“In which at last I saw what a child must love, I saw what love might have done had we loved in time.”
Mary Oliver “The Visitor”
Isn’t that what I am searching for? What we all are? To love in time?
Isn’t that what we are all looking for, really? Under all the layers of hard rock and hurt and in between the rain and the spurts of sun across Southeast Asia or Southern California or Santa Fe? Just past the temples, past the shore, past the man washing his chicken in a creek as he gets it ready for the fight?
Isn’t this the great journey, this pilgrimage to love, to not running out of time, to dying with a heart empty of misgivings and misunderstandings rather than a heart full of I am sorry and I wish I did it better?
Here I am in Bali. My Manifestation Retreat in Ubud has ended. A sold-out retreat with all women.
The retreat was very much a retreat toward love.
One of the definitions of retreat, according to the dictionary, is: an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.
And that is just what we did. We withdrew from the comparisons and the judgments and the traffic and the old beliefs and the children and the cooking and the phone calls and the heartache and the sameness of daily life. We withdrew toward our center. Our mantra: May I always be this happy, May I always be this free.
At least for this moment. And then this one.
And this one.
All of it in moments. Moments experienced with a presence that could be likened to an offering. Here, here I am, offering you my undivided attention and acceptance. This is my offering. There is nothing in my way. There is no past, no sickness, no going back to work, no dreading the plane ride back, no discomfort. There is just this. This perfect morsel in time. And I am here. Fully.
This past week, we retreated toward our center, and as the sun rose in the morning and we looked out toward the temple and the men in the fields and the ducks waddling all along in a row like a cliché, our hearts knew what they have known all along: That this is what love feels like. This is what it is all for.
To know a beauty so precise that it aches in the place where pain has lived and also heartache, loss. This ache is more of a returning; a piece of ourselves we thought we may have lost along the way is slid back into itself without any kind of hassle or confusion. An offering. The term achingly beautiful finally and rightfully understood. And yes, it is felt in the same place. The heart doesn’t know any different; it just knows to feel.
If we let it.
If we let it.
This past week was a letting.
Take this offering and feel it. Tie yourself in knots. The undoing is the retreat. A coming home, as it was.
We all want to love in time. To think we could possibly run out of time is what causes traffic and wars and broken hearts.
The actual running out of time is less common, but it does happen. We can die without fully loving the things right in front of us and inside of us. We can let that happen.
When I asked what everyone was manifesting, many of the women said vulnerability. It came up a lot during the week, in journaling and class themes and throughout our visits to the temple. My heart should be this vulnerable, this open, so I may feel this beauty inside of me as I feel my own breath breaking the air above me as I snorkel with the most colorful fish I have ever seen, and may I know this beauty in the way I have known other facts about myself, like I am this or I am that. This beauty is the knowable part of me just as any other. But to feel this beauty, to really see it as it is means I must be vulnerable to the pain as well.
Here is the sunrise with the knowing that the sun will indeed set. The sky will open at some point today, and the rain will come down without explanation. The flowers will die, but that to miss it while it is right there in front of us means we are not accepting the offering. We are not accepting what has been inside of us all along, no matter how dormant or inactive.
In Bali, they give offerings to the gods three times a day. It is their daily ritual to give back what the gods have given them. They do not take this lightly; it is a duty and an honor at the same time. Why should we not have the same system?
I will take the love offered to me. I will take this gorgeous spicy food and the flowers left on beds and towels and the lily pads and the terraced rice fields and the silent Thank You from the toothless woman washing her clothes in the stream and the not so silent Thank You from the thunder. I will take the I love you as fact and the I believe in you as a Go signal. I will then offer back my heart, since it is mine to give away. I will offer my support and my mistakes and what I have seen here and what I know to be possible and the smiles the Balinese wear, which you might think to be myth but which I can assure you is not. I will offer back my words and my imagination and describe to you in the best detail I can just what I saw and how, in the healing waters at Tirta Empul, I prayed for my nephew and my dead father and how my friend, just before she ducked her head under a spigot, said, “And this one is for me.” and how I held her back as her shoulders shook under her sarong, under her sobbing. I will offer them all to you without holding back at all so you believe me when I tell you that there is time.
There is time.
You will believe me when I tell you that if you let yourself be the beauty and never stop seeing the beauty, no matter if you are in Bali or traffic or a yoga class, that you will never run out of time. That although your father will still have died and you cannot take back what you said, that although you will still have had your heart broken or gotten hurt, the offering is this: You.
You are the offering.
I am the offering.
We must place the beauty in our hearts right there next to loss and pain and whatever else it is we have in there, and we must pass it on. We must love like the Balinese do. Shamelessly and fully without any but this might not last. With acceptance and duty and honor and grace. When Agung, our beloved driver and host, brought us to his home for dinner and so his twin eleven-year-old daughters could do a traditional Balinese dance for us, he spoke of his son. With a huge smile, he said his son was artistic. So proud he was.
We then realized he was saying “autistic.” His son came out and said hello to us, and Agung hugged him close and with a pride I am not sure I have ever seen as he introduced his whole family. They all live together in the compound with his father-in-law. (It was his wife’s home first, a rare thing in Balinese culture.) A lot of the girls on the retreat cried, as I did, not because it was a sad thing, but because the love that came from them, that little clan standing there in front a of a bird cage, was more perfect than anything I’d seen. With its lack of judgment and story and shame, it was a divine moment in time, and we all felt blessed to witness it, and we all made a mental note to love more like they loved. To be happy in the way they were, even though a few of them shared a bed and the son was autistic and they had never left the island of Bali. And so what? What did they know besides love? No, they aren’t perfect.
But they were loving in time.
May we all love in time.
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 retreat Labor Day Weekend, 2013 in Ojai, California as well as a writing/yoga retreat with bestselling author Emily Rapp (whom TIME magazine voted as having one of the best twenty-five blogs of 2012).
*Image by Simplereminders.com.