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Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

A Testament to All Things Italian.

September 3, 2012

The following is a gorgeous post by my dear friend Sara Lieberman of the upcoming The Handbags Tale. I met Sara last year when I taught my Manifestation workshop in NYC (where I am heading next weekend again) and she joined me on my Italy retreat this past July. This post is a testament as to what goes down at one of my retreats. I could not have written it better myself! It’s such an honor that she wrote this. Thank you Sara. Thank you. See you all in Italy!

Awe & Wonder 2012 by Sara Lieberman


It’s just about two months since I returned from Jen’s Manifestation retreat in Tuscany, and as summer 2012 officially comes to a close, I find myself more frequently reflecting on the sweet, sweltering days of the past season. Among the other activities I participated in and experienced during these always-long-awaited dog days, the week I spent in Tuscany is among my most treasured. When I see Chianti Classico on a wine list back here in the West Village, I am instantly transplanted to our first day of wine tasting at the rolling vineyards of Chianti. When the sky turns pink and orange and the sun is going down, I am reminded of the nightly sunset at Ebbio, when all of us would hoist ourselves up to the roof and watch as the sun slinked behind the cypress trees. But mostly, these days my memory is triggered in yoga.


When I close my eyes in pigeon pose, I take an inhale and there I am, hot and sweaty, roaming the streets in Siena with Elyse and Regan, where we eventually stumbled upon a mysterious-looking delicatessen.Two hours later, we left having indulged in prosciutto, porchetta, salumi, formaggios I can’t pronounce, and two bottles of house red wine. We were hungry and thirsty for new friendships and left hooked on each other.


When I close my eyes in a seated spinal twist, I take an inhale and there I am at this wacky medieval festival in Montereggioni across the street from Ebbio, where all the girls purchased flower headdresses and the men silly jester hats so we could fit in with the costumed locals as we drank sweet (and cheap!) red wine out of ceramic goblets.


In supported bridge pose, my favorite, I inhale and I am happily cooling off in the Tyrrhenian sea with Jen, getting to know each other as we wade in the clear waters just before a big jellyfish kisses my arm causing us to swim a shore in a nervous frenzy.


As I inhale and expand my breastbone to the sky in upward dog, I am in San Gimignano waiting online at the World Champion gelato shop, salivating from an orange creme cup of goodness and laughing hysterically with Stef over something neither of us probably remember.


In forward fold, I inhale and there I am on a bike, huffing and puffing up yet another Tuscan hill, the glaring sun at my front, back and side, with Rich encouraging me to “keep going; it’s not that much farther, really!”


I close my eyes in tree pose, trying to keep balance at the silly thought of playing Connect Four with Andrew late at night in the common room at Ebbio. “OK, just one more game,” we’d each say after one of us beat the other, and then we’d continue to drop the red and black pieces while going through my iTunes library, playing favorite songs.

In Warrior two, my eyes open and gaze forward, I sink deeper into my hips and smile as I remember belting out “We Are Young” during Kylee’s class; The joy was infectious as I caught a glimpse of relief on her face and the pure giddiness in her movement after realizing she had created a real “moment” during one of her first group classes.


And as I lie in savasana, and my breath slows, I see us all navigating the sunflower fields, trying to avoid the bumblebees, wiggling in between the tall, sturdy yellow flowers to stand still with them, a smile growing from our faces for the click of the cameras.


The common theme in all these memories is people. Wonderful characters and personalities that I feel so lucky and blessed to have met. When I signed up, as an independent single gal from NYC, I anticipated the week being a more solitary journey where I’d read and write and practice yoga and read and write some more. While I did enjoy some time alone, and the group was such that if you wanted to go off and do your own thing, it was always respected, I continued to feel a pull toward being an “us” as opposed to a “me.” It was an unexpected “adjustment” from what I know and live, and will forever be thankful for the friendships I made, and the manifestations I set forth with Jen in Tuscany. #Awe&Wonder2012


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Delight, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Re-Entry into Awe and Wonder.

July 17, 2012

Confession: I am having the blahs.

I am back from my the retreat I led in Tuscany and my post-retreat vacation in Paris, with an empty feeling like I came back a shell, having left the meat of me somewhere in Monteriggioni, inside the walled city, perhaps eating gelatto or maybe in a field of sunflowers as the light splays down on them in such a way that my eyes burn, not so much with pain, but with an overwhelming sense of wonder.

One of the things I asked my retreat attendees (a fantastic group that I am still pinching myself over) was to carry their journals around them with during the day, whether they were in Siena eating a slice of pizza or in Florence with the ghosts of Ponte Vecchio, long dead but still floating around with their gold and jewels somewhere just above the ether. I asked them to carry their Awe and Wonder Journals and jot down every singe thing that cause them to feel awe or wonder. Whether it was a conversation with someone who didn’t speak a word of English or the way the Tuscan hills looked at 9:30 at night as the sun was going to bed or a piece of Pecorino cheese and the way it lingered in the mouth waiting for the perfect splash of chianti to join it before descending.

It didn’t matter how big or small the things were that they were jotting down. What mattered is that they were paying attention. To the things that made them feel alive, to the things that made them stop and say Wow.

I wonder how many things we miss because we feel we have seen it before or simply because we are looking at the wrong things to wake us up. I want more things to stop me in my tracks. I want more things to make me ask questions. I want more things to make me feel connected to something bigger than myself, longer standing than myself, and way beyond what I can ever understand. Those type of things.

Whether it is a a piece of pizza in Rome or a moody sky in Paris. Whether it is the high ceilings at the Ebbio and how they have been there for 800 years or the way the olive oil tasted and how time seems slower there as if it has nowhere to be.

So I asked them to be filled with awe and wonder and to bring their journals around so they wouldn’t forget.

It’s easy to forget. Or to not look in the first place.

One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems (you know my obsession with her) in The Mockingbirds.

It is my favorite story–
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
but their willingness
to be attentive–

Their willingness to be attentive!

That’s it, right there. Are you willing to be attentive? To allow yourself more moments of awe and wonder and inspiration and grace?

I came back and feel empty because in some way I believe that is only possible when I am away. That when I am back here, in my normal life, in the real world, I must go back to feeling like the same old me.

Sure, my retreat was a cocoon of love and safety. I got terribly ill, sicker than I can remember being, and despite that, I felt safe and free and happy. I want that back, yes. Sure, the food tasted different and the sky lingered longer than it does here and I didn’t have to deal with emails and bills and traffic and making breakfast and Facebook.

But what I realized there in Tuscany and Paris, and now in hindsight, sitting here with my too strong coffee and feeling nostalgia, as I am prone to feel (is it any wonder I love Facebook?) is that: I can be Italy anywhere. I can be Paris anywhere.

What I mean is: I do not have to escape to feel alive. I do not have to get away to remember the beauty around me or inside of me, to pick up small tokens of beauty wherever I am, on the sidewalk or in a conversation. I simply have to allow it.

I simply have to take out and Awe and Wonder Journal and pay attention.

No I won’t have the same treasures here. I won’t be able to duck into a Parisian cafe in the rain and snap photos of the macarons or take the train and watch buildings speak their stories of defense and heartbreak and disintegration from centuries or eat Brie and actually enjoy it because it does taste different in France and the wine in Italy. The wine in Italy is it’s own treasure.

But, I brought 25 people with me to Italy. I got sicker than I have ever been and they stood by me and not for one moment let me feel as if I was letting them down, or they were disappointed or this was anything other than exactly what they dreamed of.

I did that. I attracted 25 people who got along perfectly as if they chose each other, who laughed together in Italian cities, who stayed up late and painted fingernails and drank Limoncello and wrote in their journals what they would do if they weren’t afraid, who swam in the Mediterranean and then had a picnic with tomatoes and cheese and hard boiled eggs and ate it happily with their hands. There were no cliques, there was no negativity, there was no complaining. I brought these people with me. From here.

So, if that is the case, it would make sense to say that I could bring them anywhere. I could have the same experience here in Santa Monica or in New York City or Mexico or my sofa. It wouldn’t matter.

All I have to do is keep being who I am and the right people will show up.

And then pay attention.

And then be awe.

Be wonder.

**Click here to see some amazing shots on my site of my amazing retreat.



Delight, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Shedding. Guest Post by Actress & Writer Sabrina Lloyd.

November 15, 2011

I am so excited by this post. In the title, I wrote simply of Sabrina Lloyd that she is an actress and writer. Ha! This woman, Dear Manifesters, is truly one of the most interesting people I have come across in my life. I first met her in Italy last summer at my annual Italy Manifestation Yoga retreat. A dear friend, Alimi Ballard, who had co-starred on the tv show Numbers with her, sent her an article I had written. She liked what she read and signed up for my Italy yoga retreat on the spot. (I liked this about her.) The retreat was in Tuscany and she lived in Rome so it just a train ride away. Immediately I fell in love with her. Dear Manifesters, when I think of people I want to model my life after, I think of Sabrina Lloyd. She is present and passionate. She is fiercely devoted to her family. She is a yogi, through and through, returning to her mat again and again over a period of 20 years. She is talented in a way that transcends definition. Give her a camera or a pen or a stage and you will be in awe. So, low and behold, when she agreed to do a guest post, I was over the moon. I can’t be with her in Rome right now, but I can share a little piece of her with you. It is my greatest pleasure to introduce you to one of my favorite human beings: Sabrina Lloyd. Enjoy her.

Sabrina and I having our morning coffee on the roof at Ebbio during my yoga retreat

Shedding : A Manifestation in process

by Sabrina Llyod

Ten years ago, I lay down on my bed in my tiny NYC apartment and prayed for the world to open itself up to me.

My entire childhood I wanted to be an actress and have been very fortunate to find success in that field. But what I thought would bring me happiness, what I had been hoping would make me solid—define me—simply swirled around me like mist, holding me in, and I was still unknown to myself.

So I prayed daily for everything to expand.

My prayers were answered in the form of a beautiful boy who has taken me from all I’ve ever known and is giving me the entire world as my backyard as we roam this spinning sphere for his work with the United Nations. Each stop has been a shedding, a loosening of my ideas and concepts, formed from my culture, as to how I define myself, how to define myself, why I need to define myself.

I am currently studying literary theory with the University of London. At the beginning of the course you must choose five schools of criticism to go deep within. One path available is that of Feminist Critique. I made the assumption that I would not find that of interest and planned to focus more on language and deconstruction, Marx, Freud.

However, each student must at least have a general knowledge of every school so into the shallows of feminist theory I waded, and into the deep of it I now passionately swim.

One of the main ideas behind it is that of gendering. How we become, through our culture—how we become defined—by the norms, ideas of what it means to be ‘feminine’ (or ‘masculine’). How ‘female’ is our biological beginning, but how ‘woman’ is carved out, molded, forced upon us in literature, art, advertising, etc. In linking this idea with deconstruction you start to see how all our preconceptions of how we live, how we look at our world, our place in it are really just constructions in themselves.

Take love, for instance.

What did it look like before words gave it its ideal? Romance and passion, destiny, soul mates are all literary, cultural constructions. I am not saying love is not real, but the labels we put on what something should look like, how something is defined, perhaps should be looked through instead.

When I left NY to follow that boy (now a man and my husband), I didn’t know who I would be without the label of ‘actor’ attached to me. I’ve been trying on new labels: Ex-patriot, wife, mother, writer, but each still swirl without landing and the horizon remains hazy; I feel trapped and crouching under definitions.

So everyday I try and stand on my mat and let go of any need to label. To find an identity outside of words, concepts, that beautiful place of peace that yoga gives you when you just flow, and breathe, and are. When I leave the mat, instead of filling my head with constructed chatter that limits all I can be, I try and remain larger.

I can’t always do it.

History is a heavy burden to wear, but every now and then the boundaries that society and I have put upon me fall away and I expand, endlessly, in every direction, undefined and indefinable.

Sabrina and her daughter in Uganda

If you would like more of this lovely lady, please follow her blog Red Dirt Lattes. Also keep an eye out for her latest film, Hello Lonesone, which received rave reviews from the NY Times.

If you would like to join me in Italy in July for my Manifestation Yoga Retreat to Tuscany please click here and reach out. The retreat will be small and intimate and is filling up fast.
Keep Manifesting Your Life,
One Laugh at a Time,