What have been the most life changing moments for you?
Recently, on my Facebook page, I asked that very question.
On the plane headed from Tai Pei to Denpasar, Bali I thought back on what propelled me to even ask that question in the first place.
Isn’t every moment we are alive a ‘life changing moment’? Are we not changing every single second of every single day until we die and even then, we change, our memory shifts, our legacy becomes glorified, our lives are made into stories?
I am on my way to lead a Manifestation Retreat in Bali. I am bringing my husband Robert on this one, and we’re actually going to stay a few days longer to take a honeymoon we took never took years ago. I sit here in my seat on China Airlines, which is in fact, a better airline than I thought it would be, with its delicate flight attendants and clean bathrooms. We got the emergency exit seats on the flight from Los Angeles to Tai Pei and the only thing better would have been First Class. It felt close enough. Better in fact, because we didn’t pay for it and it made me feel lucky, or like I was living a fantasy.
My need for space and also safety at the same time always a battle, even in the air, even as a wife. The little tv monitor in front of me reads Fantasy Sky with some Chinese lettering that probably also reads Fantasy Sky but which could also say something else entirely because who am I kidding? I have no clue.
I wanted things from Bali in particular: the sky, the people. I wanted a place filled with colors and layers and kindness and a lot of green, the thing I miss most from the east coast.
I wanted to look back in photos and say See that right there? That rice paddy? That’s where my life changed. That’s where I became me. That sunset there? That was a life changing moment.
I wanted there to be a definitive geographical moment in time, a pin on a map that would represent my life changing so I could invite people over and have a dinner party when we finally moved into a place big enough to do that and I could say, Hey guys, grab your drinks and come have a look in here. I would point to a big colorful valley-filled map of my life with pins stuck in it and find the pin I was looking for. This pin here was my life changing moment. And then we’d toast and move downstairs. (Assuming we move to a place with a downstairs.) If it came down to it, I could invite them all into my small one bedroom apartment too.
I am rereading Devotion by my friend Dani Shapiro (read it!) Or else I’m staring out the window to digest what she writes. It’s that kind of writing. Good writing is so many things in one (as most things are) but the thing that stands out for me when I think of really good writing is this one factor: I want to know the person I am reading. I want to know what they think and would they have a glass of wine with their rice noodle lunch on the plane and do they take naps in the day and do they laugh at themselves? Good writing makes me want to never stop knowing the person or the character or narrator. It’s why I get lost in books and stay up all night reading and feel a slight depression when a book ends as if I have just gone through a breakup.
Dani writes like that.
As I sit here in my Fantasy Sky I realize that what she also does for me is solidify what I have known my whole life. The fact that I am a writer. Because when I read her words I remember things about my own childhood, things that I thought were buried with my father in the Jewish cemetery in Pennsauken, NJ.
Good writing makes you remember. Who you are, what you want, what makes you happy, what makes you weep.
So, here I am remembering. After so many years of forgetting.
I used to think that life changing moments had to be big sweeping things that needed celebration or funerals. Sometimes they do. Let’s face it, our lives change when someone dies or we find out someone has stage 4 Cancer or you finally finish the PHD you’ve been working on for twenty years or you drop out of college.
But the other life changing moments? The ones that come as you sip Chinese tea in seat 9A on your way to Bali with a deep knowing of what you want for the first time ever? Those life changing moments are less pinnable on your map, less measurable. They indeed exist and whether you realize it at the moment or years later as you hold your first grandchild, they will be the moments that will make you close your eyes and remember.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I used to be so scared of that. I am not sure how this happened but I don’t want this as my career anymore. I am not sure why but I no longer feel this or that way.
I have only been teaching yoga a few years and here I am on the plane leading a sold out retreat in Bali with people from all over the world. How did this happen? I have asked myself time and time again as if I stumbled on it by accident in the dark and just decided to pick it up on a whim.
There was a moment in time. Another life changing moment really. One where I decided
- This is what I want.
- This is going to happen.
- This is possible.
- This is my reality. Not that.
- I am not stuck.
- And so it is.
This journey is just beginning.
I haven’t even landed in Bali but I can tell you that it will be nothing short of the miraculous. Life changing moments are as simple as allowing yourself to be connected to someone else over a meal or in silence or with a simple nod as you pass them on the street as if to say I see you. You are not invisible.
As if to say: I am not invisible.
I lead people through an experience. I combine what I know and what I remember and also what I don’t know.
I use the body and writing. I use all of it, any of it, to help create a space where people can get clear and release any pain or anything that isn’t working.
It sounds simple and I can assure you it is.
It is very very simple.
And as all things that simple it is very, very hard.
I can lead the way but that means I myself need to wake up and pay attention and be a beauty hunter. One of my favorite lines from a Mary Oliver poem called The Mockingbirds:
The old couple had nothing to give but their willingness to be attentive
I reference that line often but isn’t it what it’s all about? Life changing moment in itself means nothing. A good cry changes me. A flu changes me. A heartbreak, a meal, a trip, having no money, having a lot of money, falling in love. It’s the sum of all of these things and the revelation that no matter what: This is my journey. This is my life. This is my truth. This is my ‘life changing moment’ to have.
I will always associate Devotion with Bali. The book and the divine timing of reading it at this particular moment, and also for the very notion of what the word itself suggests. The implication that I must give myself over to every detail of my life with a force that has no words but only a summoning to be more alive.
The things that make us remember are so important because without them those things disappear. We must find the things. Even if it means traveling to Bali or practicing yoga or having wine with friends.
What makes us remember?
My point here is this: You will find yourself saying This is the moment my life changed. And it will happen again and again. But to stop and witness it. To remember it. To find the people and the books and the places that help you do that. That’s the gift.
What if we allowed every moment to be a life changing moment and then let it flutter by without trying to pin it on a map or freeze it?
I’d love to hear some of your life changing moments below. And get Dani’s books. For real. See you in Seattle July26/27! Love, Jen
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, California over Labor Day as well as New Years. 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 (3 spots left.) Jen will be back in London for another workshop July 6 followed by Seattle July 26/27.
Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com