Browsing Tag


Guest Posts, The Body

Figure Modeling

April 19, 2017

By Jera Brown

The moment I disrobe and step up naked on a platform where anywhere from two to a dozen pairs of eyes are staring at me has never bothered me. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Before I started figure modeling, I’d enjoyed other public nudity experiences which led me to believe I’d be a good candidate for the gig.

There were other reasons I started modeling. As a broke graduate student, it is a way of supporting the arts without the ability to buy much. It’s also physically challenging, and I love a good challenge. And — though this was not something I consciously admitted to myself when I considered modeling — I believed it would help me love my body more. I was wrong.

I model for members’ organizations where artists pay a fee for studio space and access to models and for classes where new and intermediate artists learn how the body works and discover their unique style. Here’s how it works: Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

What David Bowie Taught Me about Art, Death And Letting Go

October 14, 2016

By Grace Loh Prasad

The Montclair Railroad Trail is a mile-long, tree-lined path carved into the side of the Oakland Hills. From 1913 until 1957, the trail was part of a passenger rail line that ran from San Francisco through Oakland to Sacramento and Chico. Today it’s hard to imagine that trains once rolled on this narrow path through abundant eucalyptus and oak trees; no traces remain of the railroad or the station that once sat at the foot of Paso Robles, an area now occupied by a row of large, immaculate homes with two-car garages and shaded patios.

We go running on the trail almost every week. Years ago I pushed my son Devin in a stroller here; now he runs beside me and we race the last twenty yards over the footbridge to the stairs that lead to Montclair Village. Every now and then I run alone. I study the trees and I think about how old they must be, about how they have witnessed so much – the railroad being built then abandoned; houses rising one by one; families arriving, expanding and eventually leaving, to be replaced by new families. Time passes, but the trees always remain, season after season, year after year. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration, motherhood

Knitting A Soul

August 12, 2015

By Bernadette Murphy

My twelve-year-old son, Jarrod, plays trumpet in a jazz group, and I’m usually the one to take him to the rehearsals in downtown Los Angeles. Often, I bring a knitting project to work on during the two or three hours he’s behind closed doors. A few other parents wait with me, though most drop their children and return later. The kids work with their jazz teacher in an almost completely soundproof room. When a piece they’re practicing becomes particularly loud, the slightest vibrations and melody slip through the soundproofing like smoke signals to let us know something wonderful is occurring in that little room. Hearing those sounds, I sneak up to the small five-by-ten-inch window and peer in.

I’m not the only one. Passersby, parents, people waiting for their dance classes to start: we all take turns jostling to watch preteen kids blow inspired, improvised jazz and blues. There’s something irresistible about watching people do something they love.

The rehearsals take place in a gorgeous performing arts school situated next to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a stone’s throw from the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and in the shadow of the amazing Disney Concert Hall, standing at astounding angles, huge sails of metal and concrete reminding Angelenos of imagination’s incredible power. The school is located in an area that’s both highly cultured and adjacent to great poverty; skid row is a few blocks away. It’s a place where art, music, and dance–self-expression of all forms–are actively encouraged and yet the implicit risk in such self-expression is tangibly present. The unspoken fear, at least among the adults, seems to be: If I give myself so fully to something I love, will I end up like that street-corner poet I passed while looking for a parking space? The woman was screeching her words at approaching vehicles, trying to call attention to her beliefs and experiences, only to be drowned out by the forward-marching parade of society. Or what about the homeless man outside MOCA, strumming his guitar, happy in his music yet oblivious to the rest of the world: Will I become like him?

One of the biggest dangers of giving in to art is that our values might change—or return to an earlier, simpler form. The perfect house, the right furniture, the great job, the designer clothes: Maybe those things don’t represent our hearts’ desires the way we thought. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves that we didn’t particularly want to know. Or maybe people will laugh at us. Maybe we won’t appear the way we’d like to.

Worse yet: Maybe we won’t be any good at what we love. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, travel

Be All In.

June 15, 2015

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

By Jen Pastiloff.

I got up before the sun this morning. The room was dark and I didn’t know where I was. I am in a twin bed, I am shivering and sweating, the sun is not up, where am I? I’ve been grinding my teeth really badly. I unclenched my jaw a little and felt my plastic night guard in my mouth, but still, I couldn’t quite place where I was. It’s funny when that happens, isn’t it? You wake up and have no idea what day it is or where you are or if you are late to work or what the fuck? Do I even have a job? Am I still waitressing? Am I late for school? School? I am a grown-ass adult, I don’t go to school, where the fuck am I?


Okay, okay. I am in Aruba. I remember. Calm the fuck down.



We are going on a sunrise hike and I have set my alarm for 5. Just 5 more minutes, I lie to myself. My mouth guard cracks inside my mouth. Are you kidding me? I still lay there with plastic pieces in my mouth, refusing to swing my legs over the edge of the small bed. This night guard that cost almost $500 and I just bit it in half. I still don’t get up. Just don’t swallow the plastic and die here on this twin bed in Aruba, Jen, I say to myself, and also, Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?


Who clenches their jaw so hard they bite their night guard in half? What am I holding on to? I don’t panic though. I lay there calmly chanting don’t swallow don’t swallow and then make myself laugh because it reminds me of blow jobs and I feel like a teenager for laughing. Like when someone’s name was Dick and we’d laugh. Dick and blow jobs and plastic in my mouth. I better get up.


At least I can laugh because this piece of crap plastic is going to cost another $500 unless I want to crack my crowns. I recently got two crowns, one of which is gold. Classy.




Now I am on the plane. I am nestled against the window with the best $20 investment I have ever made (EVER): a pillow and blanket I purchased in the World’s Worst Airport otherwise known as Ft. Lauderdale.



I went to Chili’s in my 3 hour layover and got a vodka soda and salmon. My waiter was very accommodating and gave me black beans instead of rice and when I asked for salsa, brought me a huge Styrofoam container of it and some plastic cutlery. It brought back visions of the people I used to wait on who would ask for plastic silverware. (I guess it was a germ thing?) It also brought back memories of those skinny women who would come in shaking and saying, It’s so cold, when it was 65 degrees, Can I get a hot water with lemon? I hated those ladies. I wanted to tell them to eat a sandwich. (They always ordered the Tuna Deluxe, no rice, no dressing, and they never finished it.)

Anyway, I took a bath in my salsa and drank my drink and ordered another because 3 hours. Ft. Lauderdale. I asked the lady at the table behind me if the chips were any good.


“They’re greasy but they’re okay. Have one.”


I reached over and had one. She was right. They were meh, at best. I would just eat my salsa out of the Styrofoam with my plastic spoon sans chips. This is my first time in a Chili’s. They play good music. I’ll give them that. Steely Dan, Hey 19. A little David Bowie.


The hike was 5 hours long. We started before the sun came. Rooi Tambu, a long trail through a dry riverbed within the Arikok National Park of Aruba. I poured coffee into a plastic cup and spilled it all over myself in the car. The sun was still not up when we began.


I read a sign that explained that the dry riverbed was named after the sound of the tambu, a musical instrument used by inhabitants from African descent who were brought to Aruba to work as slaves. They used to hide in the dry riverbed to perform their dance rituals and play music, as it was forbidden by the Spanish catholic colonists who occupied Aruba from 1499-1636.


Isn’t it amazing how humans have the capacity for self-expression and creativity, no matter what? How art is so often born of brutal circumstances? How survival is contingent upon the making of that art? I bent down low to touch the earth, dirt on my fingers, on the backs of my calves, this is holy dirt, I thought, and wiped a streak on my face. The sun was rising. What was once forbidden flourished here.


We continued to walk until we reached the coastline. I climbed up on the rocks and tried to do a yoga pose but it was slippery and I was scared so I stood there with my arms in the air as my friend Yulady took a picture. I was wearing a tank top that said Be All In and was I ever. My feet were aching, my skin was filthy, I was soaked from a wave that had crashed on the rocks, but my god, was I all in, knee-deep in, waist-high in, up to my neck in, I was in, and I would keep going in, deeper.



I thought of Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey as I stood on that rock


But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.


I read that poem a lot in my yoga classes so I could almost hear my own voice speaking it. God, I’m so dramatic. I climbed down off the rock, pleased with myself that I got up and did the hike instead of sleeping, that I stood on a wet rock on the beach and heard a poem in my head as if the sky was talking to me, as if I hadn’t been laying in bed just a couple hours before with plastic pieces in my mouth and a deep confusion as to where I was in the world, as if the clouds were reminding me to go out and make art, no matter what, make art, create, stand on rocks, recite poetry, get up and climb on rocks and forge your way through the world and do not be confused as to where you are: You are here. You are here. You are here.



Yeah, I was all pleased with myself. I am not a hiker. I hopped down onto the sand and laughed at myself for thinking the clouds could talk. Then I remembered that the minute I stopped believing the sky could talk, I was dead, I was no longer a poet, I no longer had an imagination, I would no longer make art despite the unflinching pressing of time on my body- that if I believed the sky went quiet, I might as well swallow the pieces of plastic and confine myself to a life of quiet choking, of relentless blockage, a life of words being stifled in the back of a throat. I would suffocate. So yes, the sky can talk and I can fucking hear it despite my near deafness. I can hear it and I am all in.


I am happy I came on this hike. I fly out in a few hours, to go home to L.A. and this will tucker me out for the plane. It will stay with me for days on end, the Manzanilla trees and the crabs with the big eyes, who looked dead until you got close and they scurried away. The way the ghosts of the music-makers from long ago lingered like any good art will. Art does not disappear. The clouds do talk.


My friend Yulady and her husband Gerry are also with me on the hike.


Yulady had breast cancer and now has a colostomy bag. She doesn’t complain. She made a video for me the other day where she says, I poop in a bag, and yet, she doesn’t complain. I learn from her.

My legs hurt so I squat down and my friend Mike says, No pooping, Jen. This makes me laugh and I think how poop jokes always do. Like swallow and the name Dick. No pooping, Jen.


Yulady has to poop in a bag. She is my inspiration. Amazing, like I said, how art is so often made through brutality? She tells me that life has not been easy for her. But she doesn’t complain. I want to rub her skin and take some of her back with me to Los Angeles.


I complain that my feet hurt and I have get home to finish packing. That I am hungry. That I am getting sunburned. I tell myself to shut the fuck up.


We finally finish the hike and get back to the house.


I thought about how I got quiet during the walk. Real quiet. It was nice. It was needed. How unquiet we are sometimes. Me. I am. With the constant ringing in my ears and my own chatter and the nonstop information and distraction of social media- how unquiet. During the hike, you couldn’t look up because of how rocky and uneven the earth was and that was okay.


One foot in front of the other, paying attention, getting quiet. How needed it is. I got soaked as I sat on that rock and I thought life is good. At least in this moment.


It’s good to get quiet. My legs covered with filth from the walk, my hair tangled with sea water, salt on my skin. Maybe I’ll stay like this a little longer. To remember.



I place my broken night guard carefully in its blue container and put it at the bottom of my backpack. I wonder if I can superglue it?

At the airport the long is long and women with heavy blue eye shadow and t-shirts that say Aruba: The Happy Island wear too much perfume. My bra strap breaks in line and my boob starts to hang out. I ask a stranger to fix it. (Not my boob. The strap.)

She kindly does. She is flying to New York with her husband. They have arrived at the airport almost 5 hours early. I, on the other hand, am worried I will miss my flight and my bra has just broke.


Two hours later, I make it though all the lines and my bra strap breaks again. I get in line at the Happy Bar and order a white wine, which he gives me in a mini bottle with a Dixie cup of ice. I take it to the gate. Thank you, Happy Island, for allowing me to walk through the airport with a plastic cup of wine. In the States, we can do no such thing.


Night guard breaking, bra strap busting, what next, Jen? Your head going to roll off?


I sit down next to a big guy who is partly in my seat. He sleeps with his head pressed into the tray table in front of him, from takeoff to landing, while his wife absent-mindedly traces the hair on his legs with her French manicure, as she reads a paperback. He lifts his head only once, to turn around and yell at (I am guessing) sons, “There’s enough room back there. Knock it off.


In Ft. Lauderdale I somehow have to go through security. Again. Fourth time in one day. I am so cold that I feel like one of those women who ask for lemon water. I am freezing. I buy a pillow and blanket in the airport shop and attempt to find a place to eat. This brings me to Chili’s. The Ft. Lauderdale Airport really does blow. (Ha ha blow jobs again.)

I am sad to leave Aruba. I wish I took more photos. I close my eyes and rest my head on the table at Chili’s and start to make art in my head. I rearrange words and create sentences out of fragments of stone and wind and blue, blue water. I remember a poem I wrote 12 years ago.





I am in awe of the things that cause change.


The forces, natural and apocryphal, that cause us to evolve-

The catalysts, those things working in our favor-

The impetus for us metamorphose, to mutate and transform.

Whether being trapped inside the earth in heat so blasting

A Guatemalan volcano has to spew its ashy breath-

Or having an old friend come to stay for a week.


We change.


We change shapes and figures over and over again.

We exchange one body for the next, one precious

Stone for a different one.

One pleasure for another.


I wonder about the things working in my favor. How I have been changed by this trip? By the Rooi Tambu? By other people’s pain and how their music settled into the bones of the earth so that when we walk over it, our feet touch their hearts. I wonder where my waiter is with my drink. I wonder why I clench my teeth so badly. I wonder what life would be like if I went all in, like really all in, like I stood on that rock as if I could never slide off. As if nothing could stop me. I wonder what being all in felt like. I checked to see if my boob was tucked in, if my bra strap was hooked. Yes. I was all in. I made myself laugh. This is important.

I wonder if I will make my flight.

I do.

I get home eventually.

Meanwhile, I cuddle in my blanket and pillow next to a Chinese man with a mask over his mouth. He eats peanuts and I eat salsa out of Styrofoam and I think that both of us are all in. He nods at me as if to say hello with his eyes and I turn my head to the clouds out the window of the airplane because they are speaking. Of course they are. I must get quiet to hear them. Shhh. Goodbye.



The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for June 20th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. 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 March cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.



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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat Sep 17-24. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! It is LIFE CHANGING! You must email to book.


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.)

Guest Posts

Big Sur, Henry Miller and the Book of the Dead.

December 23, 2014


By Jeff Finlin.

Some things you revisit only to find that the grandiosity of your youth has come back to slap you with a disappointment that you somehow remembered wrong. It’s like the white wash of mind itself has taken over to spite your perception of what’s really going on here. That old gerbil wheel between your ears remembers things in the unreality of comparison and what we’ve seen and heard; not in what’s happening now. The mind spits, moans, worries perceives and bewilders only based on what it’s captured before or is uncertain of.  It’s like a camera spitting out only what it’s seen or heard over and over again. Whether it’s that piece of ass you had or a glorious drunken night under the stars it mostly vomits back our experience more impeccably than it actually was.  It’s incapable, unless trained like a show dog, of just shutting up long enough to contemplate the miracle that lies before us.  The miracle is too terrifying. It’s written as our own book of the dead. The mind has to actually die in order to see that it’s the miracle itself. So in order to feel it we have to read and retain our own demise. We got to know it…realize it … love it… .  And that’s a hard thing to do. The denial of it is way easier. That Grateful Dead skull comes to mind. The day of the dead grins ear to ear in the lighthouse of itself. No …they weren’t kidding.

But then there are those times when the head shuts up long enough for us to experience the living and the dead all at once. Sometimes in a moment of God given clarity, the head, along with the heart, is able to recount the glorious cellular work of past experience in relation to what’s happening in front of your very eyes. It connects the present and past to the cellular chain link within and you are reminded in a phantasmagoric moment of explosiveness who you are, why you are here, and what you are supposed to do and be. You experience how you have become in relation to all your delusion, dreams, fear and psychosis. You come to see the path of mistake, truth and longing as a cosmic weave of grace and beauty, ugliness and pain, and in those fleeting enlightened moments it all somehow makes sense.

That happened on a drive today up Highway 1 in California into the wild and beautiful redwood spiked Big Sur where we had the pleasure of visiting The Henry Miller Memorial Library. The tears and times and heavens rolled like rain into my heart and mind amidst a beauty so big and bold that it made me aware that I was not separate from the river of universe that lay exploding within and out. I had been here before… but it was even bigger than I remembered. It was the personification of “remember to remember” as Miller so eloquently put it. I was somehow magically transported and connected to the first time; the original time of being. I was magically transported to the time I first experienced myself as a writer and human cell exploding into the many.  It was the future past and present all rolled into one Continue Reading…

Converse-Station, Guest Posts, imagination

The Converse-Station: Katharine Beutner & Kirsten Kaschock.

November 7, 2014


By Katharine Beutner & Kirsten Kaschock.

Jen Pastiloff here. Welcome to The Converse-Station: A dialogue between writers. With the site getting so much traffic, I can think of no better way to utilize that traffic than to introduce the readers to writers I love. The dialogues created within this series have stayed with me long after I’ve read them on the page. Enjoy! 

Matthea Harvey’s “The Straightforward Mermaid” begins: “The straightforward mermaid starts every sentence with ‘Look . . . ’ This comes from being raised in a sea full of hooks. She wants to get points 1, 2, and 3 across, doesn’t want to disappear like a river into the ocean.” If you were a mythical creature, what would you be? How would you start every sentence?

Katharine Beutner: Kirsten, hello! Thinking this over, I’m surprised that I find it much easier to say how I would start every sentence than to decide what kind of mythical creature I would be. I would start every sentence with “What if–” and sometimes the what-ifs would be marvelous and speculative and sometimes they’d be practical and sometimes they’d be anxious. I’ve cut down a lot on the anxious what-ifs since I got divorced, but they still creep in sometimes.

Since I ask questions all the time, I think I’d be a sphinx, though I’d rather be the guardian Egyptian sort than the riddling kind that has to eat hapless travelers. People tell me I always seem calm and collected, though I find that hard to believe.

What about you? And I’m curious, do you feel a pressure to choose from a particular mythology? I’ve been Greek-mythology-obsessed since I was a kid, so I felt like it would be cheating to claim another source — and I’m really leery of appropriating another culture’s mythology, though for some reason I don’t feel that guilt about Greek myths, maybe because they’ve become a sort of symbolic language for writers and readers in Western literary traditions.

Kirsten Kaschock: Hello Katharine. Lovely to meet you in this imaginary space.

I’d have to be a shapeshifter, skinwalker, facedancer, changeling. A creature for whom metamorphosis is identity. I’d start every sentence as differently as possible, trying on language like shoes. How do I want to move today? I’m not satisfied that my own identity is accurate, so I collect more–writing is a place to do this less tragically than other places. I love my life, just not enough to live there and there only. The thing is, I’m pretty sure when I wear others’ faces, pasts, and bodies—I end up leaving something (my scent? my trace? my soul?) everywhere. P’raps it’s only by being other that I prove I exist? Or some comparable nonsense…

As far as traditions go–dark European fables and folklore are most resonant with me, but you see facedancer up there too (from Frank Herbert’s Dune). I’m fascinated by the mythologies that surround, the ones we are ever recreating. I’m not that interested in writing vampires or zombies, but trying to figure out their function in the current North American cultural imagination… that would be a project.

I have another life where I’ve danced, and being trained in classical ballet and modern dance seeded in me a profound awe of the human ability to transform the self. In the Greek mythology you love (and that my sons are just discovering now), I’m wondering if the everpresence of physical transformation–for punishment or reward or to facilitate seduction–is part of the draw. Some creatures seem simply elemental, others are created or made god. Still others, like the Sphinx, are hybrids. I like what happens to them/me when I think through such manifestations as real, i.e., not (purely) metaphorical. Tell me–in addition to your hypothetical tendencies–does the sphinx-body appeal to you? Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, healing, Mindwebs

The Art of Being A Worrywart.

September 3, 2012

When I was a kid my nickname was Worrywart.


I used to say things like Do you think it matters? Is it going to be okay? over and over, to anyone who would listen. It didn’t matter what I was talking about, what the it in question was, it just mattered that I was appeased. I really didn’t care for the truth either, I just wanted to be told it was all going to be okay. And then I didn’t listen. I just kept on worrying and asking the same questions.

I obsessed. I bit my nails down to nothing. I wrote little notes to myself on papers I would crumple up as soon as I jotted down my secret language on them. I would write the first letter of every word only so if the sentence was “Am I going to get in trouble for not reading that book for school” I would write “AIGTGITFNRTBFS”.

It was a language only I understood. And maybe my sister. Years later I would find little notes with the same secret language that were not in my writing, but in hers, and although I think she must have gotten it from me, this secret language, she claims it was a weird talent she made up all on her own.

I used to use that secret language when I was anorexic to write down all the things I ate.

Rice cakes




would be: RCHASW.

I knew exactly what it meant when I read it. Even years later.

It was a craft, a skill, a profession that honed, this worrying business. This secret language.

During the years when I was losing weight rapidly, when I was deep in the throes of anorexia, I would ask people, anyone: Do I look fat? Do I look different than I did last week? Have I gained weight?

And the kicker is that I never ever wanted them to say yes. Never.

I wanted to stay in my secret language land and my land of worry warts. It was like a kingdom of pain and although I hated it, I wanted to stay. I felt safe there with my first letters only of words, with my bitten nails and repetitive thoughts.

It started when I was young although I am not sure what age exactly. I remember having a recurring dream that our house was on fire and I that I saved everyone but my sister. Never my sister. I was climbing a tree in the dream and then it would end like that. Always. Each time.

Maybe the worrying started before my dad died. Maybe after. The nickname started after he died, I do recall that, when we moved to California and I would collect soaps and line them up on the shelf in my room I shared with my sister. We had a hamster and bunk beds and at night I closed my eyes and tried to forget everything about my life pre-hamster and pre-bunkbeds.

As I got older the worrying turned into a full time job. I would sit in the library at NYU for hours counting my hunger pains and staring at the book on American Literature without reading one sentence, or rather reading the same one sentence over and over for four hours. I would write down in my secret language all the things I ate or didn’t eat that day and then obsess over how I would finish my homework when I hadn’t even started and I had been sitting here for hours. Then I would obsess that I wasted time. Then the sun came up. To do all of this well, as I did, was a true art.

To have the world fooled, that I had it together, was a skill unlike any other.

My eyes gleamed over and under them were soft dark circles which suggested that I spent the night awake and eating in my sleep as I did often because I was starving. Anything really. Anything I could get my hands on. Cat food. Muffins. Anything.

To be so good at something took time and practice and I didn’t have much time for anything else, mind you.

You never forget how to be an artist.

I still obsess, I still turn things over in my mind so much that they lose their meanings and become dog bones so chewed upon that there’s nothing left to do but keep chewing.

I catch myself now. I catch the thread of the thought and rip it before I trip over it and fall down the rabbit hole.

There was the year when I was 18. I was obsessing on something so much that it ate that year whole. That year disappeared in the way that some years do and the only way I can  reconcile any of that year is sometimes in a dream or in a photograph. Gone. Annihilated. Poof. Eaten up by worry.

Truly it’s an art, I tell you. Not everyone could be so good at it.

The thing about worry, the real tricky thing is this: it begets nothing, nothing but more of it. And it’s addicting, a drug in its own right. You know it’s bad for you and you want to stop, or maybe you don’t, but you can’t. It satisfies some deep craving where you’ve been broken, and nothing else does that, not yet at least, not that you’ve found. So you keep doing it, you keep slipping until you are so far gone that nothing makes sense anymore except your secret language filled with broken letters. That place where you worry is like a safe nest and even though all the things you obsess over will most likely never happen, nor do you want them to, it somehow feels safer to be in there, in that cracked world where you can spin and spin and never have to look at what is really happening outside of your mind.

So yes, worry is an art. A skill and a commodity. The more you collect it, the more value it will have. Until eventually it is all you have. Walls of your worry. Looking back they will demarcate the eras of your life as if they really happened.

Sure, I still want someone to tell me it will all be okay. My great big fantasy. I like to feel safe, yes.

Sometimes I still obsess like a parrot with a three word vocabulary, but mostly I catch myself in these moments and open the door to the cage and fly away.

I allow myself my humanness. I astound myself at my own humanness at times, in fact. But I refuse to be swept up in the arms of this clever nonsense. No Thanks, I say, I am just passing through.


Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.

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Inspiration, Q & A Series

Robert Sturman: King of The Yoga Photograph, King of Capturing The Soul. The Manifestation Q&A Series.

January 18, 2012

Welcome to The Manifestation Q&A Series. 

I am Jennifer Pastiloff and this series is designed to introduce the world to someone I find incredible. Someone who is manifesting their dreams on a daily basis.

I am so in love with today’s post. When I asked him what he will be up to in 2012, he says “I’ll be pointing towards the beauty and I’ll be continuing to tell our story. That’s what the Artist does” and this, this, is why I love Robert Sturman. Robert has been a dear friend for years. We have connected on a deep level because both of us love poetry and art, and yoga, of course. Robert was a big fan of my poetry from the moment he heard my poems and constantly stayed on me to write more. Now that is a friend I want to have around. Someone who believes in me, supports me and wants to make me the best ME I can be. That is Sturman. (I call him Sturman, folks. Or King.)

His art blows me away. I am sure you have seen his images gracing your facebook or the walls of your local yoga studio or friend’s home. It’s not that he simply captures an image. He captures the soul and the light and makes it immortal as all great artists before him have done. He is a poet in the truest sense of the word.

We had coffee last week and when I asked him what he was up to he said “Prison.”He has become passionate about creating art in prisons as someone teaches the prisoners yoga. From a gorgeous Elephant Journal article: 

Devoid of judgment or commentary, the images simply bring forth beauty and truth. I’m reminded of Rumi: “out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field; I’ll meet you there.“

So when he said he would do my q&a I was thrilled because I knew his answers would be nothing short of magic. And I was right. He talks about being stuck as NOT an option which I love. He laughs at himself. He is graceful, funny and humble. Check out my lovely and talented brother from another mother below. The King of Yoga Photographs. I would like to call him The KIng Of Art but I am afraid he would blush.

I love you Sturman and am looking very forward to the yoga photo session I just booked with you. I cannot wait to share THAT with the world. To show them what we have co-created. 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you the most proud to have manifested in your life?

Robert Sturman: One day, about 2 years ago, I woke up and I made a choice that I was going to become the human being I had always dreamed of being. I no longer wanted to have a fantasy about it. I wanted to find out what it meant to honor who I truly am and say yes to all of the things that supported that. I wanted to experience life at my full potential.

It was nothing short of an internal revolution. Everything that made me tense up and resist, like building a website, keeping impeccable financial books, organizing a business plan, taking great care of my body, etc… I was going to move in that direction. It was a personal Renaissance in which I was determined to integrate my wild, creative Artist self with the mathematician/businessman. A full integration of left and right brain. I found it so limiting to continue to buy into the excuse that I am an Artist and I am not supposed to be good at this and that. Bullshit! And with hard work I manifested a man who found just as much satisfaction in learning code to build a website as in going out into the world with my camera. This has given me a great sense of peace, because I harmonized the different parts of myself..

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are your favorite top 3 Robert Sturman yoga images ?

Robert Sturman: Such a difficult question when I have thousands of images which were all my favorites the moment they were born. Imogen Cunningham had the best answer for that question when she said, “The ones I am going to make tomorrow.” And that’s the truth because the most exciting question an Artist can ask is ‘What’s Next?’ Creativity is a thing of the now flowing forward. Every piece was my favorite one the moment it was made. It has to be that way in order to keep going and being excited about going even deeper into the mystery of creation..

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from making your living as an artist?

Robert Sturman: No one’s going to do it for me. And in a challenging recession, I might just have to take a picture of a cat (exaggeration) so I can buy dog food. I came out of the Art academy as a snob about what I would do. But, I wasn’t a developed Artist yet. Now, it does not matter what I do. I am an Artist. Everything I do comes from that place of freedom and sincerity.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From shooting yoga teachers?

Robert Sturman: Yoga teachers are some of the hardest working people I know. Running from class to class, offering everything they have in an effort to help people have a better day. That’s a beautiful gift to life. I also learned that many like to cuss a lot when we are working on the beach and they realize balancing is a bit more challenging in the sand. I enjoy turning the tables and reminding them to take deep breaths and not judge themselves – you know, the same stuff they tell me in class.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming the The King Of Yoga Photographs?

Robert Sturman: Hahaha. That’s a funny question considering I am influenced by so many others in the field. But I guess it’s better than you calling me the Queen. My work doesn’t come from anything I was taught about yoga. I never studied texts and alignment – I like what I see and make Art. I could never call myself a yoga photographer – I think a better description of what is going on is I am an Artist deeply moved by the poetry of yoga. Yogis are a beautiful example of human beings striving to do their best. They have been and continue to be a great influence on me as an Artist.

Jennifer Pastiloff:  What are you most inspired by? Where does the daily source of inspiration for your art come from?

Robert Sturman: Inspiration comes from being in love with life. It’s a romance with life. It’s not rational. Just like love is irrational. It comes from wanting to live, wanting to be immersed in this incredible life. My work is about the world we live in, not an escape or fantasy about a better place. The only inspiration for me is to find a joy in being alive and then the Art is an effortless expression of the life I am living.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What do you do when you feel stuck?

Robert Sturman: It’s not an option. I don’t get stuck. My relationship with myself is vast. There’s where the concept of practicing yoga comes in for me. When I unroll my mat, I know that the next hour and a half is devoted to me – my internal world – to removing the unnecessary. It’s interesting because one of my favorite quotes by Picasso is “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” That’s exactly what I’m doing with my yoga.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I have a list of rules. See below. What would some of Robert’s rules be?

Robert Sturman: Adopt a dog from the shelter if you can.

Spend an hour a day in silence enjoying being with yourself. It will change your entire life.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you up to now?  Where can we find more of Robert Sturman?

Robert Sturman: I’ve been honored to be an Artist who is permitted to enter various United States Penitentiaries to document the growing yoga programs on the inside.

And, I love going into the prisons and working with these men who have found yoga. You’ll see more of that.

My work is just going to keep showing up. That’s really all I can say. I’m going to simply continue on as I have been.

Jennifer Pastiloff: The Polaroid series. Tell us a bit about that.

Robert Sturman: Up until recently, Polaroids were all I did for the majority of my career. It was a unique process of photography in which I carved into the images and created extremely fluid, painterly works of art bursting with color. It was a pre-digital process that I took very far. I traveled around the world celebrating the diversity of our planet completing bodies of work in India, Cuba, Europe, and many other places. I did major commissions for the Olympics, the Grammy’s, World Cup soccer, etc.

But then one day Polaroid announced they were going out of business. At that point, they divided up the remainder of the film for various Artists. I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to use the last of the film. I devoted that film to two projects. One was to raise money for the musicians who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. I worked with the Grammy folks and photographed about 50 of New Orleans beloved musicians – including the Neville Brothers and Fats Domino.

The other project I used the film for was the exploration of expressiveness of yoga. I did a massive series entitled “Poetry of the Gods.” It definitely celebrates the poetry of yoga on the beaches of Southern California. It’s my most comprehensive collection – over 500 finished pieces. It resulted in a large coffee table book, with the foreword by Shiva Rea. I’m quite proud of the finished piece and I look forward to its publication in the very near future.

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you could say “thank you” right now, who would it be to?

Robert Sturman: My thank you is to all of the mentors and beacons of light, the Artists who have come before us, who help and gently guide us through the days—attesting to the awareness that beauty, love and truth can always overpower life’s tragic losses and painful challenges.

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you could pass on one message only to readers in terms of manifesting their own dreams, what would it be?

Robert Sturman: For me, manifestation is a very real thing. I’m not interested in simply thinking it and it will be so. Of course one needs to have the positive thoughts and intentions as a seed to begin – but then it takes hard work. Hammers, nails, muscles and silence. There’s no fluff about that. ALL successful people worked very hard to make things happen. It wasn’t magic.

Jennifer Pastiloff: When was the last time you laughed at yourself?

Robert Sturman: A few minutes ago when you referred to me as ‘the King.’ That made me laugh at myself. (Note from Jen: I can assure you he is. He is!)

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you weren’t creating incredible art, what would you be doing?

Robert Sturman: There has never been a thought of doing something other than what I do.

But, it reminds me of something I heard the mystic philosopher and poet, Osho, once say. He spoke of a woman who he loved watching sweep the floor in the Buddha hall. He said she was making the most beautiful invisible paintings by the joy she was bringing to the sweeping of the floor. So, whatever I chose to do other than making Art, I hope that I’d bring the same quality to it. Because that’s the Art – not the finished piece, but the life behind the creation of it.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who are your greatest teachers?

Robert Sturman: There have been many. I have gathered teachings here and there. And, I am going to stay very present and close to home with that question and tell you about a yoga teacher who I have had the honor of practicing with for the past 2 years named Micheline Berry. I went to her class religiously and she provided the space for me to go deep in my practice sweating it all out, letting go of anything in the way of my life. Anyways, through asana, the sweet rhythm of her class, and the poignant things she would often say, it was like I was at the academy of reconstructing the internal world. She has influenced me into being more of me. That’s a great teacher.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What can we expect Sturman to be manifesting in 2012?

Robert Sturman: I’ll be pointing towards the beauty and I’ll be continuing to tell our story. That’s what the Artist does.

Link to a gorgeous Post Robert wrote in Elephant Journal 


Jen’s rules:

1. Be Kind.

2. Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself

3. Write poems, even if only in your head

4. Sing out loud, even if badly

5. Dance

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say… you know the deal

7. Find things to be in awe of

8. Be grateful for what you have right now .

9. Watch Modern Family

10. Duh, do yoga

11. Don’t worry. Everyone on Facebook seems like they have happier and funner lives. They don’t.

12. Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

13.. Take more pictures.

14. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. no such thing.

15. Say “Thank You” in advance for what is on it’s way.

 Join Robert’s Facebook here

Robert Sturman website to book a shoot or to look through portfolio

“Whether he is creating in a foreign land, on a tour bus or in his own
backyard, Sturman is intimately involved with the people and
surroundings that characterize his work. It’s what many believe
makes his art so full of passion, so honest, so inspiring, so unmistakably
S T U R M A N.

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