On the WAYB podcast, their compassionate, no-nonsense approach to learning and unlearning through conversations with a slate of inspiring guests is clearly joyful work, despite the tumultuous times. Here, Jen and Ace share some take-aways, along with thoughts, experiences, and empowering acts of creative healing.
On “Beauty Hunting” as a practice…
JEN: It’s about finding enchantment in imperfectness. I promise that if you look for the beauty, even in the pain, even in what feels like the deepest pile of sh*t or, let’s say, a global pandemic, there will be some. And consistently noticing it will change your life because there is nothing greater than our attention.
It’s truly all we have to give, so when we give our attention to actively searching for beauty, we come closer to the age-old provocation: How do I be here? Now?
Beauty Hunting: “consistently noticing it will change your life
On the transformational act of witnessing another during these isolating times…
ACE: Witnessing another during these isolating times has been beautiful, raw, vulnerable with the brave ability to redefine what love is and allowing myself to be led by love.
On releasing grief…
JEN: Years ago I had been hired to teach a yoga class for some women who were on a retreat. They were with an organization that provides support for people who have lost their partners in military or war. After I taught my yoga class and was packing up my stuff, I asked one of the women what they were going to do the rest of the day.
“Oh, probably cry,” she said, seemingly joking.
Then she added, “ I’m only kind of kidding. I believe in giving myself five minutes of sorrow a day.”
As someone who had been made to feel wrong my whole life for feeling grief, or for my depression, I felt seen. I didn’t hear “a lifetime of sorrow.” I didn’t hear “I won’t get out of bed for sorrow.” Five minutes. Five minutes a day to allow, to process, to feel, to scream. Five minutes can be whatever you want it to be, literally five minutes, or an hour, five hours. The point is that you acknowledge and allow and give yourself space to grieve because it does not necessarily go away. It just changes forms.
Class is a lot like life,
set daily intentions and move with purpose
so when tough situations arise, you are ready.
- Alicia “Ace” Easter
On noticing where our attention goes…
ACE: I was sitting on the couch one Sunday morning and staring out the window. I glanced over to look at my Cat’s Mansion (literally a mansion for cats, LOL!) and noticed the reflection of the sun beaming through window on the kitty mansion. It was a tiny moment of light, but it was impactful. It made me pause, reflect, and fully be here (there) now. It made me think about how light shines in all places, big or small, and we are beautiful beings of light we just have to be paying attention. It was a beautiful moment with God. I look at this furniture for my cats all the time, but this moment was different. I think taking a moment to relish in the light, your light, allow for God to take up space and whisper to our beautiful heart is where my attention has been going lately…what a blessing!
On letting go of things we can’t control…
JEN: Back THEN, when you were THERE, whenever there was, did you think you'd be HERE?
I remember a morning when I was lying in bed with a wind up toy that played music resting on one boob while my son nursing on the other. I was trying to entertain him and calm him down. What I mean is- when I was there, say one year ago before that morning, I didn't not think "in one year I'll be laying on my bed, dirty as heck, breastfeeding a tiny human."
I simply didn't know. I didn't know any of the things life had in store for me or I for it.
We must embrace the not knowing even though it’s scary.
This is the kick in the pants to remind you that if you are one who says "I'll never get there.. That'll never happen for me... " I ask you: HOW DO YOU KNOW?
It's also a swift kick in the tush to dream big or however you dream but to not be TOO ATTACHED to how exactly that dream looks because again, when you were there, did you think you'd be here?
We must leave room for not knowing.
For the unexpected. For delight.
For surprise. For all of it. For being human!
- Jen Pastiloff
On living with so much uncertainty…
ACE: I have a God jar I created where I put all my worries on little pieces of paper and give them to God. When I start to worry about something, I say to myself, “will go get it out of your God jar because it's obviously too big for God,” then shortly realize how silly that sounds and let God continue you to lead. I pause in my worry loop and say to myself, “I AM of God, but I am not God.” There is literally nothing God can’t handle, nothing, so who I am I to have the audacity to go get my uncertainty back from him. I am not bigger than the creator, no one is, so I do my best to not worry about things I cannot control. Which if we are ALL being honest, we have little control over a lot of things so living in uncertainty, to me, is living out of alignment with God, the creator.
What are you bringing?
JEN: Enter global pandemic. All my income went (as well as my penchant for alcohol due to newly developed gastritis and gallstones). I’d made my money through live events and travel, both not happening. Gone also was my ability to understand what was spoken, as I am a deaf person in a masked world. A lip-reader
Despite my antidepressants and the arsenal of tools I have from teaching my Being Human personal development workshops, depression kicked in. I couldn’t get out of bed.
Then, I remembered the way I saved my own life before, while I was still waitressing at the restaurant I worked at for 14 years.
How may I serve? It was a simple question I asked myself.
It wasn’t completely altruistic. I used this question as a distraction from figuring out my own income. But hey, it’s a better distraction than drugs. I posted on Instagram, “Do you have food to eat?” not because I thought I could feed everyone, but I knew the community I had built would lift each other up.
Someone left a comment saying they didn’t have food and another follower sent them groceries. Someone lost their job, another sent cash. One said she was letting her son sleep in because he woke up starving and she didn’t have money to feed him; someone sent me money to forward to her. It was beautiful to behold this embodiment of “I got you”, the words I tattooed on the inside of my left arm during my book tour last August in Nashville. I went with a woman I had given a scholarship to for my retreat to France after the loss of her son. We both got the tattoo.
A woman named Dayna Mondello asked if I would like her to start a GoFundMe to streamline this process of people helping each other. We called it On Being Human 2020.
I offered a donation-based virtual workshop and put the earnings into that GoFundMe. I started a Chat and Feed interview series to keep generating money so when people asked for support, we could provide it to them. It was a gesture to offer hope, a reminder they weren’t alone, and ok a perhaps a chicken and some toilet paper (if they could find it).
It was just me in my family bedroom, laundry and Legos by my feet, talking to celebrities via Instagram Live. Those celebrities would promote it to their followers and ask for donations. It grew to $125,000, and a group of volunteers helped disperse the funds to folks in need.
Every person I asked said yes. Pink, Elizabeth Gilbert, Erin Brockovich, Maria Bello, Mandy Moore, Mark Duplass and Debbie Allen, to name a few. There was no hierarchy of careers, no judgment, no camera crew. Some sat in their bedrooms, some wore pyjamas. I called it my fancy talk show because of its utter lack of fanciness (a desk lamp lit my face, which apparently looked so bad that it prompted three people to send me a ring light). Each interview was simply two humans who wanted to do the most primal of things: feed people.
Something else happened. The whole community fed each other. We remembered that, in order to be of service, we just need to find a way to do love.
Love as a verb. Something beloved John Lewis often spoke of, and how he lived his entire life. Whether that means donating time or money, sharing a link, or listening.
Sometimes it means the courage to ask for help as a way to remind others how brave it is to do so.
I often say, “When I get to the end of my life and I ask one final: What have I done? Let my answer be, I have done love.”
I want to say that at the end of each day too. Doing love looks different for everyone. Despite the terribleness of Covid, technology has allowed us to connect in meaningful ways. And you don’t even have to wear pants.
On the daily work of intentions, affirmations and mantras…
ACE: I started the I AM Candle Collection inspired by some of my favorite affirmations.
I AM BEAUTIFUL, I AM BRAVE, I AM LOVE, I AM FREE and for the holidays, I AM JOY. I believe we come into this world with love and have a duty to let love lead while we are here. I have notes on cards and stickies on my bathroom mirror to remind myself that I AM true, equal, and free. A delightful recipe of love. Each of the yoga classes I always have an intention before I teach (sometimes there is a theme) but I always ask students to set intentions. Working with intentions, mantras, affirmations, allows us all to dig deeper if/when a part of the class gets difficult. Class is a lot like life, set daily intentions and move with purpose so when tough situations arise, you are ready.
On acts of reverence...
ACE: ACE Yoga and the I AM Candle Collection is empowered by my 10,000 plus ancestors' shoulders I stand on with the hope to inspire generations to come. My deep reverence for my mother, grandmother, and all my teachers throughout the different stages of my life allow me to be where I am today.
I believe in myself and feel it is important to always be learning…a forever student is the wave. Launching a business amidst the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement and right in the thick of a Global Pandemic was no easy feat, but I did it anyway. Each time I light a candle, teach a yoga class, hold space, I am reminded I am a brave being of light who is protected, loved, learning, and blessed with the ability to hold space for many. We are LOVE and worthy of LOVE, so it was time to bring those mantras to life in a candle. It is a blessing to be able to light a candle, safely at home, and have waves of peace wash over that I know are only God, my mother, and all my ancestors.
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