Jennifer Pastiloff: On Being Human
How do you start your day?
Snuggling with son, Charlie Mel. We still co-sleep so it's pretty delicious. Then coffee. Lots of coffee. While i am leading retreats we practice silent mornings and I always wish I did that at home. Some mornings, like today, I do. I am jet lagged, having just returned from leading a retreat in Tuscany so I woke before my family. I haven't said a word yet and I don't have my hearing aids in. Silent mornings with a two-year old are hard. I'll take what I can get.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
Breathe. One of my mantras is JB- meaning "Just Breathe." I chant it to myself a whole heluva lot when I am panicking or stressed. I try and choose mantras, or mind tattoos as I like to call them, that open me up rather than shut me down. For example, I will think "I am here" over and over again to remind myself that I am not in some future where terrible things have happened. That I am safe, that I am in my body. Mostly, it's coming back to being in my body as opposed to being disconnected, distracted, in the past or the future. It's not easy but I have gotten better at it as I have gotten older and since becoming a mother. I also ask for help. I reach out to people. I listen hard. I have people I refer to as my "I don't suck, right?" people. I will text them or call them to remind me that I don't suck. And they do. We all need those people. One of mine is Lidia Yuknavitch. Google her and read her books if you don't know her and watch how your life transforms from her writing. I look for ways to be of service. It's one of the most rewarding ways to get out of your own head and your own way. I look for beauty. Everywhere. I call this beauty hunting. I do it when it is especially hard, i.e. when I am overwhelmed or stressed or in pain. Leading my workshops and working with so many women, I have learned so many tools. And, having said that, sometimes I still get stuck and I can't get myself out of The Land of Stress and Overwhelm. Ah, to be human.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
Watching my son giggle. Smelling my son's head. When a poem makes my arm hairs stand up. The work I do- watching people connect and lose their armor and watching how fear can alchemize into love. Dancing, even though I am pretty stinky at it. Same with singing out loud. The deep knowing that although the work I do is not BECAUSE of me, I have created something special and am able to help people feel safe, seen, heard. That is bliss. I want to joke and say my anti-depressants, but they don't give me bliss. They just help me get out of bed each day, for which i am grateful.
What are you currently reading?
My Own Devices: a memoir by the rapper Dessa. Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane (who happened to have just taught a writing workshop at my Tuscany retreat!) Meaty by Samantha Irby.
What are you listening to right now?
Snow Patrol, The "Wildness" album. As usual, the tinnitus (ringing) in my head, my IA (Inner Asshole.) We all have an IA. I try not to listen to mine. Sometimes I fail.
What does nourishment look like to you?
Sleep. Not denying myself anything- I spent way too long doing that when I was anorexic. Listening to my body (which is not always easy) and giving it what it wants. A really good glass of wine. Water. Coffee. Exercise. Laughter. Sleep. Naps. Saying no when I need to. Reading. Less screen time!!
How do you make space for play?
I was a serious child who everyone was constantly telling to not be so serious, not be so sad. I feel that I am making up for this in many ways now by being really immature and silly and goofy. I am basically a big dork and I encourage that in all my classes and workshops and retreats. I encourage you reading to dork it out. I play constantly with my son. I make funny videos with my best friend Annie Sertich (of the famous Groundlings in L.A.) I do not overbook myself. Play and having a sense of humor are two of the most important things in my life. I say yes to spontaneity as often as I can.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
I am safe. I am here. I am enough. I am listening. It's going to be okay.
Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned over the years.
You get to change your mind. This was a huge epiphany of mine. Also: No one is going to give you a (bleeping) medal so you better give yourself one. Also: you cannot be a feminist unless you are an intersectional feminist, as Rachel Cargle says, "If you don't fight for ALL women, you fight for no women." Dismantling white supremacy is my job for the rest of my life as is unpacking my own unconscious biases. Listening is by far the most important thing, and as someone with profound hearing loss, I am here to say that you can listen in many ways. Age is just a number. I still stand by my favorite: Don't Be An Asshole. in fact, I own DontBeAnAsshole.net. Even though I am sometimes an asshole because to be human is to be an asshole. No one is perfect. And that is okay.
Jennifer Pastiloff travels the world with her unique workshop “On Being Human,” a hybrid of yoga, writing, sharing out loud, and the occasional dance party. Jen leads annual retreats to Italy, France, California and more. She also leads Writing and The Body workshops with author Lidia Yuknavitch. Learn about Jen at her website, or follow her on Instagram. Click here to learn about her workshops. When she is not traveling she is based in Los Angeles with her husband and son and a cup of coffee. Her newest book “On Being Human” will be published in early 2019.