Hi everyone. You know how important pre-orders are right? So I'm here telling you that you need to pre-order Jennifer Pastiloff's memoir ON BEING HUMAN --RIGHT NOW. Not just because of sales and attention--but because this memoir turned me inside out and I believe it might do the same for you. I was crying. I was underlining phrases. I was being changed with every line. It's really the story of a woman who thought she was nothing, and she became everything to so many people. She has a hearing loss, so she listens even more fiercely to everything and everyone.
Jen changed my life. She was the one who urged me to write about my mom's dementia, my mom's dying, the time when I almost had to make a choice about an abortion, and most importantly, she got me to admit that I, too, have wonky hearing, and claiming it just made everything easier and better. She's my heroine, and I am completely blissed out to claim her as my friend.
Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is a public speaker who travels the world with her unique workshop: The Manifestation Workshop: On BeingHuman-a hybrid of yoga, writing, sharing out loud, and occasionally a dance party. has been featured on Good Morning America, New York
Magazine, CBS News and more for her unique style of teaching. She’s developed a massive and loyal following from her personal essays. She also is co-editor of the magnificent online journal THE MANIFEST-STATION.
Check out Retreats for all retreat listings and Workshops to attend one in a city
She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.
And here's the incredible interview Jen gave me. And P.S. Jen, I've got you. I've always got you,
I’ve commented that what is so revolutionary about your moving memoir is that even though it most definitely is YOUR story, it feels like it’s all our stories—all of us who have felt we were not pretty enough, or smart enough, or lovable enough. Can you talk about this please?
The through line I see the most in the work I do is the pervasive belief of “I am not enough.” I have been in workshops, rooms with eight-year-olds all the way up to women in their seventies, and a lot of them were saying the same things: I am afraid of what others think, I am not pretty enough, I am not enough. To feel less alone in our struggles is key to surviving. When we start to listen to each other, we realize that so many of us share the same Inner Assholes. One of the ways to quiet the IA is to talk about it and conquer it together. My IA is still alive and well but it’s quieter (some days) than it used to be.
You know that feeling you get when you hear someone speak, or read something, and you think, “Oh my God, that could be me talking?” We need more of that. Honest, un-curated, unashamed truths about who we are so that we can see that the idea of perfection is a MYTH. That we all have been striving for something non-existent. I do think that listening is the key. Fierce listening, or hard listening, to one another. So often we deal with the same feelings- different details, of course- but the same core feelings of shame or not-enoughness or pain. When we realize that we aren’t the only one, it’s like a big exhale. This is why the #metoo movement is so powerful. It’s the same idea. Me too.
What kind of writer are you? Did you know how this memoir was going to unfold or were you stunned and surprised?
One thing I talk about in my book are Bullshit Stories, as you know, so if my Inner Asshole (IA) were to answer this question, it would say: I am not a real writer. But I know that isn’t true, that it is indeed a Bullshit Story
I don’t know what kind of writer I am. I started writing stories as a little girl. At NYU, I found poetry, and that really was my first great love. Still is even though I don’t write it much anymore. I am a writer who writes in bed, or on the couch (which is also a sofa bed) as her son and husband sleep (as I am doing right now), or in the car, or who doesn’t write for days, weeks, months. I am a writer who uses social media to write. I am a writer who has no “system.” I am a writer who writes some beautiful things and who also has written some godawful terrible sentences. I have found through this process of selling and writing a book, or rather, through my entire life, that there is no one right way. I can tell you that I do not take myself too seriously, or at least I try not to. Since I dropped out of NYU, I have always thought of myself as a failure. Since I taught yoga and got sort of “famous” for that, I was afraid I would be thought of as a joke, as some kind of woo-woo person, since I share a whole lot of intimate stuff on social media, I thought I wasn’t a “real writer” but I guess, in truth, the answer is: I sold a book. I have a book coming out into the world so whatever “kind” of writer I am, I did it. There is not one right way.There is only the way that YOU do it.
What I also found revolutionary is the way you took what helped you and turned it into these stupefyingly successful yoga/writing workshops all over the world. How come yoga lends itself to all of this so well?
We store so much in the body. Everything, really. The idea I had was to get to a vulnerability that occurred when the body wasn’t in fight or flight mode. I wrote a poem years ago where I said “Do Yoga. Let everyone you’ve stored in your muscles out, every so often, to breathe.” I do think it’s like that- we keep things inside of us to any chance to move shit around is good. Having said that, I have people who have never done yoga, people in wheelchairs, people who come and just sit. The idea is to embrace the body rather than deny it.
As someone who has spent the majority of my life trying to NOT be in my body, it felt like my life opened up when I stopped trying to run away from it. Be it yoga, or dance, or just swinging your arms, or simply breathing- I believe that when we connect to the what our body is saying, it’s easier to drown our IA (Inner Asshole) out. The body tells the truth.
I also have noticed that the more fatigued we get, the harder it is to keep our guards up. Sometimes, after a really long travel day, I cry. I have no idea what’s wrong, or why I am so weepy, until I go, “Oh yea, I am just really fucking tired.” I want to get us to that place in my workshop where our armor is off without having to have a really long travel day or being up for 24 hours straight. By using movement, it allows us to soften. I don’t care about the yoga part. That was a way in. A lot of times we just dance or sing or laugh. The idea is to not escape. I have always been an escape artist (anorexic, over exercising, binging, sleeping) so to just be with what’s happening in my body- that feels revolutionary. As Lidia Yuknavitch always says, your body has a point of view. I have found no greater truth. I am finally learning to listen.
Every time I finish writing a book, I feel as if I’ve somehow rewritten myself, that I’ve changed. How did this memoir change you?
In many ways, I feel like it is the first time I really grieved for my father. Can you believe that? He died so many years ago, when I was a little girl, but I locked it inside of me and shut down. Writing this book opened me up in a way I thought was impossible. I thought the grief was too old that healing could never take happen. And yet, it did. I am not suggesting that we ever get over losing someone or that I am “fixed” or “healed” but I allowed myself to feel things I never had for fear they would kill me. They did not kill me. I did not look away- which is the main tenet in my workshop- Don’t look away. To do that for yourself is life-changing. I looked at all of it- the beautiful and the hideous parts.
This is kind of embarrassing to admit but I also felt like an adult for the first time in my life. Even though I have a two-year-old, getting this book done made me battle some demons (the lack of planning, living in chaos etc) because I signed a contract and I had to get it done. It was one of the first time in my life, ugh, I hate admitting this, that I saw something to completion. It has given me a confidence and a sense of possibility now, though. I can do things. I can do what I thought I couldn’t. I try and remember that when I get caught up listening to my IA telling me all sorts of lies as to what a bad and lazy human I am.
This book also changed me because I found compassion for my mom. Everyone has a complicated life, everyone has stuff with their parents or their family, but writing this book gave me insight and I was able to finally see my mother as a human being who was doing the best she could. When you experience trauma as a child, as I did, it’s hard to not get stuck in the belief system from that time. The process of writing the book helped me rewire my belief system and also get to know my mother better.
My father-in-law died a quick and painful death from pancreatic cancer as I was writing it, which cracked me open and also forced me to revisit my father’s death, in a new light.
One of the things I talk about so much is not being an asshole. Don’t be an asshole, I always say. Writing the book made me realize I am still an asshole sometimes, but that I do my best and I am doing pretty good. I took a good hard long look at myself and I liked myself, which is a new feeling. The idea of embracing being human is largely based upon realizing that we are all assholes. Sometimes. And when we don’t look away, when we bear witness, when we tell the truth and listen, life becomes more bearable. I guess I did that with myself in writing this book, so whadya know? I also learned that I am an asshole who drinks too much coffee. (Approx 789990 cups during the process of writing On Being Human.)
What’s obsessing you now and why?
Releasing attachment to the outcome. Are people going to buy it? What if I said too much? Can I take it back? Am I too exposed? Are people going to help me the way I help others? Living in a one-bedroom with three bodies. My nephew’s constant starvation that he has from Prader Willi Syndrome. The state of our fucking country. If people are going to vote. Dying and leaving my son. My mom dying. The toilet paper Trump had on his shoe as he boarded Air Force One the other day. The fact that my coffee cup is empty- be right back.