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manifestation retreats

courage, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, I Have Done Love

When You Believe You Are Unlovable.

February 9, 2014

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By Rachel Pastiloff.

If I close my eyes and think hard enough I can almost remember the house. Almost. I can’t remember if it was brown or green. Maybe it was brown with yellow trim. I do remember the chain link fence in the back yard, and the rabbit hutch my Poppy made for us. I wish I could remember more. I just said to a friend this past weekend, “I wish I had a photographic memory,” but then realized that would probably be a curse.

I still dream of those days. The ones that happened before July of 1983. Maybe I could go under hypnosis and while in a trance bring a Polaroid camera with me. I had a Polaroid camera once. It was pink and I loved the instant gratification. I would take my Polaroid and snap a photo of all the moments from January 15th, 1978 until July 15th, 1983.

I have a snapshot of the day my daddy died. I have that moment etched in my brain. Chinese checkers, shag carpet, curse words and fist slamming, sirens, strange men, family arriving. I remember all of that. The den where I was held captive as they took Mel, my dad, away on a stretcher. I snuck away and caught a glimpse of his lifeless body. I had no idea it would be the last time I saw his beautiful face, although it did not look beautiful on that stretcher, blue and dying.

In the weeks before he passed my mom and dad had “the talk” with my sister and me. It was the “we are getting a divorce talk.” I remember the bedroom and the bed we sat on with its putrid ugly yellow sheets. My father had an armoire that held all of his “cool” stuff. Probably the same place he placed his drugs, the ones that would weeks later rip him out of my life. That talk would leave an imprint on my life.

I carried it around with me like a 200-pound appendage.

My last memories of my father were of him saying, “You can have Rachel and I will take Jennifer.”

A few weeks later he died. I carried the burden of his poison laced words with me, the words that a five year old hears, in five-year-old comprehension.

  • You don’t love me?
  • Why don’t you want me?
  • Why won’t you take me?
  • I am unlovable. 

For years I’d ask my mother why?

Why didn’t he think I was worth taking, loving, or keeping? She always made excuses for him. None of them ever took it away.

His words became my inner voice.

***

I am a mother now. I have the choice now. As I read the post on Facebook it knocked me over.

“How you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.”

I couldn’t breathe when I read it.

I have to make sure that their inner voice is one that says: I am loveable. I am wanted. I am smart and kind. I am heard. I am special.

This is a challenge as the mother of one child with a rare genetic disorder and autism, and another child with ADHD and a mood disorder. It’s a major battle sometimes to remember to breathe, and sometimes, just to conquer minute by minute of the day.

I have not been the most gracious mom over the last six months. I am depleted in every possible definition of the word. I have had more than my fair share of ugly mom moments, last night being one of them. I was yelling and pounding my fists, scaring even myself. Watching myself as if I were in a movie, looking at my little one stare at me as if I was a monster.

Those moments pass and we are fine, but what is the ripple that I have created inside his voice pool? Rachel, your words become their inner voice.

Your words are what they hear when they lay their heads on the pillow and fall into their dream state. I finally had that epiphinany.

“Epiphany,” the book written by Elise Ballard. I bought it and kept wondering when my epiphany would come. I want it to be profound and earth shattering. I want the world to feel a mini earthquake when my brain finally gets it.

That isn’t even close to what happened. Instead, I lay in my bed last night and told myself to just breathe in and just breathe out, over and over again. I remembered that Facebook post I read.

I want my voice to lift my children up. I want my voice to inspire my children everyday so much that they think to themselves, “I am so lucky, I have such a good life.” I want my voice to be the thing that lights a fire in my children, and keeps them going even when it hurts. I want my voice to be the one they hear in their dreams that tells them, you are so loved, you are so wanted, you are a special gift, and you are love.

My sister Jennifer often says: At the end of your life when you ask one final “what have I done?” Let your answer be “I have done love.”

At the end of my life when my children say their good bye to me they will say, She did love. She gave me my voice.

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Rachel is a native of Philadelphia/South Jersey. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband and two young sons, ages 7 and 4. In 2009 Rachel’s oldest son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a diagnosis of autism to follow shortly after. The diagnosis was traumatic and forever altered the course of her life. Rachel has made it her mission to educate the world about children who have special needs and their parents. In her spare time between doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and the normal stuff everyday parents do, she writes a blog RachelPastiloff.com. Rachel is also a yoga teacher and a health coach in Atlanta. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her passion for food, nutrition and wellness are her biggest passion. You can find her on Facebook, at her studio www.hazardcountyyoga.com or assisting her sister Jen at one of her retreats around the world.

tattoos by Conscious Ink. Click to order.

tattoos by Conscious Ink. Click photo to order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Changing of a Life by Katie Devine.

January 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was I to ask someone to save me?

*******

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

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

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

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

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

******

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

And what you look for, you find.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You reject yourself before anyone else can.

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

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

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

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

This. THIS is how a life is changed.

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

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

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

This. This is how a life is changed.

***

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

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

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

What Will Never Go Up In Smoke.

February 22, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistakes:

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

~Filing taxes for the wrong year.

~Saying yes when I meant no.

~Saying no when I meant yes.

~Saying nothing.

~Saying too much.

~Overpacking.

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

Things.

My necklace the girls gave me this morning.

The airplane I am sitting on.

The book in my lap.

The glasses on my face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In The Voice of Someone Who Loves You.

February 19, 2013

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

I am on Maui contemplating lost continents and lost lives.

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

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

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

Lost lives. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost lives.

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

Lost lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Look harder. Listen closer.)

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

It is the concrete evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all of us.

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Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Had We Loved In Time.

November 24, 2012

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are the offering.

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

May we all love in time.

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

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

thank you Simplereminders.com

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

I Am No Longer Asleep: Jen’s Manifestation Retreat.

November 2, 2012

The following blog is by Stephanie Neutze who owns my favorite bakery For The Love of Bakery! It beautifully describes what went down at my Manifestation Retreat to Ojai. I was pretty blown away by this, and by her, so I felt I must share. Enjoy! My retreats sell out fast so please click here to book or for info. Keep being f*cking amazing!

I Am No Longer Asleep by Stephanie Neutze

You know when you have one of those “AHA” moments? Well I just experienced my first “AHA” weekend, which I could easily say was best weekend of my life up to this point. I went to my very first weekend long yoga retreat (alone) in Ojai led by Jennifer Pastiloff and assisted by Rachel Pastiloff with 46 other people.
 
Words cannot describe how excited I was for the weekend, but I was also completely nervous and fearful that I wouldn’t meet anyone or even worse, that no one would like me. I was feeling very stuck in my life, without any control and desperately longing for a change. I was hoping this retreat would give me clarity or at least help me figure out techniques to reduce my stress levels.
 
For 3 straight days, we lived together, did yoga together, danced together, ate together, cooked together, drank wine together, laughed together, cried together, sat silently together, manifested our dreams together and we let go of our fears, doubts and stories together.
 
What did I leave with?
 
Community. Support. Love. Friendship. Safety. Laughter. Comfort. Bliss. Dancing. Awakening. Clarity. Joy. Guidance. Power.
 
I have never felt more supported, loved and lifted up by any other single person or group of people in my life. Jen attracts beautiful souls and being surrounded by such love only means you will love yourself even more. To find the beauty that lies within is such a blessing and Jen makes this possible. She sees you for who your really are and leads you to the place where you can see it as well. You have to dig deep, and be willing to get through the sh*t, but when you do, it is life-changing. There is a light inside each of us waiting to radiate out to the world. In all seriousness, when you are surrounded by 46 other people chanting “Be F*cking Amazing” how can you not let your light sparkle and shine?
 
I met Jen in March when I took her yoga class. From that moment on, I was hooked on Jen. She oozes with love, support, kindness, generosity and strength. She builds community, connects people and her message is so powerful. The thing I admire most about Jen is her rawness and her ability to see things for exactly what it is, and then to laugh about it, because really, what else can you do. I felt this immediate connection to Jen, her life and what she represents. She is love, courageous, strong, powerful, genuine and authentic. I am now all of these things.
 
It has been a really tough battle for a really long time and without Jen in my life, I don’t think I would be the person I am today. I was in a place of confusion, unhappiness, fear, uncertainty and aloneness.
 
Now, I am free. I am inspired. I am open. I release all of my fears and doubts and am only allowing love.
 
Thank you to Jen, Rachel, Barbara, Caspar, Joe, Allison, Jo-Ellen and the rest of Jen’s healers who made this weekend special for all of us.
 
And even more thanks to my new soul sisters and brothers. You are all beautiful, inside and out. You are brave, strong, powerful, smart, funny and deeply loved and supported. Without you, I would not have the courage to follow my bliss. I love you all.
 
I am no longer asleep in my own life. I am alive, I am loved and I AM F*CKING AMAZING!
** Steph makes the most amazing vegan and gluten free treats. Tweet her to place an order. She delivers too! I am obsessed. Click here to tweet her.
Delight, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Re-Entry into Awe and Wonder.

July 17, 2012
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Confession: I am having the blahs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their willingness to be attentive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then pay attention.

And then be awe.

Be wonder.

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