So I went to teach my first workshop in Austin last year, and a woman emails to tell me she is going to bring her daughter (whom I imagined was at least in her twenties). We’d been connecting through a Twitter contest I’d been hosting, and I was excited to meet her.
Let’s call her CJ.
So CJ shows up to my workshop in Austin. Get this: with her 8-year-old daughter! Naturally, at first, I am thinking Oh Shit!
Because, yes, I say shit a lot, and I was a bit afraid I would have to censor myself.
I was wrong.
(As a side note, CJ lives in San Antonio. She drove all the way to Austin. How did she find me in the first place? From my articles on Positively Positive. That, my friends, is the power of social media.)
So CJ walks in with her daughter wearing my What Are You Manifesting tee, which she had ordered last month. Her daughter gives me a gift. Two books about poetry. Because she told her eight year old that I love poems.
(As a side note, Dear Universe, thank you for sending me these people. There. Are. No. Accidents.)
I immediately ask CJ that if she won the What Inspires You Most Twitter contest, would she be able to fly out to California and get away to my retreat? She said, “Oh, let someone else win. I have gotten more out of this than you will ever ever know.”
To say I was touched would be an understatement.
The people you need to meet always show up when you need them.
I needed to meet someone who was participating so fully in her life. Who was raising a child in this way. Who was so willing to be attentive and present and inspired.
And did I ever need to meet this kid of hers.
By the way, the eight year old? Her name was Jen too.
So, at one point, I ask the group to write a letter to their sixteen-year-old selves. (Everyone had journals in the class. It’s a big part of my Manifestation workshop.)
I felt badly because Jen was only eight, so I said to her, “Jen, you can write a letter to your five-year-old self, ok?”
She wrote, “Dear five-year-old self, being eight is awesome!”
At one point, everyone was in child’s pose. I was reciting one of my favorite quotes from A Course in Miracles:
“If you knew who walked beside you at all times, on the path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.”
No one budged from child’s pose except eight-year-old Jen. She got up to pick up a pen and write down what I was saying!
I needed to meet this little angel to be reminded what is possible and to be inspired again.
To allow myself to be surprised.
She asked her mom after they got back to San Antonio if, for her birthday in July, she could have a yoga lesson by me.
I learned from an eight year old
- how to be brave
- how to ask for what you want
- how to pay attention
- how to listen
- how to laugh
- how to do a fierce backbend
- how to show love
- how to be okay with the fact that you might be the only one in the room who doesn’t understand something and, conversely, how to be the only one in the room who DOES understand something.
So here is a letter to my eight-year-old self, which is the age I somehow feel I stopped growing. It’s when my dad died.
Dear eight-year-old me:
Being thirty seven is awesome! I know you don’t believe me now because life sucks since your daddy died, but it will be ok. You will fall in love, and you will go out and inspire people with dance parties and twitter contests, and you will meet little girls who will show you what it means to be fearless. You will never get over that little piece of sadness, that part of you that died when your dad died, but you will indeed transform that into a whole lotta love. You will make up for all that frowning you do now when you are thirty seven. You will remember who you really are. I’m here waiting for you. Oh, and that noise in your head? Get used to it. It’s called tinnitus.
A week or so after the workshop, CJ sent me this email, which I felt compelled to share (with her permission, of course).
Dear Jen. Let me share with you what brought me to your workshop in Austin.
Last year I was offered my dream job. It had the big fancy title, an impressive paycheck, and lots of prestige. It was in my area of expertise and a field I wanted to explore. I leapt at the chance. My heart swelled. I was so excited that finally, FINALLY, I had the brass ring. This past January, a little over a year after accepting my dream job, I resigned. It broke my heart, but my year working at my dream job was one of the worst years of my life. I was constantly stressed out, unhappy, unhealthy, and I now had both Xanex and Prozac in my medicine cabinet. But worst of all, I felt like a failure. By the company’s standards, I was doing well. By my standards, I was failing. After a year, I wasn’t making the progress or having the impact I knew I could make. I felt like I could have been doing so much better. My whole life I’d gotten ahead by working harder and being smarter than the average bear. That didn’t work here. It was too political, and I’m too blunt and impatient. I had ideas and strategies that I knew would be successful but couldn’t get approval to implement them. Mediocre is not my style. I couldn’t do the work I set out to do, and I was MISERABLE. And worst of all, my misery was impacting my sweet family.
So, without another job lined up, without a clue what my next move would be, in a crappy economy, I quit my job. Everyone told me I was crazy. For decades, I have worked my ass off to be successful, thinking success would make me happy. I was wrong. I had literally won showcase #2, and I was miserable. I had saved up enough money to give myself some time to figure things out. I am blessed that my husband has a good job, so I didn’t have to give up any benefits. But still. I’m used to taking care of my family and myself, so this was scary.
I moved forward knowing three things:
1. I had to find a way to be my own boss so I could set my own hours and be able to put my family first.
2. I had to be able to wear flip-flops and jeans every day. No more dress up.
3. Whatever my new venture would be, it would be a social enterprise that benefited my community.
My first course of action was to read. I read books, blogs, magazines, recipes for success, and the back of cereal boxes. I read your Manifesto of My Identity on the Positively Positive website and started following your blog. I read the books You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, among others. I started reading A Course In Miracles. A whole new world opened up to me. One based on Love, Faith, and more Love. One where fear did not exist. One where happiness was a decision, not a result. A world where I am amazing and not less-than. A world I wanted to share with my family and friends.
I also entered your amazing twitter contest. I wanted to go to Ojai—I even wrote it on my manifestation mirror. The retreat pictures were intoxicating, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been to that building in a previous life. For the contest, I made rules for myself. I couldn’t get out of bed until I found something inspiring to tweet. There were days the kids were almost late for school. Also, I couldn’t stockpile inspirational tweets. If I felt inspired at any time, I made myself tweet it right then—no saving something for tomorrow. Halfway thru the contest, I almost quit because the exercise of saying, ‘Wow, Life is Great’ one or two times a day was its own reward. Ojai became irrelevant.
Flash forward to last Saturday. I almost didn’t come. I was listening to my fears:
1. I’m out of shape, and Austin is filled with healthy, athletic people, and I knew I’d be the biggest one in the room.
2. You would be disappointed meeting me, like online dating
3. I was worried I had put you on a pedestal and that you’d turn out to be human.
But I really wanted to meet this sparkplug, rock star, manifesting yoga teacher I had found on the Internet—there is a reason I found you when I did. I really wanted to experience manifestation yoga. More than anything, I really, really wanted the opportunity for my daughter to meet you. She is amazing and, along with her twin brother (!), a gift from the gods. It’s my job to show her how wonderful life is and have her meet amazing people. (Someday, some way, someone will break her heart. Someone will try to crush her dreams. I need to fortify her for that time so she can say, ‘So what. Life is still amazing, awe-inspiring, and beautiful. Next.’) Finally, I really felt the need to tell you in person how happy I am that you are on this earth, doing what you are doing. I don’t think we tell each other those kinds of things as much as we should.
I’m so glad I came and brought Jen. I fell in love the minute you were kind to my daughter, and I could see that you got her. She is over the moon about you, too.
You have helped me on my journey more than you will ever know, and for this I am eternally grateful. I hope all your dreams come true.
Jen will be sending her own note Thank you for all of your kind words about her.
I would love to hear your letter below to your younger self. It can be your sixteen-year-old self or whatever age you prefer. Can’t wait to read them, Tribe.
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Writing/Yoga® week long retreat in Tuscany July 2013 as well as a writing/yoga retreat with best selling author Emily Rapp (whom TIME magazine voted as having one of the best twenty-five blogs of 2012).