Browsing Tag

steve bridges

loss, love

Modern Loss.

December 11, 2013

I have a piece up on a new and amazing site called Modern Loss which has candid conversations about grief. It’s truly beautiful.

Here’s an excerpt of my piece:

I’m in a yoga class with my forehead pressed into the mat — this cheesy orange mat with a giant sunset and a backlit tree branch — and my friend Steve Bridges is saying “Hi Gin.” A transplanted Texan, Steve says my name, Jen, like I’m booze. And he’s talking to me during yoga.

The thing is, Steve is dead.

“Steve, it’s Jen, not Gin. I hate gin. At least call me Wine.” We used to laugh at that.

Click here to read the rest.

Click photo to go to Modern Loss and read the piece.

Click photo to go to Modern Loss and read the piece.

Beating Fear with a Stick, loss, my book

Who’s Going To Want Me?

January 6, 2013

Who’s going to want me?

So much of it all boils down to that, doesn’t it?

Who’s going to want me now that I am _____. Put whatever you want in the blank. Go ahead.

Now that I am: Fatherless. Fat. An orphan. Old. Broken. Divorced. Handicapped. Widowed. Left. No Longer Have Perky Tits. Deaf. An Amputee. An Athiest. Sober. A Alcoholic. Lonely. Honest. Motherless. Childless. With Children. Ugly. Bald. Go ahead, put your word in.

You may wake up one day at 5:33 in the morning and shoot up out of bed as if from a nightmare where your car was flying off a cliff and you may find yourself once again muttering those words. Who’s going to want me now that I’m dead?

You’re not dead though. You woke from the dream. See, you are sitting right here, your head matted with sweat, the back of your neck hot and cold at the same time and you are reading these words and nodding along and you are very much alive.

There’s this line from my favorite Robert Lowell poem, Night Sweat, the last line of the poem:

If I cannot clear the surface of these troubled waters here,

absolve me, help me, Dear Heart, as you bear

this world’s dead weight and cycle on your back

He wrote about having nothing to write about, a variation on the good old Who will want me is Who will read me? How much dead weight we carry. Look how much.

My friend Steve Bridges died last year. His sweet little maid found him on his couch like he’d fallen asleep watching television. She’d tried to cover him with a blanket at first until she realized what the reality was. I don’t ever wish that I’d been her that morning, covering Mr. Steve with a Mexican blanket only to realize that no matter he’d always stay cold.

She’d worked for him for years, they’d sat in his kitchen while she cleaned and he wrote and laugh and laugh and she’d loved him. So when she realized he wasn’t sleeping but dead, her sweet little heart must have stopped and I would wager a bet it has been beating a little differently since that morning. Perhaps that thought came rushing at her one morning in her own bed, Who’s going to want me now? Who will make me laugh in their kitchen? 

When he died, I kept teaching my yoga classes, but I would have to turn around so that my back faced the class. I would cry and then wipe the tears and tell them to take a vinyasa or do child’s pose. Sometimes I just let the tears fall because the truth of the matter is that they expected nothing less than for me to take him right into class with me that week. They commended me for my willingness to show them my suffering and heartache because they had felt it too, and sometimes we actually need to remember that feeling, that raw my gut is ripped out feeling so we wake the fuck up. We all woke up that week or two after he died.

Steve and I hadn’t known each other terribly long. Oh, but we had. (Isn’t that such a yoga teachery thing to say?) We had known each other our whole lives so when we met it was not a thing. He started coming on my retreats and I referred to him as my brother and he referred to me as his teacher, his agent, his sister, his friend. We loved each other, we did. With Steve, I never felt the ghost of Who’s going to want me now? 

Yes, I am married. It’s beyond that even. It’s a cellular level instinct that goes way behind the logical, the rational, the explainable, all the way to the center of the Earth where it pierces and shrieks.

He listened to me. He saw me in a way few others have ever seen me. When he died, that shriek howled from the depths of the world and knocked me over, right in the middle of the street. It was impossible. Impossible that he was dead. I tried crawling my way through the dirt and mud towards that sound coming from below but I was stuck, reeling from the explosion, I was stuck. I couldn’t get him back.

Before he died, the last conversation we had actually, was in Mexico. It was the last day of my retreat and we sat eye to eye as everyone else took pictures of themselves doing various yoga poses below on the beach. He told me that he wanted a family. He said something to the effect of I can’t leave the earth without having a child. In the movie version, I will insert some foreboding music there so we know its foreshadowing and that he will never ever have a child. We should know this when the music plays and the two people sit eye to eye above a Mexican beach as happy as they’ve ever been with such a knowing that the Who’s Going to Want Me Now? is so far in the past, because, to have found a tribe like this, nothing could ever go wrong, all was good in the world. All was safe.

I didn’t get over his death but I kept going. It’s what we do. Someone dies and you keep going. That is Choice A. Choice B is you die. I did not die nor did I want to, to so I kept going. Eventually I felt a little less sad because, Time, that ruthless beast, does that. It softens you in some places and that the same time ages you and hardens you but mostly it dulls the pain. Believe me on this. If we remembered all our visits to the dentists and all our heartbreaks with clarity we would have rotting mouths and we’d all be alone in our rooms watching The Bachelor.

This morning I popped up at 5:33 in the morning. I am on England time so it is 8 hours ahead. I popped up and Who’s going to want me now clamored me over the top of the head. I was reading an article on The NY Times about the incomparable George Saunders’ newest book. He is 54 and started publishing at 37. I thought: Oh, Ok, Good. I’m ok. I am around that age.

But then.

I have not published anything yet. No books, no short stories. I am Saunders age when he wrote his first book and what have I done so far? I have been a waitress for decades and now a yoga teacher and here it is. Drumroll, it’s coming: Who Is Going To Want Me Now?

Right over the fucking head like a bat.

I am not looking for advice. I am talking about a deep guttural voice with a trajectory to nowhere that I have to conquer on my own like I am in a battle zone. And I am. With my life.

I do not know who will want me. I can let that stop me and not write my book and not try to publish it or I can write it and have a deep knowing that someone will take it and if they don’t, they don’t. I will then keep going. I will not use it as some sort of empirical proof to say See? See? No One Wants me.

Every time someone has left me (there’ve been two major ones, three if you count my father), I have questioned who would ever want me again as if they were the only two men on the planet and I was an untouchable.

Someone did want. Many did. Not just men and not just sexual. You are reading my words. You want me. But screw all that. Here’s the kick in the pants I was talking about the other day: I want me.

Most days. Most days I want me and from there I go. I go from there armed with my self-love and my husband and my indefatigable urge to write write write.

Then there are days like today where I wake up and my heart has fallen out and rolled somewhere under the bed next to some old birthday cards and a shoe. I have to crawl around in the dark and move through some dust, but I find it and screw it back in. It happens. It’s bound to do that once in a while because there is some ancient agreement I must have signed long ago before I knew I was signing it. I ripped up the agreement but there are days when the memory of the signature is strong enough to stop me in my tracks and have me say to myself Just Who Do You Think You Are?

Finally I am getting to it. The point. Who do you think you are? Go back to your blanks. Fat, Legless, Manless, Childless, No Longer Young, whatever it was you signed to on that contract, I want you to scribble it out. Get a black magic marker or some other stinky kind of pen and scribble it out at least a hundred times. Then, leave it blank.

You think 38 years old sums you up? You think divorced says it all?

You can’t define yourself in a word. You are a world, Dear Heart.

 

 

 

 

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A little clip of Steve and I.

Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Steve Bridges, Travels

The Unearthing of Things

November 27, 2012

photo by Madison Rosner

Sitting outside our private villa in Ulutwatu, the breeze just enough to be deemed perfect, and I wonder if I am really here. I must be. Awan, one of the staff here at Uluwatu Surf Villas, just brought us out our morning eggs (yes, he comes into the villa every morning and prepares us breakfast to our liking.) My eggs a little less runny, Robert gets the toast and the weird flourescent jam. We both drink the coffee, me always going for the second and third cup, my husband always the moderate one, taking one cup and sipping it slowly. I must be here. I can see the ants crawling all over the table. (They don’t bother me.) I see the ocean just past our private little pool (a private pool!). I hear the sound of the waves crashing, one of the rare occasions the ringing in my ears is lessened. I must be here. I must be.

So it’s established. Here I am.

Is it the being here or the memory of being here that I am after?

Is it the having had it happen or the ability to write about it in such a way that I can make you feel as if it happened for you too?

I am not sure.

From Wikipedia:

Memory is the processes by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. 

I am equally in love with floating in the pool naked, a light rain falling and an almost full moon above as I am with the drinking of a Bintang and the being able to tell you about it in words that will (I hope) last forever, longer than the sea, longer even than me. I know there are different types of people. I get that. The types of people that are so present, who wouldn’t dream of the moment meaning anything than what it was.

You’d think I would be that way, being a yoga teacher and everything. I am here. I am. I strive to be present but there is something in me that screams Hey! This is your dharma. You were meant to share this. Who are you to keep this locked in your mind? Go! Go now and write!

So I am here, indeed. I am here with every intention to send my experiences out in capsules for you to open and discover what it is you want to share. What it is you want to feel. Where it is you want to go.

People often ask me how I have such a steel trap memory. My sister and I both. (Although as I have aged my memory has become less steel-like and more sponge-like.) Here’s the thing: when you lose a parent so young, all you have are your memories of him bringing you home chocolate covered marshmallows and carving magic wands out of sticks and seesaws by the Cooper River Park in the rain. That is all you have so you preserve them and seal them so they can never disintigrate into I don’t remembers. You become an expert memory maker. You have no choice really, because how else could you survive?

Your imagination must have someplace to call home.

My imagination is calling this home: The rain clicking its heels on the swimming pool here in Bali. The nothing to do-ness that comes with being on vacation and just how inspiring that nothing to do-ness can be. Floating on a surfboard in the Indian Ocean, the red sun a character in your life like an ex-lover or a grandfather with its legendary personality. The twin girls dancing a traditional Balinese dance, moving their fingers precisely, elegantly, in a way my stubby hands could never coordinate themselves to do on their own. Their eyes darting left and right, each sharp movement a story with a beginning, middle and end. The sky opening up and letting in color that no camera can talk about. Not even on a good day. Secret colors and gestures that fall apart when an iPhone tries to lock them in. The happiness here. The happiness here is where I am calling home. It is getting placed next to: my father eating his nightly chocolate ice cream in between two waffles with powdered sugar on top and my summer at Bucknell University churning out poems before bed like they were sleeping pills. I will place it next to my retreat last February in Mexico, the last time I saw my dear friend Steve Bridges before he died and how close our eyes were there, for that long moment above the beach there in Puerta Vallarta as he told me he could never leave the earth before having a family and how we became that family because he did leave the earth. Too suddenly and too soon not a month later and that moment we shared was the best conversation and the most treasured I have ever had with anyone so as I sit here in the rain in Bali I am placing this pool and this palm tree and these offerings for the gods right there next to Steve.

My imagination is that large. It can hold it all.

That line above makes me feel Walk Whitman-esque: Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. 

Who can explain why the value of something increases, decreases. Or what we choose to store as memories? Why we fall in love with someone, as quick as the pressing of your face into their shoulder blade as you ride on the back of their motorcycle, the wind slapping you with confirmation- Yes! This is love! Or a moment like the one when you watch them sleep and a surge of protectiveness knocks you awake. You want to make sure they take the next breath, and the next.

You want to watch them forever.

We never know where we will find our history, where we will discover what has formed us, what we will find in the rice paddies. Exhuming beauty from the soil, excavating remains.

The unearthing of things long forgotten.

Part of the way memory works is by being able to locate it and return it to our consciousness. How can we do that if we haven’t saved it? What are your ways of saving it? What are you saving?

This is an important question. Think hard before you respond. What are you storing up in there? I hope it isn’t traffic jams and being pissed off and upset and gossip although, hey, I am not perfect and I have some of that up there. I am making room though. I am pushing it aside and making room for this watermelon and these flowers and my husband at Padang Padang Beach in Bali and what it feels like to have achieved a dream like this.

And what does it feel like?

It feels like a sigh. It feels like a dropping the shoulders down away from the ears and returning as well as a departure. It feels like a bumpy car ride along Balinese country-side and it also feels like my sofa at home with a glass of wine in my hand. It feels like all of me and also a part I have yet to know. Or rather, yet to remember.

Because it has always been there, hasn’t it?

It has always been there next to my father and my grandmother and my little 3 year old nephew showing me how he “drops in” on the skateboard ramp and all the other memories I have sought out to bring back into consciousness, it has always been there but like the red sun I had just thought it was a myth.

I did not believe it until I saw it and felt it and reached up into the sky to call it mine before sending it back into the world.

 

 

by Madison Rosner

by Madison Rosner

Steve Bridges and I. www.stevebridges.com

Q & A Series

Amy Jo Johnson: Actress Extraordinaire. The Manifestation Q&A Series.

March 23, 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.

I am so excited by today’s guest. Amy Jo Johnson is one of the most talented people I have ever met and I am lucky to call her family. Yes, she is a friend, but I consider her part of my soul family. She was with me at my last and most profound yoga retreat to Mexico where we all bonded so much we felt that we actually had become family. Then, one of our group, the beloved comedian Steve Bridges, suddenly passed away a few weeks ago in his sleep. It made our time in Mexico, which was already so precious, that much more divine.

Some of you may recall her from the tv show Felicity or maybe even the Power Rangers (yes, she was “The Pink One.”) I just know her as Amy Jo, the incredibly gifted human being. She is kind, funny, and, can sing so well that tears will form at the corners of your eyes. You know: the happy tears. The “that is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard” kind of tears. She is spunky and sassy and does a mean handstand in my yoga class. She is free-spirited and witty, poignant and present and fully capable of catching herself as she falls backwards down the stairs. (Apparently this happened in Mexico. She backflipped and landed on her feet.) She doesn’t take anything for granted, loves a good joke and even a corny one ( like the ones I tell.) She writes beautifully and has a vision for her life that inspires me to no end. 

(I want to be her when I grow up.)

Family is important to her in the way it is important to me and I believe that is one of the things that initially made me love her.

She is an actress by trade but does not live her life as if that is the only thing that matters. Nor does it define her.

One of the most fierce and unique people I know and I am humbled that she is here today. Amy Jo is creative in the true sense of the word; an artist through and through.  

She’s connected to something else, something bigger than herself. I do not know what it is, nor do I attempt to, but I do know that we are blessed to get a little slice of this goddess.

She says the words she lives by are: “Be Bold and Be Kind”. As someone who knows her well, I can say that this is not heresay. This is fact. Through and through.

I look forward to teaching my Manifestation Workshop in Toronto when I go to visit her. So stay tuned all you Canadians. I’m on my way!

In the meantime, here is my dear friend and soul sister, the amazingly talented and fiery Amy Jo Johnson.… Amy, I love you.

 

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

 

 Amy Jo Johnson: About six years ago I drastically changed everything. I packed up my life and left Los Angeles. I hit the road to “find out”. I was about 35 years old and desperately needed to manifest happiness. I became a gypsy for a few months before ending up in Montreal where I finally sorted through some of the monsters in my head. I needed a break. I needed to just stop and let go. What I discovered beneath all my fear was that I never really knew who I was. What I wanted.  So, after a two-year sabbatical and a new lease on life I found my husband, got pregnant, and landed the best job of my career pretty much all at the same time.

 

We now live in Ontario, which I LOVE! And I’m in the middle of filming the fifth season of the TV show I had landed. I feel so blessed with the life I’ve created. But I know that none of it would have happened if I didn’t have the courage to shake things up six years before. I believe we must live BOLDLY if we want to manifest our dreams.

 

 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What’s the greatest lesson that you have learned from being an actress?

Amy Jo Johnson: Kindness… Truly… This is my greatest lesson. A lesson I am faced with every day.  I’ve spent so many years worried about who I am and how I’m doing and how I’m going to benefit. I am so sick of myself it’s ridiculous. Since I’ve discovered this new way of life. Simply being kind. I’m so much happier!! And I find things are so much funnier. Truly, it’s all kinda funny.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From being a mom?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Oh, Francesca teaches me something new EVERYDAY… This little person who happens to be my daughter is such a gift. I find her trying to take care of me a lot. Every now and then I have to remind us that I am the mother. But boy oh boy she is the teacher.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From losing your own mother?

 Amy Jo Johnson: The lessons I’ve learned from my mother’s death are ever changing and never ending. Recently I’ve deeply realized that most of our actions are usually because of where we come from, the life we were handed. So, acceptance and understanding of others is becoming clearer to me.

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you were not acting what would you be doing?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Whatever it is that I would be doing is something I love. I know that for sure. I’m not one to suffer for very long.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Traveling the world with my family! And directing films that I’ve written, hopefully inspiring and helping others though them.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What do you love most about being a mother?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Being a mother constantly pulls my focus from myself and into a more nurturing state. I love that!! I need that.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who has been your greatest teacher?

 Amy Jo Johnson: I’ve had so many awesome teachers in my life from my mother to the amazing Jana Saunders. But recently there have been two that profoundly affected me on a level I’ve never felt. First, my husband Olivier, he’s taught me how to be loved and in return I am now better at loving. I am so thankful for this man in my life. And second, YOU! Jennifer Pastiloff. This insight to kindness is something I really have learned to understand through you. You teach me so much. It’s something I’ve never felt before, the balance of kindness, humor and honesty. It’s how I strive to live my life until I die. Thanks chickie…

Jennifer Pastiloff: A little birdie told me you were writing a movie……

 Amy Jo Johnson: I am working on creating a film about my mother’s life. Her journey inspires me in so many ways! I’m excited to share it with the world and hopefully help people who have gone through similar struggles.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Can you share with us a bit about your music?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Writing and playing music comes in waves for me. Like everything creative I do. It’s all a cathartic playground. At the moment my sights are so set on developing this film that music has taken a back seat. But it’s there and always will be when the moment strikes. I try not to force it.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who/what inspires you the most?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Honestly, moments when I feel most connected to people. I’ve always had a hard time getting close. I can be a very guarded person. These moments used to happen so infrequently. And when they finally did I would eat them up and savor them like it was the last. Now I strive for it daily. I look for it in people. A lot of times in people I never would have imagined it with. As I ease the insecurities in myself I’m finding it easier to look past those in others. Wouldn’t it be a magnificent world if we could all see past our fears?

 

I realized the other day that when you first meet someone you usually meet their insecurities. First impressions are usually not who someone really is. So, my biggest meditation and practice is to take a deep breath when bombarded with someone’s walls and compassionately look through them. And remarkably enough on the other side is usually a really cool person. Innately I believe we are all good.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I teach many of my classes to the theme of gratitude. If you could say thank you right now to one person who would it be?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Thank you, Olivier Giner, for living the good life with me.

Amy Jo and her husband Olivier at my last yoga retreat in Mexico. Feb 2012.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are some words you live by?

 Amy Jo Johnson: BE BOLD! And kind. At the end of my life I want to look back and say “Holy CRAP! That was an interesting ride.”

(note from Jen: I Love this. It reminds me of on of my favorite Mary Oliver poems When Death Comes where the last line says:

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.)

Jennifer Pastiloff: You were with me in Mexico on my last and most powerful retreat. We dubbed ourselves the “Fab 13”. On Saturday, we lost our brother Steve Bridges, one of our 13. Is there anything that Steve or his passing has taught you?

 Amy Jo Johnson: I am so grateful for that trip to Mexico. It was one of the most healing experiences I’ve ever had. Olivier and I have a code word between us now. If we forget how precious life is and find our selves stuck in our own way we say this word. The word means LOVE and it’s Steve.

Amy Jo painted this and 1 year later met Olivier.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is one message you would pass on right now to someone looking to manifest their best selves?

 Amy Jo Johnson: BE BOLD!!!! And kind.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What brings you the most joy? Your joy list….

 Amy Jo Johnson: Francesca’s laugh! Watching a good TV series with Olivier while he rubs my feet. Drinking wine with good friends and chit chatting about life. Writing my script in a coffee shop for hours and hours. Laughing until I almost pee my pants, which usually happens once a day at my work. Auntie Jewdgie! The sunshine, a rainy day, a good snowstorm. Using the loud leaf blower in my yard. Kick boxing! A good yoga class, especially a Jennifer Pastiloff magical session. GOD, peace and so much more…

 Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you manifesting in 2012?

 Amy Jo Johnson: Making my movie!!!! Hell yeah!

(note from Jen: Hell yeah, I second that!)

Jennifer Pastiloff: Where can we find more of Amy Jo Johnson?

 Amy Jo Johnson: The TV series FLASHPOINT, which is on ION or CTV, I also have a website for my music amyjojohnson.com and I sometimes tweet @_amyjojohnson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jennifer Pastiloff will be teaching at the Tadasana International Yoga & Music Festival over Earth Day weekend on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, April 20– 22. Click here to check out the festival website and purchase tickets. Enter the code Pastiloff for a $50 discount! (Please note that discount codes expire April 1.)

Amy and I at my last yoga retreat in Mexico.

Jen’s “rules”:

1. Be Kind.

2. Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself

3. Write poems, even if only in your head

4. Sing out loud, even if badly

5. Dance

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say… you know the deal

7. Find things to be in awe of

8. Be grateful for what you have right now .

9. Watch Modern Family, read Wayne Dyer, and end every complaint with “But I’m so blessed!”

10. Duh, do yoga

11. Don’t worry. Everyone on Facebook seems like they have happier and funner lives. They don’t.

12. Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

13.. Take more pictures.

14. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. No such thing.

15. Thank the Universe in advance.

Hearing Loss, loss, There Are No Words To Describe This

Memorial.

March 19, 2012

It poured on Saturday.

The sky opened up and dumped down in long slow strokes, before it sped up and cracked onto the sidewalk its big fat dirty teardrops of rain.

Of course it felt fitting being that it was the memorial for my dear friend Steve Bridges. Of course that felt fitting.

 

I woke up to a tapping on my ceiling and half-asleep I had thought someone was knocking. The grey sky depressed me which seemed a bit impossible being that I was already depressed in the way Old Jen would have been, ( how I think of the earlier, more screwed up version of me) rather than the new yoga-teacher version of myself ( I write with a wry wink and a tongue in the cheek).

I looked out the window and realized that nobody was knocking but the sky whispered I should crawl back in bed and forget whatever it was I had to do, whatever it was I said I’d be. Including teaching yoga. Including a memorial.

I taught my two classes, of course.

I went to the memorial, of course.

My body was aching tremendously. It was like I had taken this last loss of Steve, and every other loss I have ever suffered and stuck them inside my muscles and shouted “Go!”

I sat in the front.

Not by choice. Because my hearing has been worse than normal lately and I was afraid I would miss a word, a story, an intonation.

I still missed quite a bit but I heard enough.

It was the most beautiful memorial I had ever been to.

In fact, for someone who has suffered so much loss, it was only the second one I have ever been to. The first was my stepfather (my mother’s second husband) who died when I was 18, one week shy of graduating high school. We flew to California from Jersey and I sat on the beach in a long flowered skirt in my 91 pound body and threw a rose into the ocean for him as I wept like I couldn’t for my own dad ten years prior.

Grief unearthed is as inevitable as air.

I sat there last Saturday, in my aching body filled with screaming people trying to come out, and, as I wiggled to try and quiet them up, I started to drift to past lives.

My own past lives.

Like my father’s past life.

He passed in 1983.

I watched and listened to these gorgeous faces as they openly broke their hearts for us on a podium with stories of Steve’s humanity, his humor, his humility. His kindness. (And boy was he kind!)

And, as it went, I drifted to 1983. I was at my father’s memorial.

 

He was the funniest man anyone had ever met and the stories they told! Oh, the stories they told!

Only I hadn’t been there.

My sister and I were not at my father’s memorial or funeral because my mother had thought it was the best thing to do at the time.

Who knows, maybe it was?

If I was 34, and my husband, who I was just about to divorce, dropped dead and left me with two small girls, I would probably think moving to Fiji and selling my kids down the river would be a good idea. Who knows?

Grief is mean and calculating and tricky and gossipy and ugly and stupid.

So, during Steve’s memorial, in the moments when my beloved hearing loss got the best of me and all I saw were moving mouths, I simply went back to 1983 and sat in and listened to them talk about my dad.

I realized how important this ritual is.

I walked up to his larger-than-life photo on the stage, propped next to a surfboard and a Dallas Cowboys jersey (he loved both equally) and I said Goodbye Steve. I loved you. I love you friend.

Do I blame my mom for the fact that I did not get to do that with my dad?


Nope.

It has simply reminded me of why I love connecting with people. Why I love doing what I do.

I have no problem connecting with my father.

Am I insane? No. 

Am I hippy-dippy? Actually, no and I wish I was a little more so.

I realize that my father, and my beloved soul brother Steve, for the brief time they were both in my life, taught me how to be human. They taught me: what it means to connect to someone. To reach over and touch someone’s forearm, to look into their eyes and laugh so hard that I think my insides my fall out of me if I don’t grip my stomach and pray, to be made so alive by their presence that I wonder if I have made them up.

Maybe I have made parts of them up?

Maybe that’s what we do to people to make them fit.

I can make up as much as I want now that they are both gone.

In fact I will.

I am making up that I was at my dad’s memorial and all the stories people told made me laugh so hard I cried, like at Steve’s. And that Steve and my dad are writing comedy sketches up there and when I get there I will have a part in one, maybe two of them.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my dad Mel at his memorial but I know that other people did. I was there this weekend for Steve and other people who loved him could not make it, so this is for them:

It is ok.

They forgive you and love you.

And it doesn’t matter.

Close your eyes and connect.

They are right here.

 

poetry, Steve Bridges, There Are No Words To Describe This

What I Learned From Steve Bridges 1963-2012.

March 9, 2012

Last night my friend stopped by and as we sat on the floor of my house, she asked me “What do you think you learned from Steve? What did he teach you?”

In case you didn’t read my earlier posts, my dear friend Steve Bridges died suddenly in his sleep last Saturday morning. Click here to read about him and see photos and videos.

Although I had thought a lot about this all throughout the week, it wasn’t until Annie asked me and I had to say it aloud that I got very clear on the things I had learned from him.

Not from his death but from his life.

He taught me to love my life.

As we were laughing and boarding the plane to Mexico for my retreat in January, he looked me in the eyes and said ” I have a great life, Jen.”

He truly loved his life and lived joyously.

He taught me to be present.

He taught me to listen.

I wrote a poem called One Rose To Another years ago but I think I am going to read it at Steve Bridge’s memorial as it feels fitting.

It gives me the chills when I go back and read it now:

One Rose To Another by Jen Pastiloff

This is how you live when you are close to death.

As I do: as through the dappled light of a linen curtain.

I am the most beautiful now I have ever been.

The sun hardly touches me.

But enough is enough.

I’ve had my sun, my moon, my loves infinite as promises-

I get enough light now that I am perched here at this brink.

Pulling farther away from my lover, from my own body.

We’ve lasted longer than expected.

I have few regrets.

Had the stages of my life been clear to me all along

instead of in a flash when my heart finally sprung awake-

that slight palpitation as I flushed a pink so perfect

the earth even took notice and stopped breathing for a moment,

my own insides balking at my beauty.

I regret its taken me so long to see it.

All that I love is right here with me-

We have a little time left my love,

this puddle of water we’ve been breathing

is not quite gone

we have some time left in this glass bottle.

This is how we live when we are close to death.

As I do.

Dreaming quietly of the seed dropping,

that first morning, that first breath as our lungs opened,

our petals still just a thought under soil.

The words: I am the rose, and by extension, all that is good in the world

still part of the sky, the rain, dew.

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

“I regret it’s taken me so long to see it.” 

I never want to look back on my life and say that.

This is what I learned from Steve.

He looked at his life and said “I love my life. I have a great life.”

Like it says in the poem I wrote, he taught me that I am: the rose, and by extension, all that is good in the world.

My connection with him ran so deep because he saw my “I Am” before I saw it myself.

Now you can see what a gift he has given me indeed. Why I have finally come up with a title for my book: I Am-ness.

We did the I Am-ness exercise at my workshops and retreats he attended.  Someone declares what they are in the form of: I am _______. This is followed by staring in someone else’s eyes for 3 minutes with that truth.

His “I am” was: Love.

Like in the poem, he taught me that “I am the most beautiful now I have ever been”.

Right now.

Thank you, Steve. I too am love.

I realize this now.

Until we meet again.

I’ve got some work to do here.

manifesting, Steve Bridges

What The Heck Does It Mean “To Manifest”?

March 8, 2012

What Are You Manifesting?

Manifesting, according to Jen Pastiloff means: Making Sh*t Happen! 

If you want to have something show up in your life you must first be able to imagine it. For a long time, this wasn’t an option for me. I simply could not un-see myself as: stuck, unworthy, lost, a non-working actress, “just” a waitress, a failure, among other non-fabulous things.

It’s like when you feel happy. It seems that you’ve always been happy and that you will always be happy. We also feel this way when we are sad, lonely, depressed, scared, heartbroken. I felt like I would always feel lonely, scared, depressed, lost and like a really bad waitress who spilled things on people. (How I lasted 13 years is truly beyond me.)

And then one day I didn’t feel that way anymore.

After 13 years of working in the same Los Angeles restaurant I decided to take a yoga teacher training with Annie Carpenter after coming to terms with the fact that yoga was keeping me from being hospitalized for depression daily. To make a long story short, I found my calling. I taught my first yoga class and can safely say, I knew I had a gift.

Was teaching yoga my gift? Not necessarily. It was what I always knew was my gift, even as a child: I could connect with people. I could provide a space for people to heal with my touch or my words or my humor or my music or my eyes. It didn’t matter to me, per se. What mattered is that I found something I wanted to do and I found an avenue to do it. After years of walking down the wrong street, I found a different avenue and I started to sprint.

Shortly after I taught my first class I was able to quit my waitressing job. I can only attribute my success to finally connecting to my purpose and finding what I was meant to be doing with my life. Finally allowing myself to imagine what was possible.

I started to believe in myself. I started to take risks. I smiled more. I got into a healthy relationship (now my husband), I healed from an eating disorder. I accepted my hearing loss. I admitted I actually had no desire to be an actress. Gasp! I changed my thoughts. I finally was able to say  I love what I do and I do what I love.

I decided to call my company Manifestation Yoga after listening to my teacher Wayne Dyer talk about manifesting at length. After years of having negative tapes run the show in my brain, I made room for new thoughts. Those new thoughts allowed me to take action, where before I felt stuck and incapable of moving. I realized that I had manifested the life I always wanted but had never allowed myself to imagine before.

Manifesting is not about sitting in a corner and wishing for something and then having it appear like some kind of fairy tale. Although that would be nice. It is a lot of work indeed. But before the work, there must be the thought. There must be imagination.

Even Einstein says that imagination is more important than knowledge. I started to use my imagination. I changed what my old tape, or mantra, was, as I call it in my classes nowadays. It used to be: I am nothing. I changed it to: I am powerful. I am on purpose. I am a successful yoga teacher and writer. I am a healer.  I am an inspirer ( I think I made that last word up.)

In my workshops I have people do an exercise called “ I am-ness.” (Pretty sure I made that word up, as well.) They get a partner and tell that person their own I am-ness. I ask them to finish the sentence I am ______. It cannot be I am hungry or I am broke or I am tired etc. (I knew from experience that these I Am’s didn’t get you very far.) I ask them: Who would you be if nobody told you who you were?

They then answer that powerful question and fill in the blank after I am, sharing it with their partner. This, of course, is according to their own imagination. After each has declared who they are, they stare into each other’s eyes for three solid minutes with no talking. They simply sit and witness the “I am” within themselves and in turn, in the other person. It takes not only imagination to declare the new “ I am”but a willingness. To sit and let someone look into your eyes for that long, especially after you have declared this I am, takes courage.

Some laugh and some cry and some squirm. Most have a profound revelation about what is possible when they decide to imagine who they are and declare it as their own truth. They then watch someone witness them in that very truth.

I will leave you with this: One of my dearest friends and students, Steve Bridges, died suddenly on Saturday in his sleep. He was with me in Mexico in February for my last and most profound retreat. After his death, the other retreat attendees started writing him posthumous letters. One said this:

You have profoundly affected my life. Especially when I stared into your eyes for three amazing minutes during yoga, and what I wrote down afterwards was: Steve= powerful, being, creator of love, confidence, kindness, strong. Power… I felt my power in his. The next day I said to you “ Steve, All I saw was power. It was amazing. I saw no fear.” And you looked at me with those brilliant blues and kindly said “Thank you”.

This is what manifesting is. Looking into someone’s eyes, especially your own, and declaring who you are. It is being with that truth. It is acting from that truth, and no matter what, and no matter who tells you different, absolutely living from thatassumption of who you are.

I use Steve Bridges as an example, not to make you sad about his passing, but to see what he was able to accomplish. He not only conveyed that he was powerful and a creator of love, but he allowed someone else to be in their own power. That is what a manifester does. And notice what he said in response. He said Thank you.

Imagination, action and gratitude. That’s it.

So I ask you: What are you manifesting?

Our beloved Steve Bridges. RIP.

Jennifer Pastiloff will be teaching at the Tadasana International Yoga & Music Festival over Earth Day weekend on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, April 20– 22. Click here to check out the festival website and purchase tickets. Enter the code Pastiloff for a $50 discount! (Please note that discount codes expire April 1.)
loss, There Are No Words To Describe This, Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Uncategorized

Letters To Steve, After His Death.

March 5, 2012

Steve Bridges as Bush. He was the best!

 

When I was 19 and at NYU, I wrote a poem called “To My Father, After His Death”.

On Saturday morning, someone who I referred to as my brother and whom I had a connection with that could never be explained in words, passed away in his sleep. He was 48. Steve Bridges was the kindest and the funniest man I had ever known. Besides my own dad Mel, who, to this day if you go to Philadelphia and say the name Melvin Pastiloff people who sigh and say ” Mel was the funniest human being I had ever known. Still. To this day. And he died in 1983.”

My dad was 38 when he died. Steve was 48.

 

Steve and I.

These past few days have been filled with new grief on top of old grief.

Yesterday I taught my Sunday morning class at Equinox, lovingly dubbed “Yoga Church” by the yogis who show up every Sunday. The theme was gratitude. I asked them to pick a person they felt grateful for, alive or passed on. Someone who helped them be who they are today, someone who guided them, who taught them, who loved them.

When the hands came to prayer, as they do so often in my class, the mantra was to be “Thank you __________.” That person’s name being the blank.

Mine was “Thank you Steve”. I told my students all about this funny man who did impersonations of the presidents. My class always has laughter but yesterday I told them I needed more laughter than normal. They delivered.

When I played ” Your Song” by Elton John, everyone sang on cue.

It was truly church. I kept thinking I don’t know how I’ll make it through. I had to turn my back at least 6 times as I wept. I turned back to the class and wiped my tears and saw a roomful of the most connected and alive people I have ever seen.

That’s how I made it through.

Thank you, my tribe. Thank you.

And in getting the following email from someone who had never taken my class before, I realized how powerful and needed yesterday’s class was indeed. How human an experience it was, and how it was not just about sadness and death at all, but life.

“Dear Jen, I mentioned that I had been moved to tears several times. Something happened today that I hope will continue for the rest of my life! The person I chose to be grateful for was actually myself. I spend a lot time judging and criticising myself and I’m trying to change (which is what brought me to yoga today), so I thought I’d try some self love. I think I cried every time we did a sequence on our own to the music. When you asked us to think of that person holding us up, I pictured a few versions of myself dancing around me on my mat and lifting me up at different times. It was so beautiful. I thanked myself for being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, etc. I found myself calling me all the nicknames I have for everyone else I love. I “hiya’d” and kicked the shit out of that negative voice, diets, and melanoma. I’ve always felt at war with my body and I don’t think I can live another day in that mind set. I feel so blessed to have stumbled into your class today. Your energy and philosophy were exactly what I needed to feel and hear. I felt a shift take place and I am so grateful and so inspired. I feel like I could go on and on here but hopefully I’ll see you on Tuesday and I’ll thank you again in person.”

By now you know the Divine experience ( and I do not use the word Divine lightly here) I shared in Mexico on my last retreat. It was a smaller retreat and we bonded in a spectacular way that continued way past the trip’s finale. We wrote emails to each other  starting with ” Dear Fabulous 13″ daily.

Although Steve came with me on the last 3 retreats I hosted, it was in Mexico that I realized how much I loved this man. In my life, I have yet to experience feeling this way about another. It is not romantic or sexual.

After my class yesterday I came home to emails from the Fab 13. They had written letters to Steve after his death. Immediately I thought of my poem I wrote as a teenager to my dad.

I wanted to share those letters with you because in them you will get a glimpse of the love we shared, you will get a glimpse of who Steve Bridges really was, and, trust me on this: even a glimpse of Steve is enough. He was love.

———-

Steve, buddy –

 

I only knew you for a few days in Mexico.

I spoke to you at length only a few times.

 

So why is there a hole in my heart?

Is it because I watched you bring light and laughter to our whole Xinalani family?

Or because I saw your gentle soul shine through in little kindnesses?

Or because I watched the joy bubble out of you and all of us around you, our cup truly running over?

Or is it because our new-found family is just that, new-found, and already we have lost a brother?

Yes, all of these.

 

But also: I regret not talking to you more.

I regret not going for that one last beer.

Most of all, I regret that I will not see you the next time we are in LA, nor have

All those future times and lost conversations.

 

And yet.

When I met you, I had “Gratitude” written on my arm.

And you had Joy on written on your face.

And if I only sit in my sadness, and feel loss, and regret, and pain,

Then it’s just all about me again.

What kind of Gratitude is that?

 

If meeting you meant something,

If the hole in my heart means someone wonderful was here, then

I must return to Gratitude

I must look at the shape of that hole and say “Wow!

How lucky am I to have met this guy?

How improbably fortunate!”

 

Of course I am sad and bewildered

That you have left us so suddenly.

But if that is all I feel then I have missed the point.

I have missed your point, and the point of what we all

Discovered together in Mexico.

 

All of us are comforted in sadness

And strengthened in Gratitude

By the Fabulous 13

(And so we remain, though we are

Down a good man)

For you helped define us

And you remain in our hearts.

 

For some reason, it was time for you to go.

I don’t begin to understand, but

I am so very grateful

To be one of your last new friends.

 

Thank you. Love, Gregg.

We love you Steve.

Dear Steve,

Wow… All I can say is that you have profoundly affected my life.

Especially the day after I precariously fell down the stairs backwards. You said to me, “Amy Jo, you are our miracle. You’ve reminded us that life is so precious and it can be over in an instant. Thank you.”

Especially when I stared into your eyes for three amazing minutes during yoga, and what I wrote down afterwards was: Steve= powerful, being, creator of love, confidence, kindness, strong… Power… I felt my power in his: The next day I said to you “ Steve, All I saw was power. It was amazing. I saw no fear.” And you looked at me with those brilliant blues and kindly said “Thank you”.

The entire seven days I spent with you are seven of the most magical, precious, healing days of my life. Thank you for your honest, humble, hilarious, kind presence within them. I will cherish those moments forever.

I’ve had a few very close people in my life pass away and always during and after their death there is a magical doorway that opens to the cosmos, a magical gift of enlightenment. And now in hindsight I can see that that doorway is also open and present before a soul passes, because in Mexico we all shared that light. We all bathed in your departure. Thank you, we have been gifted by your journey.

Love, light, peace, happiness, and god speed my friend. You will be dearly missed.

Amy Jo

having a blast with Steve

There are more letters. I will add them in a second post. Please add yours to the bottom in the comment section.

Steve told me that Mexico was the best time of his entire life. I believe in some way he was meant to experience this love and this family we created, before his passing. His greatest wish was to have a child and a family.

I believe he got a taste of that.

I am heartbroken beyond words but looking at the photos and videos makes me laugh with tears in my eyes. Let’s continue to honor the man I knew as my brother.

Now, before you do anything. Before it slips into a cliche again, stop and close your eyes and get present to the fact that life is really precious. That you never know what will happen and that each moment is a gift. Before it turns back into a cliche, get up and go hug the person in the next room. Go tell someone how much you appreciate them. Go let yourself feel, and fall in love, and be vulnerable. Go say YES! Spend a day with someone you want to spend the day with. Laugh out loud, even at a dumb joke. Sing. Dance. For God’s sake, go live your life.

I love you.

I love you Steve Bridges. I do not understand your passing but I understand you taught me things I am still comprehending. You taught me to be joy. And to feel joy. As you did.

You taught me to be ME. The MOST ME.

~~~~~~~

I will keep you all posted on a memorial. I spent the day with his parents yesterday and I can safely say that seeing his father weep was enough to crack my heart open. We went to church and the minister who knew Steve well got us into a huddle, like we were about to play football, and said a beautiful prayer for Steve, as we all cried and hugged. We stayed for the service which was all about love and being kind to ourselves. This same minister will deliver Steve’s memorial per Tom Bridges request ( I can see why) and as soon as I know details I will pass them on.

For more videos of the beloved Steve Bridges visit his site. He was very well know and highly esteemed. He was the best of the best.

https://stevebridges.com/

setstats
setstats

TO MY FATHER, AFTER HIS DEATH (written age 19)
I knew that you weren’t really dead.
That if I kept looking, kept driving,
I’d find you.
Didn’t think it would be here though,
that you’d be pumping gas
in Kansas.You still smoke.
I can tell.
The way your shoulders hunch over
gives you away.
When you push nozzles into canals,
into the backs of cars,
you heave, your shoulders roll.
Your stomach reaches closer to your back,
toward smooth pink scars.
You look smaller,
shirking into yourself like that.

Silently pumping gas, coughing occasionally,
scratching your sunburned bald spot.

I watch you from the shoulder of I-70
through dead bugs on my windshield.
There is a small convenience store
attached to the gas station.
You enter it,
and when you emerge
I see the bulge in your pants.
You’ve bought Kools: your brand of cigarettes.
Stashed them in your front hip pocket,
next to an Almond Joy.

I see you still
squint, smoke,
have bad posture,
eat Almond Joys.

Quiet as ash,
you in the Kansas of Colorado,
one foot almost in each state.

The moment you noticed me
must have been when
you straightened your back up,
crushed your half smoked cigarette
and smiled.

But you know I can’t come any closer.

I can’t pull into the station,
roll down my window and touch your face.

~jen pastiloff 1994