Browsing Tag

brene brown


Let Go Or Be Dragged.

January 5, 2013

I am a fish. A stink ripped fish.

I am like a fish. Maybe an oily carp with a big fat hook stuck in my mouth.

That’s what I feel like when I get hooked. Except, unlike fish, I have no built in mechanism that dissolves the hook. That rusty hook just stays in my mouth and catches on other things, as hooks will tend to do. Its in their nature to catch things.

But I’m not a fish. Let me start over.

I am a human. A woman.

I simply get gut hooked and forget sometimes who I am.

Take today for instance. Someone, I have no idea who, commented on one of my essays that it sounded like I plagiarized Brene Brown. And also I’m tired of the blogs that are suddenly rehashing her research without crediting her work. There’s been an explosion of this since her research on vulnerability and wholeheartedness came out.

Hooked. Baited and hooked.

I read the comment (I should start to get in the habit of not reading them. There will in fact, be loads of people who “hate” my book. I won’t lie and say it won’t bother me so best to just not read them, right?) and right after I read the comment I got in a bad mood. I had been in a great mood before that. I felt the hook dig in and the skin in my cheek rip and bleed all over my day. Ruined. How could she say I plagiarized? I have someone doing that to me and it feels awful. I would never, could never, do this. How and why and how dare she or he or whoever and I love Brene Brown, I would never do that and I am repeating myself

and with a hook stuck in me and who cares anyway?

Pull the hook out. Pull. It. Out. Jennifer.

I remember being obsessed with this one professor I’d had at NYU. He wore leather jackets and washed his hands a lot and he smoked in class. Smoked! And I am not that old. He just smoked. In class. You weren’t allowed, it wasn’t the 70’s or 80’s. But he did it and I sat in the front row and usually had no idea what he was talking about but I had fantasies about him and signed up for his classes again and again. That was where I first learned of the anxiety of influence. The Anxiety of Influence, aside from an idea that permeates my existence, is a book by the esteemed Harold Bloom where he talks in very academic prose about how we are all basically influenced by someone else and that creates anxiety. Yes, he was talking about poets but I would like to suggest it is non-poets as well. It is people. How can we not be influenced, read: inspired, by others. So yes, Mrs. Fisherman who threw a hook in my mouth and then left me to die, I am influenced by Brene Brown but I did not plagiarize her, you nincompoop. What I wrote doesn’t even remotely sound like her. There’s that hook again.

The things that hook me. That hook us. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Look, the things that hook me that are good are what inspires me, and yes, Brene Brown is on that list. I get hooked easily. That’s why I write so damn much. I don’t get thrown back into the river all the time, so I sit at the computer with the hook in my mouth until its in my throat and then, all of a sudden, its gone. Its out in the world and I am better for it.

Then there’s the bad and the ugly. The anxiety. The jealousy. The comparing myself, not only to others but to earlier or different versions of myself. Look how skinny I was back then! Look what she can do! Its bad and ugly because I am not using it to inspire. I am using it to make myself small and pitiful and stinky as a dead fish.

Then there’s the really ugly. What fits in this category: the person who actually is plagiarizing me and how it turns my inside upon themselves until I am left with nothing but flailing hands and a high-pitched voice. The hook got in me so deep that I might die if I don’t rip it out myself with my bare hands.

So I do. I rip it out.

Perhaps why that comment got me today. The accuser is being accused? How ironic.

There will always be things that hook us. There will always be a line waiting out there at sea, sometimes so patiently that you forget it might try and kill you as it sits there with a beer and a boat and some sunburn.

Not all the things that hook us kill us. But they fester. I got hooked by a teacher who was way older than me and who had OCD and was bald. I was 19 or 20. I ate puffed air in class and sucked on it for long periods of time so it would last me longer as he talked about Thomas Hardy and here I am writing about him almost 20 years later. He hooked me.

What kills us are the hooks we let kill us. The hooks we let dig deeper and deeper into our flesh until they are part of us and we can’t remember where we began and where we end, we can’t tell the difference between our heart and a crappy piece of metal.

I want to choose more of the things that hook me. I am not a fish. I get some say in the matter.

Let go or be dragged.




Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. 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 Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)


Being Vulnerable.

October 16, 2012

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. ~Brene Brown

I’ve been thinking a lot about being vulnerable.

The idea of it, the word, the sound of the word after I have said it so many times that it sounds wrong, like a not-real word word. The hard ‘V’ and then the falling of it all, just before it picks back up in a hopefulness that can only be described as relentless.

I went to a party last Saturday. A big fancy party that cost $500 a ticket. You know, the kind of parties I always  never frequent. It was a fundraiser for InsightLa. As described on their website: InsightLA is dedicated to bringing the deep joy and peace of mindfulness and compassion to people everywhere. Our commitment is to provide a warm, supportive learning environment, fostering mindfulness and compassion in all our relationships – with ourselves, with others and with our world.

Jack Kornfield was to speak and I had really wanted to attend, so when my client bought me a ticket as an early birthday gift, I was over the moon.

I went alone. ( He said my husband could come but would have to buy a ticket.)

That. Was. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Confession: I felt nervous. I rarely  never go to parties alone where I don’t know anyone.

I knew I had to go. Jack Kornfield was going to be speaking!

(Who is Jack Kornfield you ask?)

Maybe you don’t ask, but I I’d like to tell you who he is.

Jack Kornfield is one of the leading Buddhist teachers in America. A practitioner for over 40 years, he is one of the key teachers to introduce mindfulness and vipassana meditation to the West. 

So yes,  I went alone.

I walk in and my client’s home has been transformed into some fairytale palace with lights hanging everywhere and people with vague smiles milling about. People who look like they meditate. And countless servers running around with fancy trays of food (little Chinese take-out containers with soba noodles and chopsticks stuck on top and kale salad and delicate raviolis with spinach inside served with little bitty baby forks.) And very few people drinking wine. It was that kind of crowd.

Naturally I went to the bar and got a glass of Cab. (Or two.)

I sat down on a white ottoman on the grass and pretended to check emails on my phone, with my glass of wine in hand. Because, well because, I felt: self conscious.

I was alone. Just sitting there. Alone.

(Who cares? I hear you saying.)

Or maybe that is me saying that. Regardless, I was acting busy because I felt somehow stupid and exposed being there alone.

(Does thing ring a bell? Has anyone ever felt this way?)

Two gorgeous women looked like they were talking to me, or about me, (with my hearing loss I can never tell.) I smiled at them (pretending I could hear.) They mumbled something so I got up and went over (because I couldn’t hear said mumble.)

Ah! They were saying: We love your red jacket with the leopard print inside!

I proceed to tell them that I was there alone and felt awkward. They told me to sit with them.

And that was that.

We talked all night and I am having lunch with one of them next week.

Really strong, beautiful women too.

The point?

As I was sharing the story with my husband about how I made two new friends, I realized that I could have just thanked them for the compliment and sat back down. But I chose to be vulnerable and, because of that, I made a connection.

They got it. They’re human. They’d been there before. They recognized my fear or pain or whatever it was, and that was all it took for it to go away. For me to feel at ease.

Connection: It’s everything.

They knew what it felt like to be at a party and have no one to giving a knowing glance to, to go get a glass of wine for, to whisper Let’s go, I’m bored or This is better than I thought it would be.

I was telling my husband and I realized that a man alone at a party might not (probably wouldn’t) have gone to another man and said he felt like a dork for being alone.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he would have.

All I know is that because I chose to be vulnerable and express myself, I met some amazing women who are exactly the type of women I want to be meeting. If I chose differently I might have had a good time still, but I wouldn’t have made the connection.

Look: parties are weird. And awkward. Especially when you go alone. At least for me.

I am okay with being vulnerable and admitting that “party fact”. That in fact, I hate parties. Period. Even when I do know people.

I wonder how many moments of our lives are missed because we buck it up or stuff it down or make it go away or pretend it ain’t so?

I don’t know. I do know that I am happy I made two new friends. I am proud of myself for going to a party alone (and leaving with two new friends) and for finally hearing Jack Kornfield speak.

I am tired of pretending.

It feels good to cop to stuff.

To admit I am human.

And a work-in-progress.

And a beautiful mess.

If you think that’s a cliche: come over.

No, really. Come over. Come see just how messy I really am. How imperfect and full of holes and papers I am. And how the piles of clothes and books and receipts keep climbing the walls of my house. It’s pretty incredible.

It’s my mess.

I am cleaning it up myself.

And when it gets to be too much I ask for help. That is also me being vulnerable.

The thing that’s true for me, and for you too, is that I have to do most of the work myself. You can’t do it for me (as much as I want you to. And I do. I do!)

At the fundraiser, a woman was imitating her Zen master/teacher, and he had said, when it came to doing the work, to meditating: No one can pee for you. You have to do it yourself.

So I guess what I am saying is this: Be authentic, be vulnerable, clean up your sh*t as best as you can on your own and pee for yourself because no one can do it for you but if you ask for help you may make some connections along the way. You will, however, still have to take a pee on your own.

Photo and poster by Jenni Young of Click to connect with them!


Yes, I am now a huge huge fan of Jack. Get to know him.

Daily Manifestation Challenge

Courage. The DMC.

February 13, 2012

The theme of classes this week is Courage so I thought I would start this dreary Monday off with a Daily Manifestation Challenge about courage.

I have a temporary tattoo on my forearm that says COURAGE. It’s called a Manifestation Tattoo. Can you believe that?

( Serendipity, right?) They are made by a company called Conscious Ink.

Conscious Ink Manifestation tattoos. A company after my own heart!

I started thinking a lot about courage, about what it really meant after I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. If you have not seen it, stop what you are doing and watch NOW.


Brene says “Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should bein order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.”

There it is. The courage to be imperfect.

I was telling my class on Saturday just before I had them write for 3 minutes straight about courage, that I think people grossly underestimate themselves when it comes to courage. You do not have to jump from a plane with a parachute to be courageous.

I look at the people on my last retreat. One girl came all the way from Amsterdam, alone. All the way to Mexico with a group she didn’t know, having never done yoga in her life and leaving her children back home. That’s courage to me, in my little Jen Book Of Courage. And you know, she had the courage to be imperfect and ask for private help from me with the poses. She had the courage to sit out and watch at times. She had the courage to make new friends and be vulnerable. My sister had the courage to leave two kids at home (one who has special needs and a very strict regimen) and  take a week just for herself. Something she had never ever done in her life.

Today, she is signing up for a yoga teacher training in Atlanta after allowing herself that week retreat in Mexico, that was a gift just for her. She connected to what inspired her and renewed her sense of courage and came home ready to take on the world.

It took courage for me to admit my hearing loss. At first, I was mortified and felt less than a human being. I was afraid I would be alone in the world on an island of silence in a sea of noise.

I started to tell the story of who I was with my own heart and much to my delight, I ended up inspiring people and encouraging others to be vulnerable and open.

It took courage for me to talk openly about my history with a severe eating disorder. It also held me accountable.

It even took courage to start my Karaoke Yoga Classes. To get up there and sing badly and have no self consciousness so I could encourage them to do the same.


When my dad died I told myself not to cry. I held it in for years. I literally would bit my lip and say “Don’t cry. Be strong. Be courageous.”

I was 8.

Unfortunately I thought that was the courageous thing to do. To be brave like an adult and hold it in and move on and get on with my life. To not be affected and most certainly never ever be vulnerable. Especially not in front of other people. Gasp!

It took many years for me to develop the courage to show emotion in front of other people. I had a very hard time as an actor being vulnerable or crying because of all the years I spent stifling that part of me. It was like a piece had broken and the clock was missing a second hand, the doll had lost it’s head, the flower was without it’s color.

Once I finally opened up I realized that it was my courage and that very vulnerability which drew others to me, and get this, which allowed me to make money. The thing i had stifled and been ashamed of, was now my source of income and my bliss. Is it my bliss not being able to hear well? No way!

It is my bliss being able to share and talk and teach and take people on a journey where they can discover what courage means for them.

A woman came up to me Thursday after my Equinox class who told me she just signed up to go back to school so she could become a clinical psychologist. She is 60. That, Dear Manifesters, is what courage also looks like.

Doing something that society may have told you that you are too old for. Or too young for. Doing something because it is what you want to do rather than what anyone else asks of you. That is not to say we act purely from our own needs all the time with no consideration for others or our family. It is to say that we must do what we feel is our dharma, or what makes us come alive despite what may seem like a very valid excuse as not to do that very thing.

Here are some suggestions as to how you can comment below:

It took courage for me to __________ despite ____________.

I have the courage to say “I love __________.”

When ________ happened I found I had courage I didn’t know I had.

I have the courage to ask for help with ________________.

I have the courage to admit to myself that I really want ______________.

I have the courage to accept ___________________.

I have the courage to forgive _______________.

I have the courage to go after my dream of ___________.

Lions and Tiger and Bears. Oh My,


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 (204) 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 her retreats are like. Check out her site 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. `