It was the Spring of 2015 and I’d just discovered Jen Pastiloff on Facebook. I’m not even sure exactly how I came across her or why I decided to listen to her video when it was not in my nature to do so. I was deeply unhappy with myself and my life and Facebook, like television and romance books, was one of the ways I sought escape. It was starting to dawn on me that I could “design” my newsfeed with positive uplifting or good-natured sarcastic messages and images. Perhaps with this developing mindset, I was willing to hear what this woman had to say. This was before writing and yoga came into my life and quickly became lifelines. Getting back to Jen Pastiloff, her messages about being human, not being an asshole and saying the word “fuck” a lot hooked me from the start. There were authenticity and bravery in her willingness to share her growing deafness, her past struggle with an eating disorder, her current struggle with depression, and embrace her imperfections! I gobbled up her videos with my eyes, my ears, and my starving, undernourished spirit as soon as she posted them. I would view and read with longing about her workshops and retreats all over the world. Her uplifting message asking what were we saying “yes” to in our lives, filled me with hope and a bit of despair because I didn’t feel there was much to say yes to in my life at the time.
Uncomfortably snuggled in my day-to-day dysfunction and dissatisfaction at home, stressed out and drowning with an overburdened workload at my job, I wished with all my being to experience the adventure of Jen’s magic firsthand. Near the end of August 2015, Jen announced she was going to have an essay contest for her followers and the winner would get a full scholarship for her retreat in Vermont in October. I’d just begun blogging about my life under my personal blog titled Build Your Own Brave and I thought maybe I had a chance if I could write an essay good enough to win. I turned in an essay just before the deadline of September 9, 2015. By then, some of her other generous followers had donated two more scholarships so now there were three chances! After the deadline, Jen announced there were 70 essays that she and the editors from her Manifest Station site needed to read and choose winners from. Three days later Jen contacted me via private message on Facebook to tell me that she thought my essay was phenomenal and she wanted to offer me a scholarship to her New Year’s Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, CA. She knew it would be more affordable for me to drive there from San Diego than to come up with the money for a plane ticket to Vermont in October since the scholarship contest was always clear that the cost of transportation was not included.
Oh boy! My wish had come true and when the time came I drove to Ojai for her retreat. The reality was exhilarating and frightening. I was grateful for the four-hour drive since driving and listening to music are both soothing to me. When I pulled up to the retreat facility I didn’t know anyone but Jen and I didn’t really know her; except I did. It was a 3-day magical, manifesting, soul-stirring, paradigm-altering adventure! I thought I knew what her workshops and retreats would be like based on the pictures and small videos on Facebook and her website. However, it doesn’t begin to encompass the scope of the inward journey that is intimately linked with 30 odd strangers that became spiritual kin by the end. I opened myself in ways I didn’t know I was capable of, and at that time I had 19 years of spiritual/personal sobriety growth under my belt. This was sweating physically and shedding fears with abandon because I was connected and safe to do so. I was emboldened and impassioned to do so! I was doing strenuous yoga to release emotions, then alchemizing the emotion into boldness, fierce listening and empathy. I slept in a yurt quite a distance from the main house and yoga studio. I had to use an outdoor compost toilet for the first time ever. I had Jen literally sit in front of me to question me and encourage me to read to the group what I’d read when we stopped to dive into those released emotions. There was no hiding in plain sight allowed around this gorgeous, magical sorceress. And yet, in the midst of all of that, there were many moments when I longed for the familiar comforts. and safety of my couch, my television, my romance books. This adventure, which was filled with real magic, was changing and expanding me from the inside out and a small part of me was afraid of never being able to go back to myself again.
I believe that is the crux of my duality with the safety of home versus the freedom of adventure and wishing for the opposite while experiencing each. You see, I am my own True North, my own home and each time I step out into adventure it facilitates growth and expansion. With that is the fear while I’m out there adventuring that I won’t be able to go home again to who and what I was before. Except by then, it’s already too late and that’s more than okay. The sacred truth I learn again and again is I can return home changed and expanded and remain safe.