“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” ― Joan Didion
So I teach yoga sometimes. My main vocation is writing but I still teach the occasional yoga class when I am home in Los Angeles. Last night, I told my sweet class to do a chair pose. Then I started to laugh. The class theme was compassion, or as I posted yesterday, the mantra was, “May I not be an asshole.” (It really was the theme, ask anyone that was there.)
Anyway, I started to laugh and asked them if they wanted to hear a story. They’re a cool group – I really enjoy this class – They said, “Yes, tell us the story” in their double pigeon pose.
So I told them the story about leading a retreat in Mexico a few years ago.
The people on my retreat had started to set up cameras around the studio as I began to teach. They asked me if I minded. But come on, you guys know me. I didn’t mind. I’m thinking: “Videos to post on Facebook- yeaaaaa!”
So they set up video cameras. Which I should’ve thought was weird.
I turned to the ocean (it was a gorgeous studio nestled in the trees) and do my Jewish/Baptist preacher in a revival tent/poet/philosopher thing (weirdly I’ve been called both a rabbi and a Baptist preacher.) I’m going on and on, standing there facing the sea talking about this or that. Compassion, kindness, forgiveness, the importance of having a sense of humor. Whatever it was. I tell them to do another chair in between my philosophizing.
And I turn around.
And there is a roomful of asses facing me. Pants down.
I was being mooned.
By all of them. At once.
One of the few times in my life I was utterly speechless.
It took a minute to register what was happening. Butts! So many butts!
They’d coordinated it somehow so that they all mooned me at the same time.
My first response was to moon them back.
So I did.
I have video to prove all of this but due to the fact that one girl on the retreat was a well-known actress on a t.v. show – no can do with the posting. You’ll just have to trust me.
I felt proud. Look at this, “I attract people with a gdamn sense of humor,” I thought.
I felt good about that. Still do.
Later, they confessed that they plotted it at lunch as I sat right next to them and because I am hard of hearing I didn’t hear them. I had a whole retreat of people that were willing to drop their pants on “the third chair pose” (that was the cue.) They called it “full moon pose” rather than “half moon pose” which is another pose altogether.
Now that’s commitment.
That’s not taking yourself too seriously, and who doesn’t need more of that?
It’s also trust, because if just one person bailed, if just one person chickened out at the last minute with “I can’t,” or “what will they think,”- it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
It’s one of my favorite memories to date.
And yes, some of those asses I’d rather have never seen. But hell, it was so worth it.
So my friend, the comedian Steve Bridges, who may or may not have been the mastermind behind it all, died right after that retreat. That was the last time I saw him. On the way to Mexico, we’d sat together at the airport. As we boarded the plane he looked at me and said, “I have a great life, Jen.”
I think back to how gleefully shocked I was at the mooning, at how hard I laughed, how I had a roomful of people willing to let themselves look like fools. It reminded me of my father.
He was famous for mooning at parties. Every party he’d sneak outside. Then: there’d be the ass in the glass. People loved it. At the time, as a kid, I’d hated it. I’d be so embarrassed that I’d hide upstairs, under the bed with all the coats and bags on it.
I’ve been thinking about Steve lately again. Thinking about those moments we have people to thank for. Even people long gone. Those moments that made us come alive and go: “Yes, yes, this is it. This is everything.”
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” ― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
For a while I couldn’t say “chair pose” without getting that visual of the asses and then I’d cry because I missed him, but I also laughed because it was so damn funny, so I’d be kind of crying and laughing and trying to teach a bloody yoga class at the same time so I felt nonplussed, disoriented, confused- which is to say: human.
But tonight as I asked them to do a chair pose and I thought of the memory of them mooning, I just laughed.
And I was so happy when they said they wanted to hear the story. And they all all clapped and laughed and promised they wouldn’t ever moon me. And I thought about how the very best parts of us, those moments that make us go: “Yes, yes, this is it. This is everything,” well, they become our legacy if we let them. They don’t have to die if we are wiling to keep bringing them back into the world.
If we are willing to keep sharing our stories- there’s a chance they can live forever. @JenPastiloff (Click to Tweet!)
I plan to never stop bringing those back into the world.
And you know what?
When you allow for that, when you really listen as someone shares about his day, or tells you about her father, or a moment in Mexico where twenty bare asses faced her like a firing squad- well, it’s like you were there, and what’s better than that? I mean, doesn’t me telling you that Steve said to me, with his backpack slung over his shoulder and a little sweat on his upper lip from running to catch the flight, “I have a great life, Jen,” doesn’t that make you know him just a little? And aren’t you made better for it?
One month before he passed. It’s so uncanny… what he says in it. Proof that life is short and you just never know.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, California in May and a four day Labor Day retreat. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this Positively Positive post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you (Dallas, NYC, Seattle, Atlanta etc,). Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Jen will be back in London for another workshop July 6 but book soon as the last one sold out fast with a long wait list!
*image courtesy of Simplereminders.com