By Jen Pastiloff.
Jen Pastiloff here. Cassandra Kirwan just posted this on my Facebook page but since some of you may have missed it, I wanted to post it here (see excerpt below.) I am deeply grateful and utterly blown away by what she wrote. Like jaw dropping blown away. Like these frozen grapes I am eating keep rolling out of my mouth onto the floor, blown away.
Cassie has been on 4 retreats with me in the last 6 months or so. I am deeply touched by her words and incredibly proud of her.
I am also sharing this to give a better understanding of what I do. Yoga is involved, but asana is not the focus. The actual physical yoga practice is not what it’s about.
That scares me sometimes. I think maybe I should go back to teaching straight yoga and that maybe I should just hide in my apartment.
And sometimes I do hide.
Sometimes I feel shut down and broken and I can’t hear even with my hearing aids turned up and I think the whispering in the back is about me and I get so scared to go to a new city and walk into a workshop I’m hosting and ask things of people that I know make them squirm. I think that people just want to stay busy, to keep going, to keep clocking in and out of work, to be left alone to scroll through instagram and watch t.v. and why in God’s name would I ask people what they would do if they weren’t afraid? Just shut up, Jen, and eat your fucking frozen grape. (It’s really hot in L.A. today, ok?)
Sometimes it’s easy to forget who we are in the world.
(You: reading this- do you have any idea how beautiful you are? Do you forget how amazing you are? Do you think I am talking shit? To those that said, No, I have no idea how beautiful I am, I did forget how amazing I am and yes, Jen, you are talking full on shit- you have a mouthful of caca poo-poo, I rest my case. You have forgotten who you are in the world.)
I talk about beauty hunting a lot. Hell, Beauty Hunting is the name of my book. But sometimes, I forget my way.
I lose confidence in what I am doing. I get lost in the worries of what will they think, I swim to the shores of Who do I think I am Island. My friend, author Joules Evans and I talk of beauty hunting often.
She says that she wants to leave a beauty mark on the world. I do too. That’s part of what beauty hunting is. What do we want to leave here as our legacy?
So when I read words like what Cassie has written below, I think, Look at her leaving a beauty mark. And look at me leaving my beauty mark, too.
This is my intention with this site (it’s one of the reasons I share so many other writers so often on here.) It’s also the intention with the work I do in my workshops and retreats and I want to be clear about that.
To anyone who may be disappointed that my retreats or workshops are not enough “yoga,”I refuse to apologize. I won’t back down with my mission and the beauty mark I intend to leave. I will offer you this though: What Cassie wrote below. What she speaks of is more yoga than I know what to do with.
What she talks about below is as yoga as yoga gets.
Anyway, it’s a Saturday and I’m all kinds of fired up and inspired and I see this message from Cassie and I think I should share it because I want to remind you not to put yourself in a box. That you can make something up and put it out into the world with one intention and it will work. But do know what that intention must be? Every time? No matter if you are doing this or that or writing or yoga or nursing or mothering or serving veggie burgers?
The intention must be love. My go to saying- At the end of my life, when I ask one final “What have I done?” let my answer be, “I have done love.”
So please, if you want to come to a workshop of mine, know that I may not have you do 39 handstands. I may not have you do 100 vinyasas (although sometimes we do do a lot) but I will try my damnedest to create a space of love. I will do my best to help you not forget who you are in the world.
I am deeply moved by what Cassie wrote any how the people she’s met at my retreats helped remind her who she is in the world, and, in turn, how these words she’s written help remind me who I am. Isn’t that fantastic how that works?
I hope you come one day. I hope you come and forget what you think you know and what you’ve read because, who knows, it may be different by then, and who knows, it may be the same,. But what I do know is that I intend to leave a beauty mark on this world. Do you?
“Let me start off my saying that Jennifer Pastiloff’s Manifestation Yoga® Retreats are full of open hearted women/men who are willing to dig deep and be vulnerable; the holding of space for one another is mind blowing. It leaves you feeling so supported that you drudge into the deepest, darkest corners of your life and share. You leave on an emotional high; one that is almost indescribable. Jen cultivates amazingness and badassery in the best way possible; she dares us to SEE what is right in front of our eyes; and she pushes us with love towards who we truly are. Her retreats are SO much more then yoga.
Yes, yoga is involved in the best way possible; to get you sweaty and vulnerable; and then the magic happens.
I introduced myself in opening circle at Jen’s Labor Day Manifestation retreat; as a “Jen Junkie”. (When I signed up for my first retreat with Jen; I never ever thought my life would be so positively impacted and forever changed.) Everyone else chuckled a bit. But it IS true. I met Jen at Kripalu in Jan/Feb 2014 (went to Costa Rica March 2014 and Tuscany, Italy June 2014 and then Ojai, CA Labor Day weekend); having read some of her writing online; and she just happened to be at Kripalu the weekend I was looking to go. I jumped right on in; not knowing what to expect.
Traveling alone from NY to Massachusetts I was excited and scared shitless.
This retreat would be the breakthrough my soul had been aimlessly searching for. Surrounded by 45 beautiful woman; I let it all hang out; I was vulnerable and I cried hysterically for most of the weekend (if you know me; I DON’T cry.)
I allowed a massive weight to be expelled from my heart that weekend. It was an experience like no other. I remember Jen having me stand up and read aloud one of her writing prompts; and I pretty much said I that hate talking in front of people. That I hate, no, despise it.
And Jen said “go stand on stage.” I said “what??” And she repeated herself. (All the while I’m thinking to myself “Holy fuck Cassie WHY did you just say that?”) I stand on stage and repeat my “If I wasn’t afraid…” The most important being the last one.
I uttered “If I wasn’t afraid I would talk about the death of my daughter.” This was the cracking open of my heart; of my soul. I was finally allowing the ravaged pain to start to ooze out of my veins.
My daughter Kenzie was born prematurely at almost 23 weeks. She was oh so tiny, and oh so beautiful.
She lived for an hour and 46 minutes before she took her last breath in my arms. It’s something that has forever transformed me- it made me a mother.
I held onto a lot of guilt in respect to her death; the doctor pretty much telling me she WOULDN’T be born alive; she defied those odds and was born crying. The doctor asked me if I wanted to hold her and spend whatever time I had with her; or if I wanted heroic measures taken (intubation, etc). Being a nurse I knew the odd.
I chose to hold her for that hour and 46 minutes.
I allowed this layer of guilt so incredibly thick to cover my heart but while at Kriplau; I started to let it melt away. I started to share how GUILTY I felt. How I felt that I chose my daughter’s death. I distinctly remember standing on stage at Kripalu sharing my soul and being fully supported by women I had just met hours ago.
Someone shouted to me “you chose LOVE for your daughter” “you didn’t choose tubes and machines; you chose LOVE for her.” That was my epiphany moment that weekend. It’s something that I remind myself of on a daily basis. And in reminding myself that the guilt seeps away and I’m better able to live with my decision.
It’s taken months since Kripalu and a lot of healing on other levels, but I finally accept that I chose ENDLESS LOVE for Kenzie. If I ever waiver in that thought; I have 40 beautiful souls ready to remind me of just that. That is the BEAUTY of Jen’s retreats…the retreats long live after the actual week or weekend is over.
In going to Costa Rica, and Tuscany and Ojai, I am constantly reminded of the beauty that exists right in front of our sometimes film covered eyes. It’s a rejuvenation of my being each time I am blessed enough to be on one of Jen’s retreats. If you LOVE yoga or even HATE yoga and are looking to make changes that are scary as fuck;; the ones that you don’t dare utter to those around you because they just ‘won’t get it’ ; if you are looking to confront the black cloud that you think follows you; if you are looking to feel fully supported and dance and sing like no one is watching- sign up for a retreat or workshop with Jen.
I can say that each retreat/workshop is DIFFERENT. The people are not the same; and that changes things. Each retreat holds its own moments of mind blowing courage, strength and vulnerability. Jen brings her mantras, poems, and pure positivity and spreads it around like paint on blank canvas. And then she challenges you to do as much asana as you want to or don’t want to; and the true beauty occurs when you stand up and read a prompt aloud. Not only are you being heard but you are being held without judgment or second thought.
I tried to lose all expectations walking into Ojai on Labor Day weekend; I wasn’t so sure why I was there; but I hoped by the end its meaning would present itself to me. On the last evening of the retreat one of my amazing fellow tribe women spoke up; she stood in front of us with grace and she shared her story. It was beautiful; it brought me to tears.
And in that moment I realized what this weekend was supposed to show me. Throughout Costa Rica and Tuscany; I had been actively searching for what I am supposed to be doing with my story. Finally when I let it go; it all came to me. After hearing this brave woman speak I went up to her and hugged her and said I have spent all weekend trying to figure out what was supposed to come of this for me. And you just showed me right now why I am here.
I was here to hear you speak of your story- it’s showed me what I am meant to do with mine.” ~ Cassie Kirwan.
Cassie: you did love. Thank you for sharing your daughter with us.
Thank you all for being on this journey with me and for remembering who you really are. We, us here in the world, us eating our grapes and staring at computer screens, we need more of that. Of you. Of all us being unafraid. Saying this is my gift to the world,
this is my story,
this is my beauty mark.
This. This. This.
This is all we’ve got, guys. What beauty are we going to make with this?