Browsing Tag

Emily Rapp

Writing Retreat in Vermont with Emily Rapp & Jen Pastiloff.

October 22, 2015
Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

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Quaint, picturesque, honest and completely unique; Stowe is better than anything out of Rockwell’s imagination.

Stowe Mountain. This is a true New England four-season location. Yoga retreats in spring and summer are perfect for hiking, horseback riding, swimming and tractor hay rides to the Stowe Farmer’s Market. Fall yoga retreats include all of these wonderful activities, but add in New England’s fabulous and unbeatable fall foliage. Winter brings skiing, skiing and more skiing. Downhill or world class cross-country are minutes from the retreat doorstep along with guided snowshoeing and the winter-wonderland that is Stowe village.

All retreats include three meals a day prepared by a local chef, natural horsemanship classes, yoga and unlimited dips in the outdoor jacuzzi or stops in the indoor dry sauna.

All rooms on property are unique, many with multiple beds to fit almost all room sharing requirements. Please note that all bathrooms are shared with multiple rooms or people.

Outfitted with warm duvets and views, these cozy rooms all meet up in the heart of the lodge, the yoga room and kitchen.

Natural horsemanship is open to all, but is, of course, optional.

Join us in the beauty of any season and come see what all the fuss is about!

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp once again in Stowe. After the last two year’s sold-out and life
changing retreats, they knew they had to do it again.

This retreat is nothing short of life-changing!

Jen Pastiloff is best known for her Manifestation Retreats® around the world and for her essays and online presence. Emily Rapp is a renowned author and professor. Join them both for 4 days of yoga, Manifestation Workshops with Jen, workshops with Emily, gorgeous foliage, wine tasting, horses, hiking and whatever else your heart may desire in the Vermont mountains. This is the perfect retreat for all level yogis and writers. It will be a journey into the self and out into the world. There will be a yoga/Manifestation workshop every day as well as a writing workshop with Emily.

How do you write the story of a life? Why is it important to tell these personal stories? Memoir is an art form that shines a light on deeply subjective experiences in order to illuminate universal truths about being human. Through discussion, writing exercises, and supportive sharing, we will generate material, consider issues of ethics when writing about ourselves and other people, and map out a plan to deepen your writing life.

Writing sessions will be generative and focused on mining your memory for significant details/memories/experiences. Discussions and exercises will be geared specifically toward writing personal narrative. Yoga with Jen includes writing as well but will be less focused on “craft” and more on exploring the unconscious mind and beliefs. Jen uses the yoga as a vehicle to get you to go deeper into your writing.

Emily has taught writing in the MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, The Taos Writers’ Workshop, University of California – Palm Desert, and the Gotham Writers’ Workshops. Her second book The Still Point of The Turning World (March 2013 Penguin Press) is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond in dealing with the fatal Tay Sachs Disease.

Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, motherhood

Final Essay Winner For The Scholarship to Emily Rapp/Jen Pastiloff Retreat in Vermont.

September 22, 2015
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Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station:

This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.

And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.

I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve?

I intend to carry on that legacy.

I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.

And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

Lisa Gray has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. The retreat is sold out. Thank you to every single woman who applied. We will do more!!

I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was. Especially with my own history.

At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”

Love, Jen Pastiloff

ps, I just returned from New York. The launch of my labor of love, my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshops, was this past weekend in Princeton and NY. It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I will keep you all posted on the next one. This movement is so needed.

A Heavy Heart
By Lisa Gray

To say what you are seeing out loud makes something real. When I first noticed something, I chose my words carefully.

 

“My daughter is cutting back.” Always someone who ate with gusto, the behavior change seemed a bit of a relief. “My daughter used to have no off button. She’s finally paying attention to when she is full,” I confided to a friend.

 

But then a well-meaning acquaintance chimed in. “She’s finally growing up! Finally got outta that chunky phase. Thank god, right?”

Continue Reading…

Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts

Essay Winner of Scholarship To Emily Rapp/Jen Pastiloff Vermont Retreat.

September 21, 2015
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Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station:

This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.

And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.

I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve?

I intend to carry on that legacy.

I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.

And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

Melanie McNair has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. The retreat is sold out. Congratulations to Melanie. I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was.

At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”

Love, Jen Pastiloff

ps, I am writing this from the air as I head back from New York. The launch of my labor of love, my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshops, was this past weekend in Princeton and NY. It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I will keep you all posted on the next one. This movement is so needed.

 

Time Time Time
By Melanie McNair

 

  1.  If one more person tells me it’s all for the best, I might resort to violence.

 

  1. In May, I was in New York, having a meal with some of my favorite women. My friend Jeanne was next to me and she asked in her quiet, thoughtful way what I was up to. I replied with the list of big life changes to come the following few weeks: graduate with an MFA, move to my hometown with the love of my life to start building a life together in a beautiful place, turn forty, marry the love of my life.

 

“Everything is coming up Melanie,” Jeanne said.

 

I winced. It didn’t feel that way even though I knew it was supposed to. There were other details. I was at the lowest I have ever been with my confidence in my writing. My brother and sister were not coming to my wedding. My father was coming, but that was all he would be able to do. He was absorbed with taking care of my stepmom—his second wife with cancer. My mother was long dead and I felt her absence keenly.

 

I didn’t want to lay this on my friend. Jeanne had lost weight since I had last seen her. The chemo she had undergone since before I had met her was a broken levee.

 

Besides, I still had the love of my life. Whatever happened, we would laugh before we went to sleep at night. We would always be okay.

 

  1. Three weeks before our wedding date, before our boxes had arrived in our new home, I opened my laptop when my fiancée was at work and saw that she had emailed a newly composed song to another woman. She had also told that woman she loved her. She had also made plans to be with that woman when she went out of town for a gig.

 

  1. I turned forty back up north where I went to take shelter with a friend while my ex stayed in my hometown with her parents. They had booked flights from Australia for the wedding and it was too late to cancel.

Continue Reading…

Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts

Essay Winner of Scholarship to Emily Rapp/Jen Pastiloff Retreat.

September 15, 2015
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Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station:

This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.

And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.

I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve?

I intend to carry on that legacy.

I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.

I also have 20 spots to give away to my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshop for teens next weekend in Princeton and NYC. Ten available for each workshop. Email me for a spot. I want girls who could not afford the cost to be able to attend. Here are the details. Please note: the Princeton workshop is 13 and up and the NYC workshop is 16 and up.

And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

Adina Giannelli has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. She is over the moon. The retreat is sold out. Congratulations to Jena. I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was.

At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”

Love, Jen Pastiloff

My name is Adina Giannelli, and I am submitting my essay “Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough)” for consideration for the retreat Jen and Emily Rapp are offering in October 2015. It is no hyperbole to say I’m in love with them both, so I’m beyond excited for the opportunity that presents itself, and for whoever is the recipient of this fantastic opportunity.

A bit about me: I’m a writer with no money who lives in western Massachusetts with my 3.5 year old son Samuel. My writing has appeared in publications including Salon, the Washington Post, and (of course) The Manifest-Station (“How to Have a Dead Child, The First Five Years” and “How to Love a Stranger”). Again, I’m blown away by the work of Emily and Jen alike and I would be thrilled to attend their upcoming retreat, which I cannot independently afford.

Thanks to you all for this tremendous opportunity. I am humbled and grateful and wish you all the best as you carry forth to identify your contest winner.

Adina

Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough)
By Adina Giannelli

 

For more than eleven years I do not have a body—but then I get my period. I do not tell my mother, a drug addict who spends most of her days remotely, building a dependency from behind her bedroom door. She is thin from drug use, her low weight aided and abetted by a steady intake of coffee, cigarettes, and the diet pills I steal from her underwear drawer. In this drawer, she stores boxes of off-label laxatives, energy tablets, appetite suppressants shrouded by slips and lace lingerie I’m not sure she ever wears. My mother hides the diet pills as she stashes food away in her bedroom, and whenever the door is unlocked, I sneak in and take both. Continue Reading…

Contests & Giveaways, Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

Essay Winner of Jen Pastiloff & Emily Rapp’s Vermont Retreat!

September 14, 2015
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Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: 

This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.

And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.

I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve? 

I intend to carry on that legacy.

I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.

I also have 20 spots to give away to my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshop for teens next weekend in Princeton and NYC. Ten available for each workshop. Email me for a spot. I want girls who could not afford the cost to be able to attend. Here are the details. Please note: the Princeton workshop is 13 and up and the NYC workshop is 16 and up.

And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

Which brings me to my first winner. Her essay floored us but her friends also wrote in on her behalf, unbeknownst to her. How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved indeed. Jena Schwartz is the first recipient of the four scholarships and I am proud to share her essay below with you. She has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. She is over the moon. The retreat is sold out. Congratulations to Jena. I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was.

At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”

Love, Jen Pastiloff

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Free Associating about Fear & Faith (Or, What I’ve Forgotten)
By Jena Schwartz

In this moment of sitting down to write, there’s the lump in my throat and the tears behind my eyes and the tension of holding them in. There’s fear. And behind that, faith. And there’s something I’ve forgotten that needs remembering. It has to do with connection, to myself, to moving slowly and having enough time and trusting that shit always work out in the end, and that there’s no end, only the unfolding of our days and the thank you. The thank you I need to remember to say, in the morning and at night.

Mani, my beloved wife of one year come September 27, is not feeling well this morning. She is shaky and nauseous. She drank an Ensure and rolled onto her side to try to sleep; she did not sleep well during the night. She is getting better. Two steps forward, one back. Like the two-step dance that magical weekend in Phoenix, when I flew out there to meet her and a whole group of us went to the Cash, my first-ever gay bar. Little did we know then, that we’d end up together, much less married!

Most of the time, I’m able to stay in a place of faith and trust. I’m able to stay in the light. I’m able to remember the partnership she and I discovered not only between us but with God, too — how when Rabbi Efraim witnessed and blessed our vows, God was there with us under that chuppah last September 27, the day before her 37th birthday and a few months before I turned 41.
Continue Reading…

Binders, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, Little Seal, loss

Cartography for Mourners.

March 2, 2015
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By Emily Rapp. 

The power of grief to derange the mind has in fact been exhaustively noted.

– Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

 

Maps to Anywhere (Numerous)

I hate maps. I can’t read them, understand them, interpret them, or follow them. I have a whole drawer full of maps and pop-up, fold out street guides for various cities, and although I take them with me when I visit these places, I never consult them. Instead I tote them around in my shoulder bag, my purse, my backpack, and ask people on the street for directions.

 

Map to a Funeral (Hidden)

It is mid-winter in downtown Chicago, and my parents, sitting in the two front seats of a rented mini-van, are huddled over a paper map. Exhaust billows in gray and black streaks past the windows. Commuters look shrouded and miserable, hurrying over frigid sidewalks in the rapidly fading light. I’m in the back seat with my ten-month-old daughter Charlotte, who is strapped in her car seat, babbling and cooing. She doesn’t know this is a terrible blizzard in rush hour, or that someone – my father’s mother, my grandmother – has died. We are driving from Chicago to Pontiac in a storm that feels as thick and relentless as the sound of the word blizzard on the radio, which is turned up high. People are frenzied, worried and watchful, the way people love to be about extreme weather conditions.

My grandmother has died at 93 after refusing food or fluids for two weeks, which is some kind of record. My son, at three years old, lasted only a few days with the same restrictions. Ninety years difference – a literal lifetime – between their ages at death. I struggle to understand what this means or how to absorb it, but generate no cogent thoughts.

Beyond the city limits the interstate is a blur of red and blue emergency lights, car blinkers switching on and off in irregular patterns that compete with the holiday hangers on who leave their Christmas decorations up after the new year. The drivers in the cars stopped on either side of us are reading newspapers spread out over the steering wheels or tapping into their phones, having given up changing lanes. One woman is slumped over, face in her hands, weeping.

My daughter poops her diaper, and I unstrap her from her safety restraints and change her in the unmoving car. My parents are bickering. My brother is waiting at the airport. We’d gone to Soldier’s Field to see the Aquarium, but ended up looking at twenty-year old exhibits of stuffed animals: antelope and bears in permanent yawn, taxidermy tails stalled mid-air. I crammed us all into a photo booth in our last fifteen minutes, because I had an enormous glass of wine for lunch and because we need to laugh.

“We should never have gone.”
“Who could have known we’d get stuck in a blizzard.”

This conversation continues on endless repeat, my parents trading lines between them until I threaten to throw the diaper into the front seat if they don’t change the subject. “Don’t think I won’t!” I shout, and feel like a teenager on vacation with her parents: petulant and trapped, self-righteous and unhappy.

We make it to O’Hare and pick up my brother and my nephew. My dad argues with the security guard, telling her that the airport is designed to be confusing. I tell him this is certainly not true. Through the open van door I toss Charlotte’s diaper into a curbside trashcan.

An hour from O’Hare, far from any lights, wind, snow-thick, swirls white and erratic over the roads mainly clear of cars but still treacherous. My dad drifts between lanes, floats across medians. “You’re fucking scaring me!” I shout when he crosses a road without looking in both directions. My brother glares at me for cursing in front of his ten-year-old son.

We stop at a town outside Chicago, at a sports bar, where six men wearing orange vests sitting at a table turn to stare at us when we walk through the door. We have been in the car for nearly ten hours. When I tell my friend Gina, a native of Chicago, where we ended up for dinner, she tells me she’s lived in Chicago her entire life and I’ve never even heard of that fucking place.

A waitress accidentally spills a beer on my father’s lap.

“This day is shitballs,” I tell him, and hand him a stack of napkins.

“Yep,” he agrees, but he’s laughing. He leaves the apologetic waitress a generous tip.

 

Map to a Church (Unnecessary)

The route to my grandmother’s funeral service is a straight line from the hotel to the church down a road lined with two-story houses, all fenced yards and large wooden porches, the sidewalks stacked on both sides with fresh snow that blows away in sporadic blasts of arctic wind to reveal weeks-old snow covered in soot, stamped with boot and paw prints and pieces of dog shit. The church is near the town lake, where a group of geese huddle together looking stunned and miserable on ice the same color as the wall of cold sky that seems almost low enough to touch the frozen water. I think they’re geese. I know they’re not ducks. I’m not a poet. I don’t know my birds. I don’t know an elm from a poplar. I’m a little bit better with flowers. I know a blue spruce because there was one in my yard in Santa Fe, and it was the one pop of color on the gray winter day two years ago when my son died.

“Don’t they migrate somewhere warmer?” I ask. “Those geese or birds or whatever?” Nobody answers me. At the church, my brother and his son leap out of the car and sprint across the parking lot. The frozen lake reminds me of another frozen lake in Minnesota where I spent one weekend listening to Joni Mitchell records and writing bad poetry (I didn’t know my birds then, either) with a group of college girlfriends; another frozen lake in Wisconsin where I watched five continuous hours of CNN on the first anniversary of 9/11. Both events seem whole lifetimes ago, memories connected to my current life by delicate filaments that show their strength in the strangest moments.

I pick my way across the parking lot with a bundled Charlotte in my arms. Inside people are milling about in front of a funeral board: pictures of my grandmother as a young girl on the farm, on a horse, in the early 1940s with my father in a cute suit, standing in front of a flat white house, with her parents, who are expressionless and shaped like barrels.

My grandmother was cruel to me, and I am not sad that she is dead. I feel like 93 is a pretty good run. She was rarely sick. She had friends and was comfortable.

My dad speaks first, and he tells the congregation that his mother once told him that he could have searched the whole world over and he never could have found a better wife. This is for my mother, to whom my grandmother was also cruel.

The minister gives a dorky eulogy about salvation that doesn’t happen “in the big city,” but instead in “a little church in the prairie.” His language feels vaguely pornographic to me, all this talk of being “chosen” and “choosing,” and my grandmother saying yes to God, again and again she said yes. I can’t stop thinking, sitting in the back pew nursing my child where nobody might happen to see my breast, that there’s no way this guy voted for Obama.

The only time I feel moved is when my second cousin’s husband sings a solo, halting and occasionally off-key version of Beautiful Savior at the lectern. He struggles through all of the verses without looking up. In front of him, on a table decorated with flowers, my grandmother’s ashes are in a simple black box.

After the funeral we eat fried chicken in the church fellowship hall. My grandmother’s sister introduces me to a man who is clearly suffering from dementia.

“This is Emily,” my great-aunt says. “She wrote a book about her baby who died.”

“Who are you?” he asks. “Did somebody die?” He looks around the room. Someone is slowly releasing a Jell-O mold onto a plate in the kitchen. A woman in an apron dumps more chicken into a bowl on the buffet table.

“My grandmother died,” I say. “Lois died.”

My great aunt is frustrated. “Listen,” she says, tapping the table in front of the man.

He looks at her, then at her hands. “Yes? Who are you?”

“I’m Emily,” I say.

“She’s a writer,” my aunt continues, “and her first book is all about…well,” she says, and flaps her hand in the air. “You tell him how you was made wrong.”

Continue Reading…

Abuse, Anonymous, courage, Guest Posts, healing

There Are The Things I Remember.

February 26, 2015
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TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or rape which may be triggering to survivors.

 

By Anonymous.

“I felt as if I were already redefining it, already dropping (ahead? behind?) into a state of retrospection.  I was worried that my memory wouldn’t do me any favours; that it would only make things worse… A constant tug of war: wanting to remember, wanting to forget… How was this journey, this movement to be mapped?”

– Emily Rapp, The Still Point of the Turning World                                    

 

Memory can be a tricky thing.  Our genetic makeup is clever; if something happens to us and we aren’t strong enough to remember, our mind and body has mechanisms to make that memory go away or to minimize the damage of the memory’s daily impact.

I never forgot being raped.  I had memories of it, but I pushed them away until they didn’t bother coming around anymore.  But my secrets were impacting my insides deeply, and then the memories came back daily on their own, knocking, seeking acknowledgement.

Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts

Witnessing Beauty After The Death Of My Mother.

November 5, 2014
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Sarah Dwyer.

Life is beautiful when you’re seventeen-years-old spending your summer in the south of France. On one of the last days of my study abroad program in Nice, France in the summer of 2008, my friends and I stumbled across a jewelry and art market. While wandering around we found a ring stating, “la vie est belle” and instantly fell in love. With it being the end of our trip, we were all low on cash and none of us bought it, although we always wished we did and continue to use that phrase to describe our trip. Life was beautiful. Of course, it was.

A few days earlier we were sitting on a train after a day trip to Italy when two Australian guys jumped on with guitars. Not long after the guys boarded the train, they fiddled with their guitars until it developed into “The Tide is High” by Blondie. The guys started singing, my friends and I started singing, and gradually others joined until the whole train was singing. Strangers from all different countries singing together on a train with views of the Mediterranean—life doesn’t get much more beautiful than that.

Before that trip, I had never really thought about life as a beautiful thing, but since seeing that ring, I have thought about it often. Through the combination of my exploration of beauty and the process of losing my mother, who passed away from cancer this June, I realized that life can still be beautiful even in the not so obvious times. I’m not talking about finding the silver-lining or searching for the light at the end of the tunnel. Those are useful ways of finding beauty, but they require effort and are sometimes impossible to find in the midst of a tragic moment. The type of beauty that I’m referring to does not take any work on our part to experience. Instead, it envelopes us quite naturally and uncontrollably and all we have to do—are able to do—is stand there and take it in. We can choose to just accept and acknowledge the beauty, or poke, prod and analyze it like artwork in a museum. I’m still not sure which option is more valuable, but since I’ve made this discovery, I’ve found myself dabbling in a little bit of both.

Sometimes a situation truly and honestly sucks and sometimes the worst thing you could ever imagine happening to you, happens to you. It doesn’t mean every moment of it isn’t beautiful. Take losing your mother, for instance. And not just her actual death, but the process of losing her both quickly and slowly at the same time. Continue Reading…

Video

Video: What Are The Excuses You Are Using To (Not) Make Shit Happen In Your Life?

July 24, 2014


Are Your Excuses Keeping You From Making Shit Happen aka Manifesting?

“I don’t know how. I don’t have enough time. I am too old. I am too tired. I’m not good at it.” Bla bla bla. Excuses, excuses. What are some of yours? Today’s Vlog is on calling bullshit on our excuses. Post your thoughts below and as always, please share. Love, jen.

See you this weekend Seattle. Sunday is sold out but Saturday’s workshop has space. Click here to book. You do NOT have to be a yogi. Just be a human.

The writing/yoga retreat with Emily Rapp in Vermont is sold out but please email jen@thetravelyogi.com to be added to wait list.

Continue Reading…

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

Comfortable In My Humanness.

December 16, 2013

Comfortable In My Humanness by Emily Beecher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RETREAT a poem by Emily Beecher

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we stand

tall

as the hours pass

we spill hot anger and resentment

forcing our hearts to sweat in stillness

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we cry

silently

touching the sweet earth,

our bodies bent like willows

surrendering to icy storms

We reawaken our passions

like buds opening to bloom,

slowly, carefully, then freely

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we dance

loudly

to the songs of our youth

later, skinny dipping

under the ripened Vermont moon

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

We abandon our self-consciousness

replacing it with connection,

rediscovering our selves

before packing them away

Like antique cars restored to former glory

so are we

rebuilt anew

amongst the trees of orange and gold

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

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

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

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

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

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

courage, Manifestation Retreats, writing

Take Risks.

November 6, 2013
designed by Simplereminders.com

designed by Simplereminders.com

 

Take risks.

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

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

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

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

“Dear Jen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**this post originally appeared on Positively Positive.

5 Most Beautiful Things

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

June 25, 2013

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

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

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

And yet it is everywhere, this beauty.

You can’t ignore something so beautiful.

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

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

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

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

What if all we have is our 5 beautiful things?

Here is Marika’s essay:

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

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

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

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

Bits and pieces and small groupings of words,

phrases, quotes—-poems, essays;

somethings scribbled on scraps of paper.

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

I’ve never looked at it that way before.

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

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

Today I found it in the washing machine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That thing.

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

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

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

This life.

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

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

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

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

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

It took my breath away.

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

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

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

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

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

It takes my breath away.

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

Not so sacredly.

To keep seeking, to keep going,

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

Or when what we see is ugly.

And it is sometimes.

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

But the beautiful things.

What are my most beautiful things?

When you start to look,

it’s the catch in your breath.

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

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

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

Amok

in this paradise that we sometimes regard as a slum;

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

this time,

this space;

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

and the once was

or the someday will be.

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

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

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

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

The wind, the mind, the sun.

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

And the mind.

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

The nesses.

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

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

Maybe it isn’t weakness at all.

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

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

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

or song.

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

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

this space,

this nothing was ever the sameness;

this nothing will ever be like this again-ness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By being pushed past my comfortable limits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

my muse,

my life.

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

― Ann Voskamp

So here’s to the infinitesimals.

To beaches and bubble wands and running water

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

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

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

and children laughing in their sleep.

To learning to read and unlearning the unserving,

To the tiny moments I count with bated breath,

and those I longed for and lingered in,

cherished and cursed.

I’ve learned a new language of Love,

of beauty, of living,

of giving thanks for all things;

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

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

These are my most beautiful Things.

Uncategorized

Always Be Telling Truth or You Should Only Be Happy.

March 3, 2013

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. ~ Anne Lamott

I met my friend Robert Wilder yesterday in the lobby of the Inn Of The Anasazi in Santa Fe, where I had slept the night before. I’d stayed in the hotel room of my friend Katie from L.A., who coincidently, also happened to be in Santa Fe. Her trip had been planned. Mine not so much. Ronan passed away on February 15th and the memorial was chosen for this weekend so I booked my flight just a few days ago.

Robert asked how I knew Katie and I told him that she took my classes but that now we had become close friends.

Robert’s a writer (a fantastic one) and a high school English school teacher. (He calls his students High Schooligans if that gives you an indication of his cool teacher status.) The Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society kind of teacher, the kind you appreciate much later upon looking back at who formed you, at who maybe taught you to really love books and writing and expressing yourself. My “Robert Wilder” was Mrs. Lifshey in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, who I remembering running into when I was getting my hair done for my senior prom. I had been trying on a rhinestone pair of earrings and she’d spotted me as she sat getting her own hair highlighted. She bought me the expensive fake diamond earrings “anonymously” that my mother couldn’t afford at the time. (My mom knew and didn’t keep it anonymous. Obviously.)

Robert and I sat on the leather sofa in the lobby of the Inn of the Anasazi and he asked me Is it hard to be friends with your students? 

Is it hard? Well, first off, I don’t have students. He has students. He is an English teacher to teenagers. I write and teach yoga. I write things that people respond to. (Sometimes.) In no way do I think of them as my students. That feels pretentious  and sort of holy to me. I’d rather think of them as my tribe. Or not-student students.

But yes, it can be hard I suppose. Like being a person in the world can be hard or being a daughter or a wife can be hard. Like how anything you love can be hard.

Here’s why it can be hard with my not-student students: I am afraid to expose myself and have them see that I am a regular person who gets depressed and thinks she looks fat sometimes and drinks too much coffee and wine and doesn’t always walk the talk.

I write about all that (and more) but there is a difference in writing about it and then actually having someone see you in the flesh as the youest you there is.

My belief is that when you are telling the truth, you are close to God. So says Anne Lamott. Yet and still, my paper creates a chasm, a separation. A wall between me and everyone else in the world. There is a distance between the reader and myself even when I am being my most vulnerable and truthful.

There is a little bit of Us and Them when you are standing in front of a class. You are in a glass case and although everyone can hear you no one can really get in. There is a you can’t really see me even though you think you can.

When you are with someone in person over lunch that distance is minimized and then there they are right up in your face, their eyes all over you, their minds making up stories and facts.

Or not.

A couple months ago I went to Atlanta to see my sister and nephews and to lead a workshop. My sister mentioned to me that she had said something to my friend (who had started as a not-student student) something about me always being on my phone.

I was horrified.

I told my sister that she should have not said that to this person. That it made me look bad and that I had an image to uphold. (Ha!) Me always being on my phone suggested that I wasn’t present, that I was full of shit. How dare she say that to someone who takes my classes? She felt bad and said that she thought this person and I were really close friends. We are I said. But still.

But still.

There is no but still.

The distance was zippered up and there was no space between us anymore and it’s true I look at my phone too much. It’s an addiction. I didn’t want that side of me exposed because in my mind it was bad enough I was friends with my not-student student but now they would see all my faults and that I was full of shit and they wouldn’t be my student or my not-student student and possibly not even my friend. (Oh, the stories! The stories!)

I brought it up at the workshop that weekend in Atlanta where my sister and the friend/ not-student student were both in attendance. My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. I told the story and shared my shame and used it as an example of where I wasn’t living a congruent life. I also used it as a way to express what I felt about there not being a division between me and my not-student students.

They are people. I am people. The same.

I was terrified I would become some sort of fallen icon. As teachers of any kind, we’ve all had people become fixated or obsessed and tell us How Amazing We Are and then one day they get bored or decide you are a Real Life Human Being and you never hear from them again.

I was terrified that someone who sees me as an inspiration would realize I look at my iPhone too much and that I don’t pay enough attention and dismiss me.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

So yea, Rob I said on the couch there. It is hard sometimes.

But it’s only hard when I make it so. Yes, it is hard for me to be friends with everyone. (I am not special in that truth.) No one can be there for every single person nor should they be. I can’t get back to everyone. I can’t go to everyone’s play or class or band or whatever it may be, but, there are indeed some people that I meet because they take my class or read my writing or come on a retreat and who I know I want to have a glass of wine with. It is incidental to me that we met through my yoga class or my retreat or my blog. Why should I be any better than them or put myself on a pedestal because I teach them how to do a downdog or because they read an essay and feel inspired by something I said?

The only time it’s hard is when someone puts an unrealistic expectation on me or when I try to make everyone happy. I can’t do that. (I’d like to remember more often that I can’t do that. I’d like us all to remember more often that we can’t do that.)

But it’s also not hard I said. The most natural thing for me is connecting with people. When I meet someone that I want to know better it doesn’t matter if I am their “teacher.”

Look, everyone in my life is my teacher. You. You reading this. Everyone. (We should all recognize this more often.)

Look, I do want to do better.

I want to do better than yesterday at least. I want to be more present and not look at my phone so much and to never gossip and all the rest, but the people who learn from me are pretty clear that I am not a guru and I am as down to earth as they come.

Yet I also want to live a congruent life. That is what it really boils down to. My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

I tell people to pay attention and notice what fills them with awe and wonder and to write down their five most beautiful things and yet I am not present? It’s not that it’s because I am their teacher and they are my student that I want to be congruent or do better but rather I want to Always Be Telling The Truth.

ABTTT. Always Be Telling The Truth. And if my nose is stuck in my phone texting and I am not looking out the window, well then, I am missing my own five most beautiful things, aren’t I?

If someone takes my class and then we become friends and they decide they no longer want to take my class because the boundary has been crossed or because I curse or don’t do enough of my own yoga practice, well then, so be it. What can I do? They come, they go, they come again and all the while I am here ABTTT or doing my best version of it.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

The truth is that I can’t be friends with everybody. (Neither can you.) Nor do I want to. (Neither can you. Trust me.) Nor do you want to. So get over it. Not possible.

I can love as best as I can and I can keep teaching and writing but I cannot be friends with every single person who takes my class or reads me. It’s not humanly possible and that’s okay. The people pleasing days are falling away and the days of ABTTT are coming fast and hard.

Today is one year since my beloved Steve Bridges died. I came to Santa Fe on Thursday for Ronan’s memorial. I have been to Santa Fe a few times while Ronan was alive to visit him and his mom Emily Rapp, but this time was the first time I got altitude sickness. My heart woke me on Friday night beating as fast as a heart can beat before it explodes.

I thought I was dying.

I started to have an anxiety attack which may have been triggered by the racing heart or my monkey mind. (Take your pick.) My lips cracked and I was sweating and freezing at the same time which is as awful a combination as milk and soda. I am dying as I crawled through my friend Heather’s cute Santa Fe house in the dark in search of something that might save me. I found coconut water.

I forgot that it was the anniversary of Steve’s death today until his sister texted me It’s one year and then I realized it wasn’t altitude sickness at all. ABTTT. My body remembered as it always does even though my brain might not agree to.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

I miss him. That’s the truth. And yes, he started as a not-student student. I miss him and not in that way we say to everyone and their mother on Facebook when we haven’t seen them for a week. I miss you I miss you I miss you when we don’t really mean it.

I miss him. And I will never ever see him again. At least not in this lifetime. My body was rejecting the whole weekend. Ronan’s memorial, my husband’s cousin’s funeral Saturday and Steve’s anniversary of death. Too much it said. Too much! Too much my body whimpered.

So what does it matter if someone takes my classes and also eats pancakes with me? It doesn’t. It would matter if I was a vastly different person on paper or in class that I am in “real life’ but I am not. (To a fault I am pretty much the same.)

They are people. I am people. The same.

Most of the people in my life now entered via my yoga classes or my writings. I say Thank God for the not-student students who have turned into beloveds. Thank God I found you.

As I was getting on the plane (you guessed it, I am writing this from the airplane) I saw an old man reading an even older looking book called You Should Only Be Happy.

The book was written by a Jewish man and from what I could gather was a lot about Jewish culture (although you should google it because I could be way off and just making up a story.) I started talking to the man and he was an old Jew from New York  who now lived in Santa Fe. I chuckled as he held my hand. I said So are you part of the Tribe? (an oft asked semi-obnoxious question Jews sometimes ask one another) and he looked at me and said Isn’t everybody?

Isn’t everybody? 

So, is it hard to be friends with my students? Yes and no and everything in between.

Aren’t we all human? Isn’t, as my new airport friend put it, everybody part of the tribe. Isn’t everybody?

You Should Only Be Happy. Always Be Telling The Truth. Stop Looking at Your Phone So Much. Pay Attention. Drink More Water. Honor The Dead. Drink With Loved Ones. Eat Bread Baked By Your Friends. Have More Sex. Read Anne Lamott and Cheryl Strayed. Do Some Yoga.

Look, I could go on and on but then I would be sounding like a teacher. I would be sounding like I knew what the hell I was talking about.

They are people. I am people.

The same.

~~~~

Dedicated to Steve Bridges and Ronan and Robert Wilder and Emily Rapp and the old man in the airport and Heather and Katie and my sister and anyone else I have ever loved or crossed paths with regardless of how we met. We are the same.

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as always by simplereminders.com

as always by simplereminders.com

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And So It Is, How To, loss

No Such Thing As Right.

February 27, 2013

You think you know what is right but you don’t. There’s no such thing.

There is only I am feeling my way around in the dark here and this feels like the table and this feels like the light switch but you never know until you know. Sometimes it’s when you flip the switch and the light actually comes on. Sometimes it’s not for years and sometimes you never know.

On Sunday my husband was about to get on a plane to go to a funeral in St Louis when his cousin called him from St. Louis and said that they were now going to have the funeral in L.A. and there was no point anymore for him to come. My husband’s cousin died 2 weeks ago when he’d had a heart attack and then crashed the tow truck he was driving. His wife had been in St. Louis at the time where they live. She flew out to L.A. immediately, and tried, in her blubbering hysterics, to decide if they should ship the body back to St. Louis or keep it in L.A.. My husband asked me what I thought.

I never go visit my father at his cemetery. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Pennsauken, New Jersey and it makes me feel depressed and cold. His tombstone is near a family friend’s who died of ovarian cancer when I was 18 and also the four brothers I’d gone to elementary school with who died in a fire.

I used to have extreme guilt about not going until I got very clear that my father was absolutely not there under that headstone. My father and I chat a lot in our dead-father to alive-daughter way and lord knows I write about him enough. He’s right here. He definitely is not there.

He stopped being anywhere in this world when he died in 1983, in fact. I can’t say what’s beyond but I can tell you that his physical body stopped breathing and that he know longer existed as a walking talking Melvin David Pastiloff. I can tell you that 100% for certain.

When Robert asked me what I thought I told him that it was a very personal choice but that I didn’t see the point of shipping the body as it wasn’t him anymore. The body has nothing to do with him at this point. But who am I to say? He told me that the wife would want to visit him at the cemetery once a week. (Naturally I felt a little guilty when I heard that being that I haven’t visited my father’s grave in years.) Once a week? That’s a lot. Okay, maybe she should ship the body. I don’t know.

There is no right with this, I said. There is only keep moving. Keep breathing.

So he was about to get on the plane and they called and said Don’t come and I went back and picked him back where I’d dropped him 2 hours earlier at LAX. They are having the funeral here in L.A. now. So much back and forth. No one could decide as if they were waiting for someone to come up with the right answer.

There is no right answer.

My mother didn’t let my sister and I go to our father’s funeral. She has no idea now why she made that choice. Someone probably told her that it was the right thing to do or that we would have nightmares. I have spent my whole life wishing I had gone so I could have heard the people tell stories about him and cry over him and wish him back into the world. I wanted to be there for his honoring.

Was it the right thing to do? There is no right thing. There is what gets done. There is you have to keep breathing and you have to do whatever you have to do to keep breathing.

Tomorrow I fly to Santa Fe to go to Ronan’s memorial.  (There is no right! There is no right I tell you!) I will miss the funeral of my husband’s cousin which will take place here in L.A. because I will be in Santa Fe at a baby’s memorial. There is nothing right about any of this.

I just keep moving around in the dark and hoping that sooner or later I find the switch for the light.

I imagine my father’s funeral as a dream-like painting and I am inside the painting.

It’s a colorful oil-based rendition of people in various stages of grief. My feet barely touch the floor in this painting. I am eight.

There are also people outside the painting, staring in.  They mill about, champagne and cheese in hand, commenting on us there inside the surreal painting of my father’s funeral.

We are still, those of us inside the painting. As if we are waiting for something.

We are waiting for something.

Someone outside the painting takes a charcoal pencil and shades our voices a color the sound of sand. The color of mute. We go quiet.

In my next painting my father’s face will be drawn closer to mine and his arm will touch my arm. And in this one he won’t even have to die. We won’t be at a funeral anymore.

Time will be un-stuck. It will move as we move. It will flow off the canvas and into the room of voyeurs searching for something, anything to talk about.

I can do that, you know. I can make it a painting come to life like that. I can create it over and over with brushstrokes and anecdotes because I wasn’t there and I will never have been there and there is no one that can say That was the right thing to do or That was the wrong thing to do.

There is no such thing.

There is no right.

There is only go and breathe and love and get up in the morning and take the next breath and the next and when someone tries to tell you that this or that is the right thing just look at them and keep breathing. Keep going.

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