Browsing Tag

meditation

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Self Love

Who Are You Now?

November 6, 2019
snow

By Jamie Della

I moved to the mountains nearly two years ago to be with Joey, my beloved mountain man. I wondered if I moved too soon, just a few days after my youngest son graduated from high school and went to live with his dad. I disassembled the nest, so how can I call it empty? I didn’t realize the purpose it gave me to keep a home warm and inviting. I didn’t know what winter would feel like.

I lay on my couch, under a blanket, looking out of the window at the white sky. The falling snow is easiest to see against the dark green mass of a broad spruce tree. They say it will snow all day, maybe even become a blizzard. It is the perfect day for a three-hour meditation, a devotional practice as part of the second year in a priestess training program. I am learning how to be still.

There had been no time for the loneliness that now surrounds me when I was racing through southern California traffic from work to my sons’ soccer games, then to Trader Joe’s to keep up with ravenous teen boys’ appetites. Now I even miss getting up before the sun to make my sons eggs and bacon before heading off to school. I miss hugging them in the morning when they were still warm from bed.

Occasionally, the snow that clumps on the spruce tree branches becomes too heavy and falls to lower branches. I wonder if the top branches feel inadequate for not being able to carry such a heavy load? Do they feel guilty for making another take on their burden? Of course not, I think. That’s just me who wants to carry more than she can. Or maybe that’s being a mom?

And as if on cue, the wind whisks away the fluffy snow in spirals. Yes. I understand freedom that comes from the wind. I have a gypsy’s wanderlust, happiest when rambling through a mountain meadow or on a road trip with an open map and the great wide world. Most of the vacations I took with my sons were road trips, going as far as I could, just like Eddie Vedder sings, “Gas in the tank is like money in the bank.”

And now I sit watching snowflakes. There was no space for isolation amidst the perpetual doingness and competitive drive to build a life of luxury in Orange County. Now, the nearest big box store is two and a half hours away, in another state. The grocery store is twenty minutes away, unless there is a white-out blizzard. There is never a reason to hurry and traffic means waiting for a car or two to go by. I live in a town of 700 people, who mostly keep to themselves, unless I want to hear how Jesus saved them. I don’t.

I miss gathering around the appetizers at family parties like a hoard of starving vultures and listening firsthand to the antics of my seven nieces and nephews. Usually someone in my family will call during the monthly birthday parties or holidays, but it’s not the same. You can’t tease your mom for drinking from your glass of wine or have a food fight with your sister over the phone.

I slow my breathing and remind myself that through my silent meditation I hope to build a foundation of peace, stability, courage, and creativity in the quiet of my own inner wisdom. I watch as the individual snowflakes fall. They say no two snowflakes are alike. Some snowflakes float in a rocking motion, like a boat on the sea. Other snowflakes are like pinwheels or the spinning girls at a Grateful Dead concert. Some snowflakes are long and irregular, as if they collected other snowflakes to them, like star-shaped, flying skydancers. Others look delicate, like the snowflakes my sister and I made as kids by cutting folded squares of white paper.

I think of the crystalline shapes that form when you speak to water. That must be life responding to the words. I wonder if it could, would the snowflake lament the conformity of being singular? Does the snowflake care that its uniqueness is not special or outstanding in the least? How can you be special if everyone is special? I can’t stand the idea. My chest tightens. I remind myself to breath. I think of all the things I have considered as outstanding, including my own parenting. The house suddenly feels too quiet and Joey won’t be home for hours. I get up and walk outside to the wood pile.

The snow blankets the land, erasing the contours of the earth, covering the sagebrush, bitterbrush, and our campfire pit. It rests in clumps on the thorns of the rose buses and the bare branches of the aspen trees. It has nearly buried my wrought iron writing chair and desk. I cannot see the 13,000-foot mountain peaks because of the white wall of snow.

This whiteness reminds me of the silver streak that begins at my forehead and has now reached the bottom of my long, brown hair. I am entering my winter years. The golden glimmer of my youth has faded like the leaves from every tree but the pines and spruces. Heads no longer turn when I walk in a room, and I realize that I no longer want that attention. It was an exhausting any way.

I grab four logs, walk back into our home, and carefully stuff the wood burning stove. The embers glow molten orange and the fire roars to life. I turn to gain heat on my back where I need the warmth to feel supported in this maddening world as I seek the best part of me.  In this moment of pure loving surrender, my heart and mind begin to open to the all blessings I have known and the ease of my life today. This is what I wanted after all.

I don’t have to fight for a parking space or work in a cubicle. I am not doling out punishments for breaking curfew or smoking pot. My sons are creating lives of their choosing and I am proud of their independence. I am in love and my mountain man loves me. I play with clay on my potter’s wheel, finding shape, trimming, firing, glazing. I slake my thirst from earthenware I have made. I take care of friends I haven’t yet met at our successful vacation guesthouse. I set out the rocking chair that once lulled my babies to sleep when the guests bring the wee ones. But, I don’t go so far as to make them chocolate chip cookies. I’ve learned to let go of some burdens and tend instead to the fire within. I feel the Goddess rise in my consciousness through the stillness. I am grateful for the quiet and content, I realize, for perhaps the first time in my life.

I return to the couch and pull up the blanket. I see a pattern outside, as if snow is choreographed as it falls from the sky. Each snowflake is part of a dance, like a ballerina who dances for the sake of dancing. Can we be like the snowflakes, living for the sake of being exactly who we are in the moment, no matter who is watching or keeping score? Perhaps. The idea feels right and fuels my desire to let my uniqueness stand out against the white blanket of winter, like words on a fresh sheet of paper.

Jamie Della is the author of nine books, including The Book of Spells (Ten Speed Press, October 2019), an “Herbal Journeys” column for Witches and Pagans Magazine and an essay in River Avenue Book’s #Me Too anthology. She has been published by Rebelle Society, Manifest Station, and SageWoman Magazine. She has been awarded Best Reference Book from the International Latino Book Awards, Book of the Month from Las Comarades para las Americas.

Upcoming events with Jen

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THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Grief, Guest Posts

Meditation and The Space to Grieve

July 21, 2016
meditation

By Mary-Frances Makichen

I’ve been meditating for a long time now—something like 20+ years. There are some days meditation is amazing, even transcendent.  I’ll come away from it feeling completely connected to the larger universe that surrounds me. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth and I’m left with a distinct feeling of unrest and irritation. Either way I keep meditating. I sit on a cushion in front of my meditation space and I listen to the sound of my breath—the inhale and exhale of that one moment in time.

Over six years ago tragedy struck and my nonsmoking husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. There is no Stage 5. He died 13 months later after a brave battle, radiation, chemotherapy and two stints in the hospital. He was a meditation teacher, intuitive and philosopher. Meditation was an important part of both of our lives.

His death was devastating for me. I lost my best friend, fellow traveler, lover and husband. The hole in my life was so big that I wasn’t sure it could ever be closed, patched or bridged. After he died, I was desperate to understand why this had happened and to find some kind of solace. It seemed logical that shortly after his death I should start meditating again. I hoped that meditation would help me deal with the grief and stress that filled my world then. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, motherhood

Mother’s Day.

May 10, 2015

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By Leza Lowitz

The celebration brings up the immense gratitude I have for my mother, but it is also tinged with grief. For ten years I’ve longed to have a child, but haven’t been so blessed. Thankfully, my yoga practice has helped me look at this challenge as a kind of practice in itself–I have no other choice. My Japanese husband and I have applied to adopt, but our chances are slim. At 43, my age makes adoption even more difficult in a country where adoption is rare and bloodlines are almost feudal in their importance. I have to face it: my long road to motherhood might be at an end.

As the years have passed, I’ve had to ask myself questions many mothers never consider. Why do I want to be a mother anyway?  I meditate on the answer. I want to experience another kind of love, something beyond what I know or can even imagine. Mother love.

But I’m not there yet, not at all. All the effort, pain, and disappointment of infertlity has gotten too much to bear, and I haven’t been loving myself. So while we wait for a placement from the orphanage, which looks unlikely, my husband suggests I go on a pilgrimage to the motherland—India. If I can’t have a child, can I discover another way to experience motherhood?  If not, can I let go, and find contentment with life as it is?

Nothing to lose. So I pack my bags and head to India, hoping it will be the perfect place to heal and to find the mother within. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Meditation, motherhood

Medea: A Mother’s Day Meditation

May 7, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lily MacKenzie

When I realize that many parts of myself haven’t reached consciousness or been fully realized, it’s like saying goodbye to aborted children. The tragedy? There aren’t enough years ahead of me where I can accomplish what I haven’t done so far, making me a kind of Medea.

***

She visited me recently. Her two dead sons were not trailing behind, seeking revenge. And Jason was nowhere to be seen.

Medea herself seemed redeemed, her face unlined, a calm serenity in her manner. She wore a stylish red dress trimmed with floral piping. Her shapely body reminded me of full-bodied Italian women. She seemed built not just to give life but also to enjoy it. Her black hair coiled around her neck, a mysterious river that beckoned.

If I were to take off on that river, what would I find at the end? A heart of stone? A pyramid of possibilities? A woman who had used her power in the only way she could?

***

When I saw Euripides’ play “Medea” many years ago, I was already in her spell. Her myth resonated for me as it still does for many women. She is our Medea, our savior. A woman unafraid of accepting her power and acting on it as necessary. One of Lilith’s symbolic daughters.

***

According to legend,

Adam tried to make Lilith lie beneath him during sexual intercourse. Lilith would not meet this demand of male dominance. She cursed Adam and hurried to her home by the Red Sea. Adam complained to God, who then sent three angels, Sanvi, Sansanvi and Semangelaf, to bring Lilith back to Eden. Lilith rebuffed the angels by cursing them. While by the Red Sea, Lilith became a lover to demons and produced 100 babies a day. The angels said that God would take these demon children away from her unless she returned to Adam. When she did not return, she was punished accordingly. And God also gave Adam the docile Eve. (Encyclopedia Mythica)

I talked to my sister this morning, and we reminisced about our mother who died when she was 101, trying to focus on her positive attributes: the insatiable zest for life; the curiosity and willingness to travel well into her 90s; the compassion for those in need; the ability to somehow communicate her love while also abandoning us at times.

We mothers are all Medeas in some way, wounding and even killing parts of our children. Sometimes we destroy the whole child, forced into this behavior by our own limited lives, constrained either by the culture we grew up in, by our families, or by all of the above.

My grandmother was one of those women. She left Portree, Isle of Skye, after WWI ended to join her husband, a Scottish schoolmaster, in Canada. He fled to the new world before the war to find a better life for all of them. Seven years later, she and the children joined him, arriving in Calgary during a snowstorm.

To go from the warmth of the family womb in Portree (uncles, aunts, cousins, friends), a charming village, to this frigid climate on the barren prairies, must have been a jolt. Was it revenge at being forced to leave her home that encouraged her to abandon husband and kids after a year and find work for herself with a family in the Mount Royal district? She must have been furious with my grandfather for making her join him. He also was a difficult man, his tongue stinging as much as his slaps. She refused to tolerate his abuse any longer.

In the 1920s, it took guts and daring for a woman to desert her husband and kids. It took even greater nerve to travel to Mexico City with her lover—her employer. Some might claim she had a psychotic break, but I think this interpretation is too clinical. Menopause madness? More plausible. But why do we need to assert a woman is mad or unbalanced if she chooses to leave her kids and an inattentive, abusive husband? Some children drive their parents to drink. Some aren’t lovable. What if she just got fed up with the whole mess and wanted a life for herself before it was too late?

Or did she have a premonition she would die young (four years after she arrived in Mexico) and decided to do as much living as she could in the meantime?

***

And what of the Nigerian girls that have been abducted from their school? What kind of life had they imagined for themselves after books opened doors to them that had previously not existed? Their minds and imaginations no longer could be confined to the rigors of rural life and the demands of women in those societies. They might speak back to the men in their lives and refuse to follow the traditional path. They might find in their hearts a desire to be independent—full human beings.

***

“Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.” Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times, 5/11/14

***

The day I dropped out, there was no eclipse of the sun or moon. The color didn’t drain from the expansive prairie sky. No one rushed up to me and shouted, “You’re making a serious mistake you’ll later regret.” At the beginning of Grade Eleven, during mid-November snow flurries, I fled Calgary’s Crescent Heights High School. No more three-mile treks each way in sub-zero temps. No more rising at dawn and shivering through the morning rituals of dressing, eating, and fighting with my two younger brothers before leaving the house.

It was 1955, and I had my first taste of freedom.

Okay. Stepfathers are easy targets. Mine was no exception. But he earned my spleen. He had made it clear for some time that women didn’t need an education. He pointed out that he only completed the eighth grade, claiming an education was wasted on a girl who would just get married and have kids. I believed him. Heaven forbid that kids might have mothers who could read, write, and converse beyond a few grunts at the dinner table.

I was too young and naïve to realize that his lack of higher education locked him into a laborer’s life, first as a farmer and then as a rock crusher at the local rock-crushing plant. On some nights, he came home so exhausted he couldn’t eat dinner. He crashed on the floor, later arousing himself long enough to crawl into bed and do it again the next day. That should have set off rockets in my mind, signaling his life lacked something.

It didn’t.

Not then.

It seemed normal to live a proscribed life.

And Mother’s response to me dropping out of school? She had dropped out herself, though not from school. A few weeks earlier, she had fled to the Coast—Vancouver—to join her lover. Would she have wanted me to continue school? Theoretically, yes. She believed in girls being educated, though she didn’t go beyond high school herself. So did her father, my grandfather, a schoolmaster before he left Scotland for Canada in the early 1900s. But neither was around then to cause me to reconsider.

After Mum left, I had the crazy idea that my two younger brothers needed me at home to cook and clean and iron. I had some noble Florence Nightingale image of myself caring for the needy, not realizing I also was deprived. I would devote myself to my brothers and stepfather, using them as an excuse for dropping out. Stepping into the caretaker role assuaged my guilt for letting myself down and pre-empting a future.

My sister, six years older than I, may have tried to dissuade me from jumping off the deep end. But there was a wide gulf between us at that point. We had shared a bedroom until she married when I was thirteen. I not only stole money out of her hope chest, but I also borrowed her clothes without asking and returned them to the closet soiled. This behavior didn’t endear me to her. She wanted me out of her hair. She also was deeply involved in her own life by then, working as a secretary for an oil company while her husband articled as an accountant through a correspondence course.

For all of my good intentions, I wasn’t ready to become an instant mother, another example of letting myself down—and others. I struggled each morning to drag myself out of bed. Actually, it was a struggle just to wake up. My immediate impulse was to silence the alarm, plant the pillow over my head, and go back to sleep.

Sometimes I did just that, not wanting the responsibility for waking my brothers, making their breakfast, packing a lunch for each, and sending them off to school. Quickly my justification for quitting school was dissolving. So was the notion I had of rescuing my stepfather and brothers. I failed yet again. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Yoga

Guidance.

September 26, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By David Henault.

Things in my life were coming to a boil. I had a dead end job with no clear direction in sight. I was drinking a lot to numb the harsh reality that I was finally at a loss and I was chest deep in depression. I knew I was at a turning point in my life but didn’t know which way to go. I could stay on a self destructive path or beat the odds and become something. I just didn’t know how to do it.

With every step, I watched my breath as it exhaled from chapped lips while I made my way up the half snow covered concrete stairs and to the weathered screen door that lead in to her apartment building. At the top of the porch, I looked over my shoulder for the third time just to make sure her beat up blue car was still parked on the street, as if somehow she could slip out and away without my noticing and be gone again.

I pulled the screen door open and turned the knob on the freshly painted wooden interior door. The hallway was dimly lit and musty, reminding me immediately of our basement on Normandy Road where I grew up. The old woman that lived on the first floor opened her door to see what the noise was and shut it again quickly, sheltering herself from the interruption in her day. I made my way up the creaky wooden stairs and stood in front of her apartment, watching for a moment the playful shadows from under the door that were cast by the lamps inside.

I took another breath and knocked quickly on the center of the door with my knuckles, which immediately started to sting from the cold.

I watched as the shadows from under the door stop moving. Silence.

My heart began to sink a little at the thought of missing her again and then out of nowhere, the door swung open.

She immediately smiled a big smile which comforted me and all was suddenly okay.

“Hi Davey!”, my mother said, letting the door to finish swinging open on its own as she walked straight back down the dark hallway in front of me and past three rooms to the bathroom where the light was coming from.

I had never seen her look more beautiful. The soft glow of the lighting behind her made her look soft and young. Her eyes bright, full of life and reminiscent of someone in their mid-
twenties. Her hair was full with bouncy locks styled like those in old yearbook pictures of people you see in the boxes your parents keep in the attic. When she smiled, I felt warm and calm. Safe.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Yoga

Things Don’t Happen To You- They Happen For You.

July 29, 2014

By Karen Salmansohn.

If you want to be happy, you have to embrace your Karma and Dharma! If you don’t know how, here’s a helpful Legos analogy  - inspired from my Yoga Teacher Training at Ishta Yoga! Read on…

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My 3 ½ year old son Ari has a passion for Legos – even bigger than his passion for pizza. I know this -  because when Ari’s busy with his Legos, not even pizza can pry him away.

Although Ari loves building Lego structures from boxed sets, he gets an even bigger kick out of taking huge scoopfuls of old Legos (which we keep in plastic buckets) then building the pieces into “One-of-A-Kind Creations.” I call Ari a Master Builder – a term swiped from the most recent Lego movie to describe someone who’s innovative – who thinks outside of the (Lego) box.

So – what’s this have to do with Karma and Dharma? An interesting synchronicity united these concepts for me this week.

On Monday, I started yoga teacher training at the amazing Ishta Yoga. It’s a 5 week intensive program  - which starts daily at 8am. As a result, my normal morning ritual with my son Ari is now disrupted.  No more waking up and leisurely dancing to fun music. I now have to be at Ishta on the mat by 8am.

Every day this week as I made my early departure, my son Ari made it clear that he was not a happy camper about my new yoga camp schedule.  Come Thursday morning, Ari was in total tears. In my efforts to calm him, I came up with a quirky Lego analogy – a playful metaphor I thought would help Ari to embrace going with the flow of this surprise change in our morning routine.

karma

“Life is like a scoopful of Legos,” I told Ari. “You never know what pieces you’re going to get handed to you – but whatever pieces life gives you in a day – it’s up to you to make something really awesome with these pieces.”

“For example,” I continued, “in today’s scoopful of a morning, I’m not taking you to school – but your favorite babysitter Belinda is.  You didn’t get the “mommy morning piece” today – but you did get the “Belinda morning piece” – and you can make something cool out of that piece. Each day you get all kinds of assorted pieces. You might not get all the pieces you want. You might even get some pieces you totally do not want.  But you are the Master Builder of your day! It’s up to you to take the pieces you are given  – and make a happy, beautiful day out of these pieces!”

My son Ari contemplated this. “So, I’m the Master Builder of my day?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, encouraged by his question. “Yes, you are the Master Builder of your day!”

Ari’s tears at that moment vanished. I’m not sure if it’s because he understood my Lego analogy. I admit it’s quite possible that I had simply distracted him with the mention of Legos, Legos, Legos! No matter.  When I was done with this Lego analogy, Ari was done with his crying.

Sigh. Relief.

Later that day in yoga teacher training,  the inspiring Alan Finger spoke to our class about Karma and Dharma –their differences -  and how they relate.

“Karma is the situation you are born into.  Dharma is how you choose to act on what you are given   – your free will in how you choose to deal with your Karma.” Alan explained. “In Tantric philosophy, Karma is why you’re here. You’re here in order to work out the seeds of action you carry within you for this lifetime.”

What Alan said reminded me of the Lego analogy I’d given Ari that morning. Karma represents the random scoopful of Legos you are born with at the start of your life. There will be some pieces you’re born with which are totally terrific. And there will be some pieces you might not know what the heck to do with. And there will be some pieces you truly wish you were born with – but are completely missing from your particular scoopful of Life Legos.  It’s up to you to build something awesome out of the “Life Lego Pieces” you were given. And Dharma represents your “Free Will Choice “ in how and what you choose to build out of your particular “Lego Inheritance.”

mediate  salmansohn

Alan went on to explain how “Vidya” is the clarity you are meant to achieve so you can see your Karma for what it is – without ego or judgment.  Both yoga and meditation are wonderful at giving you the clarity you need to help you view your “Karmic Fingerprint” without judgment -  as something which makes you unique. Both yoga and meditation help you to go from a “restless mind” to a “still mind” – to help you to clear away your limiting beliefs, your illusions, and your negative habits – all of which limit your day to day awareness.

Basically, both yoga and meditation are great blockage cleansers which allow you take a happier, calmer gaze at that Big Pile of Life Legos which you were given at birth (plus also all those random Lego pieces which keep coming at you each day – which are also part of your Karma).  With the clarity of “Vidya”  you can better see how to build something truly magnificent with your “Life Lego Loot.”

Alan then went on to explain how according to Tantra, whatever life throws your way is worthy of worship and appreciation. Every circumstance has within it the opportunity to work out your Karma.

Meaning?

WRONG Thinking: Life DOES stuff to you.

RIGHT Thinking: Life GIVES stuff to you.

Basically, things don’t happen TO you – they happen FOR you. Every little piece of your life is there for a reason – to be there as something you can use in some way-  to help you to build your beautiful One-Of-A-Kind Life!

Although you might not see it right away,  every “Life Lego Piece” given to you will come in handy at some point – even if you don’t know what the heck to do with this “Life Piece” right away. Eventually you will find something useful for this seemingly random “Life Piece.” Even those “Seemingly Wonky Life Pieces” will come in handy at some point – perhaps even to serve as a powerful foundation for something else to be built upon it!

The more clear you can get (with the help of yoga and meditation) the faster you’ll be at figuring out how to build something truly beautiful with your “Life Lego Loot.”

Your Life Mission According to Karma, Dharma and Legos:

Look at each piece of your life lovingly! Stop whining about the pieces you don’t get.  Get curious about the pieces you’ve been given.  And be patient in your search to find just-the-right pieces to complete the beautiful life you alone are meant to build – your One-of-A-Kind Creation Of A Life. Each day when you awake,  it helps if you do yoga or meditate, so you can get clear on knowing what to do with any random, surprise Lego pieces flung your way – because you will know for certainty in your heart, that you are the Master Builder Of Your Life.

Oh – and I’ll leave you with this awesome quote about Karma to contemplate:

When in the middle of a difficult situation and I can feel myself provoked and the heat of anger rising, I actually say to myself this would not be happening if I didn’t have a karmic debt. And the way I relate to this right now can erase the karmic debt or make the debt deeper. And this type of situation is going to keep manifesting itself in my life until I erase this debt and now is my opportunity. And that is my motivation for being patient in the moment and not responding with my own irritation. -Pema Chödrön

I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about karma and dharma?  Share your personal story! I LOVE it when you share – because I love to find out about my community! his inspirational blog- so, what you share could be a helpful inspiration for someone else! xo Karen

Jen and Karen in NYC October 2013.

Karen Salmansohn is an ex-Senior VP award winning ad writer/creative director (at age 27) who left her successful advertising career (having worked as a writer/creative director/image consultant for J. Walter Thompson, McCann Erickson, Young + Rubicam, Averett, Free + Ginsberg, MTV, VH-1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Lifetime, E!, CNBC, NBC, Oxygen, Lee Hunt Associates, L’Oreal, Revlon, Avon, Blue Q, etc) to pursue her passion of writing.

She is now a best selling author and book packager with over 1 million books sold – known for creating a new breed of books – “self help for people who would never be caught dead reading self help.” Or: “self help books you can give as a gift — and not get slapped, because they look kinda cool.” Some titles: How to Be Happy Dammit; Prince Harming SyndromeThe Bounce Back Book; – and many more. Journalists call Salmansohn “Deepak Chopra Meets Carrie Bradshaw” because of how she merges empowering psychology/philosophy tips with edgy humor and stylish graphics.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Oprah.com. Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Send submissions for The Manifest-Station to melissa at jenniferpastiloff dot com.

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.

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Out To Sea by Ally Hamilton.

December 24, 2013

By Ally Hamilton.

 

When I was seventeen I began dating a man who was twenty-one years older than me. My parents tried to stop me, but they have nineteen years between them, and even though they divorced when I was four, I was positive my relationship was different. Because I was seventeen and I thought I had all the answers. My previous boyfriend, who had been kind and sweet and awesome in every way, also tried to stop me. But he had moved across the country to go to college, and the truth was, I was heartbroken. I felt abandoned, even though he was talking about Christmas break, and calling every day. No matter; he’d left, and it stirred in me something old and raw and completely unhealed. So I let this guy who was so much older come at me with his cars and his boats and his private plane to his house in the Hamptons. He had a terrible reputation for cheating on everyone he dated. And I signed myself up for the task like I’d be able to fix that. Also, something inside me was believing the idea that I was the kind of person someone could leave. So who cared, really.

The first time we were together it was strange and sad. We flew out to his house, and went directly to the beach where we got in his speedboat. He drove us out to the middle of a secluded bay area. I knew he’d done it before, all of it. It was like some kind of ritual. Something to get out of the way. I knew he didn’t love me. That came a few years later, after he’d broken me and it was too late. But I let him have me, even though I felt nothing. I mean, I was hooked in, I was playing out all kinds of ancient history. But I wasn’t in love with him, and I certainly wasn’t loving myself. Not even a little. When it was over and I was swimming in the ocean, tears came streaming down my face, unexpectedly, without permission. I dove underwater, trying to wash them away, trying to wash the whole thing away. I don’t remember much else about that day, or that night. I think he spent most of the rest of the afternoon working, and I curled up in front of the fire with a book. I felt dead to myself, and also strangely satisfied that I’d done something so unlike me.

I stayed with him for three years. Once he had me, he kept a tight leash on me. It’s funny how people without integrity assume other people also have none. He was threatened by the guys at Columbia who were my age. He’d drop me off on campus sometimes and get upset if I was wearing lipstick, or tight jeans, or short skirts, or pretty much anything that wasn’t a sack. But he cheated on me regularly. He was good at it, I could never prove it, but I always knew when he was with someone else because it hurt. It hurt in the way that sends you under the kitchen table, holding onto yourself as you sob and wonder what the hell you’re doing in this situation, and why you don’t get out. But getting out wasn’t even possible at that point, because I was so attached to getting my happy ending. If I could just be perfect enough to get him to love me. If I could just hang in there long enough he’d finally realize I really did love him. Because after awhile, I did.

I began to see this insecure guy who felt he wasn’t enough, regardless of how many women he took to bed, or how much money he had, or how many sparkly, shiny toys. Nothing did it for him, not even the unwavering love of a good girl. I can’t call myself a woman when I think about this experience, because I wasn’t yet. I had a lot of healing to do, and a lot of growing, but I was very kind to him. And the longer I stayed, the more he gave me reasons to leave. For his fortieth birthday, I planned an elaborate surprise party. I rented a pool hall, had it catered from his favorite sushi place, and ordered dessert from an amazing pastry chef. I sent invitations to all his friends. I made a reservation at a new restaurant that had opened downtown that he was dying to try, and planned to take him to the pool hall from there. I ordered a bottle of champagne to be waiting at the table. It took me months to save up the money to pull it off.

A week before the party he confronted me in the kitchen in East Hampton. He told me he knew about the party, and he wanted to see the guest list to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anyone. At first I tried to deny there was a party, but he kept coming. He laughed at me. He knew it was at a pool hall. He wanted to know if I’d ordered food, and all the other details. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. I stood there in that kitchen and I felt everything fall away from me. I felt like I was made of bones that could disintegrate into a pile of dust on the floor, that his housekeeper could just come along and sweep away, out the door, into the ocean, to meet up with those tears I’d cried the first day. I told him every last detail. He took away any shred of joy I might have felt at having been able to give him something. Three days before the party, he went to the restaurant I’d made reservations at a few months before. So that the night of the party, the only surprise was that sad bottle of champagne, waiting at the table.

You cannot save anyone. All the love in the world won’t get the job done. You can’t make someone faithful or kind or compassionate or sensitive. You can’t make another person happy. They are, or they are not. You can harm yourself. You can allow yourself to be abused, mistreated, neglected and betrayed. But I don’t recommend it. A healthy, happy, secure person wouldn’t have been on that boat with him in the first place. Of course, he preyed on a seventeen year old, and when I look back on it I have all kinds of compassion for myself. But it took me years to get there. And a lot of yoga, and a lot of therapy, and a lot of weeping and writing and reading. Anything you repress, or run from, or deny, owns you. It owns you. And if you don’t turn and face that stuff down, you’ll call it into your life in other ways. The truth wants out. Your heart wants to heal so it can open for you again. Whatever is in your past does not have to define your future. But it probably will if you don’t do the work to liberate yourself. We have such fear. We think these things will overwhelm us, that we won’t survive. But what you won’t survive is the not facing it. That’s the part that kills you. That’s the part that makes you feel you could be swept away in the wind. Looking at your stuff hurts. It’s painful and deeply uncomfortable, but if you trust yourself enough to lean into all that pain, you’ll find it loses its grip over you. If you let yourself weep out the searing heat from those wounds, your whole being can take a real, deep breath, maybe for the first time in ages.

You can forgive those who let you down, who didn’t or couldn’t show up for you the way you would have liked or the way you deserved. You can forgive yourself for choices you might have made that were harmful to you or others. When we’re in pain, we don’t tend to treat ourselves well, and sometimes that also spills onto the people with whom we’re closest. But life can be beautiful. You can close the book on the old, painful story that was just a replaying of your past. And you can start working on this new creation that gets to be your life after you’ve healed. Not that the old pain won’t show up from time to time when you’re feeling triggered or tested or vulnerable, but it won’t grab you and knock you off your feet and show you who’s boss. Because it won’t be boss anymore, it won’t rule your life. You’ll just see it for what it is, an echo of a very old story that came to completion. It can’t be rewritten, it is what it is. But you get to decide where to place your energy and your attention. And I highly recommend you direct it toward love. That’s your happy ending, although it doesn’t end. You get to keep choosing it every day. If you do that, you’ll never find yourself sailing out to sea with someone who doesn’t know how to do anything but hurt you. Your own ship will have sailed. And maybe someday you’ll pass your seventeen year old self, weeping in the ocean next to your ship and you’ll pull her on board and show her your future. Which holds so much joy and gratitude and meaning and fulfillment, maybe she’ll weep there on the deck with you, not in sadness, but in relief.

If you’re allowing yourself to be mistreated and you need help, feel free to message me. Sending you love. Ally

allyeyesopen

 

Bio: Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher and writer who streams online yoga classes all over the world. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, which has been featured in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She’s a regular contributor for The Huffington Post, a wellness expert at MindBodyGreen, and writes an almost-daily blog at blog.yogisanonymous.com. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle. She believes everyone can benefit from some regular time on a yoga mat.

**Jen Pastiloff has over 30 online classes at Ally’s studio Yogis Anonymous. Click here.

Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

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Click poster to order book!

 

Guest Posts

Manifest-Station Message of the Day.

June 21, 2012

Manifest-Station Message of the Day for 6/21/12

By meditating, you teach your mind how to find that beautiful quiet nook where your true self, your I-am-love-self can grow.

Where the real you can be free of the tacky costume of your cheap mind-chatter.

Even if it starts with 3 minutes a day: meditate!

Karen Salmansohn rocks.

Train your mind to fall in love with the spaces in between.

 

shot by Kames Knowles

Delight, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Share of the Day: Wow. Wow. Wow.

May 14, 2012

Remote Inspiration.

Below is an email I received over the weekend. I have never met or talked to the woman who wrote it. (Of course now, we are divinely connected. In fact, we always were I just hadn’t known it yet.)

Pretty much blew me away so take a moment to stop and read. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi Jennifer,

I live in Liberty, Missouri, have been practicing and teaching meditation and reiki for over 14 years. I began teaching yoga in 2006 and in 2008 I opened a Health & Wellness Center and Yoga Studio. I am the creator of Visualize You, lifestyle coaching sessions designed to crack open even the toughest, most stressed out nuts around! I have an amazing husband, a daughter 29 and our son whom we adopted from Guatemala who is 9.

Enough about me. I have been following you for about a year now, I’m not even sure how it is that I first found your site. When I need a little inspiration, I log on to fb or twitter and always have something you have written or pictures you’ve posted which inspire me. I also have been a huge Wayne Dyer fan, his books have changed my perception more than once, opening me up to new opportunities.

Last week I read a poem you wrote on your Facebook page. I read it, and it spoke to me, I read it again and again and found myself meditating on the questions and began to feel that flood of gratitude and energy from the thoughts of how amazing my life is. The pictures in my mind began to flow through my life’s challenges and the growth and grace I have gratefully received with each challenge. My thoughts then began to visualize my dreams and what I am manifesting today. It was an awesomely cool moment.

Soooo, I had to share it! I read your poem in class as part of the meditation and the response from the students was awesome!! Many of them expressed to me a very similar experience to what I had experienced that day at home.

At the request of my students I began recording my Monday Morning Meditation classes and posting them on Youtube so they can access the meditations anytime they need a little extra lift. I thought you might enjoy hearing your poem, with the knowledge that in the middle of the Midwest you touched our yoga community! Thank you Jennifer, I visualize us hangin’ together some day!

Namaste’

Patti Stark

www.serenityonthesquare.com

 

You must listen. My poem starts around 5:32. Her voice is gorgeous.

 

Here is the poem I wrote which was originally my Facebook status update. You see, Facebook can be used to inspire! I love when social media is used in this way…

What humbles you, bringing you to your knees?
 
What do stand gaping, open-mouthed and in awe of?
Who do you love impossibly and with every inch of possibility?
What rock have lifted to find Grace buried under it, waiting for you to pick it up?
 
When you bring your hands together,
there, like that~
Whose name is on your lips, as you bow your head closer to your heart?
 
Who have you lost along the way~
Only to discover Losing is only a temporary room
where voices, smells and gestures nestle before they return
to the bed you’ve carefully made in your heart?
 
Which words crack your heart open?
Which silences?
 
What makes you get very quiet and listen as if your life depended on it?
 
What if it did?
 
What if it all boiled down to that moment,
 
there on your knees,
listening with grace?
 
 
~jp
Inspiration, Q & A Series

Cameron Mathison: From Good Morning America Correspondent to Family Man. The Manifestation Q&A Series.

May 2, 2012

Welcome to The Manifestation Q&A Series.

 I am Jennifer Pastiloff and this series is designed to introduce the world to someone I find incredible. Someone who is manifesting their dreams on a daily basis.

Someone like Cameron Mathison.

I first met Cameron in December when Good Morning America came to film my Karaoke Yoga class at Equinox. I knew I liked him right away when I offered to give him one of my Manifestation t-shirts which I sell to raise money for Prader Willi Research (you can see him wearing it in the segment) and he insisted to pay for it. I told him it was a gift and he refused. I knew right then and there, before we even began to film, just what kind of guy this handsome man was. He may be beautiful on the outside (and he is folks, he is) but, I can assure you, he is way more beautiful on the inside. He fished in his pockets and found $25 and made me take it knowing where the money was going. (My nephew has a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome.)

The whole room was meant to sing for the duration of the class but right away I asked Cameron if he wanted to do a duet with me. (Mind you, I cannot sing at all.) For me, it was a way to get way out of my comfort zone. He said no.

Sweetly, of course.

He then turned around and said he would sing the duet. He too would conquer his fear.

Yes!

It was at that moment I knew that I really loved this guy.

Needless to say, we sang a duet of “I Got You Babe” and it was one of the best moments of my entire life. My cheeks hurt from laughing. I had never felt such pure joy and such freedom. I also knew I had made a new friend.

Click here to watch us on Good Morning America.

Singing "Let It Be" during my Karaoke Yoga Class at Equinox for Good Morning America

Cameron is inspiring on so many levels. He travels nonstop for Good Morning America, and yet and still, is an incredibly devoted father and husband. He practices and teaches meditation and is committed to serving others in a way I haven’t seen in many actors. He truly makes me want to be a better person, and that folks, is the kind of friend I want.

I might also add that one of the things that I find most inspiring and refreshing about him is his devotion to meditation. We can all learn from him. (Or, at least I can, with my monkey mind.) Below he says: Through meditation I have recognized that all the happiness there is in the world comes from wishing others to be happy.

Does it get any better than that?

His answers below are honest and funny, inspiring and authentic. Cameron Mathison is someone you should know. 

Below he says “I truly feel that my success has been largely because I try to be appreciative, kind and I ALWAYS try to enjoy what I do.” I can safely say that Cameron is waling the talk. That is exactly how he comes across.

It is my greatest delight to share his delicious gems with you today. 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you most proud to have manifested in your life?

Cameron Mathison: A family so full of love. We are so incredibly close it’s amazing. Just this morning my 5 yr old daughter said she wanted to marry her brother Lucas. Then she added… And Daddy! Just lots of love.

We are a family that tries to emphasize Love and kindness. We take the kids to a Sunday morning “Dharma for Kids” class where there is a little meditation and a teaching on Love, patience, generosity, compassion etc… So sweet.

We really feel grateful for what we have and continue to try and bring meaning into our lives by being a benefit to others. I think I’m most proud to have manifested that. A family that seems to be on a spiritual path together:)

Jennifer Pastiloff: A mantra I love by is “I do what I love and I love what I do.” You seem to embody this as well. Have you always lived this way?

Cameron Mathison: I truly feel that my success has been largely because I try to be appreciative, kind and I ALWAYS try to enjoy what I do. Even during the most challenging times in my career I really try to smile and have a positive attitude. I also try not to grasp too much at my job being a true source of happiness. I enjoy it and I am so grateful, but it’s not how I define myself. I wasn’t always that way, which was difficult when things wouldn’t go they way I had hoped. I try to keep a much healthier perspective regarding work which allows me to enjoy it even more.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I know you are pretty serious about your meditation practice. Can you share with us a bit about that and about your teaching?

Cameron Mathison: Meditation has changed my life. It has shown me how our experience of our world is totally dependent on our mind. Studying meditation makes clear nothing is fixed and is completely fluid and changeable. Engrained habits of body, speech and mind can be completely reversed through a meditation practice and in doing so attaining a much more stable and genuine happiness. Nobody is inherently angry or bad, nobody is forever one way or the other. Meditation is an extremely powerful tool to make changes in our life that lead to deep happiness regardless of our external conditions… And in doing so, we become such a benefit to those around us. All based on the fact that true happiness comes from inner peace. We know this from experience… Sometimes when things are going well in our lives we can still get upset or depressed if our mind is not peaceful. In the same way, when things externally may be falling apart, we can still be peaceful and happy if our mind is peaceful. Meditation is a phenominal tool to develop lasting peace and happiness.

Yes, I occasionally get the opportunity to teach classes at Kadampa Meditation Center. Its an extremely meaningful way for me to volunteer my time:)

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who/what inspires you the most?

Cameron Mathison: People that devote their life to benefitting others. Massively inspiring to me. Something that I continually try to improve… My ability to benefit others.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?

Cameron Mathison: That I have a lot of work to do on myself! They are the ultimate teachers. I am a very involved dad and I never want to stop trying to improve myself for their benefit and the benfit of others. My kids can show me the areas I still need work on:)

I feel like our time here on this earth is very short in the grand scheme of things and I want to use my time here to become the best person I can be.

My kids show me that I can become more patient (especially at homework time!), a better listener (when I have tons of other things to attend to). They have shown me how deeply it is possible to love… How wonderful if we could expand that love to others!

The Mathison family.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From being an actor?

Cameron Mathison: Hmmm…. What have I learned from being an actor? To be less self aware. I think in order to be a good actor on some level you have to not worry about what others are thinking. To truly lose yourself in a role. I think before I began acting I was too concerned about what others thought of me. Through my career I was able to start letting that go.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From being married?

Cameron Mathison: That it takes work. That life becomes so meaningful when we work and try to improve ourselves. That taking responsibilty for OUR part in any conflict is so incredibly important. That blaming is toxic. It’s through my wife that I found the meditation practice I study so there’s no way to express my gratitude. The love and connection we have is beyond what I thought was possible, and it’s largely due to being on a spiritual journey together.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From your meditation practice?

Cameron Mathison: That true, real happiness comes from within… From inner peace. In general we try to solve our problems externally. Fixing a situation “out there”. New partner, new job, new house, change this or that. Arranging our externals so we can be “happy”. That happiness generally is only temporary. By training in meditation we can be happy “no matter what”. It’s so liberating. Of course we still try to fix a diff situation when we can, but meditation has taught me that the real the real source of happiness is a peaceful mind.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From teaching meditation?

Cameron Mathison: That I have so much to learn. Sometimes its hard to express my experience with meditation to a class. I guess because my “self” still gets in the way… Can’t wait to get out of my own way and simply just try to benefit others. It’s such powerful stuff. Luckily I have an incredible teacher so I just have to follow his lead.

The bulk of the classes are guided meditations with some Buddhist philosophy and teachings in Between.

Of course by having the opportunity to teach, I end up learning SO much about what I’m teaching.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From singing a duet with me on Good Morning America?

Cameron Mathison: That I conquered yet another fear!!! You helped me with that! Never thought I would do that.

Cameron Mathison: What has been your favorite part about being a correspondent for GMA?

Cameron Mathison: GMA has given me the chance to literally learn and expand a whole new career. They have been beyond kind to me. I love my job with them. Not only because I get to do all sorts of fun segments, but because they are like an extended family. Beyond grateful for the continued opportunities there.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who has been your greatest teacher?

Cameron Mathison: That’s an easy one: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. He is an internationally known meditation master and phenomenal teacher and author that is guiding so many people to find true lasting happiness:)

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you weren’t acting and being a host what would you be doing?

Cameron Mathison: Hmmmm… I used to say a ski instructor in the winter and work at a golf club in the summer. I’m not sure anymore. Maybe a full time volunteer:) 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are some words you live by?

Cameron Mathison: 

Happiness comes from inner peace.

Be kind.

We can do anything we put our minds to. The mind is infinitely powerful.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Let’s talk Twitter. I love what you tweet. How has social media played a part in your life and your career?

Cameron Mathison: Thanks for saying that. I try to balance the everyday “what I’m working on” stuff, with some meaningful spiritual tweets. I find it very hard to balance it. I actually don’t think I am very good at it! I’m trying!

I’m not sure how social media has affected my life and career. Well, I do host an online show as well part owner of the app FRIENDTHEM, so I guess it has affected my career! Both opportunities have been absolutely great. Very grateful.

I think we have to be a little careful because It sure can be a big distraction if you let it. There is pressure out there to tweet about different jobs etc… But I really like to use it as a way to put out some good energy:)

Jennifer Pastiloff: What was it like being on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars?

Cameron Mathison: So cool! I was on the red carpet, then back stage during the show for a live web cast, and then GMA the next morning. What an experience.

Jennifer Pastiloff: My sister Rachel, whose one son has Prader Willi Syndrome asked me to ask you the following: How does one continue to manifest your dreams while being a parent? I watch you travel so much and I am fascinated by how you juggle it all.

Cameron Mathison: Great question. The answer is I pretty much cut out everything else in my life! Until I find a bit more balance with work, the only things I’m doing these days are work and be a dad (all while integrating my spiritual practice). I literally schedule my flights and trips around pick up and drop offs at school:)

Cameron and his kids.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Do you practice yoga?

Cameron Mathison: No:(

I certainly have the wish! Vanessa and i even had someone come to our house to try and do private classes so we could fit it into out life. Didn’t last:(

Help me Jen!!!

(Note from Jen: ask and you shall receive.)

Jennifer Pastiloff: Gratitude is the greatest force In my life. Most of my classes are set to this theme. If you could say thank you right now, who would it be to?

Cameron Mathison: I literally don’t have the time to write the list it would be so long!

The obvious ones are my parents, wife, kids and My spiritual teacher Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

I really try to be grateful all the time.. To everyone. I train in it actually. It’s such a powerful mind. Even the people that might seem unkind can be seen as people to be grateful to. For helping me train in patience, compassion, love etc…

Jennifer Pastiloff: When is the last time you have laughed at yourself?

Cameron Mathison: All the time! I think laughing at oneself is a great way not to take ourselves too seriously.

(Note from Jen: My most famous rule in my yoga class, as Cameron very well knows, is if you fall you MUST laugh.)

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is your favorite memory?

Cameron Mathison: I’m not sure if these are my actual top 3… But they are up there:)

1) The birth of both my kids. In an instant when Lucas and Leila came into the world my life had greater meaning. It’s very hard to explain, but it was like my first real experience of how blissful it is to be more concerned about others than myself. Of course I thought about others before that, but this was on such a deeper level.

2) A sort of meditation retreat I did in Brazil. My spiritual teacher was giving teachings at this remote temple in Brazil and I flew down to listen and meditate. There was no cell service or emails or any distractions like that. All I did was listen to beautiful teachings, meditate and volunteer. I remember noticing such freedom from any negativity in my mind. Totally free from anger, attachment, craving, jealousy or any agitation. Just a truly peaceful mind.

It made me realize the potential we all have. 

3) Our honeymoon. It was 7 years late so I thought I had to go all out! We were in the Maldives and it ws the first time we had been away from the kids like that. Really spectacular time together. I will never forget it.


Jennifer Pastiloff: How has meditation changed your life?

Cameron Mathison: I’ll try to keep this short because I could talk about it all day:)

Meditation has had the single biggest positive impact on my life.

We live in a world where it seems we are encouraged to do everything possible to distract ourselves. Internet, tv, movies, video games, cell phones, ipads, etc… Its so rare to take an opportunity to look “inward”.

I couldn’t even go across town in a cab in NYC without plugging into my iPod, or getting on my cell phone. Literally I panicked when I was somewhere alone and couldn’t “tune out” through distractions. I had literally never been alone with my own mind in a still and peaceful way. Whenever problems arose I would just try to adjust “externals” to fix them. I would also try to numb out through distractions and objects of attachment. That would work for a little while but it never lasted.

Meditation changed all of that.

When faced with adversity I learned first to look inward to solve the problem. Of course I still try to adjust situations externally if I can, but the key is to do it with a calm and peaceful mind.

My meditation practice has brought inconceivable meaning to my life.

I have learned to watch my mind and see what thoughts are beneficial and lead to real happiness, and which thoughts are deceptive and lead to agitation and suffering.

I have learned that if I change my mind, I change my perception of the world.

I have learned how much more of a benefit I can be to others by watching and training in virtuous states of mind.

Through meditation I have recognized that all the happiness there is in the world comes from wishing others to be happy.

I should point out that we don’t need to be sitting in formal meditation to meditate. We can do it anytime in anyplace! Some of my best insights come to me meditating in a car, walking, or on a plane:)

 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What’s next for you? 

Cameron Mathison: Wish I knew. So much change in my life lately. It’s been a great opportunity to practice acceptance and patience. Whatever is coming my way I hope I handle it with a happy mind:)


Cameron at the Oscars!

The beautiful Mathison family.

Cameron on Dancing With The Stars:

Clip of the class singing “Let It Be” during Karaoke Yoga:


Follow Cameron Mathison on Twitter here for daily doses of inspiration and to see where in the world his adventures with GMA take him.

Jennifer Pastiloff is currently a writer for Positively Positive and is writing her first book. She travels the world leading Manifestation Retreats and workshops. When she is not traveling, she is based in Los Angeles where she leads public and private yoga classes. To book a workshop with Jen or to buy a Manifestation t-shirt to raise money for Prader Willi Syndrome please visit jenniferpastiloff.com

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Cameron and I after we filmed for GMA. Sweaty and happy.

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