Browsing Tag


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.