Browsing Tag

inspiration

Guest Posts, healing, Yoga

The Girl I Meet on the Yoga Mat

June 16, 2015
1384358_10206839111284484_5524841111336245191_n
Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

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

By Janna Marlies Maron

Plank pose. I hold myself up with arms and feet. Blood pulsing through my biceps and I feel strong. Pull belly in and I feel healthy. Holding in plank pose I breathe in; I breathe out. I remember how hard it used to be for me to hold this pose. Just 15 seconds and I started to shake. I could not hold it the entire time and had to lower knees down for support. Today I do not shake. I hold until the teacher instructs us to release.

I pull hips up and back into downward facing dog and stretch heels down to the mat. Hands press the mat away; spine stretches. Again I recall what it was like when I first started practicing yoga. In downward dog, knees bent and heels up. Holding that position and I lost my breath.

I move through the poses and watch myself as if I am not me but another student in the class. I watch and remember what she was like when she first started to practice yoga. Not even when she first started, but when she was the most depressed after her diagnosis nearly three years ago. She felt weak and unhealthy. She spent half the class or more resting in child’s pose. She wondered why she was even there. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

Falling In Love With Flip

June 12, 2015
unnamed

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Judy Kirkwood

What happens when you’re not a dog person, but you are left with a dog?

It wasn’t until my dog, Flip, was 15 years old that I realized I loved him. After my divorce, 5 years ago, I would jokingly say to my sons that Flip was my husband now. But the truth was that I had only just tolerated Flip for much of his life. I didn’t fall in love with him until he had a bad case of fleas: not the first time, not the last time, but the in-between time.

Although constant and caring, I was so detached in my relationship with Flip that until last year I believed he was a Yorkshire Terrier, even though he weighed 20 pounds. Watching a youtube Animal Planet video one night it dawned on me that Flip wasn’t a Yorkie at all, despite his bill of sale. He was a Silky Terrier. The giveaways, besides his size, were how he had always lifted up one paw in a quizzical manner when he looked at me, and how one ear often was up while the other flopped down (hence the name my younger son gave him).

In addition, I woke up one day and realized Flip was a year older than I thought. I had been so caught up in other things in my life – things I can’t reveal, except for my husband’s infidelity, which became pretty obvious – that I had lost track of Flip’s age, which was at the far end of his breed’s lifespan.

I should mention he is a handsome, dapper dog, who attracts attention even though he has an enlarged liver that makes his belly look as though it needs to be reined in with a waistcoat. I’ve always thought he should be wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap and ruminating on a small Calabash pipe, which would fit neatly in the space where he is missing his two lower front teeth. Like most dogs, he is on a mission when he is on a walk, looking for aromatic cues and clues and behaving accordingly. Everyone stops to admire him. But I never felt proprietary about his looks or charm. He was sort of a legacy pet. Mine by default. Or so I thought.

We had trouble bonding because it took so long to potty train him. We failed at crate training because he barked so much that his saliva pooled on the floor of the kennel and made it slippery plus rusted the metal grate he attacked for hours. He shredded pee pads. I had to take him to a pet therapist because he wouldn’t stop peeing and pooping in the house. He relieved himself next to her desk as she was asking me what the problem was. Although I had some success in training him with treats to go outside, which he expects every single time he potties to this day, my husband’s strategy to save our wood floors and carpeting was to train Flip to void in the concrete basement of our home. I never went down there.

A family dog for the first 10 years of his life, bought for our 10-year-old son, Flip ran around the grassy common area of our suburban home, a blur against the tree line, swing sets and sandboxes. He was so lively that he jumped back and forth, straight up like a young goat, over Magic, our lame black lab, who sat calmly for Flip’s stunts. Sometimes if Magic was off-leash (it seemed unlikely he would move far since he dragged his back legs on the ground when he tried to run), Flip would spirit him through the woods into the next subdivision or down the railroad tracks. Flip came back while Magic usually ended up in a ditch until someone called thinking he had been hit by a car and we picked him up. Once Magic died, Flip became more aggressive with other dogs so I really couldn’t let him off the leash too often to fly around our big yard.

While I fed Flip and let him in and out all day, he took long evening walks with the man of the house. I appreciated the break from doggie care until I found out that those leisurely walks with Flip were an opportunity for my husband to talk on his secret phone with his girlfriend.

When we separated after a 35-year marriage I decided to move away from my Midwest home and start over in the small Florida town where my younger son had relocated. My soon-to-be ex had no desire to be burdened with a dog while ironing out his relationship problems with the other woman. Drained and empty, I didn’t know if I could afford to take care of Flip either financially or emotionally. I thought about putting him up for adoption. But with behavior problems and, of course, his inconsistent pottying how could I be sure he would not be mistreated by a stranger?

In the end, I packed him in the car along with the few things I was taking from my old life. For the first few months, Flip and I had a gypsy existence. First I stayed on a farm in Georgia while I helped an author write a book. Because there were a number of rescue dogs running around the house, all female, which made Flip want to constantly mark his territory, I spent the days with Flip tethered to my belt as if I were Mother Superior and I had a very long rosary dragging the floor with a dog at the end of it. Then I stayed with friends and family whose allergies or own pets made it imperative to board Flip at different kennels.

Back on the road, Flip was my steady companion in a changing landscape. We were on a journey together and he rose to the occasion, holding his bladder during an interminable traffic jam outside of Atlanta, and not barking when I left motel rooms to search for food for us.

As I was cobbling together a new life in Florida, Flip had a terrible bout with fleas. I’d never met a flea and suddenly they were crawling all over my animal. I was more worried about me getting fleas than about Flip having them. I got rid of them, but saw Flip as a flea carrying host whose silky hair was a golden meadow for creepy things I didn’t want close to me.

The next time Flip got fleas was less of a panic. I knew it was normal in Florida. Against my space being contaminated by a chemical bomb that might exacerbate my asthma and his panting and wheezing, I chose to comb and bathe him faithfully, with the addition of dog flea pharmaceuticals. Every day I spent hours attending to the little devils that hopped around in his hair making him bite himself. I was as devoted to grooming him as any ape, chimp, or monkey mother. As an old dog, age 15, his skin was covered with benign tumors under his hair and I had to be careful not to scratch their surface and make them bleed. I felt so sorry for him I gave him little massages, listening to him groan, sigh, and cluck like the gray squirrels on our morning walks. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, Self Love

Don’t Should On Yourself.

May 16, 2015
1236020_10153239303960573_761477157_n

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Rachel Pastiloff

I don’t think it is just a “mom” thing or a “woman” thing, although I do think that mothers are susceptible to the “should epidemic.” I know how often I feel that pressure. I recently had, as Oprah would call it, my “a-ha” moment.

What if I let go of all the “should” in my life?

I am a mother, a wife, a health coach, a blogger, a friend, a sister and a daughter. I am no different from you in that many of you out there also juggle wearing different hats. I sometimes find myself at the end of the day saying things to myself like, “I should have gotten more work done,” or “I should have cleaned the house,” or “I should have gotten to the gym,” or “I should have not yelled at the kids this morning.”

The Should List.

I don’t know who writes the should list. I don’t know where it originated. I just know that I am often shackled by this master of all lists that I need to be checking off everyday. I find that the should list leaves me feeling defeated, less than, and often times as if I have failed.

I don’t want to feel like that anymore.

What would my life look like if instead of my should list I celebrated everything as a victory, instead of focusing on the should list that I didn’t accomplish?

I declared yesterday the first day in my victory revel.

I got out of bed, I am magnificent. I got my children out of bed and fed them breakfast. Yes, I am awesome. My kids got to school with clothes on, socks and shoes and underwear that isn’t on backwards. I am a superhero, yes it’s true. I kissed both of my kids goodbye and told them I loved them, I am on fire today.

What if that is all that I did that day? What if that is all that I was capable of accomplishing?

When you see everything as a victory it takes away from all your perceived failures.

I am still a damn good mom, even if at the end of my day I could say that was all I did that day. I can still feel that my day is complete. When I go to sleep tonight I will think to myself, I did such a great job today at what I was able to accomplish, and not feel a sense of shame from what I feel I should have done better. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Relationships

Twenty Years of Solitude

April 20, 2015
photo-1429000263672-1b8b4008d2f7

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa Banigan

Barrel-chested and bull-necked, Will had cerulean blue eyes that offset the safe, sturdy gravity of his body and made me feel as though I were drowning. They were the kind of eyes described in novels as being washed out, like the sky. If I had grown up in the middle of the rainforest, and Will’s eyes had been the first blue eyes I ever saw, I would’ve thought he was either a god or on his death bed.

I was 20 years old and despite it being only our first date, Will was already my favorite person. We sat at a candlelit table in a restaurant in the basement of the Italian Workman’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin. Two bottles of wine in, I stared into his eyes and recalled a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

“It’s about a man and woman who meet every night in a dream and recognize each other by repeating the phrase, ‘Eyes of a Blue Dog.’ But upon waking, the woman can’t remember what the man looks like. She writes their phrase throughout her town, but the man can’t remember anything from his dreams, and they walk by each other like two ships passing. I can’t imagine anything sadder.”

I don’t recall if Will responded. My eyes misted, and, drunk, we left. He took me to his small walkup apartment and we sat in his living room and talked about our dreams. I was still figuring mine out, which meant I had no real idea yet what I was doing with my life, but Will was in college and had already set course. Surrounded by books about Latin American politics and discussing his need to gain a higher level of fluency in Spanish, he grew animated when talking about a future that would take him far away from Wisconsin.

“I’m going to work in Central and South America.”

I waited for him to tell me more, but instead, he kissed me, and we soon fell into his bed. He was everything I wanted: adventurous, hilarious, and intense. In the dark, with only the light from a streetlamp shining across his broad chest, he stared at me through his wide, azure eyes.

When eventually I turned to sleep, I felt a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had grown up having daddy issues because of an absent, alcoholic, gambling father, struggled with my own drug addiction, and just generally had difficulty with men. In the back of my mind, I grappled with the idea that I was unworthy of love.

As Will curled up against me, I thought: Come morning, he’ll be like the man in the Garcia Marquez story – he will have forgotten all about me.

At the first signs of daybreak, I unwrapped myself from Will, quietly collected my things, and slipped out the door, vowing to cut off our communications to prevent the pain of him leaving me.

Yet I couldn’t quit Will. Not entirely.

Over the years, he moved to Indonesia, to England, to Colombia, to Minnesota. But he always came home, and occasionally, I’d run into him at some bar or another. We’d make small talk, have a drink or two, and inevitably end up in bed together. Each time, I felt that what we had would last forever. We spoke of getting a cabin in the middle of Oregon. He invited me to visit him wherever he was living. Yes, I said, yes to all of it. But then dawn would break, and I’d disappear like a forest creature into the crepuscular fog.

One day, I received a letter sent from Colombia. “You would love the rainforest,” Will wrote. “Pink dolphins swim alongside my boat in the river. They are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I miss you.”

I kept that letter in a drawer for years, pulling it out occasionally to stare at his words and examine every curve of his handwriting for hidden meaning. Pink dolphins…He missed me… What did it all mean?

The years moved along. I had a series of relationships, bore a child with an abusive man, and then, just like that, decided I had had enough and finally started to pull my life together. Will moved to New York, and I ended up there too, to finish a degree in art history. He helped me move into my apartment in Greenpoint, and that evening, after I had tucked my daughter into her new bed, we sat on my front stoop drinking beers in the rain. It was that night, while listening to Will laugh, that I realized how hopelessly in love I was with him. And as sure as I knew anything, I knew that he loved me, too. My heart cracked wide open as we kissed.

The next morning I woke in a panic. My old fear filled me. He’d leave me. He always did. I heard my dad’s voice in my head: “Good things never last.” And another voice rumbled even deeper: “Leave. Run. Don’t look back.”

Life became more complicated. Will and I lived in two parts of the city about an hour apart, but my university was only a few blocks away from his apartment. We should’ve created many New York memories together, but even when he had a bad injury to his Achilles heel that left him largely immobile, I visited him only once. My dad had recently had his first heart attack, and my daughter’s father was giving me grief. I felt depleted, shaken, and alone. Every night I’d sit surrounded by books on the couch in my apartment and just cry, rocking myself to sleep. Despite wanting to be there for Will, I felt incapable of opening myself to him even as I watched him hobble around on his crutches. Something was wrong with me for not being able to be a good friend – I knew that much – but my heart, like a stagnant pond, stood still.

I dated other men. Men who risked less, who stayed put more. I moved in with a boyfriend, a man who – although a little wild – wouldn’t rush off to nearly die of snakebite or dengue or whatever other horrors I imagined Will might encounter in the rainforest. Unlike Will, my boyfriend was a man who didn’t believe in anything fantastic.

“Do you know that there are such things as pink dolphins?” I asked.

“Sure,” he quipped, barely looking up from his computer. “And unicorns, too.”

Of course, when a person goes against what her heart desires, life has a way of teaching lessons the hard way.

Armed with a degree from an Ivy League in an area of study I didn’t ultimately want, and a job in finance I only took to pay back student loans, my grandmother grew very ill, my father had another heart attack, and my stable, safe boyfriend left me. In the midst of it all, I realized I wanted – more than anything – a life filled with adventures and purpose. I become a freelance writer and started to travel the world. I took my daughter out of public school and together we climbed mountains in Switzerland and Iceland, ran out of money in the Algarve, and went deep into the Peruvian Amazon to some of the same areas Will had visited.

Throughout the years, Will and I continued to satellite around each other, always in tidal lockdown despite the distance between us.

“You know how I feel about you,” he said. “You know how I’ve always felt.” Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Relationships

Dear Life: I Need Help Navigating Bouts of Depression.

February 27, 2015
tumblr_mqq4ivpL641st5lhmo1_1280

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

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the wonderful Naomi Elana Zener.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, see you next weekend (3/7 and 3/8)  in Atlanta for my next workshop!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Dear Life and the wonderful people reading this,

I am used to navigating through life through and with heartache. The past 8 years were full of relationships with heartaches. They have created my darkest moments and have thus been the creations of my lightest moments. I am finally done with them, and I am depressed. I don’t have anything to complain about, except for missing my family sometimes, who lives across the ocean. I feel like I have no purpose and no direction, and I don’t know where to start. I crave adventure and meaning in life. I love to inspire and help people, but I can’t do that unless I can help myself. I want adventure, and I want to be excited about life, but these bouts of out of the blue depression are starting to get old and I do not know how to navigate through and out of them.
Please help.

All the love,
Elly

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Continue Reading…

anti-bullying, Fatherhood, Guest Posts, Men, parenting

What Happens When a Guy Gets Bullied For Years? The Dadvocate.

February 5, 2015
10371455_1592307147673790_544802949727076944_n

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

By Andy Malinski.

Oftentimes, men intimidate me.

I’ve spent a lot of time very uncomfortable around men. A group of women makes me feel much more at ease than a group of men. Why? The surface answer is that I’m not the typical guy. Although I enjoy a baseball or hockey game, I’m not a big sports fan and don’t follow any teams of any sport; I much prefer music and theater (and even when it comes to music, I’ll take Beethoven any day over any rap artist). I’ve taught my wife terms like valance and duvet and Mirepoix.

The deeper answer is that I’ve experienced some intense bullying in my 35 years and so my hope, through The Dadvocate, is to reach out to men and help establish healthy ways to express emotion and bond with wife and baby. Fearful about having a boy who might, someday, have to endure what I did in grade school, our midwife asked me, “Why wouldn’t the world want another you?” That’s a big motivator, right there, to do all I can for him, for my family, and to try and reach out to others with what I have experienced and learned from over my years.

Bullying started for me around 1st grade.  At that point it was the “fatso” name-calling on the playground.  When I was in 4th grade, I was out riding my bike one afternoon enjoying a beautiful New Hampshire afternoon when a group of bullies from school approached me.  They destroyed my bike, throwing pieces of it into the woods as I stood there, helpless, not knowing what to do.  Once they left, laughing, and were out of sight, I picked up all I could and made my way home, holding back my tears as long as I could, carrying a wheel and a seat, scared more about having to tell my parents that my bike was broken than I had been bullied.

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

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

Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Julien’s Castle: The Way of Grief.

November 26, 2014
photo-1415356838286-df6fd593e8b3

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Nancy Sharp.

He was young and French. Perhaps he didn’t understand. “I said I’m widowed,” loud enough this time to make myself perfectly clear. “Okay. So?” he asked, with a bemused smile.

“And I have three-year-old twins.”

I expected him to run. Hadn’t I frightened him away?

“What are you doing here,” he wanted to know, the crisp night air making smoke between us as he spoke. We stood under a streetlight, the din of a raucous Oktoberfest party at Zum Schneider, an indoor Bavarian biergarten in lower Manhattan, still in earshot.

It was a curious question.

I might have told him any number of things: that I was only escorting my friend Lisa that night because Lisa was missing Germany; that I didn’t even drink beer; that my command of the French language centered around ten high school phrases; and, that I was too old for him, which if he only stopped to look, he would see.

The eye sees what it wants to.

“No, really, what are you doing here?” he asked again, sweeter this time.

He seemed to be looking through me. It was piercing without being lewd.

The heat of his gaze embarrassed me and I blushed.

“How old are you?” I blurted out.

“Twenty-seven. And you?”

“How old do you think I am?”

He cocked his head to the right, reddish-brown curls sweeping his ear. He was fixing hard on my face, his hazel eyes flickering under the street lamps.

“Twenty-nine.”

“That works.”

And yet, crisp jeans and glossy lipstick did nothing to mask what little identity I felt beyond widowhood, even now, nineteen months after Brett died. Had he not been so boyishly handsome, I might have been the one to walk away. Dropping the Widow-Bomb on a twenty-seven-year-old was bound to burst this flirtatious bubble so what exactly was he waiting for?

I was certain he would leave, perhaps even stagger backwards and say, “Well, nice meeting you,” heels moving quickly as he politely returned to his drunken friends. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

My Mother’s Boyfriend and Me.

November 24, 2014
tumblr_neyf56NHIg1sfie3io1_1280

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black
By Caroline Leavitt

When my mother turned ninety-two, she fell in love for the first time.

Although my mother and my father had been married for over thirty years, theirs wasn’t even remotely a love story. Before she met him, she had thought she was in love with the son of a butcher. He courted her for a year, and one night, he had even scribbled out their wedding announcement in mustard on a napkin, giving it to her to put in her purse for safekeeping. Then he left for Chicago, promising to come back to her. He kept his word to return, but not until six months later, and then, he was holding the hand of a pretty, very pregnant wife. When his wife excused herself to powder her nose, he cornered my mother in the kitchen, hotly whispering against her neck, “Maybe I made a mistake.”

“No,” she said. “I did.”

As soon as he left, my mother let her heart break. It wasn’t so much that she cared about this young man, whose character was clearly lacking, but, it was more that she saw her future leaving her. A family. A home. All the things she wanted so desperately. She was living with her parents and she lay in bed crying, so long and so hard that her father began to plead. “You have to live,” he urged. He sat by her bed, coaxing food, insisting that she get up, and try and be happy again.

And so, because she loved her father, because she didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, and mostly because she was twenty-eight, which was as close to spinsterhood as she could allow herself to get, she let herself be trundled off to what was then called an adult day camp, where single men and women could spend a month, living in cabins, enjoying swimming, boating and arts and crafts, but really looking for their mates. There, as if she were choosing a cut of meat for dinner, she had her pick of men. She settled on two of the most marriage-minded: a sturdy looking guy who was going to be a teacher and my father, who was quiet, a little brooding, but who already had a steady, money-making career as an accountant. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him, but she believed that love had already passed her by, like a wonderful party she had somehow missed. But even so, she could still have the home, the family, the life she wanted if she were only brave and determined enough to grab it. My father asked her to marry him, and she immediately said yes. But later, she told my sister and me, that when she was walking down the aisle, her wedding dress itchy, and her shoes too tight, she felt a surge of terror. This isn’t right, she thought. But there was her father, beaming encouragingly at her. There was her mother, her sisters and brothers and all her friends, gathered to celebrate this union. Money had been spent on food and flowers and her white, filmy dress. And where else did she have to go? So she kept walking. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Men

Dear Me: A Beautiful Letter To A Man’s Younger Self.

November 21, 2014
5712229637_0808aab445_o

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Peter Tóth.

Hi Peter,

It’s me, your 36 year old self.

How are you doing?

I’m writing to you from Nottingham, UK. Yeah, I know, you might want to ask how did I get here. But that’s not important. I’m here as a result of many decisions, almost all of them still unmade by you.

It’s shortly before 7 in the morning and I’m sitting on a George Street bus stop, waiting for the Nottingham City Transport bus line number 10, going to Ruddington, where I work. You haven’t really worked yet and I cannot lie to you that it’s always great, but work is good, it will be good for you. You’ll meet many people at work and/or while working. People are good. It takes an effort to convince myself of that sometimes, but I truly believe they are.

But I’m not writing this letter to tell you what I’m doing, what you’ll be doing in 20 years time, because even if you would somehow read this letter, you probably wouldn’t become exactly who I am now anyway, as you would hopefully read this carefully and you will avoid some mistakes that I have made. Although it’s these mistakes that got me where I am, doing what I do and I neither can, nor I want to complain about it, so let’s cut this hypothetical bullshit of what would, or wouldn’t be.

I won’t be telling you what to do and what not to, what I decided to tell you is this: Whatever you’ll be doing, just enjoy it more, enjoy it as much as you can. I’m looking back and I don’t think I regret doing anything. I also don’t regret not doing anything. But what I regret is not fully enjoying what I was doing while I was doing it. Not being completely present, focused. Not paying attention. Not being in love with what was surrounding me, not being in love with what’s within myself.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, writing

Un-Grounded.

September 5, 2014
Katie_Devine-sunflower2014-2

By Katie Devine.

Every night, at an interval of approximately ten minutes, the bed shakes violently. The first time it happens, I think it’s an earthquake. I lie in bed, roused from near sleep by the jarring movement, and have trouble remembering where I am. I don’t think Cape Cod has earthquakes, but I allow for the possibility. Or the other possibility that someone has run up the stairs to the patio outside the bedroom, powerfully enough to move the furniture. I never feel safe sleeping in rooms with doors that lead to the outside, and I hate that through the sheer-curtain-covered windowpane I can see shadows moving slowly. I don’t know if they are from leaves, or from the heavy-footed man who tromped up the steps to look in at me. The house next-door, with its menacing cracked window and abandoned sheets on the clothesline only fuels this fantasy. I turn my back to the door; what I can’t see can’t hurt me. And then the rocking begins again.

Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, motherhood

In Gratitude for a Long Career. By Jeanne Faulkner.

April 2, 2014

Like Jennifer, I’ve worked for decades in the service industry. I worked as a nightshift labor and delivery nurse for ten years followed by another ten years on day shift. Like waitressing, you never know who your next customer, AKA patient, will be.  It’s a crap shoot and among the biggest challenges of the job. You take care of whomever you’re assigned to care for, whoever walks in the door and with whatever doctor or midwife is on duty for that patient.  Our job, whether we like our patient or not, is to serve, guide and shepherd them through their labors and births, but it’s not isolated to serving just the patient. Nurses also serve their family, friends and baby, their doctor or midwife, and the other nurses and staff members who are part of the maternity unit.

Over all those years and thousands of patients, I’m grateful most patients were lovely and I thank them for allowing me the honor of being at their births. I’m humbled at how accepting they were of receiving my care and mindful that the work we did together was intimate, difficult and sometimes life threatening.  I thank them for their trust.  I’m thankful to the mothers who reached for my hand, asked for my help, took my suggestions and eventually allowed me to rock their babies so they could get some much needed sleep. I’m grateful to the fathers who tended to their wives or girlfriends with such tenderness that they taught me how these mothers needed to be cared for.  Thank you to all the grandmothers-to-be who stroked brows, sang songs, rubbed backs, reassured and mothered their daughters through their labors. You taught me that mothering never ends and in fact it grows stronger as we help deliver the next generation.

Some patients, or more often their family members, were by any definition, horrible – violent, criminal, addicted, filthy and sometimes even obscene. To them I say, “Thank you for teaching me that all people deserve care, compassion and respect; that there’s always a point of connection and that no matter what their life was like in the past, almost all still love their children, even when they can’t care for them. Thank you to the patients who called me “bitch” and to those who called me “doctor.” Neither label was accurate but I thank them for making an attempt to reach me on whatever level they could.

Thank you to the patient who tried to bite me when I could not give her an epidural.  When a moment later, your daughter was born and you lay cooing at her in your arms, you taught me that pain is more powerful than civility, but when the pain is gone, humanity returns. Thank you to the man who threatened his wife and me with a beating we both “deserved,” if we didn’t hand over his son before police could arrest him for child abuse.  He taught me that despite his violence, hostility and demand for control, his love for his baby was overpowering and unreasonable, but it was still love.

Most of the dozens and dozens of doctors and midwives and nurses I worked with were among the best people I’ve ever met and many I count as my friends.  I thank them inspiring and motivating me, comforting and supporting me, for joking around and bringing snacks and sharing their stories through 12-hour nights. I thank them most of all for having my back and always being one call away when a birth turned into a crisis.  A few of my coworkers were bitter and angry, lazy and misguided and I thank them for teaching me that our work demands excellence, compassion and a higher standard.

Thank you to the mothers who faced their births with tears and screaming and the ones who managed each contraction in absolute silence.  Thank you for the “natural” mamas who rode their “surges” with intensity like a surfer rides waves. Thank you to the epidural mamas who decided pain wasn’t part of the package they signed on to deliver. Each one took control of her experience and took care of her own needs and I’m grateful to them for doing so.

Thank you to the little brothers and little sisters who were so excited and anxious to meet their new siblings they wet their pants, burst into tears and buried their sticky sweet faces in their fathers’ necks. They taught everyone in the room just how powerful this new relationship would be.  A sibling will witness your life, share your fun and misery, defend you, pretend with you and get you in trouble.  They’ll be there with you ‘til death do you part and in some small way, the little brothers and sisters understand how overwhelming this commitment will be.  Thank you to the new mothers who then handed their brand new baby over to me, took their older child into their bed and cuddled them until they felt secure again. Thank you for not doing what too many parents do – yell at their child for acting like a baby and tell them they’d better get over it because they’re not the baby anymore.

Thank you to all the patients who busted mythology wide open – to the room full of bikers all burly and gruff whose appearance and demeanor were aggressive and scary.  Thank you for sitting in a circle on the floor and passing the new baby from one bearded, tattooed, Harley-gristled man to the next, each delivering a small blessing and a stuffed animal for their beloved new baby.   Thank you to the stripper who was losing custody of her baby for taking out your nipple piercings and breastfeeding your daughter for the one night you two would have together. Thank you to her friends who surrounded her with love and swore to all that was holy to them that they’d get that baby back if it was the last thing they did.  Thank you for the patient who had no arms who held her baby to her breast with her legs as skillfully as any two-armed mama would do.

Thank you for the 20 years I spent at the bedside and for the million stories my patients provided me.  I learned a lot and will forever be grateful for that opportunity to serve.

Image

Jeanne Faulkner is a nurse, writer and maternal health advocate. She writes for fitpregnancy.com, Every Mother Counts and is co-author of The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion. Learn more about her at JeanneFaulkner.com and check out her YouTube channel here.

***

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

 

Guest Posts

Setting Free The Bears.

March 5, 2014

By Maggie May Ethridge (who, truth be told, Jen has a total girl crush on.)

When life is hard, then harder, then fossilized into a shell over your skin so tight and so fragile it breaks with the smallest tapping of the new thing trying to be born, then there are things that must be done. Firstly, right yourself. Are you sleeping enough? Your mother told you. Your doctor told you. Even your Uncle Alfred who farted and belched loudly after turkey dinner told you – you must sleep enough, or simply nothing works just right. Your brain is your gateway to reality. If you close off the energy force the gateway will not work, and your entire perception of reality will be tilted, see- just so – just enough to make you slightly wonky. I’m already wonky on my own, born and bred, and need no help in that direction.

Next, are you eating healthy? Every meal should be protein, veggie, healthy carb (nothing white, but brown rice, multigrain breads). Eat in intervals that feel natural to your body. Drink water. You don’t like a shrively pruney lemon looking face, do you? Well you don’t want your brain this way either. Drink. Then there are the essential caretaking measures: shower, shave, scrub your pits. If, because of lack of hygiene, you happen to randomly and repeatedly catch a whiff of your own sour stench repeatedly during the day while trying to interact with other life forms, you might find you like yourself a little less. ‘ Anyone worthwhile, ‘ you might think ‘ would not smell like pig ass when they have a perfectly available and working shower, equipted with the latest modern miracles like razors and soap. ‘ Shower. Lather. Make large, ridiculously cheerful bubbles, and sing. I recommend singing a rap song in operetta. I do, and it makes me happy.

Also, don’t forget to wear clean clothes that fit well. Now you are fed a nutritious meal, showered and shaved, dressed and standing tall. Let’s begin by setting the mood. Music Please… and

Flowers. Pick some, buy some, just get em, anyway you can, and spread them around your places. Your places are usually work, home, maybe a lover’s apartment, or your psychotherapist- wherever you spent a lot of time. Put them there.

Also, while I’m on the subject, be Naked. Often. Get in touch with your body, as a living breathing beautiful form, not just as a clothes hanger or food hamper. Have Sex.

If you have no one to have sex with, have it with yourself. Do something
that feels good, and feel good about it. See? Your 8th grade Religious Studies
teacher was wrong about masturbation, because I have neither 1. pimples nor 2. scales on my hands.

Take every opportunity to Dance * yes dance, dance i said, not only you sexy people, all you sly muthas, just get out there and dance- Dance, I Said!* Salt and Pepa knew. So should you.
I dance in the shower ( not while soaping and singing. that might get tricky. ) I dance in the car. I dance at work, to the amusement of my co-workers ( Yes you, Stephanie and Heather ) I even hurt my right butt cheek dancing to Michael Jackson in the sun room two days ago.

Remember White Nights? How could you not want to tap and leap your way into life!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haBZCrBHMm4

 
Now we are somewhat refreshed. Here is where we begin to think of how we can be of Service to one another. To the people around us. I had my son at 19, and learned one of the greatest lessons of my life in his birth: acting in behalf of another human being is one of the greatest healing actions available to us. Not the daily ‘allowances’ that we make for one another- these things that we confuse with service to our friends and family but really are only small ways to drive ourselves crazy- the constant yes when no is meant, the answering of phones at any occasion or time, the need and demand for availability ( IM, Chat, Facebook, Phone, Cell, Email), this kind of thing. To care and love in a healing way means that we keep our eyes open for the person who needs and desires it. This is stopping when a flustered, near tears elderly lady cannot find her money and paying for her coffee, taking on a mentor role in a young person’s life, volunteering an an Assisted Living Facility or Pediatric Unit at the hospital, making dinner twice a week for the family of someone undergoing cancer treatments- these and million other actions are what unite us as a people and bring peace and meaning to our lives.

Then there is the indomitable Spirit. As a writer and poet and passionate person in general, I have only once in my adult life felt disconnected from my spirit, and I fought tooth and nail to regain my whole. I believe that literally the act of holding your head up is a physical way to pull the strings of the spirit. I will NOT look down at the fucking ground. Everything we do to nourish our spirit is reflected back eventually. I am a huge believer in taking positive action even when you cannot see the results. The lack of results is a facade. Holding your head up, repeating marching orders to yourself ( you will be able to do this, yes ), reading about the particular issues you have in life, talking to friends, a therapist, service – it all becomes part of the gust of spirit that will eventually blow through you and lift you back up where you belong. So,

finding what nourishes the Spirit is an important part of growing up. Am I grown up yet?

Bears

Can I Set Free The Bears?

Next time we will discuss:
Drinking
Vacationing in ill-mowed and unkept squares of green (otherwise known as my backyard)
The in-house prescription for cheer
Sticky notes of love (not what you might think)
Animals and their furry hairy magic
and
Children make good clowns, there for your amusement.

Maggie May Ethridge is a novelist, poet and freelance writer from the deep South who has lived most of her life in San Diego, CA. She has an Ebook coming out in January with the new publishing company Shebooks ” Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage ” and is completing her second novel. She has been published in magazines both on and offline in places like Diagram, The Nervous Breakdown, Equals Record and blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor.

flux_capacitor_frame

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

 
5 Most Beautiful Things, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

Ruptured.

September 12, 2013

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

Aht-lo-le-Vahd

את לא לבד

You are not alone.

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

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

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

Oh, yes, the heart.

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

You are not alone.

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

את לא לבד
Aht lo le-Vahd

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

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

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

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

My last days have indeed been days of awe.

The Universe is clever like that.

Awe? You’ll find it here in droves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Home
by Marika Rosenthal Delan

Leaving, not going

return

depart.

strange

familiar,

weightless heart

ripe figs

ruptured

born strangers
now kin

the words
none come

or gush

from unseen

once hushed

now free
places

remembered now
in
sacred spaces

kept kindled,
the spark,

now a torch,

burst into

full flame

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

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

We have done love.

Thank you for showing us how it’s done.

 

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

the tribe

 

IMG_7736 IMG_7831 IMG_7872 IMG_7876 IMG_7879

 

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

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

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

Inspiration, love

Be Love.

August 22, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff.

I just came to the library to write. I see this man standing and looking at some books. He has a sign on his chest that says “Be Love.” I ask him if I can take a picture and he happily obliges. I turn around to get some money in my wallet (he’s homeless, that much was evident. There are a lot of homeless that hang out at the Santa Monica library.) I turn back around and he’s taken the sign off. “Pictures free” he says “but you have to wear this for 2 hours. I’m David, what’s your name?” I ask him to tie it around my neck. He says if anyone asks me what it’s about to tell them “It’s a demand.” I gave him a hug and two bucks and went up the stairs to write. The smiles I got as I walked to my little table by the window. Be love, be love, be love. Part of my book talks about the messengers in our lives. David was one such messenger indeed. Be love. Pass it on.

ps, he’d also never taken a pic with an iPhone before and the pic of me below was his first one ever. Pretty pretty good.

1174657_10151728387310914_688563552_n

Later that night…

So I wore the “Be Love” sign to class tonight. I walked in and said “Can anyone guess what the theme is tonight?” Everyone laughed at the obviousness of it, but, as someone said after class, when she came to me with tears in her eyes, the room “softened.” She said, verbatim, that she had never seen anything like it. If you don’t know what sign I am talking about, see the post below this with the pic included. A homeless man was wearing the sign today and after I took a picture of him, he took it off and told me “Picture is free but you gotta wear the sign.” So I did. Being true to my word and all. The girl with tears in her eyes said that tonight’s class was like a poem, which, as you know, just might be the greatest thing to say to me.

Did I do that? Nah. The sign on my chest did.
You see, no one could resist it. Even the grumpy dudes in the back who think I talk too much and “can’t we just downdog?”, even they smiled and giggled at the sign. It softened the room because, well, love does that.
However you look at it, really, we should all be wearing such signs.
Even if they are invisible.
Even if only we can see it.
As I drove to teach my class I was behind a guy who was driving way below the speed limit and turned with using a blinker, a guy I deemed “asshole” to myself. Out loud. In my car.
Which made me chuckle. Here I was, with a big ole BE LOVE cardboard sign on my chest and I was calling some stranger an asshole.
I laughed at myself and pretty quickly thanked the cardboard for keeping me in check. Be congruent, Jen. You are love. Be love. Or, as Jesse on Breaking Bad would say: Be love, yo. (I apologize for any BB inside jokes. My obsession runs deep.)

May I always have a sign on my chest. Whether I can see it or not. May we all remember that we have these signs on our chests. may we all remember to Be LOVE.

Thanks David, the homeless man I met in the library today, who passed on the love to me. I hope you know what you’ve done, my dear sir. My big dear hearted sir. I just hope you have some small inkling, whoever and wherever you are.

1000340_10151727838440914_1038468160_n

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (sold out) as well as Other Voices Querétaro with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Click to order Simplrereminders book.

Click to order Simplrereminders book.