Browsing Tag

bryant mcgill

courage, depression, healing

Depressed Cake Shop.

August 17, 2014

By Valerie Van Galder

Like many people, I was devastated last Monday when, routinely checking my email, I learned that Robin Williams had taken his own life.

Just that morning I had been at Sony Pictures where I spent many years running various marketing departments and was now working as a consultant. I had stopped and smiled at the poster from RV, in which William played a hapless but well-meaning Dad taking his family on a vacation. I thought for a moment about how I had enjoyed working on that campaign, and then continued on to my meeting.

Now I thought about how depression is often accompanied by so much brilliance, so much humor, and then, as I do every day, I thought about my dad, and the journey that had brought me to running an initiative called The Depressed Cake Shop.

Continue Reading…

5 Most Beautiful Things, Awe & Wonder, beauty, Delight

Better Than Magic.

August 6, 2014

by Jen Pastiloff.

I watched this adorable old man cross the street by my house just now as I was running. It took him a lot time. He had a walker. I stopped running and waited for him.

“Can I ask you a question? What made you happy today?”

Silence.

Me: Do you speak English? Where are you from?

Him: I am Armenian.

Me: What made you happy today?

He laughs. He’s got all his teeth.

Continue Reading…

death, Grief

Last Call.

August 3, 2014

A Memoir by Laura C. Alonso

We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material . . . when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us; all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.

~ C. S. Lewis

I called before coming that evening, asked if you needed something, anything you might have wanted. “How about fruit?” you asked. “Yeah, I’d really love some fruit.”

I drove over to White Hen, best fruit I’ve ever seen: golden bananas and enormous apples as smooth and red as blood. Three times the supermarket’s price, but I wanted to bring you the best. It had always been hard, you know? This was the least I could do.

Continue Reading…

And So It Is, beauty

Personal Story in 100 Words.

July 15, 2014

Personal Story in 100 Words by Elissa Wald.*

Earlier this week, I was filling out an application for freelance work at a copywriting agency, and one of the sections said: “Tell us your personal story in 100 words.”

My answer was this:

“These are the aphorisms I live by. I wrote them all:

Suffering doesn’t build character; the resolve to wrest something redemptive from suffering is what builds character. Bitterness might be justified but it’s never attractive. You don’t have to feel the right thing, you just have to do the right thing. Lust makes us all ridiculous. The human heart is very perverse. Be as generous as you can: it’s the most selfish thing you can do. Ritual is at the center of spiRITUALity. Love letters are the point of life. With the right light, any window can become a mirror.”

 

*Note from Jen: What would your personal story be in 100 words? Post in comment section below.

 Elissa Wald is the author of "The Secret Lives of Married Women" (Hard Case Crime), "Meeting The Master: Stories of Mastery, Slavery and the Darker Side of Desire" (Grove Press), and a novel, "Holding Fire: A Love Story" (Context Books). Her work has also been published in several journals and anthologies, including Beacon Best of 2001, Creative Nonfiction, The Barcelona Review, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, Nerve: Literate Smut, The Ex-Files: New Stories about Old Flames, and Brain, Child Magazine.

Elissa Wald is the author of “The Secret Lives of Married Women” (Hard Case Crime), “Meeting The Master: Stories of Mastery, Slavery and the Darker Side of Desire” (Grove Press), and a novel, “Holding Fire: A Love Story” (Context Books). Her work has also been published in several journals and anthologies, including Beacon Best of 2001, Creative Nonfiction, The Barcelona Review, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, Nerve: Literate Smut, The Ex-Files: New Stories about Old Flames, and Brain, Child Magazine.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

image courtesy of Simplereminders and Bryant McGill.

image courtesy of Simplereminders and Bryant McGill.

And So It Is, Guest Posts

Late Bloomer.

June 16, 2014

LATE BLOOMER by Suzy Vitello.*

Suzyat2

So, today is my birthday. I’m 53. Yup. Fifty-fucking-three.

If I lived 100 years ago, I’d probably have false teeth by now.

And other hideous afflictions.

Thing is, in the possibility sector of my brain, I’m no different than I was as a teenager, sitting on my bed, staring at my red-and-white striped wallpaper, dreaming up various lives for myself.

When I was 22, living in Syracuse, New York, on year number five of school (I had this tendency to open up the class catalog and pick-a-major, any-major: English, Hindi, Anthropology, Communications, Dietetics. In that order. Just paid off my undergrad debt a few years ago), there was this long claw-foot bath soak where I dreamt up a life in which I’d change my name to Rose and live in Paris. Yup, pretty cliché.

But then the winter came, and Syracuse has this condition called “squalls” that last until May, and my second senior year there were lots and lots of squalls. So, one day, I picked up an issue of Cosmo. At the time, the magazine ran these features called “What it’s Like to Live and Work in ___.” February, 1984 the focus was on Phoenix. I read the piece in a café trying to wait out the squall, and in the twenty minutes it took for the sideways, pelting snow to abate, I’d decided that come graduation, I was moving to the desert. That’s right! A place I’d never even considered before, but hey! I was graduating with a degree in therapeutic nutrition, and there were lots of old people in Phoenix who might need a person to counsel them on low cholesterol diets. Certainly, I’d find a good job there, right?

I moved to Phoenix with my first husband and a mutt named Mandy in July of ‘84. July! In an un-airconditioned Dodge Colt. And, sure enough, I found employment. Of the minimum wage variety. A series of shitty jobs – the worst of which was as a cocktail waitress in a retirement community. The only “counseling” I did was to slap the liver-spotted hands of octogenarians who were pinching my ass.

When I look back on the three Phoenix years, I see them as this sort of interstitial purgatory. Despite having written since I was eight, during those young adult years in the desert, I cracked not one book or journal. I channeled my creative energy into banal stuff like stenciling borders on the walls of my house (remember that craze?), and making jewelry out of fimo clay (yet another craze).

But here’s my point:

I’ve been stop-start writing since third grade. As a kid, I first learned the word prosaic, a term my mother ascribed to my first work of lyricism. I offer said poem herewith:

Spring

Spring is when the flowers bloom.

With snow gone, there’s lots of room.

Birds chirping while building their nests.

When mother-bird takes her turn, father-bird rests.

The tip-tap of rainfalls,

the sound of mate calls,

is spring.

While my mother critiqued the piece, finding nothing poetic in it at all save for the onomatopoeic tip-tap, my third grade teacher, a square-shaped, red-headed battle axe of a woman named Mrs. Angle, held the effort up in front of the class, and read it out loud as though it were coated in honey. I enjoyed an entire week of popularity. Mrs. Angle, having scolded me for daydreaming on my report card, redeemed me by pronouncing me a Writer!

My mother, however, wanted me to try again. And, bless her heart, she was right. But I never did return to that poem, instead, I moved to prose, and never looked back until, in Freshman English at Syracuse, I was asked to write a paper on Eliot’s Prufrock. That may have been my first real immersive experience with a body of work, and was cause for another teacher-fawning moment—which, I must admit, I lived for.

But with all of that praise comes the fear of failure. When someone loves something you did, you’re bound to disappoint them next time. So I took up with science and home economics (to this day, I’m the shittiest cook I know, and forget about the other domestic arts) and became a nutritionist. All the while, stories stewed inside me. Through much of my twenties, I scribbled things on scraps of paper, which I often destroyed, thinking that I might die in an accident, and they’d be found. And read!

At twenty-eight, as a young widow with two babies and a small pile of cash, I moved to Portland and jumped into the deep end. Teachers or no, I learned how to write for an audience that included myself. I began to submit my stories to journals and to get them published. I won some awards. I went back to school for an MFA and won more awards. But I just couldn’t crack the “book” thing, and I had to admit to myself that part of the problem was, I was still wanting to turn that Spring poem into something my mother would like.

A few years ago The New Yorker ran a piece by Malcolm Gladwell, Late Bloomers. The article tossed around a lot of preconceptions about genius and talent and precocity. One of the most interesting points was based upon research done by an economist from the University of Chicago named David Galenson, who undertook the challenge to disprove assumptions about creativity and age, particularly the idea that poets and artists peak young. What he discovered was that prodigies don’t tend to engage in open-ended exploration, and that they are typically concept-driven; they have an idea, and then go for it, rather than painstakingly researching the way many non-prodigies do. In the article, Galenson is quoted as saying, about late bloomers, “Their approach is experimental. Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.”

In other words, late bloomers are nerdy, and tend to follow a depth of inquiry ad nauseam. Ergo, they might have a manuscript or two in Rubbermaid tubs in their basements.

I took solace in that article. And a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to write something all the way. Something that brought me back to the dream. The idea of possibility and wonder. A snippet of 50+ years of quirky humanity in the form of a character and setting that reflected a piece of myself I was willing to share. And I had to absolutely get over the idea that validation only comes when everyone loves your art. But before I could overcome that, I had to admit that I’d been holding back because of it.

My debut book came out in January, and another one is being published in a couple of months.

For me, all the meandering has been part of my process. I’m a percolator, who drips many false starts into the carafe. Undrinkable sludge. So many versions of various lives. So many manuscripts on floppy discs in landfills. But the kernel of truth lives inside of failure. Oh, I know, that’s quite a platitude. I feel icky even writing it, though I firmly, firmly believe it.

I’m fifty-three. I think I have twenty more novels in me. At least.

And my grandmother is about to celebrate her 102nd birthday, so there’s that.

 

Suzyat52

_______

About Suzy Vitello: As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland’s “hottest writing group” (members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy’s name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. THE MOMENT BEFORE is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson, and teaches workshop and classes periodically. Find out more on suzyvitello.com.

 Poster by SimpleReminders.com Pre-order their book (which I am in!!): www.SimpleReminders.info


Poster by SimpleReminders.com
Pre-order their book (which I am in!!): www.SimpleReminders.info

 

Jennifer Pastiloff 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 Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and author Emily Rapp will be leading a writing retreat to Vermont in October. Visit  jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

*Jen met Suzy when she flew (broken foot and all) to Portland to take a writing workshop with Suzy and Lidia Yuknavitch. Jen is totally obsessed and madly in love with with Suzy and recommends all writers to take a class with her. New Yorkers! Suzy has a workshop in Warwick NY on September 5/6. You might also find Jen there. You should go. Just sayin’.

 

And So It Is, Eating Disorders/Healing, healing, Hearing Loss

Betrayals. By Jen Pastiloff.

June 9, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

 

Well, there’s the big one.

My father coming home with chocolate covered marshmallows for me on July 14, 1983 before changing into his hideous frayed jean shorts and a yellow Cancun t-shirt with the faded sun across it. Then, on July 15, smoking his last cigarette and quietly exiting out of his contract as a parent without so much as a goodbye. Death doesn’t always allot for goodbyes. I get that. But still, a betrayal, nonetheless. Continue Reading…

Dear Life.

Dear Life. Jealous of Friends Relationships. Answered by James Claffey.

March 15, 2014

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column With a Spin. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s question is answered by author James Claffey. Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us!

bryant-mcgill-count-blessings

Dear Life,

How can I be happy for my close friend’s relationships when I am in such a crappy place in my own relationship? All I can feel is jealous of them and that in turn makes me feel so guilty. My first friend just got engaged. It’s going to be her 2nd marriage and I’ve met her fiancé. He’s a very nice guy from what I could tell in our short meeting and she speaks highly of him. How compassionate, supportive and sensitive he is. They are very much in the “lust” stage of their relationship so the sex, of course, is great and copious. She received a gorgeous blue sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds for an engagement ring. They are very happy. My second friend, is also in a very romantic, dedicated relationship. She is closing on a house and in a very good place in her life. On the surface, I’m so incredibly happy for them. I’m happy that things are going so well for them after having to go through divorces that involved young children over the past couple years. Divorces are never pretty or easy. Below this thin veneer I am green with jealousy and blue with sadness. Sad for myself because I’ve been married almost 23 years and I’ve never had it as good as they do. In the beginning of my marriage (which was when I was 18 and didn’t know any better) things were as good as I could expect. We were two very young children really, working hard to pay mounting bills. My son came along, we worked harder, bills mounted higher – stress grew over jobs and life in general. During all this time, we never worked on “our” life together. After many, many years, it finally occurred to me that I was not a priority on my husband’s life list. His list generally goes like this 1. Son 2. Work 3. School 4. Me. I’ve read many articles on marriage and it’s a reoccurring topic where in a marriage, the spouse should be just under a person’s relationship with God. I’ve tried to speak with him about this but I never find the right words to express just how much he’s hurt me over the years. Sex happens just enough times to count on one hand during the course of a year. He’s emotionally numb, emotionally distant and intimacy has always been an issue for us. Now I’m not innocent. I’ve pulled away over the years and I don’t open up anymore. There’s no feeling of security, of being understood. There’s never been any permanent change from previous conversations, so I’ve stopped communicating. I haven’t really helped the situation. I want out because I deserve to be loved and romanced and sexed! I’m still young enough that this is important to me. I crave intimacy and deep conversations. Shared life goals and Sunday breakfasts in bed. Unfortunately, we’re fairly deep in debt and my job is a seasonal job that doesn’t pay much. I’m scared of leaving and living below the poverty line for the rest of my life. Much as my mother has had to do since she left her marriage over 20 years ago. I have no savings, as it had to be used when I left my good paying job (that was making me sick) to follow my passion. It’s a passion that historically, doesn’t pay much. Especially when you’re a beginner. Not having enough money is my main fear and my second fear is being alone for the rest of my life, coming in a close third, is having to give up my dream job. To make things even more interesting is the face that I still love him very much. If he opened up to me, I would crumble. He is just so familiar to me, has been my safety net for so long. He’s a kind and good person. He’s my son’s #1 person, they have a super relationship. He works hard, is working on his Master’s degree and will keep “climbing the ladder” so to speak. On the surface, I have it all – a smart husband who loves his job, a wonderful son, a big house, and my dream job. I still yearn for more. For more closeness, love, and intimacy. I ask myself – If nothing changes, can I stand this one more year? (It’s been over 5 years that I’ve felt like this) Can I stand to live this way 5 more years? No, I can’t. If I leave, there’s a 95% chance that I would have to leave my dream job to find another position that pays enough for me to live on my own. I’m only good at one other thing, which is what I left due to sickness. Not looking forward to ever having to go down that road again. I get mad at myself that I am only “good” at a couple things. That I never got good enough to make decent money to live on my own. We tried marriage counseling years ago but it didn’t “click.” I’m hesitant now because I want someone who is basically a miracle worker. I don’t want to dig up the past, rehash everything and then go from there. I want to start with today and move forward. I’m tired. So, so tired that the search for a miracle counselor seems impossible. To go back to my friends – I genuinely want to be in their happiness with them. To share this wonderful time in their lives I don’t think I can as all I can see is myself crying for myself. They are aware of what is going on in my life, we’ve had many talks about it. So many that I shy away from participating in further conversations about me. I refuse to perpetuate this story of me. It never changes anyway, there’s never anything new to report. When they ask how things are going my response now is “Same ‘ol, same ‘ol.” Then I change the subject. I’m tired, scared, and so confused as to which way I should point my intentions. My energy is so low. Most days I feel I’m in a hopeless situation, that I’m literally stuck. Some days, courage pokes it’s beautiful head up and I think I can do this. Either work on this marriage more or leave. I pray for more courage and bravery and insight. Writing this all out is a relief in a way. Maybe this will stop the recording in my head from running over and over for a little while. It’s amazing just how much room it takes up in my head, how much weight it places on my shoulders. I am dreading Valentine’s Day too. Ugh, it hasn’t been a good holiday for a long time. It hurts to hear about all my friends’ dates, presents, etc. Thank you for creating this space where anyone can write about anything and possibly get a response. I was very hesitant to write this. There are a lot of people in a much worse off situation. I’m working on making myself a priority and believing that my feelings count. By writing this, it’s another small step to confirming that I count. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Warmly, ~G

Dear G.,

You count. However difficult the landscape of your marriage and circumstance, you count. How hard it must be to watch your friends’ parade of happy events pass in front of you as your own life bears witness. You are a bit like what my father used call “a ghost at the feast.” You have to shake off the “weltschmertz” burdening you and come into your own space and claim your better self back.

Certainly your friends lives sound marvelous. Who wouldn’t want the joys you describe, yet, as with most relationships we see, the perfect ones and the problematic ones, we are only ever granted the vision of what those relationships look like from the outside. There are plenty of miserable couples in this world, holding it all together—the marriage, the house, the cars, the fancy vacations, the kids—but behind the curtain, when they’re alone and exposed to each other, they are as flawed, troubled and fucked-up as the rest of us. As Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I have been on both sides of Tolstoy’s family seesaw, and let me tell you, there is life on the other side of divorce, no matter the circumstances, no matter how painful the split. I could be you. I was married to a woman for some years, fell out of love, lost our bearings, and in a last ditch attempt to reconcile I agreed to a vacation in the desert before the school year began. Too much wine, too little self-worth, too little strength and I swam in an infinity pool of red wine and forgotten anger. She became pregnant; I met my present wife/partner, and left my marriage behind. Had I stayed who knows where I’d be now? Back in San Diego, married, for the child’s sake, my creativity unfulfilled.

I left. Divorced. Moved away. Went to grad school. Became a writer. Figured out how to forge a relationship with my son, despite my ex’s deep, abiding anger. The truth is, you’ve got to take care of yourself, selfish as that may sound, and your husband is not doing that for you. From what you write you are the one doing all the emotional work in the marriage, and that’s not sustainable. You are low on the priority list. Elevate yourself, leap, and allow the universe to catch you as you fall into the great emptiness of possibility. Sure, you have the dream job, but clearly that’s not cutting it for you. That miracle counselor doesn’t exist, and if your husband isn’t prepared to dig deep and fix the ancient ironworks of your marriage, then you have to save yourself.

I’m a writer. I tell stories. We all tell stories about ourselves. You need to change the narrative of the story you are telling about yourself. Tell the truth. When someone asks you how things are, tell them straight, “My life is shit. I’m married to a man who doesn’t value me the way I need to be valued.” Testify your own truth. Stop hiding behind the drapes and pretending all’s perfect in that big house of yours. Claim your space in the world, even if it takes telling your husband the marriage is over unless he redefines how he treats you. I know, the safety net, the fact that he is kind and familiar to you, is all well and good, but do you want to die with a fat bank account and a bankrupt soul?

What you have in your life right now is an illusion of the real world, it’s like one of those fake pies in the restaurant case, looks great, but you don’t want to bite into it! Listen, this life is yours to claim. Stop being cowed by the expectations of your friends and family, they don’t live in your skin. You need to take your courage and invest in your own future, and if he wants to join you for the journey, great. If not, no matter, you can make it on your own. Good luck!

JC

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James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his family. He is the author of the collection, Blood a Cold Blue. His website is at www.jamesclaffey.com.

 

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

*****

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and 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 NYC in March followed by Dallas, Seattle and London. 

death, Guest Posts, loss

Under the Snow this Winter. By Zoe Zolbrod.

March 14, 2014

By Zoe Zolbrod.

I woke up this March morning to another four or five inches of snow. It was still coming down when I peered through the frost-free porthole in the center of my bedroom window. There was no question it had to be shoveled promptly, from the sidewalk and front steps at least. It was a heavy snow, and I had to heave it high to get it atop the piles we’ve been building since December.

We live in the Chicago area and as in much of the Midwest and Northeast, the winter has been brutal—a record number of inches of precipitation, a slew of record-breaking low-temperature days. In early January we were hit with a blizzard and then immediately after the temperature plunged to under ten degrees below zero.  Work and school were cancelled. On the second day at home I took my daughter a couple doors down to stave off her cabin fever with a visit to a neighbor boy, bundling us both up in layer upon layer until all that was exposed were our eyes. After I dropped her off I decided to take the long way home in order to experience this unprecedented environment. My boots crunched on snow frozen so hard the texture was that of crushed seashells. Cocooned as I was, the sound was as much an internal vibration as it was an external noise, as if I were listening through a stethoscope. I didn’t feel cold, exactly. I didn’t even feel gravity in the same way I was accustomed to. I felt like an astronaut—tethered to civilization by technology, but a speck in an uncharted vastness. It’s a sensation I’m going to carry with me. As I trotted that day, I recalled the time someone asked me to picture outer space and then told me that was how I felt about death. Walking around my neighborhood post-blizzard with the wind chill at minus thirty degrees seemed to me to be a closer approximation of what I imagine might wait for us when our hearts stop beating, when our bodies are burnt or buried to await decay. I had never experienced anything quite like it. And yet this winter has made me nostalgic for all of the winters that have come before, for all the ways I’ve kept warm in them, or haven’t. For all they’ve taught me about patience, and stasis, and change.

I grew up in Northwestern Pennsylvania, and the winter of 2013-2014 has brought me back to those of my youth, the memories of which used to make the Chicago season look unimpressive, if still tedious and ugly. The icicles that poured down from the gutter above the kitchen window in the home in which I was raised could grow thick as tree limbs, stab the entire height of the window so that we looked out through their bars. We had a long skinny driveway that my father had to shovel incessantly to keep passable, scraping away rhythmically in the dark of early morning, or the gloom of late afternoon, or the black of night with the snowflakes glittering in the glow from our light post. The piles quickly grew above my head and then, as the thawless weeks went by, up to my dad’s, the snow spilling over into the yard where the blanket of it was already deep enough for my brother and me to make tunnels through. The door to our house opened right into our small kitchen, no foyer, where we’d stand stomping and huffing like horses when we came in. There were four of us who lived there plus a dog to be walked, and we didn’t slow down for the fact of life that was winter, we were constantly in and out, letting in cold bursts and chunks of snow that would melt messily. The house was always chilly—a combination of thrifty parents and old windows and not helped by the frequent door openings—and my corner room especially so, with its two exterior walls. I shivered near the heat vent while I dressed. I slept under a featherbed that seemed almost as round as it was long. My fingers and toes were always cold, often painfully so. I hated the winter.

And yet there are warm memories—the family deciding despite the weather to drive to a basketball game at the college where my father worked, wondering if the car would make it up the hill, cheering when it did so, the steam from the hot breath of the players and crowd fogging the windows of the gymnasium. And I have warm memories of the snow itself, how the igloos we made could be really snug. And we lived in a place that could highlight the beauty of winter, with a woods across the street from our house that offered up its bare black branches to catch the snow and make a Narnia-like fairyland. Do we ever describe memories of summer as warm? Perhaps that’s why despite my antipathy to the season I never entertained the thought of choosing a college located somewhere it could be avoided.

I was always studying college possibilities, though. From the time I was about twelve I was actively plotting to get out of my hometown. I had good friends there, a solid family, but even as I made-out and partied and learned, part of me believed my real life wouldn’t start until I left, that the real me couldn’t emerge where I was. But here’s a winter memory that proves me wrong. One evening as a teenager on my way to meet friends at a basketball game already underway, I parked my car in the student lot and started walking across the snow-covered field that separated it from the high school, believing I was taking a short cut. My boots sank in the heavy snow, making each step difficult, and I was bitterly cold in the trendy thin coat I refused to button. It soon became clear I’d have been better off walking on the sidewalk. I paused for a moment and looked at the smooth, white expanse separating me from my destination. I ran cross-country in high school, and in the fall the field was part of our course. “It’s the same field,” I thought to myself. And I had the sensation of seeing—of being— at once both the green grass beneath my swift-moving feet and the moon-lit swath of unbroken snow that lay before me. I knew with a surety that made me less cold that spring would come, that it was coming even in the deadest part of winter, that—although I wouldn’t have used this imagery at the time— the very frozen stillness was the pause at the bottom of the exhale that makes the full inhale possible. I knew that in some way spring was as good as here.

It’s a clichéd insight, really—by that point in my life I’m sure I’d already been passed a roach clip with a ying-yang symbol dangling from it—but finding that ancient knowledge within myself felt huge. It’s a moment I’ve held close all the years since—only one of which was spent anywhere warm, and a few of which passed in an apartment without central heat where I’d sometimes wake up to see frost furring my bedroom wall. But no matter the quality of my outerwear or furnace, every winter there’s that month or so when the world is crusted with a layer of gray salt, and the snow banks are black and not going anywhere, and everyone’s puffy coat is deflated and filthy, and it only warms long enough to make a more miserable soup, and when I think: I can’t stand this! Why do I live here! Why does anyone! And then I’ll be visited by my self standing on that field outside the high school, the same self who emerges occasionally during moments of travel, or in a great yoga class, or on a walk, the one lodged most deeply within me but also who sees furthest outside myself, and I feel joyful, and calm, and sure. I picture the real me as a copper wire of energy that’s been pulsing through my core since the dawn of my consciousness, maybe even before that. Maybe it will even go on afterward.

A couple weeks ago a colleague died from the cancer that ravaged her within eight months of her diagnosis. She’s the fourth friend roughly my age who has died in the last three years. How early this inevitable falling off begins is not something that’s been encompassed by the worldview of my dawn-of-consciousness core self.  In my life, the proximity of death has come as a mid-life shock. Living as I have always in places with four distinct seasons, the markers of winter, spring, summer, and fall have been reliable signposts for me, symbols of continuity amidst change, but there is a different quality to their coming now. They’re also beads on an abacus, ways to count years without these other people in them, ways to count off my own.

We’ve had a thaw already this March, and we’re due for another later this week before the temperatures plunge again. My weather app shows more snowflakes in the near future. But even in this fearsome and dramatic winter, one of these days the last snow of the season will come. And then will come spring, for those of us here. I think often of my friends who have died, turning over their absence like a stone in my mind. How can they be gone when I sense them so firmly? It brings me up short. The first flowers that come up in my yard are the crocuses. After the morning snowfall the sky cleared today, and the sun’s staying up longer. Green shoots might be visible even before the full melt.

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Zoe Zolbrod’s first novel, Currency, received a Nobbie Award and was a Friends of American Writers prize finalist. Her writing can be found online at The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Weeklings. She lives in Evanston, IL, with her husband and two children, where she works as a senior editor for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and recently finished a memoir that explores how child sexual abuse reverberates throughout generations of a family.

Poster by Bryant Mcgill SimpleReminders.com. Pre-order their book (which I am in!) http://www.SimpleReminders.info

Poster by Bryant Mcgill SimpleReminders.com.
Pre-order their book (which I am in!) http://www.SimpleReminders.info

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Oprah.com. Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. 

Beating Fear with a Stick, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: I’m Tired Of Being Afraid.

February 28, 2014

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s question is answered by author Gayle Brandeis.  Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us!

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Dear Life, I’m tired of being afraid. 

And I mean afraid in every sense of the word.  I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of being robbed.  I’m afraid of being raped.  I’m afraid of being murdered.  I’m afraid to walk to my car alone at night.

I’m afraid of being alone.  I’m afraid of dying.  I’m afraid that when I die I’ll be all alone in that moment.  I’m afraid of history erasing me and no one will know that I lived or who I was.

I’m afraid that Heaven might not exist.  Or that God might not exist.  Or at least in the way that I think He does.  I’m afraid I won’t be good enough to be with Him.  I’m afraid I won’t make it into Heaven if it is there.  I’m afraid there’s nothing after this life.

Oh, how I want to cling to this life just like I’ve wanted to cling onto anyone who has ever loved me.  I want to hold it firmly in my hands and never sleep because it might leave me.

I’m afraid to take a chance.  I’m afraid.  Do you hear me?

I AM SO AFRAID!

I am afraid that I am wasting my life and I don’t know how to change it.

I work two retail jobs.  I’m a full-time assistant manager at an electronics store and a part-time sales consultant at a jewelry store.  I have one day off a week where I’m either cleaning house and running errands or I sleep in and then watch Netflix all day.  Either way I don’t feel rested.  I don’t feel happy.  The sucky thing is I barely make enough to pay my bills.  I don’t know how people can live alone.  Or travel or live unconventional lives.  I am draining away.  I am stuck in this hamster wheel of a meaningless life.  And I see other people on their hamster wheels next to mine.  We never touch or talk or get off of it.  I JUST WANT OFF!

In small moments I feel magic.  When I sit in my kitchen in the quiet sunshine or when I lie down next to my dog on the floor.  When I look up at the stars or see my breath in the winter air.  When I hear a really good song on the radio or cry really hard that snot runs down my face.  I sigh and think this is life.  But those moments are so fleeting.  I don’t feel real except in those moments.

I want to feel real all the time.  I want to LIVE life and not merely exist.  Why do I have to work 2 jobs?  Why can’t I travel?  Why can’t I do lunch with my girlfriends whenever I want?  Why can’t I go to Italy and eat pizza and gelato like Elizabeth Gilbert?  Just… Why can’t I!?

I hate that an unconventional life is unconventional.  I hate that my dad said quitting my job to go on a month long road trip with my best friend was irresponsible.  I hate that he says I have to wait until I retire to do things like that.  I hate that after I did it and it took me 9 months to find another full-time job and went into quick spiraling debt that he thinks he was right.  I hate that I need money.

I hate that I’m afraid to quit again.  That I’m afraid to not pay my bills on time.  That I want to be an entrepreneur but I don’t know what I’d do and I’m afraid.

I am so afraid.

I don’t know what to do.  But I’m sick of being afraid.  How do I stop?  How do I start?  What do I do?

Sincerely,

I just don’t want to be afraid anymore.

***

Dear I just don’t want to be afraid anymore,

I hear you.

I’m afraid, too. As I write this to you, I am in a lull between pain. The pain comes and goes like labor, like something’s squeezing me with sharp, hot talons. This is a chronic issue–it flares up every few months; I am lucky that it’s not more frequent, that it’s not something I have to live with daily. When the pain does come, my first response tends to be fear. I am scared I am going to feel the pain forever. I am scared I am not going to survive it. I am scared of the vomiting that usually accompanies it. I am scared the pain will thwart any attempt to function in the world. But sometimes I am able to get beyond this fear, to get to a calmer, clearer place inside myself, where I can ride the pain with detachment, where I know it will pass and I will be okay. This time, I have been calling upon a handy tip I learned in childbirth class: to stop labeling pain pain. To think of it, instead, as an “interesting sensation.” This helps quite a bit. When the pain comes, I don’t clench my body in fear (which, of course, only makes the pain worse.) I try to breathe–breathing is important, in pain, in labor, in life–and chant “Interesting sensation; interesting sensation” inside myself. This allows me to reframe the pain, to look at it with some measure of curiosity, even with a sense of wonder. It keeps me from getting too attached to it. It helps me remember that the pain is not me, that I don’t need to give it so much power.

I suggest you do something similar when you are beset by fear. As the fear starts to clutch your ribs, take a deep breath and try to label it an interesting sensation. Gaze upon your fear with the eyes of a researcher and a bodhisattva all at once; dissect it with curiosity, but also with compassion. What is this fear–does it have a color, a texture, a scent? Why have you given it so much currency in your life? When you start to look at it in a more detached way, you will start to gain power over it rather than let it hold power over you. You will be able to let it go more easily. Fear creates a buzz in the brain, a clatter in the heart; when you find a way past that, you can reach the deep, quiet well inside yourself, the place that knows what you need, what you need to do. The place that’s beyond convention. The place that’s simply true.

Today, I was thinking about what I could share with you that might be of help and three perfect Facebook status updates appeared in my feed, all in a row. These updates felt like getting a cherry cherry cherry in a slot machine, like I had hit the jackpot just for you. The first was from our own Jennifer Pastiloff–it was a sign, white with plain red letters and a red border, like a street sign (or, in this case, like a sign you’d see at a campsite); it said “PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE FEARS”. Remember this; heed it–think of your fears as bears; if you keep feeding them, they’ll keep hanging around, growing bigger and more vicious with each scrap you throw their way. If you stop feeding those fears, they’ll eventually slink off into the woods and leave you alone. You are giving these fears so much of yourself right now; you are feeding them with the energy and time you could be using to build a life more in line with your deepest desires (and it really feels as if one of your deepest desires is to be free–free from convention, from expectation, from the daily grind. Freeing yourself from fear is the first step toward all of that.)

The next update was a quote from Jack Canfield, shared by Elizabeth Gilbert. Canfield said “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Over the image, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Forza, forza, forza!”, which in Italian means “Power” but can also mean “Go! You can do it!” Even if you can’t eat gelato and pizza in Italy like her (and–who knows?–maybe you’ll find a way someday!) you can take this from her right now. Forza. When you break through your fear, everything you want will be waiting for on the other side.

The third was this wonderful quote from Anais Nin, on what would have been her 111th birthday: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” You are letting fear shrink your life–remember that you have the power to make your world expand again. You’ve done it before. You did a brave thing, quitting your job and taking your road trip. I hope you have some fabulous memories from that trip that can help cancel out your father’s voice, at least some of the time; cherish those memories, and the courage it took to take that journey. Try not to let your father’s disapproval blunt you or make you cower from your own sense of adventure–instead of worrying about your parents’ expectations and being beholden to the generation before you, think about being beholden to the generation that comes after you. Even if you never have children yourself, ask yourself how you want to be remembered by future generations. Do you want girls growing up today to see a woman governed by fear, or do you want to show those girls that it is possible to live a fearless life even when one is inside the hamster wheel? And it *is* possible, you know. There are ways to be unconventional even within a conventional life. You can bring more meaning and fun and wildness into your day even if you keep your current jobs. It’s all about paying attention and finding moments of hilarity and connection and grace. It’s all about cultivating more of those moments of magic you already own, even if fleetingly, when you look up at the stars. Letting go of fear will help you tap into more of those moments. Fear contracts you, makes it hard for you to see the world around you with open eyes and an open heart; when you get beyond the fear, beauty rushes in. Be a beauty seeker. Take Jennifer Pastiloff’s advice and write down five things you find beautiful every day. This in itself can save you. The more moments of beauty and humor you find, the more fear will loosen its grip on your heart.

And it wouldn’t hurt to take some practical steps toward making real changes in your life: you say you want to be an entrepreneur, but you don’t know what you’d do. Do what you can to figure that out. Write lists of things you love, things that get your heart pumping, and imagine what sorts of jobs could spring from them. Do research. Take classes. Spend time in nature. Make things with your hands. See what speaks to you most clearly, what calls you most deeply. See what you can do to make it work. And take a self-defense class–it may help alleviate your fears of being attacked if you know how to attack back.

As for your grappling with your faith, I can only begin to imagine the deep fear that comes from questioning one’s long-held beliefs. I’ve never believed in God or Heaven, myself, at least not in the traditional Judeo-Christian conception, and I feel for you as you struggle with this profound dilemma. But I also ask you to ask yourself that if this is all there is, is that really so bad? In a way, doesn’t it make this time that we have here on this beautiful, complicated planet all the more precious? History may erase us, but at least we have this moment, and if this is all we have, why not put everything into making the very best of the time we are given? Sure, we have to face pain and fear and crappy jobs and the scourge of money, but we also get to face the sunrise and the feel of the dog’s fur under our fingers, and great music and art and life’s glorious absurdities. Let’s relish those things, those moments. Start with this very moment. Take a deep breath. Take a few more–let yourself settle into your own skin. Let fear evaporate; let it rise from your shoulders like steam. What do you notice? What is around and inside you right now that is gorgeous and surprising? If you take time to notice these things, you’ll feel your innate sense of wonder grow instead of your fear. You’ll find yourself smiling more. You won’t worry so much about being alone because you’ll find that you’re great company, yourself. You’ll find yourself ready to take more chances, to step into a more expansive and courageous life. Fear is just an interesting sensation. You don’t need to give it more power than that. I am taking my own advice right now as another pain comes on–breathing, breathing, breathing through it, seeing it with detachment, knowing it will pass. Knowing beauty surrounds me even in the grip of the attack.

You have the power to change, and your desire for change–desire I can feel thrumming right off the page–will help fuel that transformation. To start, all you need to do is take a deep breath, find that clear, quiet well inside yourself and move from that place, not the skittish, frantic place of fear. I have all faith in you. You wouldn’t have written to “Dear Life” if somewhere inside of you, you didn’t have faith in your own ability to change. You can reach beyond your own fear, and when you do, a more spacious, joyful life awaits, even if none of the external realities of your life change. You can do it. I know you can. Forza!

With love and solidarity, Gayle Brandeis

Gayle Brandeis grew up in the Chicago area and has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old. She is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), the novels The Book of Dead Birds(HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, Self Storage (Ballantine) and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns (Holt). She released The Book of Live Wires, the sequel to The Book of Dead Birds, as an e-book in 2011.

Gayle’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies (such as Salon.com, The Nation, and The Mississippi Review) and have received several awards, including the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award, a Barbara Mandigo Kelley Peace Poetry Award, and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her essay on the meaning of liberty was one of three included in the Statue of Liberty’s Centennial time capsule in 1986, when she was 18. In 2004, the Writer Magazine honored Gayle with a Writer Who Makes a Difference Award.

Gayle teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Antioch University and lives in Riverside, CA, where she is mom to two adult kids and a toddler.

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Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book. "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mothers Day Weekend 2016, May 6-8! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this New Years  for a life-changing 3 day retreat.  No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

 

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse in May. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

 

Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing

To Heal the World We Must Heal Ourselves. By Bryant McGill

February 12, 2014

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By Bryant McGill.

I was born in the deep south, in Mobile, Alabama, also known as the Azalea City because of the vibrant landscapes colored by these beautiful flowers. I had been adopted away from an abusive family situation, and had almost died twice as a toddler. I grew up on a small, dirt road in the country, and my family had few resources, so college was seemingly not an option. I had no connections, no education, few positive role models, and making matters worse, my self-esteem had been crushed through years of secreted childhood bullying and abuses, which would take me decades to overcome. What I remember the most about my childhood is constant fear — and “good food.”

I was raised in a culture of quietly “polite” judgments; a pressure-cooker of seething hatred, prejudice, violence and ignorance. But hey, the catfish and fried chicken were amazing! I was never really taught about healthy eating. To the contrary, my cultural inheritance was learning to “treat yourself” at “special occasions” by gorging on every horribly delicious food you can imagine. I don’t want to get into the greasy, buttery, deep-fried, fatty, sugary, meaty, barbecued details here, but let’s just say if gluttony really is the second deadly sin, then I knew a lot of people on their way to hell. With no knowledge of positive psychology, real foods or healthy lifestyles, time took its toll on me, and the invincibility of my youth diminished as my gut and waist-line expanded.

Much later in life, I found myself living (dying) in a suburban basement, like a hunchback shut-in, not leaving for months at a time because of embarrassment and chronic pain. It was really bad, and sad. I had no one to help me with my plight. I cried out for help to those closest to me, but my pleading was met with cold detachment and uncaring. There was a time when I was really worried and afraid that I was going to die, because I was so unhealthy. I could not even walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. I was truly and frighteningly, unwell. I was on my own and I was debilitated. I felt old and tired, and I could see the grave rapidly approaching. My body had become an entombment of fat covering the pain and loneliness of a broken heart and spirit. Hope and life seemed very distant.

But there was something still in me; a dream I had always dreamt of living a beautiful life. I had a calling in my heart; a great calling for a great work. But, to carry out my calling I would need strength and vitality, both things that seemed so far away. I longed to be free of the bodily pain, stiffness and decrepitude. I remember when I was just a little boy running around bare-foot on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere Alabama. I may have been a hick, but I could run! At dusk, often on my way home, I would run bare-foot through a five acre field of dew-covered grass. I was running wildly on the tips of my toes with such speed, that all I could hear was the loud winds blowing in my ears. I felt like Mercury, or an Indian brave, and my energy seemed inexhaustible. I could run like the wind; feeling my power rushing through me. I wanted that joyous, youthful vigor and spring back.

One of the first steps to achieving wellness for me, was learning humility. To abuse the gift of life and one’s own precious body is a form of extreme arrogance and self-hatred. So one of the keys for me was reacquainting myself with the beautiful gifts that exist, for those who have respect, gratitude and appreciation for all that is available to heal and sustain our bodies. I also made a very deliberate decision that I wanted to live life with health and vigor. I decided I wanted the energy and vitality to do and experience all of the wondrous things in life that are available to all people. I wanted the strength and stamina to lead a life of activity, exploration and true excellence. Ultimately it came down to me deciding whether I wanted to advance toward the grave in a state of decrepit stupor, or rise and advance in life as a fresh, vital being, full of youthful energy and joy.

In my quest for understanding, I realized something very important one day. That the human body is an unfathomable and miraculous microcosm of divine order. The intelligence, complexity and order of even a single cell rivals that of a large modern city. Our bodies love us! Just think about it. The universe within–your trillions of cells all cooperate in a grand orchestration to serve and heal you. Your cells work around the clock in total unison and harmony cleaning, repairing, restoring and nourishing your entire physical being. Every person’s body wants nothing more than to cooperate with them in achieving optimal health. But I realized that I was at WAR with my OWN body. I was waging a terrible war of violence against my body by bombarding it with stress, toxic environments, lack of sleep, and the most terrible and dreadful toxic foods known to man, otherwise known as, the modern American diet and lifestyle. When you are obese, you are chronically diseased and you are moving toward the grave at a rapid pace. My body had become completely addicted to heavy greases, oils, animal fats, highly refined carbohydrates, sugars, salts and an endless array of toxic chemicals. All of these self-inflicted bodily assaults kept my body’s own rescue and repair mechanisms overloaded and unable to keep up with my deteriorating state.

Even through my pain I worked toward my heart’s highest calling to be an instrument of healing for the world, but little did I know, that those whispers were really calling for my own healing. As destiny would have it, I found myself catapulted onto the world stage, and was given a rare opportunity to be a voice of reason and peace for the voiceless. However, with the opportunity came a humbling lesson. I was advocating for world peace, but I was waging a violent war against my own body. I was speaking about poverty and starvation, but I was eating more than my fair share. I was a hypocrite. This epiphany laid open my pride to the providence of self-love as I invoked the sage wisdom of Gandhi to become the change that I wanted to see in the world.

I discovered that simply by getting out of my own body’s way, and letting it do its job, and cooperating with my body, IT would heal itself from the dreadfully debilitating sickness of obesity. To lose weight I did very little outside of gentle and peaceful cooperation with the inherent wisdom and intelligence of my own body. Through meditation and gentle cooperation, the body will heal itself with little or no effort. When we are at peace with ourselves the total expression of that true peace includes our outer being; our body. Losing weight and being healthy is so simple and easy. Your goal should never be weight-loss, but rather to have true health and respect for the gift of life.

I know intimately the deep struggles and perseverance it takes to reclaim your health, because I have been there. This is not theoretical for me. I have personally lost over 100 pounds and shrank my waist from a size 48/50″ to 30″. I freed myself from all medications and healed all of my dis-eases: extreme obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, bad cholesterol, extreme acid reflux, candida, stiffness, glaucoma, arthritis, bursitis, knee and joint pain, gout, angina, insomnia, breathlessness, fatigue, chronic back problems, post nasal drip and sleep apnea. I believe I have extended my life by decades, reversing my heart condition, and clearing my arteries. I healed myself with totally natural methods, and I now have the energy, vitality, stamina and flexibility of a healthy twenty-year old.

What one person can do, another can do. You can reclaim your life and get back on track to becoming your full potential. It is never too late to love yourself again. Don’t give up. You can accomplish almost anything, if you really want it. Let me be your proof that it is possible. Start educating yourself and learn how to take proper care of yourself through self-love. I will be here to support you with the best information I can provide, to help you on your journey. The unification of the mind, spirit and body is the triad of focus that gives one the clarity and resolve to deliver. I have used these, and many other techniques to completely transform my body and my life. My strength, vitality and health are important parts of my secret to how I live a life of activity, exploration and creative excellence. And now, it’s your turn!

“The only hope of transforming the world from the ‘tsunami of violence’ is for each of us to Become the Change We Wish To See in the World. Bryant McGill shows us the way.”

— Dr. Arun M. Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

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Bryant McGill is a Best-Selling Author, Speaker and Activist,
In the Fields of Self-Development, Personal Freedom and Human Rights. More at www.bryantmcgill.com.

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click to order Simplereminders new book.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email rachyrachp@gmail.com.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email rachyrachp@gmail.com.

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.

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Forgiveness Leads to Perfection.

May 13, 2013

Forgiveness leads to Perfection by R. Byron Hord

The first question anyone asks when they have gone through a “bad” experience (and please note that I use the term bad loosely, in the realm of the Divine, there are no “bad” experiences) as humans we go to the place of Why? Is it me? Am I getting punished? Why did the man upstairs decide to do this to me? I pray. I give back. I love people? I thought these were my friends? I thought she loved me?

I-Ching teaches all man that the only thing that is constant is change.

As we grow stronger in faith, grow stronger in our convictions, closer to the Source, things change in Divine Order. Sometimes this change could be sudden, other times this change is gradual. But the reality is that change is coming.

The test in life is whether or not we are truly able and/or ready to handle it.

Within our hearts we know what is right in our life and what is wrong.

You have a job that you hate and you are wishing it to be over.

You have a car that has been giving you problems for years and you are wishing it would disappear.

You are in a relationship that you know is not right for you.

You brood over these facts for days, weeks, months, years, and then… BAM!!! It happens suddenly.

Your boss that you’ve detested for years tells you that you are let go for no reason.

Your car gets totaled in a freak accident.

Your significant other leaves their Gmail open and you stumble on lustful emails to another person. You’re angry and immediately break up with them.

Now… how do we react in these situations?

Most of the time we enter into a mode of self-pity. We curse the situation. We curse the universe. We curse ourselves.

Instead we should be thankful and forgive.

Extractions from our lives are often blessings in disguise. The removal of waste is a part of our livelihood. It is part of what keeps us healthy.

Imagine if your body never dispelled waste. You would be poisoned every second of your life. Disease would engulf your body and you would inevitably perish.

So if that is the case of bodily waste, wouldn’t the same be true with spiritual “waste”? Wouldn’t our souls begin to deteriorate with the existence of a spiritual poison in our lives, in whatever form it manifested itself?

Many times we get comfortable with the pain, even as we continually ask for release from it.

We don’t even realize it, until that pain is gone… then we miss the poison that at some point began to pacify us.

We miss the fix.

As we gain closeness to the Divine, and our prayers become answered with higher frequency, we cannot dictate the what, when, where and how they will be answered.

We just have to embrace the answers however they come.

And when the pain and sadness is experienced after those poisons are finally extracted from your life, don’t curse it. Forgive and wish for the best for everyone and everything.

Then continue on your path to spiritual perfection.

Thanks to the beloved Bryant Mcgill and Simplereminders for the quote poster. Click photo to connect with Simplereminders.

Thanks to the beloved Bryant Mcgill and Simplereminders for the quote poster. Click photo to connect with Simplereminders.

R. Byron Hord is a Los Angeles based writer working in the industry for 10 plus years and is now owner of Uneq Interactive, whose mission is to Empower youth through interactivity.

If you’d like to connect with Byron please leave a note/comment below as he will respond. His website is being reconstructed.

Guest Posts

Simplereminders.com Photo Shoot

October 15, 2012

Here are just a few shots from the amazing shoot I did with Jenni Young of Simplereminders.com.

I am over the moon with the way they turned out. I am so lucky to have teamed up with Simplereminders.com. Check out their site!

I am wearing a gorgeous mala designed for me by Blooming Lotus Jewelry.

This one is by Bryant Mcgill. Click to connect with him.

 

 

 

 

 

Please like their Facebook page. They are amazing and I am endlessly grateful.

Gratitude, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats

A Delicious Pack of Weirdos. By James Vincent Knowles.

May 10, 2012

 

 

 Poster by SimpleReminders.com Pre-order their book www.SimpleReminders.info Subscribe for more: www.bryantmcgill.net


Poster by SimpleReminders.com
Pre-order their book www.SimpleReminders.info
Subscribe for more: www.bryantmcgill.net


 **Jen Touchette brilliantly coined our group: A Delicious Pack of Weirdos.

A Delicious Pack of Weirdos** by James Vincent Knowles.

I saw God in Ojai and then I saw my life flash before me.

He was in me and She was in the others.

Evidently He’d been there all along.

I felt powerful.

What an awesome feeling, knowing oneself and God all at once.

This past weekend I did a little yoga retreat in Ojai. I say I “did” it because it took some doing to ignore “reality” and move towards a more real ideal. The reality was, I’d never been on a yoga retreat. Another reality was, I had no money. That was one of those get-real, realities. Also, I’d never before attended a yoga class, much less a retreat filled with yoga weirdos. That’s some scary reality. The reality was I had plenty of real-reality that woulda, coulda, and some might say, shoulda kept me at home rather than boppin’ over to Ojai for one of Jennifer Pastiloff’s yoga retreats.

A few months ago I’d stopped taking private yoga lessons and that experience and photographing 25 yoga girls turned me on to the idea that yoga people had it more together than any other group I’d ever met. I felt I had plenty of reasonable reasons for not having at least been doing a few down dogs at home every day. For the most part it pretty much came down to having given up on living life fully, if not having given up on living at all.

After attending this retreat in Ojai, that story, the one behind my feeling like giving up, is over.

To get the reality particulars out of the way: this yoga retreat was held at an estate Retreat and Vineyard in Ojai, CA about an hour drive north of L.A. The main building on the estate is a large house built in that solidly gorgeous craftsman style. If you’ve ever been over to Brad Pitt’s house, it’s a lot like that, only more acreage, quieter, sexier, more tranquil, better food, better pool, way more trees, gardens, wild animals, birds, and laughter. Let me describe it a bit more below before I get back to the reality that really matters.

And just to give you a little reality on my own real life perspective for comparison, I’ve stayed at many of the 4 and 5 star hotels in America as well as a few in foreign countries. As many of you are no doubt aware, if you’re staying at a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton, you’re going to be very comfortable and wake up in a bed you want never leave. And these sorts of many starred hotels have really great, really expensive room service as well as big plush towels to tempt you.

Jen’s Ojai retreat was not the Four Seasons and there was no room service nor any big fluffy towels. Indeed, as soon as I arrived, I could feel this place was so much more than fluffy towels and comfy beds and room service. The estate is a certified, bona fide Estate.

A place where I could do at least one of the two most important things in life. Connect wholeheartedly with other people. Sure enough, it was like a three day vacation but for angels only.

Being there was to experience what the world would be like if everyone understood what love means.

It was like falling in love, phase one, when everything is strange and exciting and even though you’re not sure, you’re sure.

And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. This retreat was about connection. Connection with self, others and the Universe / God.

Mind you, I’m not just speaking of my own experience, though my own experience was indeed about connection with God in me and others. I’m speaking of connection in such an enormous way, I actually saw God in Ojai in other people. All of them, strangers. A whole pack of ‘em~!

I’ve been a professional observer for 44 years, so when I say I saw others connecting and sharing and being and loving and giving and caring and understanding and being interested and being empathic and compassionate and friendly and smiling and beaming and spreading kindness before them and trailing kindness behind, well, all I can say is, I witnessed it and felt its effects. For real.

I’ll give you just a teeny-tiny glimpse of just a couple little things that actually happened in me, to me, and with me whilst there. You’ll have to take my word for it that much more happened than I’ve room to share.

To start with, every part of me was afraid to go. I’d never met any of the others attending this retreat, including Jennifer Pastiloff. Indeed, I’d not been around any people at all for 18 months prior to this retreat. Oh sure, I’d been out a few times in public to get a cup of coffee, but in a strange town with no friends the extent of my socializing was saying hello to a barista or bank teller.

I’d been studying, editing, thinking, writing, contemplating and meditating for most of this past year and a half. In the process of doing so, I’d finally arrived at the conclusion I am a good guy who’s in need of connection with others. I realize that might sound weird but as some of you may have already experienced, sometimes life can be a bit confounding. I’d seen a few of Jennifer’s blog posts a few months previous to this retreat and I’d recognized something unique. Something that resonated importantly and loudly. She appeared to be authentic. You know … “real.” I suppose that’s why I was so afraid to go to Ojai. What if this was just another phony, fake, pretender?

What if this was just another gaggle of superficial, shallow a-holes whose favorite subject is me, me, me?

And by that I don’t mean me, I mean, themselves. But I felt ready for reality, either way. I couldn’t take cave dwelling, friendless and alone any longer. It was time to find out if I’d grown up at all.

So I went.

The way I came to connect with Jennifer was via Facebook. Isn’t that kinda weird in and of itself? Last December she’d posted something on her blog that got my attention. I can just hear her right this second saying, “there are no accidents.” It truly was uncanny how what I’m about to share with you came to be. I was in a dark place.  Still reaching for light. Searching for something that was really real. Something that matters. Something that helps change perspective. I still believed such a thing was possible. And as it turned out, when I saw it, I felt it, right there in one of her blog posts. Mind you, this is a FB friend and I can’t even be sure how exactly we got to be FB friends. If I had to venture a guess it would be that she was FB friends with someone whom I really loved in the real world.

When I read Jennifer’s blog, I left a comment and noticed she replied … authentically.

That got my attention. I read more of her posts. Everything she wrote resonated. I continued to comment.

One day she suggested / requested me to attend her Ojai retreat. I was shocked but I said I would, even though I had no idea how I could pay for it, let alone get the vagina to do it. (Some of you will get the joke, some will google it, others will have to learn the hard way that if you want “tough,” grow a vagina).

So here’s what the retreat was like.

It was like coming home to her, the loveliest lover, love of my life, after a long arduous road trip traveling with Pandora with her damn already opened box containing all the evils in the world, for thousands of miles, locked inside with her in an old VW Bug. It was like the first kiss after you’d learned, or so you thought, how to make love without any obvious insecurity, and how after that first kiss with your last love, the final one you know will be lasting, even your hidden fears disappeared.

It was like being under the veranda in Ojai on the most perfect balmy evening, full moon light glowing, casting dancing shadows amongst the trees, adding sparkling little catch lights each time someone turns to speak, to speak to you! … and discovering you’re surrounded by all your best friends, ever, in this one small huge paradisiacal place.

Everyone who was there was fully there. Each of them was the most valuable being in the Universe.

At first, I couldn’t believe it, even as I felt this connection and felt these delicious people touch my heart. Oddly it wasn’t overwhelming.

There was an immediate flow of acceptance.

Each person there, one by one and all at once, were connecting immediately with one another.

This experience wasn’t orchestrated by Jennifer, though she’s obviously the maestro. All these people were sharing: understanding. Here’s what was really weird, and it was indeed bizarrely weird. There were no stories being told!

These beneficent, magnificent beings had somehow arrived in one place together and each of them were willing to be understood without pleading for attention or anything like it.

And they were understood. Is that not excruciatingly amazing? From reality to real to strangely weird. An automatic bam without an exclamation mark? Just like, wow man, wow. Bam.

Everyone who was supposed to be there, was fully there, right there, in Ojai, under a full moon in the most beautiful garden, and every single one of them, including me, was glowing.

Again, I’ve never participated in any sort of yoga retreat before this one. Perhaps they’re all like the one I attended in Ojai. If so, there is more than enough hope for the world. To spend three days around 40 people, not once hearing a single cynical, sarcastic, mean word. Not once did I see anyone so much as get annoyed, let alone act upset or angry or bummed out by anything.

And that story thing~! I mean, I’m not the most gregarious dude, meaning I don’t go out of my way to bug people with talk. Nevertheless, in 3 days, all of which were spent without any distractions other than the beauty and splendor of the place and the delightful people attending, I experienced several soulful, heart-and-soul-level conversations with others but not one story. Not one. It was effing evolved, man. Stories were just unnecessary. That’s just freaky.

I could go on and on about this amazing Jennifer chick and her Ojai weekend. Fill a book, probably. It would be more than enlightening, filled with love, infinitely fascinating and awe inspiring, an exciting mystery, a thrilling adventure and the most sensual thing you’ve ever read. But that would take far too long. This is the sort of news that needs be disseminated wide and far.

Positively positive news. When’s the last time you got that on t.v., or anywhere else?

Egoless would be another way to describe this past weekend. 40 souls who attended a yoga retreat and found a way to live with one another and love each other without anyone’s ego screwing it up? That’s just astonishing. Really.

And now a little practical reportage about some of the physical realities of the weekend … Caspar Poyck, Culinary Therapist prepared the most delectable meals. Just one dude. One chef for 40 people. I feel good about what I’m about to say about this cat. Before attending this retreat, a salad to me was just lettuce with maybe a sprinkling of cheese and balsamic. I grew up eating hamburgers, hotdogs, pork chops and steaks with canned veggies and potatoes, so I’m the pickiest eater you’ve ever met. Caspar’s meals were so beyond what I’ve eaten in some Michelin 3 star restaurants the only thing that makes sense as to why he does what he does the way he does it is that it is all about love. You can taste it. You can see him putting love into the food. All the food he prepared was straight out of the garden. You could see it and you could taste it and the fact that 40 people all devoured every morsel of every meal proved it. How he found time to patiently teach a class of almost everyone attending the retreat how to cook a healthy meal is beyond me.

The fact “the class” created one of the best meals of the weekend just blew my mind.

The place itself was, let’s just say, better than the best resort I’ve stayed at in Hawaii or Cabo or in the Caribbean or Acapulco or Puerta Vallarta. What’s really amazing is, during all three days, not one staff member was seen. I’m not even sure there are any. And there was not one authority figure. That’s what you get when you’re a responsible person, I’m told. Freedom.

Mind you, I paid for my weekend with money I didn’t have when I committed to attend yet somehow the money to attend “manifested” the day before I was to head to Ojai.

After experiencing Jen’s yoga retreat, I felt compelled to share with you some of what I observed. I’d never met one single person in attendance at this retreat but I will reveal I fell in love with more than one person whilst I was there.

Firstly, I fell in love with myself. Then I actually fell in love with several other people whom I know will always be friends.

I’m gonna start collecting friends this way. What an amazing discovery~!

I can see that butterfly theory thing going on here.

I posit that this could be the pyramid scheme to end all pyramid schemes. This could be the quantum physics, quantum mechanics solution to living life wholeheartedly. If I’m even half right, there are 20 other people who feel the same (or better) and who’ll do the same (or more). And this just from attending one yoga retreat~! Wow.

They say the teacher appears when the student is ready. Yep.

How do I put forth with such certainty something like this can and will help change the world? Because I met 40 people who care about something other than and greater than, themselves. 40 people who are connected with the God / the Universe in themselves and within others. It’s gonna spread like mad-crazy-love should.

I should also mention Frank Gjata, though he’s the sort of fellow one doesn’t really need to mention. I suppose that if you go to one of Jennifer’s yoga retreats, you’ll either meet him or get connected with him. Everyone who was in Ojai met Frank. Everyone who was in Ojai is now connected with Frank, not to mention with each other, in large part due to Frank. Frank is awesome. That’s all need be said about Frank.

I’d say a bunch of stuff about Jennifer but you can find out all you need to know the same way I did. Go to her FB page or google or listen to this one story. This is the only story I’m going to share about this weekend. For now, anyway.

Imagine that you have 40 disparate people at a yoga retreat who’ve paid money to be there. 40 people who are there to grow spiritually, who are there to connect with themselves, God and others on a spiritual level. 40 people who are there to have fun. Now imagine you’ve got 40 people to guide towards goodness and some huge and horrible news lands in your lap during your yoga retreat. Something that would no doubt more than momentarily distract most people from work. Something which would cause most people to get shouty or angry and which would diminish most people’s ability to be joyful for a day or two, at least. This happened to Jen this past weekend. But it didn’t happen to Jen. And it didn’t happen to anyone else, either. There was no story. She dealt with it in a couple hours, and went straight back to being the maestro of joy, the heartfelt, heart-full conductor, the maestro-maestress yogi yoga girl, the dance-putter-onner and dj, the empath-true-ist, the manifesting maniac and the authentic compassionate soul she obviously is.

A few months ago I’d never have imagined anyone could do that. Certainly not myself. But seeing her, witnessing her do it, and not just do it but seeing and feeling her deal with it the way she did gave me strength and lifted my soul to soaring.

This chick is weird in a very delicious and strange way. She’s really real. Not just strong. Not just genuinely caring and kind. Not hippy dippy or woo-woo either. She talks funny because she can’t hear worth a crap and yet she hears everything that matters. She notices stuff most people don’t or won’t. She’s wholehearted.

She’s honestly growing and learning so she can help others grow and learn. And she deals with stuff right now. And she does it so honestly and with such integrity and empathy and gratitude, one has to at least acknowledge just how marvelously amazing that is. I mean, she’s really real~! Which just blows my mind right the eff up and melts my heart all the way to the God in us all.

I hope for everyone who reads this, this message gets passed on. Tell someone you love them today. Create your life and manifest goodness in it for others. Let go of the stuff that’s no longer serving you. Connect with the Universe / the God in yourself first so you can connect with others. Be astonished.

See how astonishing you actually really are for real. There are only two things that matter in life after all the contemplation is thrown out: Spending time with others we love and that which we do for others without expecting something in return. I think you might find all the reality in the world comes down to just those two things. I hope you do. And it’s at such a place as Jennifer’s Ojai retreat this reality was made fully real for me amongst a delicious pack of weirdos. You know who you are, obviously, because you’re all really real, which is what makes you all so weird.

Wine tasting

Randy and Marla getting their groove on! Click photo to find more info on Randy aka the Malibu Healer!

Being silly

Frank Gjata, creator of Blississippi, giving an amazing lecture on BLISS!

Chef Caspar doin’ his thang

Yes, it was a Super Moon!

Halo!

Some of the group.

Jimmy captured the Super Moon!

Connection.

Lunch

Milk Maid! Love this shot of Jen Touchette by Jimmy!

Manifesting bliss. Check out the Conscious Ink “Follow Your Bliss” tattoos.

To oder James Vincent Knowles book “Yoga Girls” please click here.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Oprah.com. Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 31-Feb 1 in Ojai. Email retreats at jenniferpastiloff dot come for info. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Next Ojai retreat is Labor Day and there are a few spots left.