What are you up against?

Via Jennifer Pastiloff
on Nov 14, 2010
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I can’t hear you. Says your yoga teacher.

Well, if I stand really close to you and look at your lips, I can. Or if I bend down as you are in downdog and look at you upside down, maybe I can.

Gary Lightbody, Lead singer of Snow Patrol fittingly said:

” Jennifer is an awesome creature.

I was like four planks of wood

nailed together haphazardly before

I started with her and she has

somehow fashioned rubber from


We’ll, I can touch my toes now

anyway. As patient and delightful

a teacher and person you could hope

for. She’s deaf as a post though

so be prepared for some confusing

discussions whilst in down dog. If

she can fix me she can fix anyone.”


It’s funny, when I tell people that I have a hearing problem, they laugh. They chuckle as if I am pulling their proverbial chain.

And by funny I mean sort of sad. It makes me feel sad and like I want to shake my fist at God and ask Why?!!

I wish I was joking. I know people say things like that a lot in jest.  Man, I’m so deaf. I’m so blind. And then there is the ‘R” word that I won’t even write out of respect. After my nephew was diagnosed with a genetic disorder and motor skill delays and his best friend has Down’s Syndrome,  I won’t even play around with that ‘R’ word.  Let’s just say that it is a word people throw around frequently to insinuate stupidity on their or someone else’s behalf. Not a fan of that usage.

I wish I was joking. I wish I didn’t have to put on subtitles when I watch tv. I wish I didn’t have to ask you to translate every line of the movie when you sit next to me in the theatre. I wish I didn’t feel relief when it turns out to be a foreign film simply because there will be subtitles and I can relax. I wish I didn’t have to ask you three times what you just said. It makes me feel sad and alone and like I have to explain that, No, I am not an airhead, I just cannot hear you.

I wish that I didn’t always have to be in the front of the yoga room just to half-hear what the teacher is saying.  I wish I didn’t have to keep my eyes open when the rest of the room closes theirs. I wish I could hear you whisper. I wish I didn’t like such an outsider most of the time.

I will tell you this though: I am a healer.

My hearing loss has given me the ability feel things deeper, to hear with my hands and my eyes and my heart a little more strongly. To quote ‘Avatar’: I see you.

I was in denial for many years. I would not accept that I had a hearing problem. When I was in my 20’s the idea of wearing a hearing aid was equal to me wearing head gear as a teenager: something I wouldn’t be caught dead doing. And yes, I had head gear. I wore it at night. Sometimes. Anyway, I used to say I would rather be deaf than wear a hearing aid. Ego? I’d say so. Now, if I could afford one, I would wear one in a heartbeat. Big or small. I would wear ten of them.  ( My friend amazingly started a campaign to get me one since insurance does not cover them and they are ridiculously expensive.)

I miss hearing the wind.

I had trouble with my ears as a child. Chronic ear infections, tubes in my ears, inner ear damage. The doctors told my mother that I would most likely have hearing loss. It has progressively gotten worse. I also have tinnitus. Nonstop ringing and humming and hissing. Nonstop. Never goes away. Ever.

I wrote a poem a little while back.

The Secret Lives of Elephants or On Being Deaf

Maybe elephants can hear mountains.

Maybe each mountain range creates a different sound,

A different tone when the wind blows over it.

A soundscape as vivid as a landscape,

Only visible to an elephant’s ears.

I am like an elephant.

With my tinnitus

I can hear the mountains talking to me.

I can hear the sun and the wind, the sky also

When no one else can.

These phantom sounds have guided me

Through the plains of my life,

From coast to coast.

And I have survived the deafening silences in between

This hissing and humming in my head.

Memories have a voice- high pitched, cricket-like in tenor.

If my eyes are closed I cannot hear the world outside,

Only the world in my head.

I read lips to guide me through the terrain,

And when the lips fail me, I am lost-

Without food or water.

And I die.

I can hear things that you can’t though.

I can feel the warrior in yoga, the curl of the back

The opening of the heart.

Even if I miss the direction.

I can hear the quiet in between the quiet

And the arches of eyebrows, the pursing of lips.

I can hear the music of unspoken gestures

the tick tock of need, the roaring of lust,

and the whining of dissatisfaction.

I can hear the tree frog sound of anger

Even though your mouth moving  in circles alludes me.

The mountains enunciate, their serrated ridges open with pleasure

And look me in the eye.

Hearing them is a breeze.

Even if my eyes are closed,

I can hear them with my big deaf elephant ears.


What I have realized lately is that we are all up against something. This has cultivated such a level of new found compassion in me I didn’t know I even possessed. Yes, I am hard of hearing. But my nephew never feels full and has a life of challenges ahead of him.  My friend Emily has one leg. My friend is raising a baby on her own. Someone else’s mom just died. Someone else can’t find a job or do a forward fold. Someone lost their home or their loved one because of a devastating earthquake and is trying to start their life over. It’s all relative.

I want to hear you. I do. I won’t lie. It’s hard for me. I feel empowered when I am teaching but when I am in a room where I can’t hear, I feel like an invisible person. A shadow of myself. I want to not feel sorry for myself that I am young and mostly deaf.

But hey, we are all in this journey together. I have realized that this why I am a healer, why I am a teacher.

When I stopped asking why I got clear. When I stopped asking why? Why being the question at the center of the universe. I finally understood that it wasn’t the why I should be waiting for to open it’s jaws and answer. That why would swallow me whole , that I would burst into flames if I looked directly into it. It would eclipse me and never stop telling me all the reasons why.

I had started talking to drown the ringing in my head. I started singing to kill the ocean in my ears. Why was still the land of my birth. The place I hung my hat. Where I called  home. I finally got quiet and looked around at everyone else and saw that we are all up against something. We all have some sort of battle.

My fist opened and the why slipped into the sky like it belonged there.

And I watched it hover then float.

And I accepted what I was. A healer.

I started to see that the why didn’t matter.

I know what I am here for. I have recently started a new charity called G.A.M.E. Yoga: Gifts and Miracles Everyday: Free Yoga for Children with Special Needs because well, hey, like I said, we are all up against something.

As as side note: You can help support by coming the event and/or buying raffle tickets.


About Jennifer Pastiloff

"Thank you Jennifer, for shining your light on mine." ~ Christy Turlington. / Jennifer Pastiloff, as featured on Good Morning America, is a lover of life, laughter, poetry, yoga, Modern Family (and a really good glass of wine.) She is the creator of Manifestation Yoga®, which is all about causing serious breakthroughs in your life without being too serious. Her rule of “If you fall you must laugh ” is strictly enforced in her yoga classes. / Jennifer teaches this inspirational style of yoga all over but her home base is in Los Angeles. She travels the world teaching workshops and leading retreats. When Jen's nephew Blaise was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader Wille Syndrome (PWS), it prompted her to start GAME Yoga. Gifts And Miracles Everyday: Free Yoga for Kids w/ Special Needs. / Jen is in the process of writing a book about how to manifest your life, one laugh at a time. She is partially deaf and wears hearing aids. / Jennifer spent 13 years working in the same restaurant and believes that everyone should have a job in the service industry at least once in their life. (It’s good for the soul, she says.) / Learn more about her at jenniferpastiloff.com. Her blog is Manifestation Yoga. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.


18 Responses to “What are you up against?”

  1. sabrina lakey says:

    absolutley beautiful! I agree with you completely. People throw the "r" word around so freely. Someone actually called my 18 mth old daughter with PWS the "r" word and I was devistated. Thank you for your beautiful words…what a great start to a rainy day :o)

  2. Hi, Jennifer. This blog is achingly beautiful, particularly the poem.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Bob W.

  3. Amy Dixon says:

    Love this! Your have a gift my friend.

  4. You are amazing. I mean A-MA-ZINGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!! I could not be more proud to be your sister and your friend. You are such a gift to the world. I have always known this, and now the rest of the world knows too. I love you so much.


  5. Thank you for sharing about your journey. It truly is inspiring.

  6. candicegarrett says:

    This was beautiful. As a child that was born with two "bad" feet and had many surgeries in order to walk, your article resonates with me very much. As I struggle to do what others find easy, I often get quite frustrated. It's a breath of fresh air to find self acceptance.

  7. jen says:

    Thank you Bob. Means a lot to me. Thank you.

  8. Pamela says:

    I SO agree with you regarding the "R" word!!!! I recently posted on my facebook page how it's NO different than making some racist, sexist or homophobic comment…because much like race, gender and sexual orientation, no one chooses to have a mental disability (or any disability for that matter!). Thank you for you words.

  9. Suzy Shatz says:

    Jennifer your capacities to feel, intuit, give, receive and sense are truly powerful. I felt it as soon as I met you! Its so rare to meet human beings so intimately connected with their emotions. I've known you for a year now. Your classes are so special. But, its the depths inside you that speak even louder. As a writer/educator I am so proud that you will be going in this newest direction of special needs work. So proud to know you and learn from you. Love alway, Suzy

  10. Elle says:

    You Blow me away…On the breeze of your healing, soul digging, revelatory, up liflting gift of YOU. Thank you for being and sharing ALL that you are. For you truly Are a Light!!! kisses

  11. Rollin says:

    Your article brought me to tears. I, like you, am profoundly deaf and I face the exact same struggles as you. Hence, reading your article made me feel like it was I who wrote this article. Every word you wrote resonated with me. I’ve shared this with my loved ones, and they are floored. My husband says we should start a “Front of the Class Deaf Yoga Club,” since I, like you, am parked right in front of my instructor every single time.

    I hope to join you in your class one day when I visit LA.

    It is an honor to have read your article.

  12. this is one of the most moving blogs i've ever ever read. how can i support GAME Yoga????

  13. jen says:

    oh wow dave.. well, you can just post about it… i started last weekend working with little girl's with down's syndrome. iot was soooo special…. and you can buy a raffle/s. here is link http://www.jenniferpastiloff.com/GAME_Yoga_Charit
    . ps, someone read this and was so moved they got me a hearing aid. how is that for life? 😉 amazing!

  14. jen says:

    thank you for taking the time xo. Gratitude.

  15. jen says:

    i would love to have you in my class and meet you. Maybe we can talk via facebook or email. [email protected]

  16. Renee says:

    Jen; you were the first teacher I found when I moved back from New York City to Los Angeles. I was very afraid that L.A. would feel very cold, sterile, and empty of any spirituality when I arrived (I grew up around here, and felt (some projection, some real) sense of that). I stumbled upon your class; you are spirited, and honest, and real. Many people know how to move their bodies beautifully; it takes a spiritual, real being, I think, to teach people to move from their heart…(without the yoga voice).

    Thanks you, also, for more about Jen, look at my bogs last post; she gets a mention at Thursdayyoga.com.

    Light, Renee

  17. jen says:

    thank you renee. you are a true light xxoox

  18. Kia Miller says:

    This is amazing. Your story is deeply moving. Sending you so much love.. Kia