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james vincent knowles

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Guest Posts

Hold It All.

June 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

Sending you love, for real. Ally

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



September 2, 2012

Joy by James Vincent Knowles.

I know what joy feels like.

I do, I really do.

I too recall what it’s like to not recall it all.

I know what it’s like to put it off, to work & work & try to fight & work some more towards that which one hopes will matter, & to take the little free things in life to be all one’s allowed to enjoy, & in between those little things, the smile here & there or moments shared with a stranger you hope will become a friend one day.

But joy itself, that’s an entirely different thing, is it not, than hopes & wishes & dreams?

It’s a feeling from dawn to dusk & throughout the night, that the smile you see in the morning comes from that part of you so thoroughly deep inside your core that nothing can wipe it away.

You sing & dance & move a little differently everywhere you go & give a little extra shake to everything you do & say.

Yes, yes, joy is delicious, the best of all the things we feel me thinks; it’s not something one forgets or thinks might be true, it’s the most real thing of anything that’s real with a me or a you.

It is, however, something that one can lose sometimes, for one reason or another. I wonder now & again if that feeling will ever come back or if it’s gone now, forever

There are those who say they know for sure you cannot get joy from another. But I do not know that nor do i agree at all. Else how is it that when we choose to give joy to someone else, we see their entire being light up & then we feel right off our smile began to glow inside them first? And then we hear the voice of real happiness float across their curled up smiling lips?

So joy then it seems to me is something we give each other. It’s the one gift that must be given & is always free & never taken.

It lasts & lasts forever in our memory. It permeates all around us & percolates back & forth in a joyful exchange that at times has ups & downs … until that special moment in time that’s spent with more-than-a-special friend who takes us by surprise. And that is when, there & then, one finds out joy is always & only here & now & it’s full of grace & gratitude, all the time.

So that’s what I think about where joy comes from, in connections of all sorts to be sure, but especially when it’s with that special one, true, who takes us & makes us sing & dance & shows us we’re their special one too, the one that gives us joy all day & night no matter where we’re at, who never allows us to feel blue. The special deep core hum, infinite ohmmmmm……, vibrating, resonating friend, who’s willing to shout: oi, oi, oi-! hey! I fucking love you~!



***To connect with the multi-talented James Knowles through Facebook click here. He is a gifted photographer and author and I am honored to call him a friend.

To book a photography session with James please email: James Knowles <>

Here is a sampling. It’s a video he put together from his photos for me from last week’s karaoke yoga class (which was shot at Yogis Anonymous for the British tv show Lorraine and starred Rod Stewart’s wife. Thus the Rod song!)

It brought me so much joy I had to share with you!


my book

Details of A Life.

August 23, 2012

I can’t remember the details of my life.

They go by, a fast car, a blur, a streak of blue or grey, a whiff of hair out the window, something out of the corner of an eye, not so much seen as remembered.

I am writing a book. An outline, my old friend, the big editor in NYC tells me. An outline? How do I outline my life? Do I get a piece of paper and draw a thin line of across it, a faint streak in charcoal or pencil outlining the places my heart has stopped beating for moments in time, tracing the years my eyes closed and opened again? An outline.

Birth. I was born. It was cold. December. Philadelphia. I came two months early. Just before Christmas I entered the world, a purple storm. I have been told that as my mother pushed me in a carriage one day in South Philadelphia, a woman spit on my head. I don’t remember this but I have been told the story so much that I think I remember this. This is the danger of being told stories. You start to think the story is the truth. And it might have been. But really, who knows? Who knows. The woman could have easily not spit on my head or called me ugly, or she could have spit on me. Either way I am not remembering the actual saliva and feeling of hatred dripping down but the rather the words have imprinted on my memory creating their own little room. Replete with a bed and a desk and a typewriter.

My sister was born. We moved to New Jersey. Across the bridge to South Jersey where people were moving. We moved to a street called Drexel Avenue. I remember that. I remember the store across the street from our house had a PacMan machine and a Frogger video game. You could buy things and put them on your tab at this store. I was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7, and I could walk in, play PacMan, get a pound of American cheese thinly sliced, and a hard pack of Kools for my father. I could just tell the man who owned it, Kirk, to put it on our tab. He left egg nog on our doorstep at Christmas. Now do I remember these things because I was there or because I wrote poems about them? Either way, here they are, in the outline on this Etch-A-Sketch of my life.

My dad dies. It’s 1983. Still a faint outline I am working on here, you must rememberr. Maybe it’s in chalk, pencil, something light. We aren’t at his funeral, my sister and I. We were somewhere but since I never wrote a poem about it, I don’t know where. Did we disappear, two little girls slipping into a crack in time long enough for a funeral for a very loved man to be held? Maybe. I do not know where we were. I will have to leave that out of my outline.

See the thing is, when writing a book, you have to have notes to look back on. I took no notes. My notes are in my head and my head is as unreliable as a sock.

Every sock I own has gone missing, leaving it’s partner in a ball with nothing to do but sit and wait. Eventually you get so desperate that you take that lone sock and put it with another lone sock, if it’s lucky. But you can’t count on that. Sometimes that sock sits forever by itself, sulking because it’s by itself and can’t understand what that means.

I am relying on my memories and my imagination. I know we write to remember and maybe I just do not want to remember. Maybe that? Maybe I am lazy. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I thought I would remember.

Don’t we all?

I am not sure the answer but I do know that it’s time to do this, to finally answer that calling that has been with me since I was a kid living in that house on Drexel Avenue in Pennsauken, New Jersey. And yet, here I am at a loss. How do I begin? What do I call upon? How can I do this?

Where does everything go? I yell at the computer.

Everything that happened to me, every person, every book I read, every toothache, every conversation with my dad, every triumph and heartache, every pizza: where is it, where are they? They happened. They existed.

I thought I would remember.

Maybe that’s why I never journaled. But shouldn’t I be able to call upon them in a moment’s notice? Don’t they belong to me? Don’t they work for me? Where have they gone?

Where has my father’s laugh gone: that laugh that creeped up the vents into our room and made us giggle because it sounded like a sheep? Where has that sound gone? Is it floating around somewhere in space where I can go capture it in a bottle and put it by my computer so when I need to describe it I can unscrew the lid and listen. Oh, how I would listen!

Perhaps that is how we keep going. If we remembered every detail we would never hold someone’s hand again, we would never kiss again, or go to the dentist. But does the forgetting mean that we can’t call upon it when needed. Can I sit quietly and remember the details of my life as they happened so I can write them on paper and send them out in the world?

After my father died and we moved to California we were happy. For a while. Then we moved back to New Jersey. Things are a blur here. I was hungry all the time in high school, I remember that, but I can’t remember how the hunger felt as it ate my stomach, that high I had as I felt empty, empty and more empty. I was so empty I remember thinking I wasn’t in the world anywhere but I must have been because here I am, still here. I can’t really remember that emptiness.

So I will have to sit quietly and beg the details to come back. I will bribe them. I will be nice to them and I will pay attention to what they tell me.

The details of my life are intricate and complicated and at the same time easy and wonderful, sad and happy, full of mistakes and fuck ups and moments of Yes. 

I spoke to someone on the phone this morning. My friend, Jimmy Knowles, someone gifted in too many ways for one human to be gifted, and he said, for the third time to me: Take notes during all of this. Take notes.

So what’s my problem? Why can’t I? What is my aversion to seeing the details of my life as they happen scrawled in chicken scratch in front of me like a grocery list, milk, bread, you are born, someone loved you, coffee, you became a yoga teacher, rice, you write a book.

I will face the details. I am no longer scared to look at them rather than simply try and remember them. As much as I think it is harder to write them as they happen, the opposite is true. It is much harder to try and remember someone you loved that died too soon rather than looking back at the words you wrote about their smile, their bald spot, their love of waffles.

It’s much harder to try and make it up.

How much we must make up.

How many details to stay alive.

The awesome made this poster for me!

Guest Posts, Inspiration

Angel School.

May 29, 2012

Angel School

by James Vincent Knowles.

Today I suddenly remembered being told in Angel School that I was being sent on a difficult journey to a place where everyone was a fallen Angel.

My task, as it was explained, was a difficult one.

I would have to live as one of these suffering beings and learn their pain, experience many types of fear and problems.

To help the fallen, I too would have to fall.

Upon my arrival I’d forget all I’d learned in Angel school and my knowledge would not be returned until I’d completed my task. I would need to learn how to survive amongst these confused others in order to help them see the way back to the heavens. This was to be a rough journey & to serve my destined duty might require decades & much time.

Time is love, I was told.

And it was only Love which could help me guide any of the others to freedom & peace & joy. And the only way for me to find joy and love in present time would be that I completely forget my self.

This task set before me, would necessitate that I learn what it means to “die before you die”. It would require discipline & loss of my Angel Status.

Balance would be precarious and absolutely essential to achieve my goals, as my wings would be removed until I returned upon completion of the goal of helping at least one other fellow fallen.

The reward for this work would be self evident if I found a way to do it honestly with real empathy and compassion.

Conscious focus on this purpose would require faith as the only awareness I was allowed to bring along on my trip was that of God’s Love of All. So it came to pass this memoir could only be written after achievement of much learning, mostly through pain caused by living and suffering as a human & partly through studying the writings & teaching of those who had come before me.

In the beginning it seemed an insurmountable obstacle course; a climbing of Everest & a crossing of the Sahara. But step by step and tick after tock, time evolved from an urgent and relentless master to become a comfortable eternal now. An always now.

Without effort, time had become pure love.

Sometimes I smiled at things and people around me and noticed, and became grateful for, the tremendous beauty in the souls of those whom I was surrounded. Everyone I met needed some sort of help & finally I was aware! It was indeed just Love that mattered. Everything good was created with the easy-hard work of Love. And the rewards began flowing, washing away the fog of doubt, bringing joy & inner peace & simplicity . . . and this momentous & humbling gift which opened up my heart completely began in the oddest and most surprising way, on a curbside I’d passed many times but where I’d never stopped before. There & then, another Angel smiled at me & brushed my lips with hers playfully and sensuously in total innocence & freedom. The Universe immediately balanced, self fell away, light shined, curves curved, complications vanished, desire purified & “me” became “we”. A second ticked before it happened, I heard that clock! But after that Angel-kiss, it has not tocked. Not once! I’ve been here now ever since. Angel school finally paid off! Just love, indeed-! They might have told me what to look for! The sweetest girl in the world! But I suppose it was meant to be a surprise! Another Angel – it makes sense. It was me who was in need of learning how to live! I’ve been told I can go home now if I choose but I’ve decided to stick around a bit and maybe help go wake some other Angels up. I’m so grateful to that surprise girl for her kindness and that kiss which helps me help others find their bliss.

And as I now recall, we’d been taught just that one thing in Angel School, the only rule is Love.


******** Written as a response to my piece on Bliss. Click here to read.

Gratitude, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats

A Delicious Pack of Weirdos. By James Vincent Knowles.

May 10, 2012



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 **Jen Touchette brilliantly coined our group: A Delicious Pack of Weirdos.

A Delicious Pack of Weirdos** by James Vincent Knowles.

I saw God in Ojai and then I saw my life flash before me.

He was in me and She was in the others.

Evidently He’d been there all along.

I felt powerful.

What an awesome feeling, knowing oneself and God all at once.

This past weekend I did a little yoga retreat in Ojai. I say I “did” it because it took some doing to ignore “reality” and move towards a more real ideal. The reality was, I’d never been on a yoga retreat. Another reality was, I had no money. That was one of those get-real, realities. Also, I’d never before attended a yoga class, much less a retreat filled with yoga weirdos. That’s some scary reality. The reality was I had plenty of real-reality that woulda, coulda, and some might say, shoulda kept me at home rather than boppin’ over to Ojai for one of Jennifer Pastiloff’s yoga retreats.

A few months ago I’d stopped taking private yoga lessons and that experience and photographing 25 yoga girls turned me on to the idea that yoga people had it more together than any other group I’d ever met. I felt I had plenty of reasonable reasons for not having at least been doing a few down dogs at home every day. For the most part it pretty much came down to having given up on living life fully, if not having given up on living at all.

After attending this retreat in Ojai, that story, the one behind my feeling like giving up, is over.

To get the reality particulars out of the way: this yoga retreat was held at an estate Retreat and Vineyard in Ojai, CA about an hour drive north of L.A. The main building on the estate is a large house built in that solidly gorgeous craftsman style. If you’ve ever been over to Brad Pitt’s house, it’s a lot like that, only more acreage, quieter, sexier, more tranquil, better food, better pool, way more trees, gardens, wild animals, birds, and laughter. Let me describe it a bit more below before I get back to the reality that really matters.

And just to give you a little reality on my own real life perspective for comparison, I’ve stayed at many of the 4 and 5 star hotels in America as well as a few in foreign countries. As many of you are no doubt aware, if you’re staying at a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton, you’re going to be very comfortable and wake up in a bed you want never leave. And these sorts of many starred hotels have really great, really expensive room service as well as big plush towels to tempt you.

Jen’s Ojai retreat was not the Four Seasons and there was no room service nor any big fluffy towels. Indeed, as soon as I arrived, I could feel this place was so much more than fluffy towels and comfy beds and room service. The estate is a certified, bona fide Estate.

A place where I could do at least one of the two most important things in life. Connect wholeheartedly with other people. Sure enough, it was like a three day vacation but for angels only.

Being there was to experience what the world would be like if everyone understood what love means.

It was like falling in love, phase one, when everything is strange and exciting and even though you’re not sure, you’re sure.

And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. This retreat was about connection. Connection with self, others and the Universe / God.

Mind you, I’m not just speaking of my own experience, though my own experience was indeed about connection with God in me and others. I’m speaking of connection in such an enormous way, I actually saw God in Ojai in other people. All of them, strangers. A whole pack of ‘em~!

I’ve been a professional observer for 44 years, so when I say I saw others connecting and sharing and being and loving and giving and caring and understanding and being interested and being empathic and compassionate and friendly and smiling and beaming and spreading kindness before them and trailing kindness behind, well, all I can say is, I witnessed it and felt its effects. For real.

I’ll give you just a teeny-tiny glimpse of just a couple little things that actually happened in me, to me, and with me whilst there. You’ll have to take my word for it that much more happened than I’ve room to share.

To start with, every part of me was afraid to go. I’d never met any of the others attending this retreat, including Jennifer Pastiloff. Indeed, I’d not been around any people at all for 18 months prior to this retreat. Oh sure, I’d been out a few times in public to get a cup of coffee, but in a strange town with no friends the extent of my socializing was saying hello to a barista or bank teller.

I’d been studying, editing, thinking, writing, contemplating and meditating for most of this past year and a half. In the process of doing so, I’d finally arrived at the conclusion I am a good guy who’s in need of connection with others. I realize that might sound weird but as some of you may have already experienced, sometimes life can be a bit confounding. I’d seen a few of Jennifer’s blog posts a few months previous to this retreat and I’d recognized something unique. Something that resonated importantly and loudly. She appeared to be authentic. You know … “real.” I suppose that’s why I was so afraid to go to Ojai. What if this was just another phony, fake, pretender?

What if this was just another gaggle of superficial, shallow a-holes whose favorite subject is me, me, me?

And by that I don’t mean me, I mean, themselves. But I felt ready for reality, either way. I couldn’t take cave dwelling, friendless and alone any longer. It was time to find out if I’d grown up at all.

So I went.

The way I came to connect with Jennifer was via Facebook. Isn’t that kinda weird in and of itself? Last December she’d posted something on her blog that got my attention. I can just hear her right this second saying, “there are no accidents.” It truly was uncanny how what I’m about to share with you came to be. I was in a dark place.  Still reaching for light. Searching for something that was really real. Something that matters. Something that helps change perspective. I still believed such a thing was possible. And as it turned out, when I saw it, I felt it, right there in one of her blog posts. Mind you, this is a FB friend and I can’t even be sure how exactly we got to be FB friends. If I had to venture a guess it would be that she was FB friends with someone whom I really loved in the real world.

When I read Jennifer’s blog, I left a comment and noticed she replied … authentically.

That got my attention. I read more of her posts. Everything she wrote resonated. I continued to comment.

One day she suggested / requested me to attend her Ojai retreat. I was shocked but I said I would, even though I had no idea how I could pay for it, let alone get the vagina to do it. (Some of you will get the joke, some will google it, others will have to learn the hard way that if you want “tough,” grow a vagina).

So here’s what the retreat was like.

It was like coming home to her, the loveliest lover, love of my life, after a long arduous road trip traveling with Pandora with her damn already opened box containing all the evils in the world, for thousands of miles, locked inside with her in an old VW Bug. It was like the first kiss after you’d learned, or so you thought, how to make love without any obvious insecurity, and how after that first kiss with your last love, the final one you know will be lasting, even your hidden fears disappeared.

It was like being under the veranda in Ojai on the most perfect balmy evening, full moon light glowing, casting dancing shadows amongst the trees, adding sparkling little catch lights each time someone turns to speak, to speak to you! … and discovering you’re surrounded by all your best friends, ever, in this one small huge paradisiacal place.

Everyone who was there was fully there. Each of them was the most valuable being in the Universe.

At first, I couldn’t believe it, even as I felt this connection and felt these delicious people touch my heart. Oddly it wasn’t overwhelming.

There was an immediate flow of acceptance.

Each person there, one by one and all at once, were connecting immediately with one another.

This experience wasn’t orchestrated by Jennifer, though she’s obviously the maestro. All these people were sharing: understanding. Here’s what was really weird, and it was indeed bizarrely weird. There were no stories being told!

These beneficent, magnificent beings had somehow arrived in one place together and each of them were willing to be understood without pleading for attention or anything like it.

And they were understood. Is that not excruciatingly amazing? From reality to real to strangely weird. An automatic bam without an exclamation mark? Just like, wow man, wow. Bam.

Everyone who was supposed to be there, was fully there, right there, in Ojai, under a full moon in the most beautiful garden, and every single one of them, including me, was glowing.

Again, I’ve never participated in any sort of yoga retreat before this one. Perhaps they’re all like the one I attended in Ojai. If so, there is more than enough hope for the world. To spend three days around 40 people, not once hearing a single cynical, sarcastic, mean word. Not once did I see anyone so much as get annoyed, let alone act upset or angry or bummed out by anything.

And that story thing~! I mean, I’m not the most gregarious dude, meaning I don’t go out of my way to bug people with talk. Nevertheless, in 3 days, all of which were spent without any distractions other than the beauty and splendor of the place and the delightful people attending, I experienced several soulful, heart-and-soul-level conversations with others but not one story. Not one. It was effing evolved, man. Stories were just unnecessary. That’s just freaky.

I could go on and on about this amazing Jennifer chick and her Ojai weekend. Fill a book, probably. It would be more than enlightening, filled with love, infinitely fascinating and awe inspiring, an exciting mystery, a thrilling adventure and the most sensual thing you’ve ever read. But that would take far too long. This is the sort of news that needs be disseminated wide and far.

Positively positive news. When’s the last time you got that on t.v., or anywhere else?

Egoless would be another way to describe this past weekend. 40 souls who attended a yoga retreat and found a way to live with one another and love each other without anyone’s ego screwing it up? That’s just astonishing. Really.

And now a little practical reportage about some of the physical realities of the weekend … Caspar Poyck, Culinary Therapist prepared the most delectable meals. Just one dude. One chef for 40 people. I feel good about what I’m about to say about this cat. Before attending this retreat, a salad to me was just lettuce with maybe a sprinkling of cheese and balsamic. I grew up eating hamburgers, hotdogs, pork chops and steaks with canned veggies and potatoes, so I’m the pickiest eater you’ve ever met. Caspar’s meals were so beyond what I’ve eaten in some Michelin 3 star restaurants the only thing that makes sense as to why he does what he does the way he does it is that it is all about love. You can taste it. You can see him putting love into the food. All the food he prepared was straight out of the garden. You could see it and you could taste it and the fact that 40 people all devoured every morsel of every meal proved it. How he found time to patiently teach a class of almost everyone attending the retreat how to cook a healthy meal is beyond me.

The fact “the class” created one of the best meals of the weekend just blew my mind.

The place itself was, let’s just say, better than the best resort I’ve stayed at in Hawaii or Cabo or in the Caribbean or Acapulco or Puerta Vallarta. What’s really amazing is, during all three days, not one staff member was seen. I’m not even sure there are any. And there was not one authority figure. That’s what you get when you’re a responsible person, I’m told. Freedom.

Mind you, I paid for my weekend with money I didn’t have when I committed to attend yet somehow the money to attend “manifested” the day before I was to head to Ojai.

After experiencing Jen’s yoga retreat, I felt compelled to share with you some of what I observed. I’d never met one single person in attendance at this retreat but I will reveal I fell in love with more than one person whilst I was there.

Firstly, I fell in love with myself. Then I actually fell in love with several other people whom I know will always be friends.

I’m gonna start collecting friends this way. What an amazing discovery~!

I can see that butterfly theory thing going on here.

I posit that this could be the pyramid scheme to end all pyramid schemes. This could be the quantum physics, quantum mechanics solution to living life wholeheartedly. If I’m even half right, there are 20 other people who feel the same (or better) and who’ll do the same (or more). And this just from attending one yoga retreat~! Wow.

They say the teacher appears when the student is ready. Yep.

How do I put forth with such certainty something like this can and will help change the world? Because I met 40 people who care about something other than and greater than, themselves. 40 people who are connected with the God / the Universe in themselves and within others. It’s gonna spread like mad-crazy-love should.

I should also mention Frank Gjata, though he’s the sort of fellow one doesn’t really need to mention. I suppose that if you go to one of Jennifer’s yoga retreats, you’ll either meet him or get connected with him. Everyone who was in Ojai met Frank. Everyone who was in Ojai is now connected with Frank, not to mention with each other, in large part due to Frank. Frank is awesome. That’s all need be said about Frank.

I’d say a bunch of stuff about Jennifer but you can find out all you need to know the same way I did. Go to her FB page or google or listen to this one story. This is the only story I’m going to share about this weekend. For now, anyway.

Imagine that you have 40 disparate people at a yoga retreat who’ve paid money to be there. 40 people who are there to grow spiritually, who are there to connect with themselves, God and others on a spiritual level. 40 people who are there to have fun. Now imagine you’ve got 40 people to guide towards goodness and some huge and horrible news lands in your lap during your yoga retreat. Something that would no doubt more than momentarily distract most people from work. Something which would cause most people to get shouty or angry and which would diminish most people’s ability to be joyful for a day or two, at least. This happened to Jen this past weekend. But it didn’t happen to Jen. And it didn’t happen to anyone else, either. There was no story. She dealt with it in a couple hours, and went straight back to being the maestro of joy, the heartfelt, heart-full conductor, the maestro-maestress yogi yoga girl, the dance-putter-onner and dj, the empath-true-ist, the manifesting maniac and the authentic compassionate soul she obviously is.

A few months ago I’d never have imagined anyone could do that. Certainly not myself. But seeing her, witnessing her do it, and not just do it but seeing and feeling her deal with it the way she did gave me strength and lifted my soul to soaring.

This chick is weird in a very delicious and strange way. She’s really real. Not just strong. Not just genuinely caring and kind. Not hippy dippy or woo-woo either. She talks funny because she can’t hear worth a crap and yet she hears everything that matters. She notices stuff most people don’t or won’t. She’s wholehearted.

She’s honestly growing and learning so she can help others grow and learn. And she deals with stuff right now. And she does it so honestly and with such integrity and empathy and gratitude, one has to at least acknowledge just how marvelously amazing that is. I mean, she’s really real~! Which just blows my mind right the eff up and melts my heart all the way to the God in us all.

I hope for everyone who reads this, this message gets passed on. Tell someone you love them today. Create your life and manifest goodness in it for others. Let go of the stuff that’s no longer serving you. Connect with the Universe / the God in yourself first so you can connect with others. Be astonished.

See how astonishing you actually really are for real. There are only two things that matter in life after all the contemplation is thrown out: Spending time with others we love and that which we do for others without expecting something in return. I think you might find all the reality in the world comes down to just those two things. I hope you do. And it’s at such a place as Jennifer’s Ojai retreat this reality was made fully real for me amongst a delicious pack of weirdos. You know who you are, obviously, because you’re all really real, which is what makes you all so weird.

Wine tasting

Randy and Marla getting their groove on! Click photo to find more info on Randy aka the Malibu Healer!

Being silly

Frank Gjata, creator of Blississippi, giving an amazing lecture on BLISS!

Chef Caspar doin’ his thang

Yes, it was a Super Moon!


Some of the group.

Jimmy captured the Super Moon!



Milk Maid! Love this shot of Jen Touchette by Jimmy!

Manifesting bliss. Check out the Conscious Ink “Follow Your Bliss” tattoos.

To oder James Vincent Knowles book “Yoga Girls” please click here.


Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 31-Feb 1 in Ojai. Email retreats at jenniferpastiloff dot come for info. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Next Ojai retreat is Labor Day and there are a few spots left.

courage, Guest Posts

Guest post by James Vincent Knowles: On Courage.

February 16, 2012

This guest post is so real, so beautiful, so honest. Makes my heart ache a bit. Love you Jim and thank you……

James Vincent Knowles



*Benjamin Franklin said courage had something to do with owning one’s faults & having the resolution to mend them. If that’s true, then maybe I have a little bit.

It’s rather difficult to determine if one has courage. It’s easier to see courage in others.

I can, however, tell a story and let others be the judge.

I’ll begin with my faults.

Not the superficial ones. The character faults. The deep faults. The faults which have hobbled me all my life in one way or another:

Niceness. That’s a big fault. I looked “nice” up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Originally meant, “ignorant.” Uh, oh. Yep. We still use it that way if you ask me. I mean, what does THIS mean: he’s a nice guy / she’s a nice girl?

Gullible. Easy. Clueless. Not hip. Not dirty. Innocent. Unpretentious. (You get the idea.) Being nice can cause a lot of pain. It certainly has for me.

Helpful. That’s another big fault. I like to help people. No, that’s not completely honest. I LOVE helping people. Especially if i’m able to do so without attaching expectations. Without expecting reciprocation. Altruistic help. This one has plagued me all my life. It’s really a combination of being nice with the additional problem of boundary awareness. I help people then they ask for more then I do it then they ask for more then I do it and then what happens? I go past where I ought to have done & / or don’t set proper boundaries and then what? Little bits of expectations seep in. Little bits of resentment squeak through. And before you know it, helpfulness has turned ugly. That’s a real fault. It’s a hard thing to learn for a nice guy.

Procrastination. Ugh. Who doesn’t know about this one? Well, maybe Clark Kent & Cliff Michaels. Maybe Jennifer Pastiloff. (haha… kidding~! I know Clark Kent procrastinates~!). That’s about it. Rest of us procrastinate. Some more than others. Thing about procrastination though … something even my nice, helpful, lazy self has noticed, when we’re really happy, doing what we love, living our dream, we do not procrastinate. We tackle the big, dirty jobs straight up & straight away, all the while knowing the enjoyable stuff is there waiting for us when we’re finished. You know it’s true. So why do we not live that way all the time? But okay. First we need find that flow. That thing we LOVE so much it makes us want to take out the trash before that first cup of coffee / kale juice in the morning.

Talking. Oh boy. I love to talk. Particularly with people i like. People who’ve got time to talk AND listen. People who are interested & interesting. Mind you, i’m talking about conversation, discussion, sharing. Balanced, animated, open, real, honest, non-judgmental, fun talk without meanness. Measured and blended it can be an elixir made of nirvana. As intimate as the best sex you’ve ever enjoyed and as noisy. Yeah, talking is definitely one of my faults. But okay, I’ve become a pretty good listener along the way as well. Listening isn’t a fault though so I’m not listing it as one here.

Thinking. Bwuahahaha~! If one more person tells me I think too much I’m going to walk to Antarctica. Effffffffffffff me~! Now this one is a real problem. Then again, maybe I just need to be around people who appreciate thinking?

I used to not think as much & i wasn’t any happier.

In fact, without thinking, what would we be? Animals? Alien life forms? And how would one person be any different than another if we couldn’t think for ourselves? Also, if thinking is so bad, why are we always asking others what they think? Gotcha there.

But okay. I’m listing it as a “fault” because so many people tell me i think too much. I think I know what these people mean when they tell me that. What they mean is, I’ve not explained myself concisely enough to pique their curiosity or they mean that they don’t care enough to hear what I’ve got to say or they mean they simply don’t like the stuff i think about.

It’s all too much to think about.

Resolution to mend them.

I think that word “resolution” means “a decision to do or not do something.” Sometimes not so easy, is it?

Niceness. Well, okay. I’m a curious guy. And I can read. So when something bad happens as a result of my being too nice I educate myself. It’s hard to not be nice. But it doesn’t mean ya gotta be mean. That’s not a complete resolution. I’m still nice.

But now i’m kinder, gentler & more patient. & curiouser. But most importantly, nicer to myself. Learning to nurture my self. Now THAT takes a lot of courage~!

Helpful. Well, this one is easy to fix. Be MORE helpful but help myself first. Sounds a lot like that love thing.

You know that one, “love yourself first in order to know / have / receive / give love.”? Well, okay, I’m still working on that one as well.

Aren’t we all? I am beginning to see a pattern in all these as I write this.

Procrastination. This is that “just do it” thing, right? Crap. This one can be really hard if one isn’t sure what to do I’ll have to come back to this one.

Talking. I’m screwed on this one. I thought I resolved it by moving 200 miles from LA … alone. Of course I did this because I’d completely self-destructed. Or at least I thought I had. I’d blame it on someone else but what good would that do? Besides, it wouldn’t be self-destruction if it was someone else’s fault! I will say this … running across Jennifer’s blog just might have shut me up a bit. That is, it shut up some of the negative conversations I was having with myself. Which of course, made me think. For instance, about how some of the things … no, all of the things Jen posts tend to inspire, enlighten, encourage & heal. It certainly does these things for me! Interesting. I’ve never met Jennifer. I’m not a real yoga dude. I’m a total beginner. A procrastinating, lazy one at times. I find myself far from where I belong (Santa Monica). But I had to leave town. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Take that back. It was THE hardest thing i’ve ever done. Not the move. I’ve moved 37+ times in my life. It was leaving in total shame. Wrung out. So entirely twisted, crushed, hurt, embarrassed, and, well, let’s just say pretty much completely distraught, dazed & confused. The worst~! Oh wait. How does this resolve the fault of talking? haha… I am just using it as a device to talk about myself. 🙂

Thinking: I’m not quite ready to admit this is a fault. Guess I’m still in denial. Either that or maybe by thinking a lot I’ve come to the conclusion that if one thinks about the right stuff, thinking a lot is good.

So what does any of my crap have to do with courage? Not sure. This is what flowed forth from me today. I have faults. I’m willing to admit them. I’m willing to mend them. I admit I will need help along the way. But most of all, this is about shame & how it takes courage to look at it. To be vulnerable.

I left town in shame. Obliterated by shame. Almost dead from shame. Beyond comprehension shame. Little did I know I was yet to be shamed enough. There was tons more shame coming and it boy oh boy has ever been heaped upon me. Throughout all this I’ve continued learning, reading, thinking and talking. And okay, even praying & meditating. I procrastinated on everything but that which I believed mattered most … love, understanding & empathy. Love. Understanding. Empathy. And oh boy did I learn some stuff about niceness. And helpfulness. And procrastination. And talking. And thinking. Oh boy. Oh man. Oh boy.

I got vulnerable with myself. (I’m not sure one can do that but i have been doing it). Jen’s blog posts have helped me a LOT. Helped me see the authentic me. Jen’s blog & two real friends. One new one friend & one old friend. The new friend encouraged me to be myself. The old friend gave me a little tiny bit of empathy & understanding. Lifesavers, all. Jen’s blog has been incredibly inspiring. I say that a lot. I feel inspired by all the stories on you blog, Jen. So refreshing. Real. Like coming home or something.

So okay, I’ve been looking at myself deeply. I was feeling so worthless I wondered if I was alive. In fact, as I look around my space it looks as if a total loser lives here. But at least now I know that’s because this isn’t home. This is just a place to sleep and think. This is a place I can be totally vulnerable with myself, let myself see my self. Bardot. Die before you die. Tranquility. Calm mind. Quietude.

Screw the decorating.

Two years ago I owned a paparazzi photo agency. Yes, I know. That makes me a “bad guy”. 

8 months ago I quit. Sold everything I own, car, cameras, furniture. I also decided I’m an artist. Maybe a writer. I’ve since realized I am a dam nice guy. That I enjoy helping people. That I need to be connected to others, preferably people who have empathy. I need to connect and feel that sense of belonging we all need. To be around people, doing things which get my juices flowing. Be a part of something which gives me energy so that I don’t procrastinate. Connect with others who think, maybe even others who enjoy talking, nice people, helpful people, doing things that matter.

When I left LA I was screwed up. I’m telling you right now. But deep down I knew, despite the crap, the shame, and the embarrassment, it would be worth it. Letting go of everything. Leaving town. Being alone. I had zero idea of what might happen next. Still don’t. Although I am postulating & imagining & envisioning & praying & writing & thinking & every once in a while, I can even SEE and FEEL what i want my life to be like. All I know is I quit everything and even though much of what caused my shame & confusion & disconnection & pain was still happening, I have continued to think (and think with more clarity), continued to be nice, learn, grow (I hope), and talk about it, even if only with myself.

And yes, somewhere along this journey, this story line, a door opened. I ran into a person I’ve never met. The Universe connected me with Jen’s blog & all the beautiful, authentic, empathic, compassionate, real, joyful, encouraging people with whom she is connected. Vicariously through this blog I’ve been inspired and enriched.

I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, to be my self and i’ve found myself gaining strength and feeling human again. Healing, if you will. And for that I’m so grateful~! So is that courageous? Doesn’t really feel like it. It just feels real.