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Beating Fear with a Stick

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing

The Things I Couldn’t Name.

August 18, 2014

By Janine Canty

I was five or six the day I let my mother’s jade necklace fall out of a window. One minute it was there. The next it disappeared into thin air. Like a cheap magic trick It was early evening right before the streetlights come on. Homework was being cleared off of dining room tables. The ugly landing outside smelled like sausage and Del Monte carrots. Inside of apt.3, on the second floor, I was bored. Frightened and angry. Emotions cooked inside of me like soup. I couldn’t name them. I couldn’t control them. I hadn’t asked for them.

The rest of the world was getting ready for dinner. Mothers were burning palms on gravy steam. Fathers were arriving home with shirt collars loosened. Armpits an oval of sweat.

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Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts

Trigger Finger: An Essay on Gun Control.

June 17, 2014

Trigger Finger: An Essay on Gun Control. By Kirsten Larson.

My father was gone two weeks when a man I didn’t know was my mother’s new boyfriend pushed the butt of the .22 rifle on my right shoulder and with his big, dirty fingers folded my slender 4 year old finger onto the trigger. He cupped his left hand around my left hand, squeezed it under the stock and raised the barrel toward a paper he’d nailed to a fir tree a few minutes before. When he took his hands away the barrel fell pointing at the ground a few feet in front of me.

We were in deep snow up the side of a mountain almost to the timberline near Kalispell, Montana, where we lived. My Mother had driven my brother and I to shoot guns with her “new friend.”

I was shivering mostly because of the cold. But also I didn’t know anything anymore about my life, the randomness with which things change and happen: a new house, my dad gone, my mom unpredictable.

I’d never seen a gun. I didn’t know anything other than I was supposed to hit the bulls-eye. I didn’t know what a bulls-eye was. What I knew was that this man was not my father, but he and my mother were drinking whiskey out of a short brown bottle and looking at each other like she and my dad had once looked at each other.

“Pull the trigger,” he yelled.

The gun exploded in front of me with the loudest noise I’d ever heard. I was thrown back onto the hard snow. Pee soaked hot through my tights, warming my icy thighs. The shame of being touched by a strange man, of peeing like a baby in front of a man who was not my father, was far worse than the pain in my arm from the gun.

I didn’t know enough to be afraid of the gun. I didn’t know about death.

***

I did know what death was in 1980 when the .30-6 my mother bought for my 16 year old brother discharged in our house. I was 17, upstairs in my room reading. The sound of a car accident the sudden merciless slamming of metal and glass was the sound of that gunshot.

You don’t know how your body responds to terror until you’ve known terror. I freeze. I lose my voice. An iced knife straight up from my solar plexus.

The absolute still that followed that gunshot. I heard first my mother’s voice, then my brother’s and knew they were alive. Then I could move. When the fear let go of my heart, sweat coated my entire body from my scalp to my shins.

My brother had been playing with the gun, didn’t know it was loaded, aimed it at the lathe and plaster wall and pulled the trigger. The result was a black-rimmed hole about 10 inches diameter.

Didn’t know it was loaded.

My mother bought the gun for him because he was a boy raised without a father. All of us raised without fathers and the ways we try to make up for that loss.

Guns and what they stand for.

A year or so later, shortly after I moved out, my mom told me the police took the gun from my brother when he and his friend were hunting too close to people. I never heard another thing about it.

***

The other side of a gun. Valentines Day, 1989, 8:15 AM, I was a single mother waiting with my chatty 3-year-old son at the bus stop for the #19 bus, which was late. Another woman sat reading the paper, waiting. When you don’t have money for a car, you wait a lot.

Waiting for a late bus involves me staring at incoming traffic, willing the bus to show. So I wasn’t paying much attention behind us. When I turned I saw a man less than half a block away walking toward us. He looked like my brother, first thought. Second though, something’s not right.

I found my son’s hand and pulled him close. The man walked up, hands in his pockets, and asked, “Do you guys know where the nearest police station is?” I turned again to look down the street holding my son next to me.

The other woman answered, “I don’t think there is one close to here.”

Don’t tell me you can understand how I must feel about what happened next, because you can’t. Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine what it’s like to have a gun pointed at you by a stranger with dead eyes, your baby right there.

That frozen terror again.

He screamed, “Give me your money.” Had to move. Dropped my son’s tiny hand. Dropped my purse. Picked it up. Gun there. Hands shaking, pulled all of the money I had out of my wallet. All three dollars. The other woman crying. Handed him all of her money, two dollars.

Gun pointed at us. Only one small movement to death.

He said, “I’m sorry.”

He said, “I’m a piece of shit.”

He said, “I thought you were lawyers or something.” Then he turned and calmly walking back from where he came from.

The police took a report.

He took five dollars. He took all we had.

***

You won’t like what’s coming next. You will judge me, a small child in the house and all: I learned how to shoot, got a gun, and started carrying it. A lady Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. I carried it every day for nearly two years after a man with dead eyes pointed a gun at me; me holding my three-year-old son’s hand.

The gun was in my home when, at 2:00 AM, someone rattled the door handle and then walked stealthily around and looked in the windows. I was not tempted to shoot him, instead I called the police.

I had the gun in my purse when I was doing laundry at a public Laundromat one evening. A man walked by several times, looking through the plate glass windows at me and out to the parking lot, me, the parking lot; a lion stalking its prey.

I was wearing jeans and a white sweatshirt. Again that feeling – something’s not right. He came in, pulled the glass door behind him. Just him and me for as far as I could see. His eyes pinpoint, shaking hands, not right. Asked if he could pay me for an hour of my time. An hour of my time. Knowing the gun was there in my purse I stood up straight, hands on hips, told him to get the fuck away from me.

I was carrying the gun when someone exposed himself to me as I got off the bus one night after work. He followed me around the block in his car. I thought about the gun only after calling the police with his license plate number. He was caught and punished. He was 19.

I don’t know what offense might make me decide to kill another human being. Certainly nothing I own is worth someone’s life. I stopped carrying the gun.

I locked the gun in the cedar box I’d received as a graduation present years prior and then packed the box away with the few letters I received from my father as a child, and family photos. I locked it away to protect my son. I locked it away because I didn’t know how to get rid of it without putting it in someone else’s hand. I purposely lost the key to that box.

The presence of the gun came up for the last time in 2006.

People who say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” those people, they’ve never had more than they can handle. I had more than I could handle, but that’s another story.

I was depressed; the kind of depression that feels like weights hanging off all four limbs. Depression where comfort is the constant thought of the ending the pain. It was like that. Although I had a suicide plan, it didn’t include the gun. But, a man I was briefly seeing was concerned. He broke the lock on the cedar box, took out the gun and locked the trigger with a trigger lock he’d purchased. He kept the key when we stopped seeing each other a few months later. The gun is gone now. I will never own another gun.

***

By both circumstance and choice I’ve lived the majority of my life without my father and without a male partner. The guns I have known seem to be a replacement for the protective presence of my father, and later, a male partner. The gun I owned made me believe I was safe.

None of us are safe, male or female. But most people I know personally who own guns do so for self-protection. It’s complex.

I take the regular precautions most people take. I trust my instincts. Look people in the eye.

I worked hard at a corporate job and made good money. Since I have made better money I no longer live in crime-ridden neighborhoods, no longer have to take the bus, no longer go to the Laundromat; I have not been the victim of a crime in a long time.

What I paid for that safety was too much; creativity, time with my child. But that’s yet another story. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have made the same decisions; I’d leave myself vulnerable to have back the opportunities I gave up thinking enough money would insulate me.

In the debate about guns, so many on both sides seem to have simple answers. As usual we have two ways of conversing: the luxury of outrage and the luxury of stubborn insistence. But we all agree, something must be done.

The sort of fear I lived with is erosive to the soul in a way that defines lives. Learning to live a good, authentic life not ruled by fear: for me, that’s gun control.

 

 Kirsten Larson lives and writes near Portland, Oregon. She studies writing both at Antioch University as an MFA student, and in Tom Spanbauer’s basement as Pond Scum. She loves to read and ride her bike. She met Jen at a writing workshop in Portland with Suzy Vitello and Lidia Yuknavitch.


Kirsten Larson lives and writes near Portland, Oregon. She studies writing both at Antioch University as an MFA student, and in Tom Spanbauer’s basement as Pond Scum. She loves to read and ride her bike.
She met Jen Pastiloff at a writing workshop in Portland with Suzy Vitello and Lidia Yuknavitch.

 

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 Manifestation Retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 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. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next workshop is London July 6. Book here.

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Guest Posts

Hold It All.

June 13, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Ally Hamilton.

When I was 12 years old a guy grabbed me on my way to ballet class. I was walking in the same door I’d walked in for years on West 83rd Street, with my hair in a bun, and my tights and leotard under my jeans, and this young guy walked in ahead of me. The door opened right onto a narrow, steep staircase. At the top of the stairs to the right was the ballet studio. I could hear the piano. I can tell you, even at 12, or maybe especially because I was still so young, I had a vibe. An intuition. I remember the feeling of something being off, and I probably did exactly what he’d hoped I would do. I passed him on the right and started racing up the stairs. But he grabbed me from behind and put one hand over my mouth and another between my legs and told me not to move and that he wasn’t going to hurt me. For a minute I froze. Panicked with the taste of tin in my mouth. Fear undiluted. His hand over my mouth as he started fumbling with his jeans, and all I heard, like an explosion inside my head was, “NO”. Not that I understood exactly what he was trying to do, just that animal part of me, of you, of all of us, that part knew. And then I bit his hand and screamed and threw my elbow into his ribs as hard as I could. He let me go immediately. I don’t believe he expected a fight. I faced him, still screaming, tears and adrenaline and a racing heart, and backed up the stairs, right hand, right foot, left hand, left foot, fast. I remember his face, and I remember being shocked that he looked as terrified as I felt. Eyes wide so I could see more white than anything. He took off down the stairs and when I saw he was out the door, I turned and raced/crawled up the remainder of the staircase as fast as I could. I busted into the office, hysterical, unable to speak, but the guys there, the dancers, they knew. I just pointed and they took off, and three girls who were in the company ran to me and held me until I could speak. Not that I could fully make sense of what had happened. They weren’t able to catch up to the guy, and I don’t know what happened to him.

I share this with you because it exists in this world, and because it happened. Clearly, it could have been a lot worse. I hope it was never worse for someone else who didn’t scream, or couldn’t fight. And I hope he found the help he desperately needed. I believe if someone had photographed my face and his as we stared at each other, they would have looked incredibly similar. I believe he was as shocked and sorry about what he’d done as I was. He looked like an animal with his leg caught in a trap. There are people who are deeply troubled, who need help but don’t get it. Because they fall through the cracks. Or are able to hide their pain from the people closest to them. Or maybe those people are in denial. I don’t know what his story was, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t a good one.

The reality is this world can be incredibly violent, but it can also be achingly beautiful. If you want to be awake, you have to hold it all. I’m not a fan of this amazing pressure to be positive every waking minute of the day. Not everything is positive and light. Some things will rip your heart right out of your body with no warning and no logic. People who demand that you be light every minute are running from their own shadow, and it’s only a matter of time before it bites them in the a$$. My thoughts did not create that experience, it was completely outside my frame of reference. There are people who would point to karma, or God’s plan, or everything happening for a reason. I don’t know about any of that for sure, and neither does anyone else. What I do know is that sometimes horrendous things happen to beautiful people. Maybe someday it will all make sense and maybe not. Until then, the truth is we live in a world with darkness, and incredible light. To deny one is to forsake the other. It’s not about being positive, it’s about being authentic. Open. Real, raw, vulnerable. It’s about understanding sometimes you will be so scared out of your mind you’ll crawl up a staircase backwards, not even fully knowing what you’re racing from. And sometimes you will be blinded and amazed by all the beauty, all the gifts you’ve been given, the taste of gratitude like sugarcane in your mouth, and the feeling of sunlight like it was poured directly into your heart. Don’t worry about being positive. Just be awake. Hold it all.

Sending you love, for real. Ally

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher and writer whose work reaches hundreds of thousands of yogis around the world via her online yoga videos and social media following. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, a premier source for online yoga videos, which has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Magazine, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, CNN and more. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station and creator of The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. Up next is Vancouver (Jan 17) and London Feb 14. Click here. 

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

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

Click to take any of Jen Pastiloff's online classes at Yogis Anonymous.

Click to take any of Jen Pastiloff’s online classes at Yogis Anonymous.

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

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

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

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

Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love

I Am A Woman Who Survived.

June 5, 2014

*Update: This post got The Manifest-Station awarded the “Freshly Pressed” Award! Brava, Janine! Jen here. I have a broken foot as many of you know, so I am giving the site all my attention right now. I am over the moon with the posts these days! Pinching myself! Today’s essay is one I hope you will read and share and help me make viral. This is so well-written, so important. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has known abuse- you are not alone. And you don’t need to stay. Janine Canty, you blew me away with this beautifully nuanced and heartbreaking piece.

Simplereminders.com

Simplereminders.com

I Am A Woman Who Survived. By Janine Canty. Every October I wear a purple ribbon. It represents women who have lost their lives to senseless violence. It represents men and children who have lost their lives to senseless violence. It represents people who died too young, with most of their words still inside them. It represents the empty place at a table. It represents a voice forever silenced by familiar hands. It also represents endurance and survival. It represents the years I endured. The seventeen years I survived inside the basement apartment, and on a floor in my Mother-In-Law’s den, and in a pretty little brown house affordable because it was in a flood zone, and in the blue house with the failing septic system. That little piece of ribbon represents the times I was too afraid to speak. Or move. Or cry. Or breathe. That little piece of ribbon celebrates the me I grew up to be. I earned that ribbon. I love that ribbon, and I hate that ribbon. It reminds me that we live in a world capable of beauty, and brutality. It reminds me of a hunger that can’t be curbed or controlled. It reminds me that I want my granddaughters to grow up believing that hands are gentle, and strong, and wonderful. They are things designed to caress, and to hold. They are designed to build foundations, and to express oneself with chalk, and ink, pencil, and crayon. To immortalize childhood in clay. Hands are not weapons. They are not a punishment. They are not something to be afraid of. They are not something to flinch from .I want them to grow up, and have homes where they never have to be afraid. To speak. Or move. Or cry. Or breathe. I want them to grow up to have partners who make them feel valued, and beautiful. I want them to look in the mirror, and see something besides despair. Or fear. I want them to see, and feel, taste, and experience their own beauty. I want them to believe in that beauty. Every October I stand with strangers, and with friends, and neighbors. I stand with policemen in the dusk, and the rain, and the wind. I walk alongside people with similar stories. I carry a candle in the dark. Sometimes I speak a strangers name. Always I cry for someone I never met. Every October I remember that I’m free and I’m alive, and I am humbled at what a simple gift it is to open my eyes in the morning. I am amazed at the sound of my own laughter. I am in awe at the singular joy found in hot water, and at the bottom of a shampoo bottle. After you’ve lived in the dark, the long lines at WalMart, and a walk through the supermarket, are friggin’ adventures. Like dancing under the rainbow. Every October I am a little older, and hopefully a little wiser. I look in the mirror, and the broken woman that I was, the one who walked down that driveway,in November of 2000, she’s a memory. She’s all about the things that happened to me. The woman in the mirror, the one you see at Wal Mart, and the dairy bar, and laughing over a med cart in the nursing home, she’s who I am. Who I became in spite of all the damage, and because of the damage. She’s all the parts that survived the run through fire, and came out on the other side, with new, unblistered skin. Every October the question inevitably comes up. The question I hate. The question I am beginning to think has no answer. “Why did you stay”? I’ve discussed this. I’ve sat on the nightly news. I’ve talked to the newspaper. I’ve talked to countless women and even a few men on a hotline. I’ve stood at a podium in the State House, and addressed legislature. I am a woman who survived 17 years with an abusive man. I am a woman who loves words. I am told I can be an eloquent speaker/ writer/ person/ whatever. I am not eloquent when it comes to that question. I don’t know why your daughter/sister/ niece/ cousin/ brother/ son, stays. I don’t know why some people grow up with hatred where a heart once was. A rage that overtakes the soul. I don’t know why people hurt people. There’s fear. I know about fear. Everybody who’s ever seen a spider, or a snake, knows fear. Everybody who’s ever stood up to speak in a crowded room, knows fear. Anyone who’s gotten married, given birth, or started a new job, has strapped fear on like an apron. Anyone who’s ever found an unexpected lump in the shower, knows what it is to sit in the shadows, with the icy fingers of fear. Fear of the unknown. It’s a biggie, right? Fear is a mountain full of mean. Fear freezes, and cripples, and destroys. Fear sucks. Fear is power and heat. If fear could be bottled, cancer would be cured, and there would be no more war. Every October I put on a purple ribbon, and I hope for something better in my world, and in yours. I hope that one person somewhere, just one, will understand. One person will see, that if they are being terrorized within the four walls of their home, it’s as much a crime as a mugging on the street. I hope for more education for teachers, and volunteers, and the police force. For judges, and employers, Parents, and children. Victims and survivors. I hope for someone more eloquent than I, to explain this in a few simple words. I hope for just one person to believe that they don’t deserve to close their eyes beside fear each night. They don’t deserve to wake up afraid of what the sunshine in a new day will bring. Every October it’s 1978 again. I am 13, and in a brand new town. I have eyeglasses, and a haircut that I hate. I have a little sister that could give the breck girl a run for her money. I want thin thighs. I want to be able to jump over the hobby horse in gym. I want to grow up to be a writer. Or an actress. I want to be everything I’m not. Confident and beautiful. I want to live in New York. My first kiss from a boy hurts. My skin turns angry colors underneath his hand. He demands a kiss, and I obey without thinking about it. Because my arm feels like it’s going to snap. Because I am afraid in a way I have never been before. Because I am 13, and I don’t know any better. I don’t see things like respect, and self love as viable options for myself. Afterwards, he laughs. Maybe this is just the way boys are. Maybe this is normal. Maybe I’m as abnormal and weird as I feel at 13. I am addicted to the ABC Afterschool Specials. They talk against drinking, and drugs. They warn about strangers touching you in a private place. Everyone gets a happy ending in 45 minutes. What’s not to love, as the credits roll, and the Bee Gees sing “How do you mend a broken heart”? It’s 1981. I have acne to go with my chubby thighs. I’ve never conquered the hobby horse in gym. Crowded locker rooms, and scratchy towels that smell like other people’s sweat, are never going to be my thing. I’m courting an eating disorder while scarfing down Town Spa pizza. I want to live in Europe. I want to drive a sports car with the top down. I want contact lenses. I want not to be sixteen, with chubby thighs, and acne. The boy next door plays the guitar for me, with deceptively gentle hands. He tells me I’m beautiful. I believe him, as I nurse bruises his teeth have left against my mouth. I have seen my father on his knees. I have seen my parents ready to kill one another over a can of flat beer. I have seen my father in handcuffs, and packing a suitcase. I’ve seen him walking away, and I’ve seen him coming back. I am never getting married. I am never having babies. It’s 1983. I am 18. I put on a borrowed wedding dress. I walk down the aisle, towards the boy next door. I’m carrying a bouquet in shaking hands, and a baby in my belly. My mother has stopped crying long enough to put on a kick ass purple, Mother of the Bride, dress. She looks stunning. She also looks cold and dazed. My sister is crying softly beside me. She tells me how romantic it is, as she holds my bouquet while I’m sick. She asks me if she can have my stereo and posters. She asks me what it feels like. I ask her to shut up. My father puts down the Rosary he’s held for 3 weeks, to walk me down the aisle. He looks like he’s craving that flat beer. I’m just enough of a Catholic girl to understand that I disappointed Jesus by having condomless sex before marriage. I’m just enough of a Daddy’s girl to be devastated at the look on my Father’s face during our shared, silent, march down the aisle. I am 18. I am married. I have never cooked a meal. I have never driven a car. My sister is barely 15. She dances too closely with the 20 year old best man. she catches the bouquet, and finds herself lost in her first pair of brown male eyes. My groom has been drunk since 10 am, when he drove to the church listening to David Bowies “Modern Love”. His arm was dangling out a window. An early December sun was in his eyes. My future was nearly derailed by a rusted out red Chevy running a light. Later, he gave thanks under an altar as he kissed me. He tasted like Listerine, and Michelob, and Copper.   It’s 1989. I have 3 beautiful babies. I have bruises, but they’re in places only I can see. I have a voice growing rusty from lack of use. I answer to names you wouldn’t call an animal. He tells me I’m ugly and fat. I believe him. I don’t have a split lip or a broken bone to show a doctor. This is so clearly not the Farrah Fawcett, “Burning Bed” depiction of abuse. I believe it’s not abuse. My children who’ve never known any other life, believe it. My parents live with it. The few friends I’ve held onto from high school, are driven away by it. My world has diminished to the size of a small bedroom in the back part of my husbands childhood home. I still don’t drive. I don’t yet have a high school diploma. I don’t have friends. I have fear, and 3 beautiful babies, and bruises in places only I can see. It’s 1989, and I’m pregnant again for the fourth time in 5 years. I am 6 months pregnant. I am fat and slow, and I disgust him. I am never fast enough for him. His arm catches me across the chest. Later he’ll say it was an accident, and he never means to get that upset. None of it will matter. All that will matter is the chair I fell over. An ugly green chair, with a rip in the vinyl. Stuffing poking out like cottage cheese. I could be as fat and awkward as the day was long, and maybe, just maybe, that was why my little boy died inside me. None of it mattered after I saw his sweet, silent, face. My little boy died, and he took my belief in happily ever after with him. My baby died, and I hated myself. I hated my husband, and that ugly green chair, and that arm. It’s 1995. We return to the little blue house with the failing septic system. We’d been younger in that house. Calling naivety happiness. How I needed to believe it could be. We ate moose track ice cream out of green Tupperware bowls. We had returned to a familiar place, as different people. Fear lived beside me as unseen as a mosquito in a windstorm. Crippling, freezing, powerful fear . It didn’t show up all of a sudden, it didn’t announce itself with fireworks. It was quiet and insidious. Like mold. It was stale air, and molecules. It wasn’t to be questioned, it just was. I carried fear like a tired child. It was as much a part of me as my arms and legs, and my lazy eye. You can’t play the game if you don’t know what the rules are. You can’t question yourself when you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. When all you’ve known is fear, fear becomes love.. When the body begins dying, the heart turns into a selfish Mofo. It pulls the blood away from the extremities. It hogs all the blood. So that it can continue to beat. So that it can survive. The body becomes colder. It becomes numb. As a medical person, today, I call that mottling. Back then I wouldn’t have known enough to call it survival. My body was amazing, as all bodies are. It allowed itself to become numb. I became numb, I survived. It’s 2000, and something. I’m working in the nursing home. I’ve rediscovered parts of myself I’d forgotten all about. My love of words, and writing. My love of card games, and scrabble, and walks in a warm rain. I am a work in progress. Forgiving myself is still a jigsaw in the making. It’s October. I put on a purple ribbon. I sit on the evening news. People call me brave because of the crap I’ve been through. People called me brave, because I didn’t lay down and die, but at one point I wanted to. I wanted to lay down and die. I wanted to cease existing. I wanted to cease hurting. That’s what strong armed the fear. That’s what numbed me, and then brought me back. My desire to die was where I found my will to live. That’s where I found the capacity to love myself. To forgive myself for things that were beyond my control. That’s where I found the strength to walk down that driveway. Don’t ask me why I stayed. I can’t answer that. Don’t ask me why your sister or neighbor, or friend stays. I can’t answer that. Not in black and white. Not in simple words. It’s individual to the person. Like hair color. Do I suspect fear? The all knowing, all powerful, crippling, freezing, fear? Yeah. I suspect it hides behind the curtains. It keeps company with the shattered dishes. The broken dreams, and the bruises no one else can see. Don’t ask me why I stayed. Ask me why I left. Then put on a purple ribbon, and carry a candle beside me in the dark. 67117_10151138515472569_450235920_n My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.” Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook. I fail at tweeting.   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 writing/yoga retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 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. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. To submit to The Manifest-Station email submissions@jenniferpastiloff.com. Next workshop is London July 6. 

Beating Fear with a Stick, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen.

April 24, 2014

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen. *trigger warning. Mention of rape.

This is inspired by a piece written by Jen Pastiloff and is now an exercise in her signature Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human®. Click here to read.

I’d been on retreat with Jen before. She’ll read some of a “Thank you, Fuck you” piece she wrote (it’s brilliant). She’ll walk, as she reads aloud, through the space between the yoga mats where we’ll sit. Most will sit in frozen appreciation of her work while some will continue their own letter she’d already have asked us to write. Her voice, the way her hearing loss affects her annunciation (making her words more pure, almost as if they come directly from her soul), will ring in my head days later, long after the retreat has ended. I’ll be sitting at my desk on Wednesday morning at 10am, striving to be productive at a job I hate, but her voice will play on repeat. The part about thanking the women, the ones whose voices got real high when asking for more salad dressing, will almost scream. You’ll be pulled back to that room. Lindsay Lohan. Organic eggs. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Normally I wouldn’t write a letter to the good and bad stuff in my life. Especially the bad. I’ve spent the better part of my life numbing out the bad stuff (it doesn’t work). But, when the person asking is Jen Pastiloff you take a leap of faith. You trust her. You want more of what she has. She’s got an aura of amazingness. Anything is possible when she’s around. I hate trying to give her a title. While she’s a teacher, yogi, writer, retreat leader, creator of Manifestation Yoga™ and a host of other things, she does each with such an unorthodox approach. It’s this unorthodoxy that speaks so loudly to her tribe. She manifests, or “Makes Shit Happen” (as she calls it), magic. This petite, yet silently strong, woman with thick dark hair to her lower back, porcelain perfect skin and a contagious laugh, is a magician.

Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, writing

Tips and Ass. By Amy Ferris.

April 23, 2014

Tips And Ass. By Amy Ferris.

talk about ONE song bringing back a flood of memories.
rubberband man

welcome to my memory.

once upon a time, like many, many, many years ago, i danced topless for one night.

years ago.
years.
ago.

for one night.

i was working a temp job which i got from a temp agency, and i was asked by the temp agency to not return to my temp job as in “don’t ever, ever come back.”

long story. bad experience.
i also waitressed.
then the restaurant closed.

it was the universe telling me i needed to expand my horizons.
you know, be bold, audacious, be big, huge … jump.

leap. go for broke.

the thing i loved about waitressing was the tips. i loved that at the end of the night i had cash. a tiny little wad of cash. and so, i thought, “geez… what kinda job can i get with tips?”

after a few weeks (okay, maybe days) of trying to find another waitressing job… (waitressing was HOT back then, and most folks i knew waited tables), a bulb went off. albeit, a dim one…

“i know, i’ll try topless dancing.”

before you go to the whoa, whoa, whoa place — dancing topless is in a completely different (okay, slightly different) category than say stripping, and/or lap dancing. you needed an agent to get a topless gig. my very first, and only ‘dancing’ agent, was right out of central casting: heavy-set, her lids coated with baby blue eye-shadow. a long strawberry blonde wig. she was tough, she was crude, she said “youse” a lot, and …

… she got me a job dancing topless at juniors in brooklyn.

juniors in brooklyn i asked with excitement? are you kidding me, juniors… oh my god, you got me a job at juniors in brooklyn? i was so excited, i could barely contain myself.

no, no…no… not that juniors, whatdya nuts? she said, this a joint, a bar, a small little fucking bar… that’s a famous cheesecake place.

hmmm, i said really two places in brooklyn named juniors? that seems kinda … you know, weird.

you want the job she asked cause i have other girls dyin’ fuckin’ dyin’ to dance.
tips and a meal. that’s what you get. tips and a meal.

TIPS!

this juniors was a small corner dive bar in brooklyn, honest to god, just a couple of blocks from hell & high-water.

and for the record: i didn’t wanna be a ‘professional’ dancer. just as i never wanted to be a professional bowler. it’s just, i loved dancing, and i figured, what the hell, i’ll make a few bucks… a few of my friends – okay acquaintances – were dancing topless at night, and going on auditions during the day. i was young. i was wild. i was adventurous. i was also a size 3, and was very happily & thoroughly delighted to be a size 32 A cup. i was small. i was firm. and no, i could not twirl my breasts counter clockwise to save my life. but there i was – a ton of make-up, my long curly hair falling in front of my blue mascara-ed eyelashes – dancing, shaking, trying desperately to be sexy, while dancing on top of – THAT’S RIGHT, ON TOP OF – the bar in HEELS as the song rubberband man played over & over & over & over again on the juke box.

i was sweating, i was dancing, and yes, yes…i was a freak show with royal blue mascara dripping down my hot pink cheeks.

i was one of three girls dancing that night.

the two other girls – women – had 8 x 10 framed glossies in the front window, with x’s and o’s and kisses, their names signed on their glossies. their breasts were big, huge, and man, could they twirl. holy shit, could they twirl. they could bend and twirl and these women wore sequins and pasties, and their hair was sprayed and didn’t move. not one inch. not one hair on their head moved when they danced the night away.
they did not sweat.
their names were barbie & sissy.
they were professional dancers.

they made a lot of money that night. they were able to grab the bills – and yes, hold the bills – between their breasts. in their cleavage. and then they would twirl & dip & dance with the money. they laughed & twirled, and they could sing along with tito puente.

i had no cleavage.
i made no money.
i didn’t give a shit about rubberbands.
and i didn’t know who tito was.

i had to borrow money to get home.

barbie & sissy went on to sell their sequins thong’s and pasties on e-bay. they made a fortune.
and, yes, they probably even collect residuals from their breasts.

my agent fired me. she called me and told me that since i couldn’t pick up the cash with my cleavage i had no future in topless dancing.

hmmm, i thought, let me see if i can do something with this useful information and so…

… i learned how to pick up pens & pencils.

and that’s how i got my first literary agent.

 

Image

Amy Ferris: Author. Writer. Girl.
blog: www.marryinggeorgeclooney.com
Book: Dancing at The Shame Prom, sharing the stories that kept us small – Anthology, Seal Press (2012) co-edited with Hollye Dexter
Book: Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From A Midlife Crisis, Seal Press (2010)

*****

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, Salon, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Modern Loss, xojane, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend 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 Seattle and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)

 

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

All I Need to Know About Self Love I Learned from a Kindergartner.

March 26, 2014

All I Need to Know About Self Love I Learned from a Kindergartner. By Amy Roost.

Writing: It’s a numbers game. I send my editor a column knowing full well that most of the intended audience will never read it. And for those who do take the time, many won’t care and many more won’t like what I have to say.

And that’s fine because I don’t measure success by the number of people who read or like what I write. Rather I consider myself successful if what I share eases the way for just one reader.

And so it is with this hope that I share a story of abuse and recovery.


Between the ages of approximately 5 and 8, I was sexually abused by my brother nine years older than me. He told me he would kill me if I ever spoke a word of his transgressions to our parents. I believed him and followed orders until I was 16.

Our family was gathered for dinner. My brother waited in prey until the most opportune moment when he made a cruel remark about my ass being too big for my chair. It was not the first time he’d substituted verbal abuse for his previous physical abuse, but for whatever reason on this occasion I snapped and ran to my bedroom crying. My mother came to console me but it was no use. I was so hysterical that she wanted to take me to the hospital. I refused. I wailed. I screamed. And finally, I spilled the truth.

She was devastated, as any mother would be who learned that in the anguish and self-absorption of her divorce she had not protected her child. She did not question my story; she did, however, ask me to keep my story “our secret”.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was going through a depressive episode in graduate school, that my mother finally confronted my brother, insisting he apologize for his actions. I vividly remember taking his call: Standing in the kitchen of the brownstone where I lived in New York City staring out a window at the Chinese restaurant below, I heard his small voice utter the words “I’m sorry.”

I’d had dreamed of this moment for years and the satisfaction I’d derive from hurling expletives his way. Instead what I felt was tremendous relief from the heavy veil of secrecy having been lifted and hearing by abuser acknowledge the truth–a truth the veracity of which I ‘d begun to question myself, so long had it remained dormant.

Sexual abuse survivors — and there are millions of us, men and women alike — will recognize this statement. As well as the narrative I’d constructed around my childhood trauma that went something along the lines of: “If you’d kept away from him it never would have happened.” “It was your fault for not telling your parents.” “You liked the attention and let it continue to happen.” Such was the guilt and self-loathing that had become deeply etched in my psyche.

Through counseling and the love of a select few I trusted with my story, I healed in fits and starts until a day not long ago when my whole perspective shifted.

I was babysitting a neighbor’s 5-year-old daughter. We made animal shadows on the wall and she squealed with delight every time I used my best ventriloquist’s voice to make the shadows “talk.” We laughed so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. She looked up at me concerned and reached to wipe my tears away. “Don’t cry,” she said. “It’ll be OK.” And that’s when it hit me: the 5-year-old me could no more have caused what my brother had done than this innocent loving child next to me could cause harm to herself.

Writing: It’s a numbers game. Many of you will think this story TMI. But perhaps one person will recognize her experience in what I’ve shared and feel more connected, less lonely. It is for her that I write.

Amy Roost is executive director of Silver Age Yoga and a multi-dimensional freelancer.

Click photo to connect with Amy.
Click photo to connect with Amy.

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

***

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a retreat to Ojai, Calif in May and again over Labor Day weekend. https://jenniferpastiloff.com/Yoga_Retreats_With_Jen_Pastiloff.htmlAll retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up are workshops in Dallas, Seattle then London!! Book here.

 

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!

bryant-mcgill-fear-love-choice

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.

gayle-brandeis-author-photo

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, Video

Do You Say “I’m Sorry” All The Time? The Vlog!

February 16, 2014

Do You Say “I’m Sorry” All The Time? Stop.

https://www.themanifeststation.net/2014/02/05/relentless-over-apologizing-staying-quiet-the-one-for-young-women/..

That’s a link to the essay I mentioned in the video. Please read and SHARE. Needs to be heard. So much in it I did not have time for in the video. .. Do you say “I am sorry” all the time? Do you apologize for being who you are, for saying what you want? For existing? Do you stay quiet when you should speak up. A video on the way we keep ourselves underfoot. An important one. Here is to living unapologetically.
A line from my essay “This is my paltry attempt at understanding the way we keep ourselves underfoot, the way we don’t say what we want to say for fear of losing what we probably never had in the first place.”

ps, by the time you see this, I am in London! weeeeeee! Brrrrrr! xo jen
Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Books, cancer, courage, funny, Guest Posts, healing

Shit Happens. To Everybody.

February 13, 2014

My Road Trip to Kripalu by Joules Evans.

A few months ago I was up late counting sheep, when some shit I’d been dealing with must’ve hit the ceiling fan over my bed and started splatting all over the sheep, spotting them like 101 Dalmatians. Which kinda felt like a spoiler alert to the sleeping game I was trying to win. So I stopped counting shitty sheep and I prayed a little. Which is probably what I should’ve been doing about my shit in the first place instead of kicking it around a bit, and then, kicking myself for making such a mess. I’m assuming we all know how messy metaphorical shit can get when you kick it around. Now, I know I’m not supposed to go assuming, but I figure it’s legit in this case, since there’s no such thing as a shit vaccine. I don’t think there is a sequel or grown-up version of the children’s book, Everyone Poops. But I could see it being called something like, Everybody is Full of Shit. Well, at least, I know I am, on a pretty “regular” basis.

Anyway, after all of that ruckus I sort of pulled it together a bit. I wasn’t in the mood to go back to counting sheep quite yet so I woke up my computer, and Googled: “yoga, writing, cancer, retreat” to see where it would lead. Yeah, that third word is some of the shit I was dealing with. The first two are a couple of ways I try to deal. And the last word sounded like a good thing to do when you’re up to your sleepy eyeballs dealing with your own shit.

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poster by Jen’s friend Karen Salmansohn. Click to connect with Karen.

Google threw down an article Jen wrote for LIVESTRONG called “7 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat”.  No shit.  This was my introduction Jen Pastiloff and her Manifestation Retreats. It didn’t take me long, after falling head over heels into the lovely vortex that is Jen’s tribe, from the Gateway of that LIVESTRONG article, to Facebook stalking her, and then staying up all night watching her YouTube channel, to realize (become enlightened;) that Manifesting is aka Making Shit Happen, in Jen speak. Which, translated, meant that of course I had to go. I hadn’t tried manifesting my shit before so I thought I’d give it a “swirly”.

I’d already practically nodded my head off, agreeing with her 7 reasons I should go on a yoga retreat. As if, in fact, my body was, literally, saying YES. So I booked the next available Manifestation retreat, which meant packing up my shit for a road-trip to Kripalu in January. I don’t usually buy gifts for myself but this was a gift I needed to give myself. I saw it as the perfect diving board into 2014—a gift, which, 5 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer, I never even imagined. It was time to re-imagine, cast a vision, set course, and dive in. Head first. No tiptoeing about it.

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When I first walked in the door, I had a pretty intense moment of truth. I didn’t know anybody. And, I’m actually super shy. Luckily I have blue hair, so I don’t think anybody noticed my knees shaking like green Jell-O when I walked across the room like Gumby and plopped down to join the tribe 40 women sitting in a circle, like lotuses blooming. As bold a display as it was a beautiful bouquet.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times on this path which you have chosen, you would never experience fear or doubt.” Jen kept repeating this quote as we went around the circle introducing ourselves to one another. Over the weekend we got to know who walked beside us. We unrolled our mats, unpacked our shit, turned it on its smelly ear in down dog, wrote down the bones, made them dance, shared our stories and our dreams, tore up our excuses, became friends, and each other’s fans. We spent the weekend as beauty hunters, making lists and lists of our #5mostbeautifulthings. This is one of the most. fun. games. EVER. We shared our beautiful things, but we also shared our shit—because love is messy like that sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Shit happens. To everybody.  Except when you’re constipated. And then you just sit on the toilet reading Leaves of Grass for what feels like forever; meanwhile shit’s just taking its own sweet time while you’re sitting there waiting for the shit to go down. Oh, shit’s gonna go down. And sometimes it’s going to hit the fan.

Shit happens. But so does beauty, and what if it hits the fan? Does it leave a beauty mark or make a beautiful mess? Sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand but sometimes you double down or play a wildcard and beat the dealer. Sometimes you’re up shit creek but at least you’re on a boat. You may not have a paddle, but at least you’re sipping red wine in your flippie-floppies with your girls on deck. Anything is possible. Even making good shit happen. Which is pretty much what a Manifestation Retreat, what Jen Pastiloff, is all about.

Post road trip to Kripalu, I’d have to say, that the shit that drove me there, and the beauty I came away with, are two sides of the same coin. I put so much pressure on myself to not waste this gift of life, but to hopefully leave a beauty mark—that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I put so much pressure on myself not to waste a second of the gift of time that I’ve been given, but to spend myself, paying forward the gratitude I feel all the way down to my yoga toes—by making it count that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a single breath, but sometimes I forget to breathe. This is why I drove to Kripalu. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a heart that beats, or forget what it beats for. This is why I drove to Kripalu.

Jen summed it up best when she wrapped up our time together with these words, this mantra: “At the end of your life, when you say one final ‘What have I done?’ let your answer be, I have done love.”

#iamlove

That’s all.

(Except for the part where I express my gratitude to Jen, Kripalu, and the tribe. Peace, love, and namaste. *bows to your unapologetic awesomeness. Xoxo.)

About Joules: I’m a Christ follower. I wear a pink bracelet that says survivor. I think cancer is a bitch. Been there. Done that. Had to buy a new t-shirt. But… I also think God is good. He’s been good to me. I just finished writing a book: SHAKEN NOT STIRRED… A CHEMO COCKTAIL about the cancer chapter in my life. Right now I’m in the midst of editing it and pursuing publication. I’m having the time of my life. I am an INFP. My hub is an INTP (also Buzz Light-year by day.) We have three ridiculous amazing kids who wake up and make me feel blessed. We call them “the Redheads”. After 16 years of homeschooling, we’ve all graduated and I’ve since retired my red pencil and grade-book. Between college, mission trips, internships and world travels, are three all in the process of divebombing out of our cozy little nest aka “the Evanshire” and stretching my apron strings till they snap. Next fall we will singlehandedly be keeping afloat the University of Cincinnati. I love my fam, Vineyard Cincy, writing, red wine, black coffee, good books, cooking, the smells of my hub’s pipe and freshly cut grass, star-gazing (clouds and sunsets too), peanut butter and chocolate, Shakespeare plays, long walks, long talks, playing Scrabble and tennis, popcorn and a movie, traveling, following my Redheads following their dreams…. I don’t like anything besmirching my peanut butter.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a retreat to Ojai Calif (where Joules will also be!) over Labor DayAll retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up is a workshop in London, England on July 6. Book here.

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.

Beating Fear with a Stick, cancer, Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, Manifestation Retreats

Thank You, You Didn’t Break Me.

February 8, 2014

**trigger warning. Strong content that might be upsetting to some. Mention of sexual abuse. Strong language.

By Lockey Maisonneuve

“Thank you to the people who built me.” Jen Pastiloff read these words from an essay she wrote at Kripalu last weekend during her Manifestation Retreat®.

Thank you. You didn’t break me.

I was tingly when I heard these words. Why? Because Jen created the space for me to powerfully, and without anger, share my gratitude and flaunt my resilience to the people who built me.

We were invited to write a Thank You letter to everyone we ever met, the loving, supporting people who showed us grace and dignity, the people who were careless with our heart, the people who bullied us and those who showed us beauty. This letter was best described by Angela Giles, a retreat participant.  She called it a Thank You/Fuck You letter. “Thank you releases it, while fuck you holds it in.”

When I started writing my letter, I wasn’t sure who would receive the thank you or the fuck you. I just started writing, and thanking and fuck-youing. It all came together in one beautiful, colorful, abstract, authentic, thank you/fuck you landscape.

After I wrote this letter, I was shaking.  All over. My legs, my arms, my chest, my fingers, my heart.  Then I was asked to read my letter aloud.  Really Jen??

I trust her. So I read the letter.

I stood there reading, not even realizing what I’d written until I tried to speak the words out loud.  There was no time to prepare them for what they would hear, no time to make self-deprecating comments, or a joke to avoid being present to this moment.  I just had to stand in the uncertainty that I could be vulnerable and would not crumble into a pile on the floor.

As I read my letter I realized I was getting exactly what I came for.   I was being vulnerable. I was standing in uncertainty. I did not use my humor to deflect the situation like I normally do. I was authentic. I was raw. I was humbled.

My audience held the space for me to express things I’ve never said out loud. Once again, I made it through. I did not crumble. I am whole (and kinda awesome.)

I am forever grateful to Kripalu and the amazing space they provide, Jen Pastiloff for being the space of transformation for the planet, and everyone of the women I hugged, laughed and cried with.  I am in awe of every one of you.

My Thank You/Fuck You Letter inspired by Jen’s essay and assignment (click here to read it.)

Thank you to the kid who poured breadcrumbs on my sister before school.  Thank you to my sister for pushing me away.  thank you to my family for telling me repeatedly “She is the strong one.” Thank you to Andrew for hiring me as a bar tender and telling me during the interview that he knew I was lying about having experience as a bar tender.  Thank you to the rapist who punched me in the face.  Thenk you to the man who pulled me out of the shower after sneaking in to the house.  Thenk you to the man who held me down, thank you to my father who laughed as he counted the money men paid him to rape me.Thank you to the lady who worked in the bakery who bartered babysitting services in exchange for free breakfast.  Thank you to me for my ingenuity at the age of 12.  Thank you to my children for teaching me how to love unconditionally.  Thank you to me for getting up every time I fell. Thank you to cancer for allowing me to see that “someday” is a myth, the time is now.  Thank you lululemon for making yoga pants mainstream.  Thank you Jean, for saving me.  Thank you Ed for firing me, I hated that job.  Thank you personal training career for teaching me that I do have something to offer. 

PS. As a public service announcement, if you are planing on attending a retreat with Jen, which I highly recommend, don’t bother wearing mascara. It will be gone by the end of the first Elton John song and for the rest of the day, you will be wondering if it’s all over your face.   🙂

Lockey is a yoga instructor and survivor of cancer and child abuse. Sharing her story and practicing yoga saved her life. When she let go of both the cancer and the secret of abuse she was able to heal in both mind and body. Lockey openly shares her cancer and child abuse experiences to help others in what ever they are surviving in their lives. Lockey has been profiled in Shape Magazine  WABC-TV, News Channel 12.  She is a montly contributor for PositivelyPositive.com. And writes blogs for SheKnows.com and MindBodyGreen.She is featured in The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer by the Editors of Prevention Magazine.  Recently she presented a vidoechat for the GE Healthcare Breast Cancer Mosaic. She is a monthly contributor on PositivelyPositive.com.

At Kripalu in Massachusetts last week (Feb 1, 2014.)

At Kripalu in Massachusetts last week (Feb 1, 2014.)

Lockey and Jen at Jen's Bali retreat last year.

Lockey and Jen at Jen’s Bali retreat last year.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Be prepared to go deep if you go sign up for a retreat. And also to laugh! A lot. 

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, courage

For Women Who Apologize All The Time.

February 5, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

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**trigger warning. Sensitive material contained in this piece. Mention of sexual assault.

Relentless Over Apologizing.

A few years ago a man I knew walked into the café in NYC where I was having lunch with a friend, and before I realized what was happening his hand was on my breast. “Damn, Look at those things,” he’d said with a fistful of my boob.

We chatted for a few moments about irrelevant things- yoga, weather, eggs, before he walked away and sat down at his own table. My friend was dumbfounded, the most natural response, I suppose. She was shocked that he’d grabbed my breast like that. In public, no less. I was embarrassed and made excuses for him. That’s just how he is. He doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just a flirt. He’s harmless.

Did I think it was okay on some level? Did I not want to embarrass him? Why was I the one who felt embarrassed when he was the asshole feeling me up? Was I flattered in some creepy shitshow way? Why hadn’t my friend said something right then as he’d had my breast in his hand like it was his? And would I have said something, if the situation was reversed and it was her breast and not mine? Oh, the shame. The hot shame on my face and my arm hairs standing on end, I felt incompatible with my own body as I pushed my eggs around in a soup of Cholula sauce. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, cancer, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

What’s On Your F*ck It List?

February 2, 2014

By Kathleen Emmets

A year ago today, I was cancer free and on my way home from an amazing weekend retreat at Kripalu run by Jennifer Pastiloff. During those three days, I discussed my fear and anger and hopes for my future (even though I was scared to death of what the future might hold). Even with no evidence of disease, cancer still controlled my life.

Four months later I learned the cancer was back. Life, once again, had to be put on hold.

Or did it?

When what you fear the most in life occurs, what else is there to fear? The answer is: nothing.

Seems as if along with some tumors, I grew a pair of balls. I made plans for my future. I traveled. I laughed. I wrote. I loved and I lived. I realized every time I used the phrase, “I’ll be happy when..” I was allowing fear to control my life.

“I’ll be happy when my next scan is clear.”
“I’ll be happy when I’m in remission for over five years”

Life doesn’t work that way. There are no guarantees that anything will happen, except life itself. It will always keep moving, keep changing.

Be happy now.

Don’t wait for someday, some person, some job, some thing. Now. Right now. No matter what you are going through there can be joy found somewhere. Find it.

As Jen says: Be a beauty hunter.

I returned to Kripalu again this weekend for Jen’s workshop; this time a little slower due to the chemotherapy I’m back on. I kept up with the yoga moves as much as I could; sometimes falling into child’s pose when my body began to give out.

Jen never pushes you physically, I love her for that. Emotionally though? She draws it out of you. Her own openness and vulnerability make you want to be your most authentic self. Her writing prompts have you digging deep and cut right through the bullshit. There is no hiding when she comes close and looks into your eyes. When you have given all you can give, she smiles that knowing smile. It is the smile of someone who has been there, who has experienced pain and wants to help you get to the other side of it. I love that smile.

Jen is a firm believer in asking for what you want. She prompted us to write about things we wanted to ask for in life, without fear of the word ‘no’. Here is my list:

1. Hey, God, can you finally rid my body of this cancer once and for all?
2. Dr. Kemeny, can I come off of the chemotherapy yet?
3. Can I be loved in the way I want and need to be loved?
4. Can I continue to have these amazing orgasms…but, with someone else in the room?
5. Can someone help me make my ‘Fuck It List’ a platform I use to help others going through difficulties in life?

I’ll wait and see if the Universe answers these questions for me. What I won’t wait for, however, is my happiness. That will come regardless of the answer.

Thank you, Jennifer Pastiloff, for all that you are and all that you do. I know who is walking beside me; 40 incredible women from this retreat. Much love to you all.

Kathleen at Kripalu.

Kathleen at Kripalu.

***

Note from Jen: I am humbled, not only to read this, but to know Kathleen. Please send her love on Wednesday as she has her next scans. Oh, and fuck you, Cancer.

ps, what’s on your Fuck It List? Post below!

Don’t you love the Fuck It List idea? Let’s help her make it viral! Connect with her here. Say I sent you, k?

I asked everyone to draw picture of what they wanted their life to look like and Kathleen drew this. The caption said, "Look, I'm a rockstar, Jen!"

I asked everyone to draw picture of what they wanted their life to look like and Kathleen drew this. The caption said, “Look, I’m a rockstar, Jen!”

Kathleen Emmets is an avid music lover and yoga enthusiast. She believes in seeking out the good in all things and being her most authentic self. Her articles have appeared in MindBodyGreen and Do You Yoga. She writes about her experience with cancer in her blog, cancerismyguru.blogspot.com. Kathleen lives in East Norwich, NY with her husband, son, 2 cats and dog. She does not necessarily love them in that particular order.
March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.   Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.