Remember to Remember

You-cannot-stop-theRecently, I was driving in my car when an unwanted memory took over my brain. I’d been having a perfectly wonderful afternoon with my kids, and had just dropped them off to have dinner with their dad while I went to teach a class. We were laughing as they got out of the car, and I still had their wet lip-prints drying on my cheeks from where they’d left their big kisses. In the two minutes from the time I dropped them off, to the time I drove three blocks to pull into the studio garage, I suddenly noticed my shoulders were up around my ears, my jaw was clenching and I had an overall feeling of dis-ease in my body, and emotionally. Why was I suddenly feeling crappy on such a nice day, when nothing unpleasant had occurred? I realized the song on the radio was about being stabbed in the back, and without my consent, my mind had taken me on a little journey down memory lane, to a place I’ll call Betrayal Alley.

We’ve all been betrayed; sometimes we’ve betrayed ourselves and our own truths, and sometimes other people have disappointed us. When these things happen, it never feels good, because it calls our own judgment into question. How could we have failed to heed the voice of our intuition, and how many times will we need to get burned before we listen? Or, how could we not have seen that this other person did not value us, or more specifically, herself or himself? A person who purports to care about you, but then lies to you, or does not consider your feelings before acting on his or her desires, is a person who is not respecting herself. In order to feel good about our reflection at the end of the day, when we’re brushing our teeth and looking in the mirror, we have to feel our integrity is intact. If we don’t, it’s because we’re in some kind of darkness, we’re fueled by selfish desires, we’ve decided “F&ck it! I’m grabbing some happiness for myself, and I don’t care about the rest of it!”, or we’re so desperate for relief we just aren’t thinking clearly. When we stifle the calm, clear, knowing voice of our intuition because our mind is jumping around with reasons about why it isn’t important or doesn’t matter, we’re heading for a brick wall, and some pain. It’s important to examine what’s happened when we move through these experiences; they’re markers for growth if we stop and explore. They’re signposts that let us know we’ve gotten lost, and they show us how we can get back on track. But they are not a scenic overlook, they are not places where we need to hang out, nor do we need to go back and visit or obsess or sit down for a beer; we do not need to send postcards from this edge. Once we’ve learned the lesson, it’s time to move on.

The thing is, we can make ourselves sick with our thoughts. Every thought we have creates a chemical reaction in the body. If you replay an upsetting conversation in your mind, your nervous system will not differentiate between the memory of the event, or the event itself. In other words, you can raise your blood pressure just by thinking about something that’s upsetting. There are times when it makes sense to replay a conversation or experience; if you’ve said or done something you don’t feel good about, it’s productive to examine what went wrong, so you can make a different choice next time. If there’s another viewpoint you want to consider, excellent. Beyond that, you’re just spinning your wheels and creating turmoil for yourself with no positive outcome. I had to laugh when I pulled into the garage. The mind is so nuts. There’s nothing more for me to learn about the crappy thing that happened years ago. I wish all parties well; one of them I would like never to see again, and that’s okay. You can forgive people without wanting to have them in your life.

One of the reasons I’m so grateful for my yoga practice is that I lost two minutes of available peace in my present, by dwelling on something lousy from my past, instead of two hours, or two days (and years ago, I might have lost two weeks). Every pose in yoga has a focal point, a place where you rest your gaze. They’re called “drishtis”, and they train the mind to do one thing at a time; they’re a tool that helps develop concentration. Culturally, we’re encouraged to multi-task, and if we don’t gain any mastery over the mind, it will pull us into our past, or take us on an imaginary trip into our futures, often with fear or anxiety. Have you ever worried about something that never came to pass? Yeah, me too. That’s time we don’t get back.

The other thing is, because we have a finite amount of time and energy, it’s nice to be able to decide where we’re going to spend those gifts, and upon what. In the physical yoga practice, we do “sun salutes”, a sequence of poses that build heat in the body, and start to open and strengthen every major muscle group. They aren’t called “sun salutes” just because they heat the body, though. We’re reaching for the sun in acknowledgement that we would not be down here if the sun were not up there. It’s a remembering practice, and we humans are so prone to forget. We forget it’s a gift to wake up in the morning. We forget it’s a gift to have a healthy body, to take a deep breath, to feel the breeze on our faces. We forget to remember the people in our lives who mean everything to us, in the midst of a busy day when we have so many “important” things on our to-do lists. We forget easily, so it makes sense to develop a practice of remembering. It’s a muscle, I think, or a way of being you can practice until it becomes ingrained. It’s a life-changer, and it’s one I feel grateful for every day. Right now, right this minute, I remember that it’s amazing to be here, even if everything isn’t “perfect”. It’s amazing to be in a body, and to see the white curtains in my office swaying in the breeze, and to hear my dog incessantly pacing around (will he ever turn in three circles and settle?!), it’s amazing that I have two beautiful, healthy children and a family and friends I treasure and love. It’s amazing I know all of you, and get to reach out to you in this way, and it’s amazing that you reach back. I really think remembering is what changes the world, and reminds us what a gift it is. If you want to practice remembering, you can join me here (I practice every day, because it’s so easy to forget!): https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/vinyasa-flow-the-complete-workout-ally-hamilton-2738

Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Make the Right List

Find-a-place-insideSo much of our ability to be at peace and to live life in a way that feels good, has to do with what we feed, and what we release. I have these two relatives, and I’ll call them uncles, although they aren’t uncles. One of them is the kindest, sweetest, most loving, joyful, affectionate, fun, generous person you’d ever want to meet. If you sit down next to him at a family function, he will share with you a list of all the amazing things you’ve ever done in your life from the time you were four, to the present. He will talk to you about the joy you’ve brought to his life, and how he knew you were special from the moment he laid eyes on you. You will tell him how much you love him, what an important person he is in your life, and how grateful you are that he is your uncle. You will want to make sure that he knows this. The family function will fly by, and you will leave feeling grateful and full and happy and inspired.

The other uncle, though, he’s a different tune altogether. If you sit down next to him, he will present you with a list of all the ways you, and every member of the family, have disappointed him over the years. If he adds alcohol to the mix, which he almost always does, he will even go back generations, and share a list of ancestral wrongs that predate you, him, and everyone you know. He will do this because he makes a hobby out of should. He’s something of an expert on what people should and should not do. If you let him, he will involve you in his should, and try to get you to should on yourself and everyone else. By the end of the family function you will feel drained and angry at the relative who did the seating arrangement.

These are two actual but disguised relatives in my family, but I’ll bet they mirror people in your own life. I’ve been watching this for years, and the kind uncle is living a life that is happy and fulfilled and full of family, while the other uncle is isolated and often feuding with family members, or writing them off altogether. He’s missed decades of time with certain cousins because he wasn’t speaking to their parents, but for him, this just adds fuel to the fire. Now he can be angry that these children were not brought to him as they grew up, and therefore do not know him, or have any real bond with him today.

The thing is, it’s really a choice. We all have heartaches and disappointments, ways we were let down, or in some cases neglected, abandoned, or abused. You know how the lotus flower grows in mud and muck, but emerges out of that as this gorgeous, white, stunning bloom? The same is true for people. We all have our mud and our muck, and it’s up to us to grow beauty out of the pain, or to wallow in it. Of course we can hold up our muck and show everyone how awful it is. We can excuse our poor choices or crappy behavior on the mess we’re coming out of, or we can get busy strengthening ourselves, and reaching toward the sunlight.

As a society and a culture, we are constantly encouraged to focus on what we don’t have, what isn’t going right, and all the ways we don’t measure up. Internally, we’re wired to worry, thanks to negativity bias, and the days when we had to avoid being eaten for lunch by saber tooth tigers. Externally and internally, we’re trained on lack, but that leaves us stuck in the mud of envy and despair, and that’s no way to live. You can point fingers like my angry uncle, or you can dig your way out of the mud like my happy uncle.

What are you focused on? Upon what do you place importance? Is it your looks? Your bank account? Your house, car, size of your boobs or biceps? Is it the latest, greatest vacation your friend took that you didn’t? Is it whether you have a partner, or whether you should get rid of the one you’ve got because s/he isn’t making you happy? Do you keep lists? If so, what’s on them? Do you have a list of ways you’ve been wronged, betrayed and let down, or a list of ways you’ve been amazed by the beauty in this world?

Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen. Is it important to acknowledge that your past has shaped you? Of course. You cannot be at peace if you don’t know yourself, and part of that work has to do with recognizing your wounds and figuring out what you need in order to heal. That doesn’t mean you dwell on your past and drag it into your present and future, it means you glean the meaning from the pain, and you allow it to open your heart and your mind so you have empathy for other people. Being human is a tough, but wonderful gig. You have to embrace your vulnerability if you want to be free, so that fear and rage don’t rule your life. Be the happy uncle. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Interview with Kathryn Budig, author of Aim True

AimTrue pbI’ve known Kathryn Budig for years. She’s a powerhouse in a tiny package, with a huge heart and spirit that comes pouring out of her. There are a lot of people in the spiritual community who have wonderful things to say, but then you see behind the curtain and there’s a real disconnect between their words and their actions. I gravitate toward the people who are really attempting to live what they say, even if they don’t get it right in every moment, or it’s messy or raw. Those are the people I want to hang out with, because those are people you can trust. Anyone who purports to be floating above the surface of the earth can just keep floating! I am delighted to share this interview I did with Kathryn, and to encourage you to buy her amazing book, which is now available for preorder!

Much love to all, and congratulations to Kathryn!

Ally Hamilton


AH: When did you walk into your first class, and what drew you in?

KB: My first memorable class happened because a musical theatre friend convinced me to go. We went downtown to a proper Ashtanga studio and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the teacher and how fantastic (and challenged) I felt.

AH: At what point did you think you might teach?

KB: I was nearing graduation at the University of Virginia, and still wanted to pursue acting (I had been doing it since I was little). At that point, I had been practicing for 3 years, and felt learning to teach would be a good income in-between acting gigs. Little did I know it would completely become my life!

AH: What are the three biggest ways your yoga practice has impacted your life?

KB: 1 – Patience. I used to throw elbows if I thought I should do something. I’ve now learned that if I show up and deliver my best, and I STILL don’t get what I want, then it was never mine to start with (and that there is often something much better or well-suited for me around the corner).

2 – Acceptance. I had the typical Hollywood manager tell me how I could only be the funny best friend at my weight (I was 105lbs at the time), and yoga constantly whispered into my ear that I was perfect just as I was. It has taught me to embrace my body, all the changes is goes through, and to be unattached to my meat suit. It’s my spirit that matters.

3 – Potential. The actual asana practice constantly reminds me that hard work and time pays off, even if something seems impossible. In fact, now the more impossible it seems, the more alluring it is to me. I know I can get there with patience paired with my ability to aim and stay true.

AH: How does your practice help you navigate the challenges of the close relationships in your life?

KB: I’ve learned to step back and observe what someone close to me really needs, versus getting pissed and jumping down their throats. Any disagreement normally comes from your partner or close friend triggering some deep insecurity or dark place. It’s rarely about you. Understanding that has made me way more compassionate.

AH: What do you think about the responsibility of women teachers setting an example of strength? What does that look like to you?

KB: I think it’s imperative. Women are warriors with the power to inspire and elevate, or to tear each other apart. Jealousy and competition are such nasty emotions that many women fall prey to with each other. If more powerhouse women in the spotlight could set the example that women working together only adds to their strength and reach (and that there is enough to go around for everyone), then we’d see a gorgeous trickle-down effect. I do my best to set that example daily.

AH: How do you think yoga practice can help with body image issues, relationship with food and disordered eating?

KB: It comes back to the concept of acceptance. When yoga is taught well, it shows the student that we’re exactly where we need to be, and that we can’t judge who we are by how we look. That’s a fault that has gone back in history forever, and has done nothing but create pain and segregation. A good connection to a personal practice can make someone more intuitive, empathic, and ideally connected to what makes them FEEL good versus being concerned with how they look or appear to others.

AH: When did cooking and enjoying food become a big part of your life? What is your favorite thing to prepare and eat?

KB: My high school boyfriend’s parents are fantastic cooks, and I spent hours in the kitchen with them learning how to duplicate the delicious food they’d prepare. By the time I got to college, I was the only one in my circle who knew how to cook, so I ended up feeding everyone. I continued to educate myself from there along with the blessing of traveling the world and getting to learn about different culture’s foods and flavors.

I’m currently obsessed with spaghetti squash. I’ve been cutting way back on grains (my digestive system does MUCH better without them), and it’s the perfect grain replacement. I made it with a coconut vodka sauce with spinach and shrimp a few nights ago, and I’m already craving it again!

AH: Tell us about Ashi.

KB: The love of my life? :) She’s my tiny guardian angel that has pulled me through the hardest of times. She’s a needy-independent (don’t try to snuggle her unless it’s on her terms), and she is more in-tune with my energy than any being on this planet. She’s taught me about ferociously committed love, how to shake off the small stuff, that stress is useless, and that food is meant to be enjoyed with gusto!

She also inspired Poses for Paws, a project that I have that raises money and awareness for animal shelters and organizations.

AH: Tell us about your book.

KB: We’re on major countdown! Aim True actually feels like a child to me. I’ve been traveling for years lecturing and teaching on this subject, which is my personal mantra for living. The book breaks down the aim true philosophy and how it applies to all different aspects of life: loving your body, eating without fear, nourishing your spirit, and finding true balance. It includes ways to apply the philosophy, a 5-day purification process, healthy and delicious recipes (made for all types of eaters), yoga sequences, different meditations and DIY organic beauty recipes. It releases March 29th and is available for pre-order now!

 

Work That Doesn’t Belong to Us

There-are-things-that-we (1)Much of our pain in life comes from our inability to let go and trust. Often, we’re so attached to that picture in our heads of “how things should be”, we contract against things as they are. You may have noticed, life doesn’t feel great when we’re hunched in a little ball with our eyes squeezed shut, and our hands over our ears.

Sometimes we’re trying to do work that doesn’t belong to us. Maybe we’re attempting to save people, which is different than loving them. We might think we know what’s best for the people closest to us, and we might even be right, but everyone has to do his or her own journey. You cannot keep someone else’s side of the street clean. I mean, you can cross the street and sweep all you want, but if a person is committed to making a mess, the minute you walk away the debris will start flying again. You have to open your mind to the idea that sometimes a person has to make a mess in order to learn something essential. We’ve all experienced that.

Also, the truth is we never know what is right for other people. What seems obvious to us might not be obvious to someone else. There isn’t one path to happiness, there are about seven billion. People are complicated and messy and we all have our histories, stories we tell ourselves, ideas about things that we’ve learned from our experiences, and tendencies that help or hinder us. Most people reach a point when they have to reckon with their pain, anguish, heartache and disappointment; this is part of knowing ourselves. Some people are terrified of that work, or committed to finding ways around it, like numbing out, denying or repressing. Those are not solutions that lead to happiness, but you can’t force a person to come out of hiding. People do that if and when they’re ready, and not a moment sooner.

You might create a lot of fear, anxiety and suffering for yourself by thinking it is your job to manage the path of your children. When they’re little, of course you want to create stability, a nurturing and loving home, a solid base from which they can grow and flourish. If you start to “future-trip”, however, and think that your current choices can somehow protect them from future heartbreak, I think you’re fooling yourself. I don’t know too many people who get through life without some heartbreak along the way. Of course we want the path for our children to be full of sunshine and flowers, joy and love, and a profound sense of belonging in the world, and hopefully we give them the tools to set them up for their adventures in the best ways possible. It’s not always in your control to make everything perfect, though. Some people stay in abusive marriages thinking it’s best for the kids, but is it? Is it good for our sons and daughters to model their relationships after the one they’re seeing day in and day out, if it’s full of pain and violence?

The more you can release your grip on the story, the more life flows. It’s not just your story, you are not the only writer. You don’t get to edit out the parts you don’t like, or force the other characters to do, say, or feel what you want. This isn’t a piece of fiction, this is life, and the other characters get to forge their own stories and do things that might surprise, infuriate, delight, scare, enrage or depress you. You don’t have to allow other people’s desires to affect you at all, but if you’re close to people and you’re human, they probably will. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful and mysterious and interesting to be human, and who’s to say what the right way is to go about this thing? Obviously, we don’t want to move through life intentionally hurting other people, that would be a really crappy way to go. Short of that, following your heart seems the clear choice. We’re here for such a burst of time. There’s never been another you, or me, there’s never been another any of us, nor will there ever be. The more space we can give each other to be who we are, the more the artwork of life shines through. We all have a particular color to splash all over the canvas. Trust in yours, and celebrate the splashing of those around you. We can figure out who was “right” after we die 😉 Sending you a ton of love, Ally Hamilton

Something I Never Do

Hello, Beautiful Blog Readers!

A bit of a departure today, as I’m doing something way outside my comfort zone; I’m the kind of person who’d rather drown than ask for help (yes, I have my own stuff to work on ;-)), but asking I am.

Please pre-order a copy of my next book, “Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth and Peace” today:  

http://www.amazon.com/Yogas-Healing-Power-Looking-Inward/dp/0738747831

Yogas Healing Power-2I’m very excited to show you the cover, and to tell you the publication day is August 8th! This is all new to me, as my last book, “Open Randomly”, was self-published, and something I did largely because you incredible blog readers had been asking.

“Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth and Peace”, took me the better part of two years to write, during any chunks of time I had when my kids were at school, sleeping, at karate, playing guitar, or generally occupied. I went through the editorial process (and it’s intense having someone else look at the story of your life and suggest edits, let me tell you!), and was thankfully gifted with an amazing editor. My beloved friend, the incredible Dani Shapiro, wrote a gorgeous foreword. A few trusted friends became my first readers. Basically, I never knew how many people were involved in the birthing of a new book, and now I find I could use some more help! Apparently, it means a lot to the publisher if there are a significant number of pre-orders, and did I mention, the link is live?

 http://www.amazon.com/Yogas-Healing-Power-Looking-Inward/dp/0738747831 

If you’re planning on buying the book, it would mean the world to me if you did it now. I really poured my heart, guts, and many tears into the book, and want to do whatever I can to help it into the world.

If you’re able to do that, I’d like to gift you with a free video download of a recent class I taught. See? Good for me AND good for you! Just email your purchase confirmation after you pre-order to support@yogisanonymous.com and we’ll send you the free download link! And then I’ll meet you in your living room, or in your office, or at the beach, or wherever you want to take me!

Thank you so much for being on this adventure with me, and for being part of a conversation that continues to amaze me. You guys are wonderful, and you make me feel like it’s okay to ask for help, which is huge!

Much love,

Ally Hamilton

Join the Dance

The-only-way-to-makeYears ago, one of my friends called me from a gorgeous vacation spot where she was sitting at a bar, not spending time with her husband. This was a common theme—he worked constantly, and would book these amazing trips when they were supposed to have some quality time together, but then they’d get there and he’d keep working, or take off and do his own thing. They had three little kids at home, and my friend was starting to despair. A nice house and exotic vacations were not making up for a relationship that was plagued with rage, trouble and pain. It wasn’t all him; it’s rarely one person, but there wasn’t a willingness to look at the issues and work on them.

When I heard her voice on the phone she sounded small and lost, and my heart hurt for her. She told me she was flirting with the bartender for no other reason except that it was distracting her from her own desperation. Years later, after she’d made huge shifts in her life, she told me I said four words to her during that conversation, and they opened a doorway in her mind. They weren’t particularly profound, but they hit her in the right moment: “You are not stuck.”

Most of us fear change, but it’s the one constant. It’s understandable that we’d want to cling, that we’d want some things to count on. Maybe you put your mat down in the same place in your yoga class all the time. You probably have a lot of rituals, we humans like to make order out of this chaos, and try to control some of the uncertainty, and that’s okay. Put your mat where you want it, just be aware that you’re doing it. The problem arises when we seek too much insulation from the normal shifts and evolutions of life, many of which involve loss. When we’re too afraid of change, we also cease to live fully. Life happens on the edge, when we’re loving our hearts out. If you aren’t willing to risk your heart, you’re never going to find your joy or your purpose. These things don’t happen when the primary objective is safety and stability.

For many people, the idea of getting quiet is terrifying. Culturally, we’ve become addicted to busyness, to our devices, to our lists of things that need to get done, so that finding time to sit and breathe and connect to that most essential part of who we are is becoming obsolete. Why are people afraid of silence? When we get quiet, there’s space for our feelings to arise. Not every feeling we have is comfortable or desirable. The attempt to avoid or deny our feelings sets us up for the deepest alienation and isolation—our intuition is lost to us, and we are lost to ourselves.

If you’re unhappily married with three small children, is it terrifying to contemplate making a huge change that’s going to impact these people you love more than your own life? Of course it is. You don’t have to act on every feeling you have, though, and to deny yourself the opportunity to have the conversation, to entertain the possibilities, to come into contact with what is true for you—that isn’t going to lead to happiness for you or the people you love. If any relationship is going to improve, romantic or otherwise, it’s going to improve with communication and honesty. You can’t pretend for sixty or seventy years that you’re okay if you aren’t. Eventually, something is going to happen that turns over your applecart, or you’re going to numb yourself until no one can find you, until there’s no you to find. When you allow the questions to arise, you come into conversation with the answers, even if it takes awhile for the answers to emerge.

There’s no need to be afraid of yourself, and there’s no need to fear silence. I mean, you want to know yourself, right? You’re not a robot or a wind-up doll who can live a life prescribed by someone else, or many someone else’s, you are you. When we sit down to meditate, we don’t try to get rid of our thoughts, we just observe them, the same way we observe our inhales and exhales, and other sensations in the body. We notice the sensations change, the thoughts change, and we watch, and try to cultivate friendliness and compassion toward ourselves, and our passing fancies. If you’re looking to develop a sense of humor about yourself, meditation is a great place to go, because I’m sure you’re a riot. If you’re like most other human beings, you have your particular absurdities, obsessions, stories you tell yourself that may or may not be true, days you feel like a victim, hero, or victimized hero, worries about things that are meaningless and/or outside your control. And so you just observe and breathe, and little by little you come into contact with that essential part of yourself underneath all the noise and thoughts and longings, and that is what we call peace and communion. You are not so different from your neighbor, your ancestors, or the billions of people who’ve come before you and will come after you. You’re part of a grand, crazy, heartbreaking, beautiful mystery, and you’re here for the blink of an eye, so there’s not time to waste living a life that isn’t meant for you, flirting with bartenders and staving off your desperation.

Time is ticking, and there will be losses, and things will change whether you want them to or you don’t. People will love you and understand you and celebrate you, and other people won’t do any of those things. Some people will break your heart, but you get to decide whether beauty can arise from that breaking. You will grieve, you will be confused and inspired and lost and found and lost again. But don’t be lost to yourself through all that, because that would be the real shame and truest loss there is.

The truth is, it feels really good to get quiet, and if you don’t believe me, try this: https://yogisanonymous.com/previews/meditation-intro-to-meditation-ally-hamilton-2586

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Be Where You Are

The-greatest-weaponAny time you can change your perspective from, “Why is this happening to me?”, to simply, “This is happening”, you do yourself a great favor.

Every so often, I tell the story of the frog and the scorpion. If you’ve never heard it, it goes something like this:

Once, there was a frog on the side of a river, and a scorpion called out to her, asking for a ride to the other side. The frog, being a smart frog, declined. She said, “If I give you a ride, you’ll sting me, and I’ll die.” The scorpion, being a scorpion, said, “If I sting you, we’ll both drown, because I can’t swim.” This made sense to the frog, so she agreed to give the scorpion a lift. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. With her dying breath she said, “Why have you done this to us?!” And the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion.”

Whenever I find myself taking something personally, I think of this story, and it always makes me feel better. Most people are not setting out to hurt you, or me. Most people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. Also, there is no boogeyman, there is no plot against you, so if you feel the “universe” is out to get you, or “you never get any breaks”, those are ideas you’ll want to ditch as soon as possible. One definition of stress is being in one place, while wanting to be in another. This state causes dis-ease. It happens anytime we try to argue with the reality of a situation. It happens anytime we compare our situation, life, relationship, or handstand to someone else’s. It happens when we numb, run or deny. These are all forms of being in one place, wanting to be somewhere else.

Accepting things as they are does not mean we have to like them or agree with them. You may have noticed there are things that happen in life whether you agree with them or you don’t. “Should” is one of the more dangerous words in the English language. Anytime I catch myself thinking or saying that word, I put the brakes on and check myself. There are only a few places where you don’t have to worry about your should. Here’s one: Everyone should floss. Here’s another: People should pick up after their dogs. Last one: If you have children, you should teach them about being kind and compassionate by being those things yourself, because that’s the important stuff in life, and because we could use more kind and compassionate people in the world. After that, I’m stumped.

A couple of months ago, I was teaching and a regular student of mine grabbed a bolster and put it at the front of her mat while we were practicing an arm balance. She has a (rational) fear of falling on her face, and her fear was stopping her from attempting the pose at all, so I’d gotten her a bolster one day, and presto, feet off the floor, huge smiles for both of us. When you work with your fear, when you acknowledge the truth of what you’re feeling and figure out what you need to be at ease so you can move forward, it’s amazing what happens. But I digress. The guy next to her, who has plenty of stuff to work on just managing his own practice, state of being, journey, and so on, turned to her and loudly said, “You can’t do a headstand on a bolster!” I told him she wasn’t attempting a headstand and he should stay on his own mat. (There’s another acceptable “should” for you).

People do this all the time. They get caught up in what other people are doing or not doing, or they tell stories about what’s happening, or they get entangled with someone else’s experience, needs, wants, or drama. Anytime you get swept away in someone else’s adventure, you’ve exited your own. You probably have plenty to manage keeping your side of the street clean, anyway. You can’t control what other people do or want or say or need or feel, nor is it your job to try. You manage your own situation, your own response to what you’re being given, to what you’re experiencing from moment to moment, and that is plenty.

There are a lot of things in life that shouldn’t happen. People shouldn’t up and leave one another with no explanation and no communication, but it happens all the time and maybe it’s happened to you. Is that fair? Is that right? Did you deserve that? Does anyone? No, no, no, no, but so what? These things happen and this is the stuff of life sometimes. What is the point in getting caught up with the unfairness of it? Things happen and some of them break your heart wide open, and you get to decide, once you’ve grieved, raged, cried until you thought there couldn’t be a tear left inside you, how you are going to rise up like a phoenix from the ashes. That is what you get to do. You get to offer up your gorgeous heart again and again. If you have the insight of knowing what it is like to not want to go on, you get to offer a hand to other people when they face those same dark nights, and there is beauty in that. You get to know what it means to love fully and deeply, with everything you have, and there’s incredible beauty in that; some people will live to one hundred and never feel that.

Understand that sometimes hope will make you sick. I know that might sound strange; we’re always taught to hold onto hope. The thing is, hope can be seductive and delusional, and if you hope too much it can cloud your vision. You might hope with your whole heart for someone to love you, and maybe they say they do, but if they don’t show that, your hope is a poison. You might hope that someone makes a shift, but if your hope is making it impossible for you to move on, it’s a poison. Life can be so sweet when we stop kidding ourselves, when we stop clinging to some picture we have of how things should be. Most of our pictures come from things we’ve been fed culturally from the time we could reason…”And they lived happily ever after”…oh, yeah? Did they have a great therapist? Did they struggle to pay the mortgage? Did they have fertility issues, problems with in-laws, confusion about how to balance work and romance? The pictures we’ve been sold are so surface-level. Life is messy and complex, and so are people. The truth is better than any fiction, even if it breaks your heart because it’s real, and that is what we are here to be. Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton