By Jen Pastiloff
I don’t blog often here on the site anymore but I wanted to share about my last Italy retreat. I so rarely stop and write things down and for that I beat myself up. I regret that I didn’t do it because I forget details so quickly. But do we? Do I? Don’t they stay in us somewhere? All the things, all the people? All the forgottens? My son is clawing at my feet and I am trying to type this quickly in my terrible nogoodineverlearnedtotype typing fashion. He is trying to grab my coffee cup. He wants to push the keyboard. He wants my boobs. (How does anyone ever get a thing done with a toddler?)
Jet lag has been rough. I have been to so many places and dealt with far greater time differences but this go-round was particulary rough. Charlie couldn’t adjust so our whole house (the 3 of us) were backwards for a few days. I feel like I am just coming out of a fog and I am missing Italy and the people who came something awful.
And the food. I won’t lie to you. Why start lying now? The food is phenomenal and I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you that that is one of the reasons I go back again and again and again. The food. As my mother likes to say, “Out of this world. To die for. So delicious.”
My husband makes fun of my obsession with food but whatever. He makes fun of me that I bring a snack wherever I go. That I bring food on planes. What if we get grounded? What if there’s a delay and we starve? He’s not a Jew and he’s never had an eating disorder- nor does he really understand them. He eats to live. Whereas I: Live To Eat.
Judge me. Go ahead. Just be silent about it and I will never know. Isn’t that the beauty of life before social media? We could be silent assholes. We didn’t have to voice our opinion on everything. Yesterday my friend Rachel Brathen, who has 2.1 million instagram followers, posted a photo of her baby girl wearing black and she got ripped a new asshole. A baby in black? How dare you? It’s bad for their energy. It causes depression. Meh. Who are these people? My son is wearing black right now. And he is a happy little fucker. (Mostly.)
I digress. Italy was magic. Also in attendance were: my husband and son, of course. My mother-in-law and father-in-law, and my sister. I had a lot of help with Charlie and yet and still, I was wiped out. I am so grateful to the help I had though because I could never do the work I do if I didn’t have help, especially with the baby. The toddler. The happy little fucker in black. Who wants to nurse 24/7. STILL.
It was a magic retreat. My father-in-law is a Rumi scholar and poet (whut!) and gave us an incredible lecture on Rumi in the old wine cellar of the villa. We made pizza. We went to the Mediterranean Sea and had a picnic. Some of us went skinny dipping under the stars. We danced and sang. We ate our faces off. We made our own pasta. We wrote and shared. We swam. We rode horses. We meditated and my beloved partner, Ceri Cee (who leads meditation and yoga every morning at my retreats) gave us a healing concert with Tibetan singing bowls. We did yoga. We cried. We bore witness to grief and joy. We saw someone fall in love. We watched people crack open. We learned big ass lessons and small itty bitty ones. Both equally as important. We got car sick. We drank wine. We ate so much gelato. We celebrated ourselves and everyone at the retreat. We listened fiercely. (FierceListening.net is mine now. Insert evil laugh.)
But we did. We listened like our lives depended on it. (Doesn’t it?)
I want to stay in the space I am in while I am there. Inspired. Powerful. Deeply loved. Connected. Joyful. On purpose. I hate that when I come home and go back to “real life” (what does that even mean?) that I slip into feeling small, boring, useless, unimportant, unloved. Why do we have to go away to feel such bigness? Such richness and aliveness? Why do we (I) have to go away and lead a retreat to be so in my body? It’s a thing I am working through as I think everyone who was in attendance is too. How to keep the feeling of being so loved and supported. How to stay in such a feeling of possibility? How to stay feeling so damn free?
I know I can. It’s a choice. Not to sound woo or anything but it is. It’s a choice to wake the f up and pay attention. It’s a choice to remember that we are loved and supported and although we may not be in the cocoon of the retreat with its safety, that love is always there. Who we are does not change simply because we have to go back to work or back to the kids or because we have to leave Italy.
One of the things I focused a lot on this past week in Tuscany was not falling back into our bullshit stories and not letting our inner asshole be the boss of us. I think our inner asshole will always be around but we simply have to keep it in check. When I come home, I sometimes allow myself to let my inner asshole take over. I get all small and quiet and hide in the dark while my IA (Inner Asshole) is having a party in the front room. A kegger. And I am not invited. I am all sipping hot tea (I hate tea) in the dark. Turn on the light, motherfucker! Let me out!!!
My husband is half-British and half-Persian so you can imagine how much tea is a part of his life. Gimme the coffee, yo.
and I do yoga. Sometimes.
Charlie is in the living room with his dad and my time to finish up my two finger typing is coming to a close. I wish I had wrote a blog about every retreat, every experience, every workshop, every single beautiful human I have ever met. But alas. I shall start here.
I used to think it was a fluke. When I first started this “work” (what else can I call it?) that people bonded so much. That people fell in love and made friends for life. That it went so so deep. I thought it was a random thing and that I could never pull that rabbit out of a hat again.
But the rabbit kept coming. More hats. More rabbits. And they got better. And I got better. And more trusting. And I took more risks. And I gained more clarity in what I was doing. What is that, you ask?? (You probs aren’t asking that but I felt like I had to write that in case you are new to me and are all Who is this chick?) What I am doing is love. I am cultivating a space for it. I am super open about all my “flaws.” I truly am not some superstar yogi. Dude, I barely even practice (but I want to change that. I do!) I don’t write every day and I can’t type ( but I am still a goddamn writer, despite what my IA tells me.) I am deaf as a post without my hearing aids, God bless them and you all who donated to help me get a really good pair. I struggle with depression and anxiety and I take meds and I sleep too much and I do nothing in moderation but hell if I am not a good, nay, GREAT, listener. (FierceListening.net holler!) I am able to create a safe space where people feel (or begin to feel) free. What more can I ask? I am not trying to change anyone. I am not trying to make anyone a better yogi or writer or mom or man. I am simply creating a space where we can begin to be more free. Where we can express what it means for us, in our particular bodies, with our particular histories, with our particular bullshit stories and Inner Assholes, to be more free.
And I like doing that in Italy. And soon, France. Do you blame me?
Anyway, I promise to write more. Although my book proposal is due August 1st so you may see that writing in a book form rather than here. I want that for myself. Can you hold that vision for me? Like hold it and mold it and roll it around in your hands and make a clay lady with it and give her a glass of wine and a clay pen and tell her to get to work, or, as Cheryl Strayed would say, to write like a motherfucker. And then check on her every day? K, thanks.
I am going to share three things below from three special humans who came to Italy with me. I know this is long but can you stay on and read just a little longer? K, thanks.
First. Tara Converse Rigg. Tara was awarded a partial scholarship (The Aleksander Fund) to attend the retreat. She lost her son Beau 3 years ago. We all got to know him at the retreat and it is one of my dearest memories from the week.
You can like her new page on Facebook here because she just got the courage to start it!
I’m home from Italy and processing one of the best weeks of my life. There was beauty everywhere I looked and in every person I met. There was laughter, delicious food, wine, and abundant sunshine lighting up my face. I danced at 7:00 in the morning, saw a firefly for the very first time in my life, swam in a saltwater pool, ate gelato by the cup fulls, survived the winding roads of Tuscany at 70 mph with a driver named Franz, smelled the scent of leather and negotiated with Italians at the many leather markets, made pizza in a 200 year old outdoor pizza oven, learned how to make pasta from scratch, and even gave a speech when talking in front of people is one of my biggest fears. There was joy. Much needed and appreciated joy. Did I mention the laughter? I laughed and laughed and laughed.
The Facebook pictures and comments show the love and the joy. You can see it in every photo of the magical villa we called home, the women that traveled from all over the world to be there, and even the Mediterranean Sea.
But we also “let the snot fly” as our brilliant leader, Jennifer Pastiloff, so perfectly stated. Much of it was mine. I poured my grief out all over the floor, but instead of just glancing at it or pretending it wasn’t there, the women at this retreat acknowledged it again and again. And again. They acknowledged it with love and with acceptance. They didn’t turn away from it or quickly help me clean it up. No, they let it flow and embraced every tear and every deep breath. Their support, combined with hot and sweaty yoga to super loud music, writing prompts that pulled the truth out from the depths of me, and precious time to simply sit with my grief without any distractions, were incredibly healing for my aching heart.
I would not have been able to do this without the support of my family, my badass hand-holding travel partner/fierce friend Liv Spikes, and manifestor of love: Jennifer Pastiloff. Her support included a partial scholarship from the Aleksander Fund, a fund that will continue to send other grieving mothers to Jen’s beautiful retreats.
Every year we try to enact small acts of kindness, or do love in the name of our son Beau, to remember the day he was delivered at the end of July. We call these Beauments. This year, our third year without him, I humbly ask my friends and family to consider donating to the Aleksander Fund. You can read more about it here and find the link to donate. It would be an honor for this year’s Beauments to go to this scholarship fund.
Also- while I was there, I received an email asking me to be a contributing writer for Still Standing Magazine, a magazine for those surviving the aftermath of child loss and infertility. I will be writing regularly for them with at least two essays per quarter, possibly more. The timing of this notice was beautifully crafted from the Universe or from Somewhere/Someone and I am deeply humbled. I hope to be able to share some of the wisdom I gained during my week in Italy and to simply tell others grieving the loss of a child: “Me too.”
Next up: Valeria Gladunchik.
Three best decisions of my life:
1. At age 16 I chose to leave Russia and come to the United States, where I adulted and grew up to be a pretty cool human bean. This is how I met myself.
2. Three years ago I chose to stay open to a possibility and write back to some random Italian guy who sat next to me on the plane and gave me his business card. This is how I met the love of my life.
3. Two weeks ago I chose to go to a yoga retreat led by Jen Pastiloff Taleghany, who was recommended to me by my best friend, but I knew nothing about. This is how I healed, found my joy and met my tribe.
There are no words that would give justice to the magic that is Jen and her work. She is indescribable! So you would have to go and find out for yourself. You will cry, a lot, and laugh even more. You will make your own pizza and pasta, eat croissants fresh from the oven and drink Tuscan wine. You will watch stars fall, fireflies land at your feet and make a wish to never forget this feeling of being totally present and alive. You will heal, and you will find out that healing can also be joyful. Oh, how joyful! But above everything else, you will meet other women who will instantly and forever make home in your wild and open heart. It will be like a hall of mirrors: no matter what wound or pain you bring along, once you look around at these friendly faces, all you will hear is a gentle murmur of “me too, me too, me too”.
I never use this space to promote anything. But this experience, as intimate as it was, I cannot keep to myself: THIS WAS LIFE CHANGING, you guys.
So if you find yourself even a tiny bit curious, go to Jen’s page and read more about another retreat in Tuscany that is coming up in September. Or write me a message. Or just stop overthinking it and just go! I promise, this will be the best decision of your life.
I AM FREE
I went back and forth about whether or not I should post this picture. All I saw, at first, were my flaws. Cellulite. Love handles. All bullshit! Anyway, in Italia, I’ve learned I’m more free than I have ever been before and I am grateful for the body God gave me. After all, it’s the body that lets me roam freely here, love hard, make a difference, and much more! As I’ve said a million times in my yoga classes, “love yourself first, it’s my only rule.” Don’t mind me, I’m just over here in a lavender field, working on what I preach.
I say this quote often. How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved. It’s not mine. It’s Freud. But ain’t it the truth? Don’t let you IA be the boss today, don’t let it keep you small and under the bed when you got a big ass life to go lead. I feel really lucky that I get to do this. Really grateful. But the thing is, I just started listening. I listened to what was working. I listened to the deepest parts of me and all the parts of me that were forgotten, the Forgottens, as it were, and I woke up. And I said yes, yes. Oh, yes.
I am free.
Join me in Italy Sep 30-Oct 7, 2018. Please also shoot me an email and let me know why you want to come. I haven’t even made France public yet but it is almost sold out so email me asap if you want in. May 2018.