mouth waiting for the perfect splash of chianti to join it before descending.

It didn’t matter how big or small the things were that they were jotting down. What mattered is that they were paying attention. To the things that made them feel alive, to the things that made them stop and say Wow.

I wonder how many things we miss because we feel we have seen it before or simply because we are looking at the wrong things to wake us up. I want more things to stop me in my tracks. I want more things to make me ask questions. I want more things to make me feel connected to something bigger than myself, longer standing than myself, and way beyond what I can ever understand. Those type of things.

Whether it is a a piece of pizza in Rome or a moody sky in Paris. Whether it is the high ceilings at the Ebbio and how they have been there for 800 years or the way the olive oil tasted and how time seems slower there as if it has nowhere to be.

So I asked them to be filled with awe and wonder and to bring their journals around so they wouldn’t forget.

It’s easy to forget. Or to not look in the first place.

One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems (you know my obsession with her) in The Mockingbirds.

It is my favorite story–
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
 
but their willingness
to be attentive–
 

Their willingness to be attentive!

That’s it, right there. Are you willing to be attentive? To allow yourself more moments of awe and wonder and inspiration and grace?

I came back and feel empty because in some way I believe that is only possible when I am away. That when I am back here, in my normal life, in the real world, I must go back to feeling like the same old me.

Sure, my retreat was a cocoon of love and safety. I got terribly ill, sicker than I can remember being, and despite that, I felt safe and free and happy. I want that back, yes. Sure, the food tasted different and the sky lingered longer than it does here and I didn’t have to deal with emails and bills and traffic and making breakfast and Facebook.

But what I realized there in Tuscany and Paris, and now in hindsight, sitting here with my too strong coffee and feeling nostalgia, as I am prone to feel (is it any wonder I love Facebook?) is that: I can be Italy anywhere. I can be Paris anywhere.

What I mean is: I do not have to escape to feel alive. I do not have to get away to remember the beauty around me or inside of me, to pick up small tokens of beauty wherever I am, on the sidewalk or in a conversation. I simply have to allow it.

I simply have to take out and Awe and Wonder Journal and pay attention.

No I won’t have the same treasures here. I won’t be able to duck into a Parisian cafe in the rain and snap photos of the macarons or take the train and watch buildings speak their stories of defense and heartbreak and disintegration from centuries or eat Brie and actually enjoy it because it does taste different in France and the wine in Italy. The wine in Italy is it’s own treasure.

But, I brought 25 people with me to Italy. I got sicker than I have ever been and they stood by me and not for one moment let me feel as if I was letting them down, or they were disappointed or this was anything other than exactly what they dreamed of.

I did that. I attracted 25 people who got along perfectly as if they chose each other, who laughed together in Italian cities, who stayed up late and painted fingernails and drank Limoncello and wrote in their journals what they would do if they weren’t afraid, who swam in the Mediterranean and then had a picnic with tomatoes and cheese and hard boiled eggs and ate it happily with their hands. There were no cliques, there was no negativity, there was no complaining. I brought these people with me. From here.

So, if that is the case, it would make sense to say that I could bring them anywhere. I could have the same experience here in Santa Monica or in New York City or Mexico or my sofa. It wouldn’t matter.

All I have to do is keep being who I am and the right people will show up.

And then pay attention.

And then be awe.

Be wonder.

**Click here to see some amazing shots on my site of my amazing retreat.