Browsing Tag

life

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 YogisAnonymous.com, 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.

cancer, courage, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Breathing Room.

May 30, 2014

Breathing Room by Lavinia Magliocco

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. I am no stranger to death. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Roman that I am, suicide is always an option.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. In college I memorized Lady Lazarus and recited it to my poetry class. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. With great success. The words…. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. ……were not strange to me at all, they rolled out of my mouth as if I had written them.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Exhaustion. Annoyance. Defiance. Live in me. Feelings….Inhale. Exhale. Pause……don’t belong to anyone. It is we who belong to them, temporarily, for better or worse, however long…. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. …….it takes to feel them. Feelings are….Inhale. Exhale. Pause…. a landscape, and life does weird things with time and space. Some of us get stuck in one place for too long.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Candle. Altar. Avatar. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Breathe. Inhale. Living. Exhale. Dying. Pause. Die. Death. Over. Again. Breathe, in, out, pause.

I like thinking about dying. I liked Melancholia. I think we all wish sometimes we were on a collision course with an asteroid. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about things like bills, periodontal disease, and climate change. What’s cancer in the face of an asteroid? What a relief it would be for death to come with such timed certainty. One could let go and really live. Time is short anyway, but we stagger along, clinging to our fears, getting lost in minutiae. Live already! Is this living, this breath? Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

The big strip tease. When my skin was peeling off my legs in strips, like old wallpaper, I wanted to die many times. But I lacked courage, or a gun. I was married then, and didn’t want to scar my ex by leaving myself blasted and gutted in a bathtub, brains spattered on the wall, or blood drained into cooling bath water. They call it pyoderma gangrenosum – the skin peeling off and suppurating wounds thing – which is a ghastly name, evoking battlefields and dying. That was me – ex-bunhead, Crohn’s disease-ridden, pyoderma gangrenosum-bearing human, decomposing within and without. Skin and intestine are one and the same. I really did wish I could die.

Because it didn’t feel like living, then, that existence I had beyond which I could see nothing. Do you realize how much people live on the future? But what future could I have, I reasoned, when every day was a rush to the toilet, an explosion of diarrhea and guts, blood, skin oozing, hair falling out, bones sticking out, and exhaustion everywhere? Even the house felt exhausted.

Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Candle. Altar. Avatar.

Crohn’s was called tuberculosis of the intestines, before Dr Crohn’s named it. Those nineteenth century heroines expiring of love and consumption – consumed, consuming. The etymology of consumption comes from the Latin – ‘con’ – altogether, with, and ‘sumere’ – to take up, use up, waste, eat up. I was being used up, consumed, by forces beyond my control. Eaten up, rather than eating. Annie Dillard’s deadly eating game, life is an eating game and usually we are the consumers. In this case, I was the consumed. But what I was being consumed for, or why, these were the questions I could not answer. When we breathe, we are consuming. But aren’t we also being consumed? Breath is fire. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

Life is consuming. And these days, don’t we consume and waste in a prodigious and inexorable rhythm of destruction? Eating and pooping our way to death, is this what we call life? I know something about pooping. I am the queen of poop. Fast forward to a hospital room about two decades after the pyoderma that didn’t kill me after all, a pompous doctor asked if I thought five bowel movements a day were acceptable? Acceptable? I would say desirable, after pooping twenty, thirty times a day and night? Are you kidding? Five is a celebration of health and fitness. I don’t care if you don’t find it acceptable or me acceptable because I decline your toxic drugs and do it my way, five is a beautiful number. My innards wouldn’t speak to him after that, and he was banned from my bedside. Off with his head, says the queen of poop.

When your innards are liquefying, when your skin is peeling off you, when the merest social interaction exhausts you, when sex is a distant memory and the only sensation below the waist is painful, do you call this life? Twilight zone, is this living, or is this dying? I asked myself this question many times. And, just as there are many kinds of living, are there not many kinds of dying? Even though I have come back to life, come back to stay, for awhile, at least, come back to this deadly eating game, I wonder.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. In. Out. Pause.

Hunger. A sign of life. Lose hunger, and you lose desire, and desire is what draws us forward, desire for something, someone. Desire for a taste, an experience, a possession. Possessed by desire, is that not a sign of life? Of living? Passion. Back to the age of Romanticism. Consumption, the romantic’s disease. All I wanted was to live an extraordinary life. An aversion to the ordinary is a kind of disease, a hubris of grasping. Hungry ghost. As if this world were not enough as it is.

Fast forward again. Or am I going backwards? Where did It begin? When? Now the hunger is not for food that suppurating intestines lose as soon as it arrives, but for something else. Some certainty. Some reason for everything. Call it spiritual hunger. I was going to satsang. Listening to my teacher made me remember something from long ago: a sudden dropping of the veil, a recollection of who I am beyond this flesh. After hanging around awhile, I signed up for her Tantra Foundations course to receive instruction for a basic practice. The strangest thing happened. The last day of this four day course, I was possessed by demons. Every fear, every hunger, every anger I ever had shook me that night like a mad prisoner rattling his cage. I couldn’t sleep. In desperation, I begin to chant Lam – the seed sound I’d learned for the first chakra. Lam. Lam. Lam. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

I looked upon my father dying. When the time came, he let go. He let go, just like that. The man who couldn’t let an insult pass, let himself go with an exhalation. Inhale. Exhale. Gone.

We come into the world covered in blood, mucus body liquids, having solidified for nine months in a chamber inside another being. With the first breath, our breaths are numbered. Inhale. Exhale. What came before, the life that led to this letting go, was that easy? My father, orphaned. War. Occupation. Making his way in a foreign country. What’s easy? Breathe. In. Out. Pause. His hand in my hand. My hand on his head. My father, the corpse. Here. Gone. One little Indian left on the bed, breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Eternity.

One year of meditation and I began to lose all taste for life, for what passes for living in this culture: Eating. Fucking. Shopping. Movies. Nothing. Nothing appealed and I felt awful. Nothing satisfied me. She warned me this would happen. So of course, at first, I congratulated myself. But then, I felt loss. I felt bored. I began to panic. This wasn’t what I wanted. What did I want? To self-realize? What did that mean? Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Panic. In. Out. Pause. Panic.

So I got into a relationship, fast. In. Pause. Pause. Pause. In.Out.In.Out.In.Out. My ambivalence a metronome. The pause was lost. I swung helplessly from one tick to another. In.Out.In.Out. This is living, right? Fucking in out in out. Is this living? This anxiety that comes out as passion, is this it? In.Out. Faster. More. Better. More. Deeper. Somehow it just keeps moving, it keeps moving just beyond reach. It being love. It being success. It being being good. It being anything but what’s here. This wanting. In.Out.In.Out. This is not it.

Crashing against the shoals of what I thought I wanted, I was dying another kind of death. The death of illusions is painful. Abandoning hope that there’s any kind of salvation or escape from what Is, the inescapable-ness of reality – feels crushing. As long as there’s clinging to a shred of hope that it might be other than That – there’s suffering. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale. To hold on and not let go is to explode. Whatever I think I am – let go. Let go. Let go. Candle. Altar. Avatar.

I used to think there was an explanation for everything. This was my father in me, the scientist and epistemologist. Now I’m not sure. How can I be, when it’s clear that even what I call me is an aggregate of so many odds and ends that will eventually dissolve and die? And even worse, these pieces are often made of resistance. At every moment, some part of me is resisting being, is resisting what Is, as if that were even possible. One reads about saying “yes” to everything – like the mystic film-maker and disciple of Anandamayi Ma, Arnaud Desjardins chanting “yes” on a stretcher on his way to hospital while having a heart attack. This is not so easy to do. Ego will co-opt this and say yes to coconut cream pie, apple turnover, and rugelech – it’s all yes, right?

But this Yes is the courage to say yes to uncertainty, to say yes to non-existence, to say yes to pain while in the midst of it. And this is not so easy. This defies explanations. This defies interpretations. This defies any attempt to arrange facts and organize events to create meaning, to create an illusion of control – which is what looking for causation is. Tick Tock. The clock. The Breath. The song is Now. Now. Now. Inescapably Now.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Resistance is futile. But I try anyway. A life of resistance – a resistance training of sorts. It makes you stronger. Until you die, of course. One day I met my QiGong teacher, he looked me over – I could feel his dark eyes sussing me out – one warrior to another. One of the first things he said to me, privately was, “I am a divided man.” Because of course, he could see my own divided-ness. For him, it was between the world and the monastery, he was one of the few westerners who learned to fight with Taoist monks in the Sun Monastery in Beijing. He was healed by a teacher called Master Lao, like Lao Tzu, Lao meaning Old Man. I did not have a Lao to heal me. I was buffeted around among middle aged doctors with pills and prescriptions of brand new poisons to try to tame my desire, my fire, my ravaging illness. They never sussed me out.

So I learned QiGong from this beautiful divided warrior. At first I didn’t know what I was doing. I turned everything into a balletic exercise. I did that for three years. Faithfully.

Then, right before he left to go back to China, he drew the sword. He slew me, this beautiful dark-eyed warrior. The warrior and the dancer. On some level, we understood: death is good. Death is clean. Death makes space for a new path, a fresh start. We sat in a bare room on a wood floor. He told me – inhale, exhale, pause – all the ways I’d missed the mark. Another strip tease, he peeled the layers of my arrogance back. I came, a ripe fruit, and left exposed pulp. I wanted to curl up in a ball and wail. I wanted to cry for all the ways my mind betrayed my body. I wanted his love, his approval. He cut me down without glory.

Sometimes I imagine this room without me. A time when I will be gone and someone else will live here. Exhale. Pause. Birth and death come with body fluids. It’s messy. ‘Oh that this too too solid flesh should thaw melt and resolve into a dew.’ Inhale. Exhale. Pause. If only death really were the end. But after the exhale, after the pause, one must begin again. Inhale. You can’t stop it. You can’t just exit after the exhalation. You have to come back and start breathing. Even after letting go.

But what comes back? What comes back Is. What comes back is awareness. What comes back is consciousness. And under that, energy energy energy constantly in flux. In. Out. In. Out. Coming. Going. Coming. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. How many times I die in this life matters not a whit. What matters is what that death feeds. This deadly eating game is only deadly if nothing grows back.

Maybe on some knife point of annihilation, the ecstasy of birth inescapably awaits. Breathe. Avatar, altar, candle. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

There are moments when I know that gone is just a breath away. Know not in my head, but with heart knowing, being knowing. The ordinariness of it takes one’s breath away. Gone is right here in every moment. Gone. Gone. Gone. Kafka wrote: “The meaning of life is that it stops.” Inhale. Exhale. Gone.

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Lavinia Magliocco scribbled her first poems on the back of a piece of cardboard around age 4. Then ballet captured her. After attending North Carolina School of the Arts and School of American Ballet in NYC she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and those dreams were temporarily derailed. She got an English Lit degree at University of Cincinnati and wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirerer, Antenna Magazine, Clifton Magazine, and unobtrusively while employed as a travel agent. After prolonged illness and a surgery, she returned to the barre again at twenty-seven, and with the help of Pilates, proceeded to defy expectations by returning to dance on the stage and eventually landing a job at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in NYC, where she danced for six years. After moving to Portland in 1998 she established her Pilates studio, Equipoise- enlightened exercise LLC and continued to teach dance for Oregon Ballet Theater, Portland Festival Ballet, and other venues. She’s completing her book, As the Tutu Turns, and working on a performance art piece. She is stoked to have met Jen at Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello’s The Writer’s Voice workshop.

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Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, 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 long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif 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 jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas.

Gratitude, Guest Posts, motherhood

In Gratitude for a Long Career. By Jeanne Faulkner.

April 2, 2014

Like Jennifer, I’ve worked for decades in the service industry. I worked as a nightshift labor and delivery nurse for ten years followed by another ten years on day shift. Like waitressing, you never know who your next customer, AKA patient, will be.  It’s a crap shoot and among the biggest challenges of the job. You take care of whomever you’re assigned to care for, whoever walks in the door and with whatever doctor or midwife is on duty for that patient.  Our job, whether we like our patient or not, is to serve, guide and shepherd them through their labors and births, but it’s not isolated to serving just the patient. Nurses also serve their family, friends and baby, their doctor or midwife, and the other nurses and staff members who are part of the maternity unit.

Over all those years and thousands of patients, I’m grateful most patients were lovely and I thank them for allowing me the honor of being at their births. I’m humbled at how accepting they were of receiving my care and mindful that the work we did together was intimate, difficult and sometimes life threatening.  I thank them for their trust.  I’m thankful to the mothers who reached for my hand, asked for my help, took my suggestions and eventually allowed me to rock their babies so they could get some much needed sleep. I’m grateful to the fathers who tended to their wives or girlfriends with such tenderness that they taught me how these mothers needed to be cared for.  Thank you to all the grandmothers-to-be who stroked brows, sang songs, rubbed backs, reassured and mothered their daughters through their labors. You taught me that mothering never ends and in fact it grows stronger as we help deliver the next generation.

Some patients, or more often their family members, were by any definition, horrible – violent, criminal, addicted, filthy and sometimes even obscene. To them I say, “Thank you for teaching me that all people deserve care, compassion and respect; that there’s always a point of connection and that no matter what their life was like in the past, almost all still love their children, even when they can’t care for them. Thank you to the patients who called me “bitch” and to those who called me “doctor.” Neither label was accurate but I thank them for making an attempt to reach me on whatever level they could.

Thank you to the patient who tried to bite me when I could not give her an epidural.  When a moment later, your daughter was born and you lay cooing at her in your arms, you taught me that pain is more powerful than civility, but when the pain is gone, humanity returns. Thank you to the man who threatened his wife and me with a beating we both “deserved,” if we didn’t hand over his son before police could arrest him for child abuse.  He taught me that despite his violence, hostility and demand for control, his love for his baby was overpowering and unreasonable, but it was still love.

Most of the dozens and dozens of doctors and midwives and nurses I worked with were among the best people I’ve ever met and many I count as my friends.  I thank them inspiring and motivating me, comforting and supporting me, for joking around and bringing snacks and sharing their stories through 12-hour nights. I thank them most of all for having my back and always being one call away when a birth turned into a crisis.  A few of my coworkers were bitter and angry, lazy and misguided and I thank them for teaching me that our work demands excellence, compassion and a higher standard.

Thank you to the mothers who faced their births with tears and screaming and the ones who managed each contraction in absolute silence.  Thank you for the “natural” mamas who rode their “surges” with intensity like a surfer rides waves. Thank you to the epidural mamas who decided pain wasn’t part of the package they signed on to deliver. Each one took control of her experience and took care of her own needs and I’m grateful to them for doing so.

Thank you to the little brothers and little sisters who were so excited and anxious to meet their new siblings they wet their pants, burst into tears and buried their sticky sweet faces in their fathers’ necks. They taught everyone in the room just how powerful this new relationship would be.  A sibling will witness your life, share your fun and misery, defend you, pretend with you and get you in trouble.  They’ll be there with you ‘til death do you part and in some small way, the little brothers and sisters understand how overwhelming this commitment will be.  Thank you to the new mothers who then handed their brand new baby over to me, took their older child into their bed and cuddled them until they felt secure again. Thank you for not doing what too many parents do – yell at their child for acting like a baby and tell them they’d better get over it because they’re not the baby anymore.

Thank you to all the patients who busted mythology wide open – to the room full of bikers all burly and gruff whose appearance and demeanor were aggressive and scary.  Thank you for sitting in a circle on the floor and passing the new baby from one bearded, tattooed, Harley-gristled man to the next, each delivering a small blessing and a stuffed animal for their beloved new baby.   Thank you to the stripper who was losing custody of her baby for taking out your nipple piercings and breastfeeding your daughter for the one night you two would have together. Thank you to her friends who surrounded her with love and swore to all that was holy to them that they’d get that baby back if it was the last thing they did.  Thank you for the patient who had no arms who held her baby to her breast with her legs as skillfully as any two-armed mama would do.

Thank you for the 20 years I spent at the bedside and for the million stories my patients provided me.  I learned a lot and will forever be grateful for that opportunity to serve.

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Jeanne Faulkner is a nurse, writer and maternal health advocate. She writes for fitpregnancy.com, Every Mother Counts and is co-author of The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion. Learn more about her at JeanneFaulkner.com and check out her YouTube channel here.

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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 jenniferpastiloff.com 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.

 

Dear Life.

Dear Life. Unconventional Wisdom.

February 10, 2014

Welcome to the newest installment of The Manifest-Station. Dear Life: an unconventional advice column with a spin. The questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s 2 questions are answered by author Robert Wilder. Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Answers will vary according to the voice/personality/sense of humor of each author. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us!

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***

Dear Life,

Life has never felt easy. As a four year old I remember worrying if my parents could pay the bills. I remember going home early from kindergarten with stomach aches I couldn’t explain. I remember wanting to speak, but not feeling the courage to do so. I remember hearing them fight all through the night, doors slamming and the sound of a hand hitting a face. I remember wondering why they kept having more kids. And then I remember taking care of those kids. I remember begging my mom to leave my dad. And then she did. And I remember the poverty that came I wasn’t expecting. Life. It only got harder. I remember wondering why everyone had when we didn’t. I remember people leaving cash in our mailbox because “your mom is a hard worker but has no way to buy you gifts.” I remember through that time having a crush on a boy and then hearing him call me homely to my best friend. I remember my best friend dating him then. I remember everyone saying I was so responsible and helpful and going to go places in this life. I remember the adults saying that the bullying would stop as I got older. I remember them saying if I just got good grades and worked hard that I could become anything. I believed them.  They were wrong. Or they lied.

I remember at 17 filling out the financial aid forms to go to school. Not a person to help me. I remember the joy of opening my acceptance letter to school and the response I got was “I can’t help you in any way.” I remember being embarrassed of my second hand clothes in my new world I moved to. I remember staying up all night to do my homework after a long night of work. I remember the boy in college that I thought really liked me. I remember doing whatever I could to make sure he did. And then I remember that he never called me again. I remember the shame. I’ve never lost the shame of the things I did to get them to like me. I remember working and studying and working some more. I remember I still believed that I was meant to do great things. That I could be the one in my family to make it out. I remember those with daddy’s that cared got the better internships and jobs after school. I remember I didn’t know how to play the game. I didn’t have anyone to show me. 

And as the years continued, I remember the slow death of my hopes and big dreams and all I thought was possible to those who worked hard. I got tired. I got so tired. I gave up. 

I have settled. I live a life that looks nothing like what I ever said I wanted.

How do I get them back? The dreams? The idea that things are still possible…even for me? Will life ever feel easy?

Signed, Will it ever feel easy, in Missouri.

***

Dear “Will It Ever,”

It seems as if you’ve hit rock bottom. What to do? I know this is no consolation but everybody is suffering. Everybody I know at least. Death, bad divorce, drug addiction, abuse, bankruptcy, you name it. Life is really hard, but I think I have a prescription for some temporary relief: Contron. I know Contron sounds like a combined comic
book/futuristic convention, but it’s not. Contron is a twenty-year-old, unemployed, low-fi bedroom singer living with his mother in Pensacola, Florida. Contron writes songs about sadness, drugs, heartbreak, abortion, going to the moon, picking daisies, but mostly sadness. My seventeen-year-old daughter turned me onto the gospel of Contron,
and I feel (slightly) healed. Why? Humanity. Contron makes art out of misery, and that my Dear “Will It Ever” makes me hopeful. I know how it is to have loss. My mother died when I was seventeen; my father is only weeks or months away from leaving right now. There’s more, but I will spare you. My advice: find the humanity in everything. Oh, and listen to Contron here:
https://contron.bandcamp.com/album/contron

Good luck,

Rob Wilder

                                                           ***

Dear Life,

This comes to you from the other side of the world. Why is that I always feel like I’m in the wrong place? And is where you are even relevant?

Why is it that I constantly make the wrong decisions? I keep
on shoving myself into situations that don’t seem to agree with me… I see
myself as a rather conscious individual: I take care of myself from a
nutritional point of view, I meditate, I walk/cycle every day, I do
Pilates, I practice gratitude… and I question my life regularly… maybe
a little too regularly.

Pre-2013, I had a nice little set-up in Brussels (Belgium), with a
part-time job at a law firm, doing the occasional translation job and a
small community of dear friends to help and support me. For the two years
prior to 2013, I was engaged in a long-distance relationship with someone I
met online, and who lives in London. After 2 years, I sort of pushed myself
into making “a decision” as to where this relationship was headed. I
decided to move to London, to be with him, dragging everything I own with
me (and later dragging it all back again). After barely 6 months in London
and many spanners thrown into the works, creating all-round bad vibes: “we”
weren’t really functioning, which led to me not really functioning as an
individual either (I seemed to be paralyzed on many levels). One evening,
after yet another horrendous altercation with our obnoxious down-stairs
neighbor, I felt like it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, stuffed
some clothes into a small suitcase, and left. I went back to Brussels,
where all of a sudden, job opportunities were falling into my lap. I was
couch-surfing but it was summer and I didn’t mind… I was being received
with open arms by my friends and I will eternally be grateful for this.
However, after about a month and a half of that, I decided to go back to
Ostend (a seaside town in Belgium, where I was born and grew up), to be
closer to my family while I decided what I was going to do…

In the end, I decided to stay in Ostend to be by the seaside, go for daily
walks along the seafront and the beach, etc. Idealizing the prospect of it,
no doubt…
I rented an apartment which is pretty spectacular (in a certain sense). I’m
on the 12th floor of a tall building, of which there are only 2 in the
city, so my view is amazing. It’s a small flat, so it’s easy to heat and
maintain, and thanks to my 2 floor-to-ceiling windows, it never feels
enclosed or claustrophobic. It seemed like a perfect set-up. On top of
that, the place is relatively affordable, despite the fact that I’m
surviving on unemployment benefits. Anyway, the plan was to find a
part-time job and try to find translation work, which I’ve always done on a
free-lance basis… you know, trying to find a workable solution to make
ends meet and not get bogged down in a job that would suck the life out of
me.

(Oh dear, this is going to end being a novella… I apologize sincerely…)

The above is a seriously abridged version of my background. It doesn’t
mention that I’ve been doing this my entire life… My trajectory to date
(25 years) has been as follows: Ostend – Brussels – London – Brussels –
Chicago – Brussels – London – Brussels – Ostend.
Yes, unsettled might be the right choice of word!!

To get to the point… I have been in Ostend for 3.5 months now and I’m
feeling defeated, completely out of whack. There is no work in this small
town! Unless, you are willing to work retail or do cleaning jobs. Not that
I look down on those… not in the slightest! I just know that it would
cause me to slide into a deep depression again. I need to have work that is
worthwhile and has added value…

I’m not connecting with people… This town is a bit of an elephant’s
graveyard, populated mainly by elderly people. Hence, there is no
motivation to change things… and when there is, there is opposition from
the municipality, who do their utmost to make this place as comfortable as
possible for aforementioned elderly and as unattractive as possible for the
younger generation. That’s why they all move away…

I thought I’d enjoy the peace and quiet, but I’m not! It reeks of death,
honestly…

My brother has his family and job and is perfectly happy in his way of
life. It’s actually a joy to behold. They just bought a house and they’re
thinking of buying garages and renting them out as an easy investment with
high yields. I understand, but couldn’t possibly imagine being stuck in
that kind of life. They seem to be perfectly content with their lives,
although my brother did mention the other day that he doesn’t find
fulfillment in his job… that said, he accepts his present situation
graciously.

I envy that… I wish I could be happy with a bog-standard, conventional
way of life. My reasoning, though, is as follows: these are not the “simple
things” in life, as my brother claims. As far as I can tell, he is enslaved
to a system, which forces everyone to spend their life in servitude. You do
work that offers no personal fulfillment. You’re part of a huge machine
that serves only itself, under the illusion that is doing good by providing
“work”. You are enslaved by a system that forces you to work your ass off,
in exchange for a measly wage that then immediately heads out the other
way, to pay bills and taxes, etc. Your work isn’t even benefiting anyone in
particular, except for that huge company that has “given you a chance” only
to enrich themselves even more… How can that be fulfilling? That is not
why we were set on this earth, is it? All of this begs the question as to
why I was set on this earth? Not to sit around getting worked up about the
status quo, I hope!? It seems like I should be doing something to change
that status quo!

I feel like I made the wrong decision, AGAIN, by deciding to move to
Ostend. I am increasingly plagued by a sense of dread… I don’t want to do
a “whatever job” just to pay the bills. I kind of like my apartment but I
feel anxious here… There are “antennae” on the roof of the building and
I’m convinced that the weird humming noise I constantly hear, is down to
the radiation they are emitting. It’s disrupting my sleep. I feel detached
from nature (despite the sea and the beach). In London, we had an allotment
(a plot of land in a community garden) and it was my life… I spent most
of my time there tending my vegetable garden. If anything… that was a
valuable lesson I learned by moving to London (of all places!): that I need
to be in close contact with nature!!
I feel like I should just pack up and leave… become a WWOOFER, go
volunteer somewhere… do something worthwhile…

Except… am I making the right decision? How do you make a living? Am I
also caught up in the same-ol’ same-ol’ pattern of trying to maintain a
grasp on the “future” (which, to all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist)?
A friend of mine is doing just that, but he has his property in Brussels,
which he will be renting out while he’s in Italy learning about
permaculture. When/if he decides to come back he will have money in the
bank! I know (from experience, mind you) that there is no point in
projecting into the future and yet, I get caught up in it every single
time. I don’t trust my gut instincts anymore… They change at the drop of
a hat… As much as I want to step out of this contrived society we live
in, I don’t trust my gut enough (it’s so fickle) to, once again, follow
what I’m feeling right now and just do it… It might, after all, be a
momentary thing… Following what I feel deep down inside has led me to
waste buckets of money, time and energy. For instance – and this is just
one of the obstacles – how do I get out of my rental agreement, which has
just started and is  meant to be an agreement for 3 years? If I break that
agreement, I have  to pay 3 months rent… I don’t have that kind of
money…

I have always suffered from bouts of eczema and know that it’s mainly
related to my emotional state. Right now, it is about as bad as it has ever
been, which says one thing: I am on the wrong path… again…

Stuck, stuck, stuck… all tied up in knots… I am very conscious of the
situation in this world… I am feeling “the shift” like nobody’s
business…  I just don’t know how to step out and head in another
direction… I am 50… I am unsure… I am willing but don’t seem able…It is killing me…
Signed, Stuck.
 
***

Dear Stuck,

Wow. Sounds like you have 99 problems and calm ain’t one. A wise friend once told me (when I was feeling anxious. Maybe not as anxious as you, but close) that when you don’t know what to do, do nothing. He didn’t mean sit on the couch, drink cheap beer from Owl’s Liquor (really near my house) and watch Enlightened although that sounds 
great right now. He meant don’t make any grand decisions or sudden moves. Sounds like you’d be unsettled in London, Paris, or Espanola, New Mexico (near my town).

It was my birthday on Sunday, and I had over 400 pages of grading to do. Grading 400 pages of high school work would drive anyone insane. Believe. I was crawling out of my skin. But I plowed through, setting hourly goals, and taking breaks. Maybe I screamed some; my memory is foggy when it comes to outbursts. I suggest you give Ostend, 
which sounds lovely by the way, at least six months. Get a job that will pay your bills; tell yourself it’s only temporary, and continue to do your meditation. Try walking and lying meditation as well. Write in your journal (read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones) and chill out. Tell yourself that you will not make any major decisions for six months. Stick to it. Don’t envy anyone else’s life. Don’t worry about the world; the world can take care of itself. Just take it day by day. And read some poetry. I recommend Matthew Dickman, Laura Kasischke, Dorianne Laux, and 
Tony Hoagland. Read it aloud. 

Good luck,

Rob Wilder

PS It’s not the antennae; it’s your state of mind, yo.

Robert Wilder is the author of two critically acclaimed books of essays: Tales FromThe Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs a Drink, both optioned for television and film. He has published essays in NewsweekDetailsSalonParentingCreative NonfictionWorking Mother and elsewhere. He has been a commentator for NPR’sMorning EditionThe Madeleine Brand show, and On Point and other national and regional radio programs including the Daddy Needs a Drink Minute which airs weekly on KBAC FM. Wilder’s column, also titled “Daddy Needs A Drink,” is printed monthly in the Santa Fe Reporter. He was awarded the 2009 Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. Wilder has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the past twenty years.

Visit Robert Wilder on Facebook.

 

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

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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 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 a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com 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

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

5 Lessons from My Father’s Death.

February 10, 2014

5 Lessons from My Father’s Death

By Bethany Butzer.

When my stepfather Paul was twenty-two years old, he was shot in the face with a 12 gauge shotgun by his friend who was trying to kill him. He survived, but his injuries left him completely blind. After being shot, Paul got into AA and started to turn his life around. Over the next twenty-five years, he sponsored many people who struggled with addiction and gave talks at local community centers and jails in an effort to help people improve their lives.

Later in his life, Paul started to suffer from chronic pain in his feet, due to nerve damage caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. His doctor prescribed Oxycontin—a powerful and highly addictive painkiller. Paul quickly became addicted to the medication, and over the next two years, he slowly wasted away before my eyes. He rarely got out of bed, seldom ate, and even stopped joining my family on Christmas morning.

Eventually, my mom left him. She refused to enable his destructive and addictive behavior.

Two months later, on October 25, 2007, Paul let out his final breath. He died alone on his bedroom floor. He was only fifty-five years old. And he was the only father I’d ever known.

Paul taught me five important lessons about life.

I work with these lessons every day, and I hope you will, too.

 Be Grateful

Growing up with someone who couldn’t see helped me appreciate the things we often take for granted, like our senses. Paul often had to ask me if his socks matched. He couldn’t pull a can out of the cupboard and know what it was. He couldn’t drive a car. He couldn’t take in a sunset. He once brushed his teeth with A535 (a cream for arthritis/joint pain) and ate a spoonful of dry cat food because he thought it was cereal. (We laughed about this at the time, but I think I’ve made my point!)

He never knew what I looked like. Instead of seeing with his eyes, Paul saw with his heart.

Be thankful for your ability to see. Not everyone is so lucky.

 Stay Strong

After being shot in the face and blinded, many people would give up. They would turn to a victim mentality, with “why me” playing continuously in their head. And while I’m sure that Paul experienced these thoughts at times, he was a striking example of how the human spirit can rise up and triumph over adversity.

Instead of playing the victim, Paul took his experience as a sign that he needed to turn his life around. He got sober and started inspiring others to do the same. He learned how to play the drums and joined a band. He got into weight lifting and worked out every day.

When tragedy strikes, pay attention to what the universe is trying to teach you.

 The Power of Forgiveness

One of the main tenets of AA is forgiveness. This meant that Paul needed to forgive the man who shot him. How on earth could you forgive someone who blinded you for life? I’m not quite sure how, but Paul did it.

One day, Paul was at a gas station with a friend who told him that the man who had shot him was at one of the other pumps. Paul asked to be led over to the man. He then hugged him and told him that he forgave him for what he’d done.

Paul taught me that holding onto anger and resentment doesn’t do anyone any good. These emotions eat you up inside and weigh on your shoulders. Forgiveness isn’t about the other person—it’s a gift that you give to yourself.

Who do you need to forgive?

Say What Needs to Be Said

Before Paul died, I had an opportunity to drop by his house to confront him about his addictive behavior. I was scared, so I drove by and reassured myself that I would talk to him the next time I visited my hometown. Instead, I decided to write him a letter, tape myself reading it, and mail him the tape.

He died two weeks later.

My letter didn’t arrive on time. I missed my chance.

From this experience, I learned the importance of telling people what we need to tell them. Don’t shy away from a confrontation because you feel awkward or uncomfortable. You never know when you might lose your opportunity.

 No One Is Perfect

Ultimately, Paul taught me that we all have our scars. We carry around personal demons that we struggle with from time to time. And that’s ok. We can’t expect ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, to be perfect.

Paul was a complex man. His heart was the same size as his temper—huge. He was rough, soft, kind, cruel, wise, and naive all at the same time.

I have fond memories of his kind side. The times we went for walks together and skated on ponds. The times he made me soup when I was sick. I’ll always remember how he loved to blare Bruce Springsteen and the tone in his voice when he would say to me, “You can do it, Grasshopper!”

Paul had his faults, and, like all of us, his faults were part of the package. His imperfections made him who he was. If he hadn’t been through what he’d been through, he never would have been able to motivate others to change their lives.

Realize that you are perfect exactly as you are, even with your imperfections.

I hope you take these five lessons and apply them to your life. That way, even though Paul isn’t around anymore, he can continue to inspire others.

As Helen Keller so aptly put it:

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”

I’d like to leave you with a two-minute YouTube video that I made in honor of Paul. Another remarkable thing that Paul did was create and maintain a garden, complete with beautiful ponds, in our backyard. I remember him pulling weeds at 11:00 p.m. because, for him, it didn’t matter whether it was sunny or dark outside!

You’ll see Paul’s amazing garden in the video below:


Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
Author ● Speaker ● Researcher ● Yoga Teacher
Are You Ready To Create A Life You Love?
www.bethanybutzer.com

museum2 1

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 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 a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com 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. A lot. Next up is a workshop in London, England on Feb 15th. Book here.

And So It Is, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, loss, love

Nothing Is Just One Thing. By Elizabeth Crane.

February 6, 2014

Nothing is just one thing.  By Elizabeth Crane.

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The last few days have involved a combination of gratitude and morbid reflection.  The inevitable losses that result from addiction somehow still never fail to shock me, though I have not had a drink in nearly twenty-two years and I’ve seen more than a few people die at this point.  It wasn’t until the news about Philip Seymour Hoffman that I thought about how many there have been – which turns out to be too many to count – I keep thinking of others.  Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don’t, and for me, most of the times, I just don’t want to.  I’ll make up reasons why this one or that one is an exception so that my friends will all live forever, or at least until after I go first.  The people I’ve met in recovery are some of the most phenomenal people I know; some have come back from homelessness and prostitution to build lives they could once barely imagine.  My own drinking story is less dramatic; think of your most self-pitying girlfriend and add in a bunch of booze (whatever was available/free) and poor decision-making and that’s about as interesting as it gets. When I quit, I had reached a point where I imagined going on like that for the rest of my life, maybe never even missing a day of work at the job I hated and for sure never having any more money than I did then (which was in fact, substantially negative), or a relationship that lasted longer than four months, and I saw a way to change that worked for me.

When I was newly sober, Phil was part of a crew of my closest friends.  He wasn’t my closest friend, I want to be clear about that.  We had many delightful conversations, but we weren’t I’ll call you when I get home kind of friends.  We were close with a lot of the same people (who I did call when I got home), and I often saw him on a daily basis.  That was two decades ago.  But it was a critical time in my life.  I cannot overstate how much each person in that group meant to me, then and now; we were part of a greater thing, and we all helped each other whether it was deliberate or not.

Over the years, many in that group moved away from NY, including myself.  In Chicago, I found a new group of people to break my daily bread with, and as we built our new lives, we all had less time to gather every day.  I have kept in touch with those who aren’t close by, and we’ve always found ways to keep tabs on each other, pre-social media and pre-email.  We used the phone.  We wrote letters!  Crazy.

I’m not getting to it here.

It’s been twenty-two years.  Countless individuals have helped me change my life, countless more help me keep it changed.  But there’s a special place in my heart for the people I met at the beginning.  And losing one of them feels different – shocking, frightening, heartbreaking, cause for a broad, unbidden life review.  The short version is that it’s good now, life.  I’m happy and well, I have meaningful work and healthy relationships with people.  I’m also married to a sober person, and yet it’s not until just now that I’ve stopped to really consider the flip side of that.  We continue to do what we need to to maintain our sobriety, but it is part of our makeup to want to drink or use.  Relapse happens.  There’s a lot of talk in the media right now that makes me want to scream, the idea that we can just suddenly decide to not drink or take drugs, and that it’s a moral failing somehow when we can’t.  We drink and take drugs because it’s what we’re wired to do.  I’ve said many, many times that I think it’s just incredibly hard to be awake and conscious in the world.  Shitty things happen kind of non-stop.  People die.  That’s just the deal.  Spectacular things happen too, which is the part of the deal that makes the other part of the deal worth shaking on.  But the feelings associated with the relentless input of life can often present themselves as unbearable, and plenty of people can have one beer or one hit off a joint and resist taking another.  Alcoholics and addicts don’t have that luxury, not in my view, but we’re really, really good at making up stories about it.  Maybe I should just speak for myself.  I’m really good at making up stories about it.  “Oh, I never crashed a car.  Oh, I never drank as much as so and so did.  Oh, it wasn’t really that bad.  Oh it’s been a long-ass time now, I’m older and wiser and sure it will be different.  Oh, I’ll just take one extra painkiller, just this once – it’s prescribed!”  And so you have one, but for an addict or an alcoholic, as they say, one is too many and a thousand isn’t enough.

I’m still not getting to it.  Maybe I don’t even know what it is.

So Phil died, and our friends are crushed, and I’m in shock and yet I feel lucky and amazed that I’m here.  I don’t know how I got to be this age.  (My thirty-fifth high school reunion is this year.  Wha-huh?)  That’s shocking too, because not many people get to be this age without a lot of losses.  Both my parents are gone now.  I’ve been back in NY for a couple of years, where I grew up, where I drank and where I quit, fueling my bittersweet nostalgia for that time of early sobriety in particular, crossing Columbus Circle with eight or ten friends through rain and slush and sunshine to our favorite coffee shop; we had a big round table in the window that was almost always held for us.  I think of all those guys – and it was a guy-heavy group, though I had many sober women friends too – and how I had crushed on almost all of them for one five minutes or another even though I was in no position to be seriously involved with anyone at that time – and according to some greater plan, wouldn’t be for another ten years.  (It worked out right.)

Maybe there’s nothing to get to.  Oh yeah, gratitude and morbid reflection.  I think we exist in a culture where we still think in black and white so much of the time.  So and so should have not taken drugs, obvi.  This is right, that’s wrong.  You’re happy or you’re sad and if you’re sad you should get happy.  But that’s not my human experience. I exist in a place where I feel at once profoundly conscious of what I’ve been given in this life, and also how quickly that goes.  I feel grateful, giddy, on occasion, at the bounty that’s been given to me, but it’s not mutually exclusive of feeling impossibly sad.  They coexist, more or less constantly.  I’d much prefer an easier, softer way.  I haven’t found one yet, but I have found one that works for me.

***

Elizabeth Crane is the author of the story collections When the Messenger Is HotAll This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. Her work has been featured in McSweeney’s The Future Dictionary of America, The Best Underground Fiction, and elsewhere.

Bio

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 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 a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com 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. 

And So It Is

Being A Person Is Hard. And Lovely & Amazing.

February 4, 2014
Being A Person In The World Is Hard. But Also Lovely & Amazing.

My ramblings from the sky. Boston Logan Int’l > LAX.

Thinking of doing this as a spoken word piece so please read it in your head like that. Maybe with music, like a kind of rap.  Or maybe in “The Poet’s Voice” with violins in the background like you’re at some poetry slam and I’m taking too long on the stage. I don’t know. I’m just on the plane, toying with some ideas at around 30,000 feet…

Being a person in the world. Here’s what it’s like- it’s like you get into the wrong car and end up crying in the backseat because the driver has a thick accent from somewhere you can’t place and you’re nearly deaf and that combination is lethal. And he doesn’t know his way around the city (why drive a cab/Uber, you may wonder?) and you end up circling the underground parking lot of a rental car place instead of the hotel you’d specified. Your life comes down to a pinpoint of a thought, a prick so sharp that you wonder how you’ve survived being a person in the world this long. That thought is: Look what happens when I try and save a few bucks: I die in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot in the back of a Hyundai. And it’s not any kind of prejudice against Hyundai because you yourself drive one, and have for years now. It’s a Fuck me, this is not how I wanted to go.

But at the same time, you know you won’t die, or at least most of you knows you won’t die (not right then anyway) but the complicated person you are (which is no more complicated than anyone else who is being a person in the world) wants to convince yourself of this because in the same breath you say I hate drama, I want ease, Just get me to my hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, the other breath is inhaling the situation like it’s crack and even though you’ve never smoked crack (or meth, or coke, or any drugs) you know (all too well) the addictive power of these drugs and situations like this. I am a person who is very upset right now. Who can’t breathe. Who just might die here in this parking lot in the back of car being driven by a man who is lost. It’s like that, being a person in the world. Lost, all of us.

Although on various days, the alarm clock goes off and you can’t hear it. Or maybe you’re hard of hearing. Or maybe you didn’t set it in the first place and you stay in bed a few extra hours, or Hell, maybe all day, and then you feel guilty about that in all your typical person-ness. But on some days the alarm sounds and you know that the pain you’ve assimilated into your body won’t attack its own cells on that day, like maybe it’s chilling on that particular Wednesday in July or March. And on those days, being a person in the world is a little easier.

But really, it’s always something.

Some lady on the plane upset because you sneezed on her, really really upset as she knits and watches MSNBC on mute and rubs her left hand on her left thigh to get your germs off. And even though you sneezed, you are certain you didn’t sneeze on her. (Except the 2% chance that you did. And that’s also what being a person is like- never being 100% sure.) What can you say besides sorry? So you say sorry and realize that being a person in the world is fuckload of I’m sorries. So many sorries. Sorries by boat and sorries by plane (and by Hyundais.) So many sorries even when you’re not. It’s like that sometimes.

Being a person is like knitting. You kind of have to pay attention and you also kind of don’t. Sometimes you can get by like that. Half in, half out. Half there, half not. Half knitting, half watching the news. You can kind of watch MSNBC and shift farther and farther away from the bitch who sneezed on you on the plane until you realize that if you go any farther to the right you’ll push your husband out of his seat and into the aisle. It’s like that. Layered and complicated and full of yarn and you either love to knit or hate it.

It’s eating with a Bolivian in Boston. She’s beautiful and alone and a plate of gnocchi and perhaps a glass of white wine sit in front of her. And you wonder if the gnocchi are good. It’s always questioning if you are about to make the right choice. She says here, try one. It’s sometimes like that- you just say yes, yes, okay. Yes, yes, okayAnd you reach your fork across the table to try a stranger’s gnocchi and why not? She says that she’s Bolivian but her grandmother was Italian and the custom where the grandmother was from is to eat gnocchi for luck on the 29th. You say But it’s the 30th. (That’s what being a person in the world means- you point out mistakes. You correct them.) Yes, but it’s close enough, the beautiful Bolivian in Boston says. So you all eat gnocchi and talk about the mystery that is dating and Boston and you think maybe I will always eat gnocchi on the 29th. I like that plan. Being a person means you have grand ideas like always eating gnocchi on the 29th, and that you make plans and promises when a little wine is coursing through you on a snowy night.

It can also be like this: you hunch your shoulders way up, as if that gesture will protect you from future pain.

As if any gesture can protect us from future pain.

And even when you share about your baby dying, and how you never talk about it, there you are talking about it. Being a person in the world means you say what you never do as you stand there doing it. And your shoulders stay there because in some way you think maybe it will happen again if your shoulders drop down and relax, as if they are the thing that is holding you up in the world. It means confusion. It means being wrong (especially about how your hunched up shoulders protect you or prevent pain.)

It means getting up every day and finding things to laugh at, things like how you are sure you did not sneeze on that lady on the plane. Now that’s funny- how much of a big deal she made! Then you laugh at yourself for the things you yourself make a big deal of and how maybe someone else is swinging their leg off their own bed and looking for things to laugh at so they can make it through their day. And maybe they think of you. Maybe you were the lady who insisted the sneeze landed on her.

Being a person in the world is kind of like playing the slots, maybe the Wheel-Of-Fortune at some bad casino in Henderson, Nevada, and realizing that you are never going to win, except maybe a couple dollars here and there, which you keep putting back in the machine.

It’s like going to bed and trying to remember one  good goddamn thing that happened that day and remembering seven (oh, the thrill!) Or trying to remember one good thing and coming up with zero, zilch, nada, so you go to bed with the song zero zilch nada in your head. A song you made up.

It’s is like this: you make up songs and words and whole lives sometimes. Look at this life I’ve made up: isn’t it great? Or, look at this life I made up: I am a horrible garbage person. Somewhere in the middle is most likely what personhood most resembles, with the pendulum swinging more to the former. For most, certainly not for all.

Being a person in the world is fucked up and hard and terrible and wondrous. It’s lovely and amazing. It’s a movie title and songs- it’s like being in a song! Except when it’s not. When you’re trying to get your special needs kid to stop pulling his own hair out, to stop tearing his own skin off. Then it’s not like a song. It’s like a trap you can’t get out of until you do.

And sometimes you never do.

It’s like this: the world is a world of faces looking at you- hungry, expectant, broken, bored, believing, lost- and sometimes the face is your own. In the mirror, your own face believing and not believing, depending on the day. That’s being a person in the world. It’s like seeing the words “Back away fatty” on the fridge and getting insulted until you remember you wrote those words, your kids can’t read yet so no harm there you think. And it works, and you back away, and you think how easy it is to trick yourself when you are a person in the world.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March 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 a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com 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. 

Awe & Wonder, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing

Do You Want To Be On The Lifeboat?

December 23, 2013

Do You Want to be on the Lifeboat? 

By Catherine Hummel.

Close your eyes.

Imagine you are on a plane. You are on your way to a vacation you have saved up for and have been looking forward to for several months. You have your drink, your favorite book and a blanket. You are so grateful for a break from your busy life. Your eyes begin to soften as you settle in to your seat for your long ride across the ocean.

Just as you are about to drift off the pilot comes on the loudspeaker.

He begins to notify all passengers that one of the engines has gone out.

You are over the Atlantic Ocean and he informs you that the last engine’s gas will not last longer than one more hour and you won’t make it across the ocean.

The plane will crash.

Your heart starts to speed up.

You start to sweat.

Your mind is racing.

Is this the end of my life?

He then proceeds to tell you that there is one lifeboat on this plane.

6 people will be able to survive and that is it. Others, once they hit the water despite having life jackets will die immediately.

6 people will survive and all passengers on the plane will have a chance to make their case for why they should be the ones to live. And all passengers will have a chance to vote.

Panic. I can’t breathe.

Do you want to be on the boat?

***

I was in a workshop two years ago where I sat through this guided visualization.

I had a few minutes before I stood up in front of 15-20 people and would have 90 seconds to make a case for why I should be picked to be on the plane. I was 24 years old. I was working at a non-profit in downtown Boston. My life was simple. I had made some great changes over the past two years, I had decided to stop drinking. I began taking steps to living the life I dreamed of but at this point I had really settled in to playing really, really small. I had already lived the chaos and I wanted to just get by, wasn’t that enough? Perhaps now it wasn’t. I had passions and dreams but was I doing anything about them? How often did I feel comfortable sharing my heart? How often was I experiencing tremendous joy and excitement about the life I was living? Was I too comfortable playing small? What was I living for? What was important to me? What did I have to offer the world, offer to life? Was I living my life like I wanted to live it??

I stood up. I felt small and insignificant. I felt ridiculous having to fight for my life in front of total strangers and yet I said I want to be on the boat. I don’t even remember consciously saying it. I barely remember what else I said. My voice shook, my hands were trembling, and yet in that moment my life flashed before my eyes.Catherine, do you want to live? What are you doing with your life? What if you were about to die and this was your last chance, would you choose it? In my 90 seconds I talked about what was important to me, I shared my dreams I had never shared with anyone before, that I wanted to help people, specifically help women connect with themselves and their hearts, I wanted to build communities, I wanted people to remember how precious life is and that it’s all a gift, help them connect with their own inner spark, for them to choose a life that they were happy about living. I told the group that I wanted a spot on the boat. I chose life.

As the exercise went on I noticed some things about the way many other people shared. All of us were nervous but many were ready to give up their life. Women talked about how their children needed them but didn’t talk about why they wanted to live for themselves. Men talked about their businesses and their work but not about what really mattered to them. Others younger than me shared about how they had so much life left to live and they too had dreams and goals and passions. Others who were over age 65 said they were ready to die. I found myself getting angry at the ones who were ready to give up. Why are you giving up? Why aren’t they fighting for their life? We are all equally valuable to this world and what kinds of people are we BEING in our day to day life? What really matters? It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t even matter what you do for a living, each person has something to offer the world. It’s not over til it’s over. I knew people in my life that had found true love at age 70. There are 80 year olds running marathons. There are people who live each day as if it is their last, Wait, am I doing that? Some people got up and even though they made a case, never once said “I want to be on the boat.” Others stood there speechless.

Then we had to vote.  I voted for the ones who said they wanted to be on the boat. Who clearly said it. It didn’t matter if they had good reason, they said they wanted it. I shared with the ones who were ready to give up how angry that made me, that I wanted them to see that they were worthy of life, that they had something to offer regardless of their age, and why were you so easily ready to give up? The martyrdom made me sick. I don’t want people to step aside, I want each person to claim their space, know their worth, equals. It didn’t matter how much money people made, what mattered is what kind of difference they were making in the world. I wanted the ones on the boat who were real. Who were confident in who they were. Who believed in service to others. Who knew life wasn’t just about being happy, ones who had overcome tremendous struggle, and were continuing to live their life in gratitude and with passion. I wanted the fighters on the boat, the ones with hope and desire, the ones who wanted to live.

Of course many people were in reaction to the exercise and treated it as such. Just an exercise. But for me it felt real. I began to ask – Am I living my life like I actually want to?  What about those dreams that I just expressed to complete strangers, why am I not trying to live them? Am I confident in who I am? Do I like who I am? Do I know I am inherently worthy and valuable? Do I show up in my life fully self expressed and free?

I challenge you to ask yourself those questions.

Forget how you would do the exercise- how are you doing your life right now?

Life is a gift. It’s given to us the day we were born. We don’t have to earn it. We don’t have to work for it. It’s handed over and yet how many of us treat life that way?  Waking up in the morning do I act as if this day is a precious gift meant to be lived with kindness and grace? Am I deeply aware of the miracle that I am, that I was born worthy of all my hearts desires, and that my dreams are planted in my heart by spirit and I am strong enough to carry them out and make them real? Am I brave enough to handle when life doesn’t go my way? Do the people in my life know that I love them?

I created my coaching business after that weekend. I wanted to keep my spot on this planet. In this world. I wanted to help other women step up in their life, to know their worth, their passion, and their fire. To know their power and their value. I wanted others to be able to feel their desires, to know that they can handle both the light and the dark, that we were all given this life because we are strong enough to live it. Maybe up until this very moment you’ve been unhappy, you’ve been playing small, you’ve been afraid. Here’s the thing: every second is a chance to turn your life around. You don’t need to wait. This is what Second Chance Coaching was about It took one second for me to make the decision to do something different. To stop playing small. To stop criticizing myself. To pray to see what others see, the beauty within me, until I could see it myself. One second to believe I belong here, that I have a place in this world, and I am not ready to give up, no, I am not willing to give up.

That was 2 years ago when I sat in that workshop. Today I write this blog as a full-time women’s life coach and I have become a yoga teacher. I wanted to write this so I could remember. I could remember what it felt like when parts of me wanted to give up. When I thought life had become too bearable to live.  I want to remember the truth of who I am, of who we all are: unconditional love, infinite possibility, miracles. I want to remember the truth when I want to give up, when it gets too hard, when I don’t want to feel. I want to remember that I said YES to this, that I continue to say yes to this, my spot on the boat, my spot in this world, my life.

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Catherine Hummel is the gal who helps women who’ve lost their spark re-discover the magic within to fall in love with themselves and their life. At 26 years old she is a life coach, Reiki practitioner, yoga teacher, workshop and retreat facilitator, truth-telling machine and oh so very human. Her passion to help others transform their lives stems from her own experiences. At the age of 22 she hit rock bottom – lights out. As she rediscovered her own light and lit up her life, she found meaning in helping others do the same. She leads a monthly women’s circle titled “Sisters of the Heart” in Boston, MA, retreats in North Sandwich, NH and coaches women all over the country journey to their heart. 

 

Guest Posts, parenting

The One Everyone Should Read: On Navigating Parenthood.

December 10, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Rachel Pastiloff

I am constantly navigating through a crazy maze of trials in my life. Always trying to figure out if what is now is what it’s supposed to be. I constantly examine this concept with my children and myself.

Last Tuesday was an especially difficult day. I struggled through the day, and my kids weren’t even home from school yet. Once my littles arrived home, things went from hard to climbing Mt. Everest hard. Blaise, my sweet boy who has Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism, was in a state of destruction. As dinner approached, I asked my sweet angel where his glasses where. Very nonchalantly, he responded that they were broken. The two of us found our way into his bedroom where he showed me both pairs of his glasses broken, twisted and shattered in little pieces. I found myself cracking into those same little pieces.

I lost my patience and started yelling. I hate that part of me that comes out when I crack.

I screamed at him, “Why, Why, Why?”

He never answered. He didn’t understand what I was asking him. This led to the real issue. The glasses aren’t the issue; they are at the surface; they are like the skin; they are just the part you see. The real issue was exploding inside.

Why can’t my son understand me? Why can’t my son be “normal?” Why doesn’t my son’s brain work?

There it is: the guts of it all. It’s the insides coming out, the organs and the blood.

Seven years of dealing with special circumstances doesn’t make it easier. Seven years doesn’t make those bitter moments sting less. Seven years doesn’t close the wounds. I have spent the last few years stuffing down my feelings and pretending that all is cohesive. That it’s tough but working.

In reality, it was all still there under the surface, inside a pressure cooker about to explode.

I found myself crying after my kids went to sleep that night. I cried for myself. I cried for the stress that his syndrome can create in me, but mostly, I cried for him. I cried for what I thought was missing. I was quiet after I let it all out; I was quiet all through the days that followed. Something had opened up, and I finally had to face it and deal.

I had to accept what is.

Blaise accepts his life. It’s time I remember how to live more like him. Blaise doesn’t see failure or lack of in his life. He accepts things and does so with a smile.

I am working on accepting “the what is” now. I added into my a-ha moment that I can accept what is now and trust that things may look different in the future.

I have to let go of what I think it is “supposed” to look like in my life and in my kids’ lives.

As the parent of a special needs child, I tend to be on a roller coaster of emotions. Going through the struggles with my child. Walking the path of his life right by his side. It can be a daunting task. One thing I don’t need to add to my plate is judgment to what I think the picture of my child’s life should be.

I happily bought the little one a new pair of glasses. Hopefully this experience will have us both see a little clearer.

 

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Rachel Pastiloff is a native of Philadelphia/South Jersey. After years of living on the West Coast, she transplanted to Atlanta, Georgia from Berkeley, Ca in 2006. Rachel is a mother with 2 young boys, ages 5 and 7 years old.. In 2009 Rachel’s oldest was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome. The following year her son was diagnosed again with Autism. Both of these events would help shift the direction of Rachel’s life. She began her path with health and wellness to create a better life for her family. It then became her passion. Rachel became a certified yoga teacher in 2012 and is a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a Health and Wellness Coach. A life long lover of food and cooking, Rachel helps her clients get back in the kitchen and enjoy it. She is helping people have a new relationship with not only food, but also their personal health and wellness. Her work can be seen here on the site and on Positively Positive. Reach her at rachyrachp@gmail.com to work with her or visit her site. 

Uncategorized

Holy Sh*t!

December 6, 2013

Holy Shit By Tim Heath Leuzarder

 

Right now, I am on Cape Cod-staying in the home of a good friend. 

This friend (who shall remain nameless) is living what appears to be the “perfect” life.  She has a terrific, loving husband.  She owns her own business.  Her home looks like it could be showcased in an interior design magazine.   If life is a race, she’s leading the pack.

My friend with the home on ‘The Cape’ makes her living as a problem solver for people and organizations.  She has perfected her ability to listen, assess and prescribe solutions that work for her clients.  She is also a Class A manifester.  In other words, she makes shit happen.  She knows how to get stuff done.

So why am I going on about this?

My friend is navigating through a big issue right now in her personal life.  She’s about to go through a major surgery that will permanently close the door on her ability to conceive a child.  Although she’s had a few years to gradually accept that birthing a child is an unlikely outcome for her, this surgery will transform unlikely into virtually impossible.  In a way, it’s as if she is suffering over the soon to be death of her un-conceived child(ren).

What happens when the problem solving, inspirational, motivational, get-it-done, positive, have-his/her-shit-together person is in crisis? Who do they turn to when life throws them a curve ball?  Are they so wrapped up in being the problem solver, life-saver for other people that they gloss over their own need for help when they really need it?

Some of us are so wrapped up in trying to think or be ‘positive’, that we do our damndest to bury the ‘negative’.  The problem is that when we bury something within ourselves, we’re keeping it.

YOU CAN’T POLISH SHIT

Let’s think about shit for a minute—as a metaphor.

Shit stinks.  It’s nasty.  It is the un-needed, nutritionally bereft by-product that we wish to remove.  It’s also a part of life.

Our vernacular is very ‘shit’ friendly.  We use that word to describe:

Hard Times

“I’m going through some shit”

Surprise

“Holy Shit”

Love/Appreciation

“You’re the shit”

Exclamation of Joy, Shock, Surprise, Love, Etc

“Shit”

Shit is shit.  You can’t polish shit.  Well…you can try, but polishing it doesn’t make it less shitty.  It is what it is.

My friend is going through some shit in her life.  The worst thing she can do is try to keep it to herself.  Can you imagine trying to keep yourself from shitting???  You’d eventually die.  Shit is meant to move through us.  It is waste product.  It’s what we don’t need and yet, it’s a necessary bi-product of the stuff we DO need.  Shit is meant to be disposed of.  It’s not meant to stay hidden within us.

If we are having a tough time getting rid of our shit, we may need to ask for help.  It may be that we are processing life in a way that is causing us problems.  We may need more fiber, less sugar, consistent amounts of this or a hint of that.  If we are feeling shitty, we may be well served to share with other people who are equipped to help us move things along.  We may need help distinguishing between nutrition and waste.

Is there anything in your life that causes you to feel shitty?  Are you keeping it to yourself?  Are you polishing shit and passing it off as something else?

If so, let someone know!!!

My friend from The Cape is always available to help me navigate through my own garbage.  I can call her for just about anything.  She also knows that she can come to me to discuss anything.  I have been a coach for her and she has been a coach for me.    Our relationship has been forged and strengthened because of our willingness to discuss our crap without wallowing in it.  We LISTEN to one another generously.

We will all do well to surround ourselves with people who can help us process things that don’t serve us.  As long as we are open to sharing our shit with the world, we can live big, healthy, fulfilling lives.  If the days of holding on to our shit turns into weeks, months and/or years—we won’t be able to operate at our highest levels.

Do you want to operate at your highest level? 

If so, you can do the following:

1.     Acknowledge your shit.

2.     Talk about it with a trusted advisor/therapist/friend.

3.     Dump what doesn’t serve you.

4.     Move on powerfully, in the direction of your dreams, feeling lighter.

Sound good? 

Also, there is an added bonus.  When we follow these steps, we are also inspiring the world around us to do the same.  Can you imagine how wonderful the world will be once we all dispose of our un-needed waste properly?

Holy Shit!

TimHeadshot

Tim Heath Leuzarder is a New York Based Writer, Actor, Director, Coach and Sales Professional.  His one-man play, “Mentor-ized” has enjoyed sold out performances in 2013 at the United Solo Festival, The Barrow Group and The People’s Improv Theatre in NYC.  The show (in which Tim portrays 9 characters) is a dramatic comedy geared toward inspiring audiences to follow their dreams.

He is currently producing and directing the documentary, “Skipping Joy” with Unlikely Hero Productions (www.skippingjoy.com).  The film, which takes a deep and humorous look at the universal practice of skipping (as in…to skip down the street), is slated for completion in early 2014.  

Tim is also a certified life coach, hypnotist and NLP practitioner.  He has worked with artists and sales professionals who want to break through personal barriers to achieve more in their careers.  Tim is interested in taking his knowledge of coaching, sales and the arts to create fun, entertaining, and hopefully poignant works of writing, theatre and film.  

 

 

Guest Posts

Remembering How To Be Human by Erin Telford.

June 5, 2013

Remembering How To Be Human

I had a glorious, profound experience this past weekend.  I flew to Oregon to surprise my amazing mama for Mother’s Day.  Since my visit was unexpected, she was already on schedule to volunteer at Occupy Medical in the center of downtown Eugene.  We decided that I would come with her and volunteer my acupuncture services.

This is a fantastic setup to provide free medical care and a myriad of services to the underserved population in Eugene.  They have doctors, nurses, fresh food, an herbalist, and even a person to cut your hair!  It was a gorgeous warm day and I had a nice little line-up of people to treat.

I have never worked with underserved populations.  Underserved by my definition are people who don’t get enough.  They don’t get enough food, they don’t get enough medical treatment, they don’t get enough comfort, warmth, nurturing, empathy or love.

My second patient of the day was a transsexual prostitute who was afraid to be homeless on the street because of her sexual identity.  She told me a lot of stories, most of which left me slightly stunned and sad.  I usually feel like I have some things to say when I’m working with patients.  Some pretty reasonable, helpful, relatable things to say.

I like to have a golden nugget here and there that someone can take away and feel uplifted by.  It might be ego-y but I feel good making other people feel good.  So when this fellow human says to me, I sell myself for money when I’m depressed, I’m stumped.

I felt kind of like a jerk.  I don’t have a pretty bow to put on this one.  I can’t say, “Yeah, we’ve all been there” and have a laugh because we haven’t.  I had nothing.  Nothing.  I started and stopped.  Silence.  Awkward?  A teeny bit.  But then we just looked at each other.

Okay, I thought.  Let’s just be here.  Because THIS is what is happening right now.  This is her reality.  I didn’t need to make it better or make it different.  My reality and her reality were crossing over and we were just being humans together.  So we just sat for a minute or two looking into each other’s eyes.  I’m saying I hear you, I understand you, that sucks and I love you in my mind.  I hope she felt that.  I think she did.

I treated a young woman who was kicking a speed addiction and was grieving three babies gone on Mother’s Day.  I treated a woman with a painful bunion who was craving more connection with her family of origin.  I treated a very sweet man who wanted to propose to me with a ring made of a pinecone and string.  All were in heavy transition with very loose foundations, all were very anxious, all really, really needed to tell their stories.

The Dalai Lama had just been in Eugene the day before and everyone was quoting him.  It was a bit surreal.  The major theme of his talk seemed to be around compassion, nurturing and the responsibility and power of the feminine.  We were putting these teachings into direct action on this day.

My mother is a registered nurse so she was camped out on the bus checking vital signs and taking care of wounds.  I’m in my own little section of an outdoor tent with just a few battered folding chairs and a metal table that we pulled off her deck and covered with a pretty cloth to use for a workspace.  There was no glamour.  No flannel sheets, no table warmer, no aromatherapy, no music.

It was still perfect and functional.  When you strip away all the bells and whistles, there is just the work.  You just give everything you have to give.  Nothing else is necessary.

Mother Theresa said that the problem of the world was that we have forgotten that we belong to each other.   We are humans.  We are all doing this together.  It makes no difference if I live in a 2 million dollar apartment on Park Avenue or I sleep on cement steps with my dog to protect me.

We will all take hits in this life.  You will never know by looking at someone what kind of trauma they have had to endure.  It does not matter.  We all deserve to give and receive each other’s kindness and utter humanity.

It’s easy to see other humans as annoying, frustrating obstacles.  They are in your way.  They aren’t giving you what you want.  They are frustrating, shady, slow, entitled, etc.

It’s a choice to remember that we are all made of the same stuff.  We all need warmth and touch and sweetness.  Be in it together-even with “strangers.”

Connect and serve.

photo_about

Erin Telford, MSTOM, L.Ac.

Radiant Heart Acupuncture PC
Licensed Acupuncturist | Certified Herbalist
radiantheartacupuncture.com | Phone: 646.266.4019
214 W. 29th Street, Suite 901 | NY, NY 10001

Follow Erin on Twitter!

Erin Telford holds a Masters of Science degree from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City-a rigorous four-year program that included acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, Western disease diagnosis, and treatment of over 300 patients. She is a licensed acupuncturist, board certified herbalist and is trained in Constitutional Facial Acupuncture RenewalTM. She has a private practice at the Classical Wellness Center as well as a practice at Yin & Tonic Acupuncture, a clinic focused on women’s health and infertility.

Erin believes in the powerful healing dynamic between patient and practitioner and the body’s innate ability to move towards balance. She uses a blend of traditional Chinese Medicine and 5 Element techniques to gently bring patients into harmony within their body, mind and spirit. Erin believes her role as a practitioner is to nourish life and relieve suffering of the body as well as the heart.

 

courage, manifesting

Say Yes.

July 24, 2012

The theme of this week is: Saying Yes.

photo of Bryant McGill and daughters… Sierra & Savannah by Jenni Young Creatives using my words. YES! Click to connect with Jenni.

 

This morning in class I asked everyone to write down on sticky notes what they were going to say Yes to today. Here are some of their responses.

Some of the YES notes my class wrote this morning. They put them over their hearts during Savasana. Very powerful stuff.

I shared this poem last night in my class because I have fallen absolutely in love with it.

God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish

or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph

my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I’m telling you is

Yes Yes Yes

~~~~~

I have found that sometimes saying Yes is complicated and rough around the edges but then I remember that so is my life, so I keep saying yes, even when every bone in my body whispers No you mustn’t expect any more miracles. My life has never been a neatly organized drawer or a perfect day for sailing, yet I have gone sailing anyway and gotten capsized and sunburnt but here I am still.  Nor has my life ever been what I thought it would be when I looked out from the vantage point of childhood, from the top a staircase in New Jersey all the way down into my teens, and 20’s, my 30’s. Never got past the 30’s. Most likely because my father died at 38 and in my child mind that was the end of life as we knew it.

Sometimes saying yes means saying no and as cliche as that sounds, you must believe me when I tell you: You have to say no sometimes.

To that tea, or lunch, or picking up that shift, or the wedding or whatever it is that is yelling at us in every language NO and yet what comes out of our mouth is a half-hearted Yes.

Here I am sick after 3 weeks partly because I say yes to too much.

And my saying yes to too much is not really a saying yes (it’s getting convoluted here) but it is my fear of: They won’t like me if I say no, I will let them down, If I don’t say yes to this job then there won’t be anymore… And on and on.

Saying yes to your life means saying yes to what makes you come alive. Saying yes to the things you want to do even if you are terrified, especially if you are terrified. Saying yes to who you really are, which is buried under the layer of No’s and years of standing still.

Today I am saying yes to the knowing that I can have it all; I can travel and write and teach and be exactly who I want to be. I am saying yes to the things I am afraid of, I am saying yes to cleaning out my car and getting organized so that when I get pulled over by a cop, as I did this morning, I can actually find my registration card instead of  getting a ticket for not having it. I am saying yes to my life, with all it’s parts and needs for oil changes and tune-ups. I am saying yes to reading more, to move Movable Feasts, to more trips to Paris, Yes to leading more retreats around the world for the rest of my life. Yes to writing my best-selling book. Yes to inspiring millions. Because that is what I want to do.

Why should I not say yes to what I want to and to who I am?

This morning I asked my class to start to pay attention to when they stop having fun in life. One of the main tenets of my yoga classes is that you must have a sense of humor.

Start to say yes more to your life.

That’s not to say that bad things won’t happen, that my friend Emily Rapp’s baby boy isn’t dying, that some things just suck and are really really unfair.

But in the meantime, with compassion in our hearts for all of those who are rammed up against a big fat No, let’s keep saying Yes.

Please tell me below what you are saying Yes to today.

Tweet me #YES by clicking here.

Click photo to tweet me #YES

How To

How To Make A Life

September 20, 2011

How to Make a Life

 


First:

Take everything you’ve ever learned and everything

You’ve yet to discover and place it in a box labeled Thank You.

Second:

Take a picture of your face and remember

That in many years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you were.

Be amazed now.

Third:

Find someplace to live.

Make sure it has the ability to let light fall

Across the room in such a way that every so often,

You’ll stop and mouth the words “Ah, sunlight.”

Before you finish dusting the books.

Don’t let the books get dusty.

 

Fourth:

Fall in love.

Touch. More than you think.

Have a child if you want one.

If you don’t, don’t.

Let your child out into the world

Discovering for themselves just how magical

It is. Or it isn’t.

It’s theirs to decide.

 

Fifth:

Get a job.

Remember this job is not who you are.

Sixth:

Do yoga.

Let your body discover what it’s like to move

without your brain holding it’s hand.

Tell your brain to take a hike.

Let your body believe fully in it’s own powers.

Let every person you’ve stored inside your muscles out every so often,

to breathe.

Lastly:

Do things that make you feel good.

Let your joy be contagious and spread through

Your home, your job, your children.

Let it spread through the world

Like a virus so that when you forget it,

Every so often, you’ll catch it from someone else.

~~Jen Pastiloff, after a particularly focused Annie Carpenter class on Sep 20, 2011

Balinese healing waters Nov 2012 during my retreat