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The Illusion of Control

October 23, 2014

You-may-not-control-allIf you want to be at peace, you have to let go of the illusion that you’re in control. Because the truth is, you’re in control of very, very little. You cannot control circumstances, for example. You can’t control what other people are going to do, or say, or want, or need. But you can work on the way you respond to what you’re given, and there’s a lot of power in that.

Our time and energy are the most precious gifts we’re given, and they’re also the most precious gifts we have to offer. They happen to be finite. And we don’t get to know when our time will be up, or how long we have with the people we love. It’s a tough gig, in many ways. Some people will love us, others will leave us, delight us, surprise us, shame us, uplift us, inspire us and betray us. These things are all likely. There are other possibilities, of course. We might be abused, neglected, abandoned, marked by grief and loss that’s hard to bear. We may also be nurtured and loved and protected and celebrated. Life may unfold in a delicious and incredible way, and we may also experience storms and obstacles and times when everything feels dark and impossible. Sometimes painful, unimaginable things happen to beautiful, kind people. Sometimes people who have trouble being kind and compassionate still get the breaks. It’s not a level playing field, after all.

Often we have pain, and our pain controls us. If we don’t do the work to heal, if we don’t know ourselves, we’re going to careen through life, crashing into things and people, like the woman I saw today, who rammed her car into the back of the car in front of her. I don’t know if she was texting, or distracted, or thinking about something her husband said on the way out the door. I just know she totaled her car, and was lucky to be relatively unharmed. When we’re moving through life in an unconscious way and we don’t have any real sense of what lights us up, what scares us, what excites us or inspires us, or where we might be blocked, life can really be a confusing mess where we accidentally hurt ourselves and others. We all long to heal, but often we go about healing in all the wrong ways. We think we have to chase what’s outside of us, to cure the hole that’s inside of us. We might try to fill it with relationships or money or things or ideas. We might repeat painful patterns in an effort to win that happiness. We might think we’d be happy, we’d be at peace if only we’d lose ten pounds, or meet someone amazing, or have a different job, house, car, or personality. Maybe if we had better hair, or whiter teeth, or bigger boobs or biceps. This is what it looks like to be controlled by pain. It sends us on an outward hunt, when we should really be digging and unearthing what’s within us.

Sometimes we become attached to a picture in our heads of how things should be, or how people should be, or how life should be unfolding. When reality doesn’t match that picture, we suffer. And this is my point. You cannot bend reality to your will. That is not within your control. But you can work on the way you show up for yourself, and all the people in your life.

If you’re expending a lot of energy trying to force, control, or manipulate an outcome or another human being, that’s time and energy you could be using to heal, and free yourself. When you stop and think about how hard it is to control yourself sometimes, it makes it easier to grasp how futile it is to try to control someone else. You’re never going to make another person, “see the light”, nor can you ever be sure that what feels right for you is, or would be, right for anyone else. Sometimes people need to screw up in order to learn and grow. When you jump in to save the day, you might, instead, be robbing your friend of a lesson they would have gotten had you not grabbed your cape and run out the door. Sometimes we over-inflate our power, or we relate to the world and the people in it as they pertain to us. As if everything and everyone is in orbit around us, and things are happening to us, when the truth is, we are one tiny strand in a huge story, and our strand is no more important than anyone else’s. Other times we underestimate our power, and the impact we could be having. Discerning what is within your power, and what is not is the best way to figure out how to spend your time, and upon what to direct your energy. If you want the world around you to be more peaceful, loving, compassionate, kind, honest, patient, awake and aware, start by cultivating those qualities within yourself. Start with that world, because that’s a place within your jurisdiction.

Too many people waste too much time trying to force. Anything in life that’s worthwhile is going to require work, time, effort, commitment, patience, presence and passion, whether we’re talking about a long-term relationship, or the blossoming of your dreams. But working hard is a lot different than forcing. Working hard feels really good, because you know your devotion is in service to your dreams. Forcing feels awful, because there’s a sales pitch involved. You have to convince yourself or someone else that everything is great, when you know it isn’t. Don’t chase love. Don’t chase people. Don’t bend over backwards and try to be perfect for anyone. Don’t run after people who reject you. Don’t bury your head in the sand when a person shows you with their actions that they do not want what you want, and they do not feel what you feel. All of these things are a poor use of your time and energy, plus they hurt your tender heart. They deplete you. They make you feel less than, when the truth is you are more than enough, and you are capable of healing. But it takes time and energy, and you won’t have enough if you’ve spent it all chasing. Life is not a race. It’s a journey, it’s a process, it’s a story that’s co-written by the things that happen and the way you respond. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton


October 22, 2014

Whatever-happens-aroundWe never know what’s motivating someone unless they tell us, and even then, people are not always honest. No one wants to say, “I’m making this decision because I’m scared and weak, and it’s the safer and easier thing to do.” I mean, seriously. Who wants to have to own that? Sometimes people make choices, and they don’t communicate about what’s driving them because they can’t face it themselves.

We’re human, and most of us long to understand. Few things feel worse than being ignored. If we make ourselves vulnerable with someone, if we reach out in an effort to make sense of something, and are left in a vacuum to figure it out on our own, it adds insult to injury. We feel we aren’t even worth a response to someone who was, or is, important to us. There’s nothing kind or compassionate about leaving someone in a communication void. And let me be clear. I’m not talking about situations with people who are unbalanced or have a total lack of boundaries, or who refuse to accept what you’ve already said a million times. Sometimes you really have no choice but to draw a hard line. And while I’m at it, let me also say that you can never be the one to help heal the heart of your inconsolable ex. Meeting for one more tea, taking one more walk, answering one more call, writing one last email…it just keeps the other party hanging on and hoping. Your intentions are probably good, but you can’t and won’t help anyone that way. If you’ve explained yourself, if you’ve communicated openly and honestly, and given the other party the chance to say whatever needs to be said, you’re both going to need some time and space. It’s hard to heal when we keep throwing salt in the wound. I’m not talking about those cases, though. I’m talking about times when we’ve been close to someone, and they make choices that are mind-boggling, unexpected, completely out of left field, and then they refuse to help us understand what’s happened.

This happens with romantic relationships, it happens between family members, and it happens with friends. Sometimes there’s a willingness to talk, but it’s not coupled with the ability to be truthful. You can only do what you can do, after all. You can create a safe space. You can say that you just want to understand. You can invite the other party to open up and share with you, even if it isn’t pretty. You can reassure someone that there’s nothing they could say that would make you stop loving them. But you can’t force someone to accept your invitation to be intimate, because that’s what we’re talking about, here.

Sometimes people feel threatened or envious, and they can’t imagine saying that out loud, so instead they withdraw, or they lash out, or they act out. Friendships that were once thriving are lost, because we’ve decided some feelings are ugly or shameful. Can we really tell a friend we feel jealous or insecure? What’s funny, is that the more we’re able to be truthful, the less these emotions overpower us. Because that’s what happens. When we repress something, we’re actually feeding it power. The more we push it down or reject it, the harder it comes back up. Most people would rather have an uncomfortable conversation than lose a friend. And some people might actually see bold-faced ownership of your feelings as an opportunity to deepen your bond. If you want someone to know you, you have to be willing to show yourself. Even the parts that aren’t so pretty. Especially those. If you internalize your confusion and pain about the choices being made by someone close to you, you also lose a chance to see what the friendship can sustain.

Also, let’s talk about rejection. Since we never know what’s motivating someone unless they tell us and they’re honest about it, it’s really inadvisable to assume it’s a reflection of anything lacking within you. If you’re in a romantic triangle with someone, if you have a friend who you wish would be so much more, and they choose the other party, of course that can feel like the other party must be better than you. But the reality is just that the other person is different than you, and maybe in ways that work better for your friend. Maybe you’re scary in some way. Maybe you demand a level of honesty and intimacy that feels too intense for them. Maybe the other person offers more stability, and your friend comes from a really unstable background. Maybe your friend doesn’t want a real partner, maybe they prefer to be the big personality. Maybe a million things.

The point is, try not to expend too much time or energy trying to understand what someone else is doing, or has done. The story to examine is always the story of our participation. What did we bring to the mix? Do we feel good about it? Did we show up the way we wanted to? Is there anything we can learn that will help us moving forward? Do we need to apologize to the other person, or to ourselves for anything we might have done or not done? Once you have those questions answered, move on and try to trust. I realize it isn’t always easy. But if a person is meant to be in your life, they’re going to find a way. If they can’t, you just need different things. Try to be at peace with that. Sending you love and a hug, Ally Hamilton


October 21, 2014

We-are-addicted-to-ourSometimes in the name of love, we seek to control. We may do this because we can see a loved one is about to head into a brick wall, and we long to save them from getting hurt. Parents do this all the time, especially with their firstborn children. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect your children from pain; if you don’t have that instinct, I worry for you and your little ones. But if a parent is always there to say no, and stop and don’t, what results is a fearful child. You don’t want to scare the curiosity out of your kid. Or rob them of any sense that they can trust themselves. Eventually, we all have to learn that if we run too quickly, we’re probably going to trip and fall, and it’s going to hurt. That’s how we learn.

Sometimes we see a friend stuck in a painful cycle, and we throw our hands in the air. What are they doing? How can they not realize they’re repeating this destructive pattern? How many times will we have to be there when it all falls apart? I’m not saying we shouldn’t kindly hold up a mirror when someone we love is hurting themselves. But you can’t force a person to see something they aren’t ready to see. You can’t manage another person’s journey. And you never know what someone else needs in order to learn and grow and strengthen. Sometimes we need painful lessons over and over again before we get it. Sometimes we have to have our hearts broken badly and repeatedly, until we finally say, “That’s it. Enough.”

You can’t save anyone, anyway. Communication is beautiful. “I love you, and it hurts me to see you treating yourself so badly. It hurts me to see you in such a self-loathing place, because I see you so clearly, and you’re beautiful.” Say it, go ahead. Maybe, hopefully, some part of that will seep in there. Maybe a tiny little root will grow, and one day the person will start to see themselves the way you do. If you’re dealing with someone who’s harming themselves, of course do everything you can to get them help. But understand, ultimately, everyone has to do their own journey. Healing is inside work. A person has to be open to help, or no help is available.

And try not to judge. None of us knows the interior world of another person. We only ever know what someone is willing to show us. We all have pain. Some people do a better job managing their pain than others. Some people have more pain handed to them, that’s a fact. Sometimes a person is up against so much grief and despair they reach for anything to numb it. Anything to avoid feeling that abyss. Desperation and loneliness and a certain kind of personality, along with possible trauma, a person’s resiliency, and so many other factors can lead to the kind of numbing that’s hard to comprehend. No one wants to be addicted to something that has the potential to ruin or end their lives. Addicts are prisoners of the object of their desire. They get hijacked by it. They’re owned. Their pain owns them, and the agent that numbs the pain owns them. Unless they find the enormous will and strength and love for themselves to fight back. And even then, it takes a Herculean effort, a lot of support, and a decision every day to choose love. To choose health. To choose freedom. Sometimes people just don’t win the fight. They get tired. It’s heartbreaking. Addiction robs us of so much beauty.

Have you ever been in a destructive, abusive relationship that you wanted to end, but you just couldn’t find the strength? You just weren’t feeling good enough about yourself to say, “F&ck this. I don’t deserve this”? Maybe you tried to end it a bunch of times, but the pull was so strong, you found yourself dialing that number, even when every part of your being was screaming, “No!” It’s not easy being a human being. It can be gorgeous and beautiful and wildly interesting. But it isn’t easy. Love the people in your life. I mean, really love them. Honor them, cherish them, see them, hear them, support their growth and their joy. That’s all you can do. And sometimes, you’ll have to do it from afar if someone you love is hurting themselves and won’t be stopped. Don’t ever think a person is choosing between you and a drug. And that you must not mean much to them if they’re choosing a drug over you. You’re not even in the fight. You’re not in the mix. It’s not about you, so don’t get confused. You’ve been left on the shore. They’re out to sea with this thing, fighting for their lives. You’re outside the thing, so try to grasp that. How much they love you has nothing to do with it. It’s how much they’re able to care about themselves. May all beings be free from suffering. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

A Leg is a Leg

October 20, 2014

How-many-legs-does-a-dogSometimes people come into our lives and there’s an instant and real connection there, but circumstances prevent us from exploring it. There’s no need to agonize over this. You can’t pursue every road; life is full of choices. There’s a reason we have the word “bittersweet”. Also, understand that there are times we idealize someone, or the feeling we have when we’re with them, simply because we’ll never get to really test it. Fantasy is easy, even with a real bond. Meeting once a decade for tea, or reconnecting on Facebook with someone you knew twenty years ago can bring you back. It can make you feel like you’re in a time warp. But if you really want to know how things would be with someone, you have to be in the foxhole with them at some point. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel like this would have been the person for you, if only things had worked out. Sending messages, meeting at Grand Central Station for an hour-long wistful coffee while you’re in town on business, that’s easy. Holding your baby at 3 o’clock in the morning as he’s throwing up for the sixth time in four hours, covering you both in vomit until you finally strip down to your underwear to lessen the laundry load, that’s something. Especially if your partner is there to take shifts with you, to discuss the merits of a trip to the ER, to hold you, too, because you’re on the verge of collapse—that’s when you really know, one way or the other.

Focus on what’s real in your life. Try not to take people for granted, or to be reckless with the heart of someone you say you love. If there are problems, welcome to real relationships. Life will never fail to put challenges in your path, it’s how you handle them that defines your relationship with yourself, and anyone else. It’s easy to lose the thread. You wake up with someone, day in and day out, for weeks, months, years, decades, and it’s easy to stop seeing them. I mean, to really take them in, and not just glance and nod your head like you’ve got it all figured out, because guess what? We’re all changing, all the time. Every single one of us. The person you chose to share your life with ten years ago, is not the same person today, and neither are you. We like to “peg” people, to think we “have them down”, but we’re always in process, and so are they; if you stop paying attention, you’re going to miss a lot. And no one likes to feel unseen or unheard. If two people stop showing up for each other, but continue living under the same roof, you can bet problems will follow.

A relationship exists in the space between you, and the other person, whether we’re talking about your partner, your child, your parent, or the person behind the counter at the juice bar. What you put into that space is up to you. If we’re talking about intimate, longterm relationships, you have to be especially mindful about what you’re contributing, because complacency won’t get you there. Boredom, rage, frustration, blame and criticism won’t do it, either. You can’t control other people, or where they are on their own path. You can only do your end, you can only work to keep your side of the street clean. But you can inspire other people to be kind, compassionate, caring and present, by being those things yourself. If they don’t follow suit, if you try to communicate but find it’s falling on deaf ears, you may not be able to walk the distance together. It takes two people to make that third thing beautiful. That third thing being the relationship.

Maybe it can’t work, and that’s hard. It hurts. Depending upon circumstances, it can hurt a lot. If there are children in the picture, for example, it’s brutal. But understand that they live in that space between you and your partner, and if it’s polluted, they’re going to suffer. If you can’t make the space safe, loving, healthy and nurturing, it’s time to come up with a new plan. Turning your attention to fantasy won’t help anyone, but people do it all the time. They allow a flirtation at work to grow into a full-fledged situation, with heated emotion, and lying and desperation. It’s easy to justify poor behavior when you’ve felt discarded or rejected for years. But that just adds to the mess. It involves a whole other person, with all their feelings and complexities. It adds a layer of guilt and shame and hopelessness to a situation that’s already bleak. You really have to go to the source. If you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, misunderstood, it’s time to have a conversation. It’s time to sit down and get real with your partner, who already knows things are not okay. If it’s so bad you’re ready to trade in your integrity, and your ability to feel good about yourself, communication is long overdue. Some things are just not sustainable. Sometimes the foxhole is full of broken promises, dreams, hopes and potential. All that stuff has been shot up over the years, and now it’s time to see if you can piece things back together. If there’s enough there to start again, and start new, as you are now. And maybe you’re going to find that you can’t. But dealing with reality as it is, is always the place to start.

When we struggle in a relationship, we all like to think that things would be different if we had a different partner. And let me say this—maybe you chose someone when you were too young to really know yourself. Maybe you got hitched because you turned thirty and it seemed like the thing to do. Maybe you thought you knew your partner, but found out once you were in it, that so much had been edited out. Maybe you thought you wanted intimacy, but once you had it, you realized it isn’t for you. It isn’t for everyone, and that’s just reality. But if the truth is that if you’re not happy on the inside, finding a new partner won’t fix that. It’ll catch up with you. We can’t run from our pain, or gloss it over, or push it down or numb it out, and expect life to feel good. It won’t. Whatever it is, deal with it. Take it by the horns, and own it. Because you don’t have all the time in the world. You want to be at peace. And you want the people you love to be at peace. And you want to be able to face yourself in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of the day, and feel you can look yourself in the eye. These things are really important. There’s no judgement here. People screw up royally, all the time. Someone is making a huge, messy mistake right this second. Sometimes that’s what we need to learn a painful lesson, or own the fact that we’re miserable, and start to make hard choices. So don’t go to self-loathing, because you’ll get stuck there, Just start where you are. Yoga is great for this, by the way. One of the biggest things we work on is the ability to lean into our uncomfortable feelings, and to work with reality as it is. To breathe when we feel challenged, to trust that everything is always in flux, to understand that how we feel now is not how we will always feel, and to pause and listen before we act. When you follow your intuition, the way becomes clear. Sending you love and a hug, Ally Hamilton

Let Inspiration be Your Hook

October 14, 2014

To-be-beautiful-means-toFor many people, rejection is like a hook. They might be dating someone and feeling kind of “on the fence” about it, but if their potential partner starts to lose interest, it’s like an instant fever. Now this person becomes enticing and coveted and the one they have to have. The same thing can happen with new friendships, it can happen amongst colleagues, it can even happen with strangers. If we harbor doubt about our own worth at our very core, having that doubt reflected back at us is almost intolerable. It’s like a message from the universe being delivered through this unavailable person: “It’s as you thought, you are not good enough, and you are not truly lovable.” It can be brutal.

What happens when we feel excluded, shunned, ignored, disrespected, discarded or unseen? These things never feel good, of course, but if we’re in a healthy, stable place, we can probably talk ourselves off the ledge. Not everyone is going to understand us, or see us clearly or dig our vibe, and that’s okay. It really is. Also, if a person is rude or haughty or demeaning or demanding, that’s a reflection of where they are on their own path, it’s not a reflection of anything lacking in us. But if we’re suffering from low self-esteem, if we’re having a hard time believing we’re worthy of happiness and love and peace, then feeling rejected by someone, even a stranger, can set us on the run. We might think if we can just convince this person that we’re actually amazing, then we’ll feel better. But the minute you’re in that kind of power struggle with another person (even if they have no idea it’s happening), you’re doomed. Because you aren’t going to be your authentic self. You’re going to be jumping around, chasing them down, waving your arms and dancing like a monkey to show how great you are. And that’s going to make you feel sick, as it should. Why should that make you feel sick? Because it’s the worst kind of betrayal; it’s the betrayal of self. It is never, ever your job to sell yourself. If someone is dismissive or unkind or unsure about whether they want to give you their time and energy, move along.

Sometimes we pick unavailable people because we have deep fear of intimacy. We think if we open and trust, we’ll surely be hurt, so we choose people who can’t commit. That’s not the only reason we might chase people who don’t have the capacity or interest to take us in, in all our entirety, with all our flaws and beauty and occasional absurdity. Sometimes a thing starts out hot and strong and we get swept up in the intensity and fall in love, only to find when the lust/dust clears, that we’ve chosen someone who could only give us their all in the beginning. And now, maybe we stay because we think this person is capable of being present and hot for us, and fully “in it”, because they displayed that when we started. So we wait and hope that person will show up again. But hormones and the frenzy of something new do not add up to true intimacy. That takes time, and fearlessness and commitment, and a willingness to look at our own raw, unhealed places. Not everyone is up to that, and not everyone wants to do that kind of work. But when we’re in love, we tend to excuse behavior that hurts, because we hope. We hope and we hope, and time passes, and we feel smaller and smaller, and more and more hurt. We feel rejected by this person who once seemed so into us. And we can’t understand how that could be, so we stay and we try and we bend over backwards and see if we can be perfect or different or better, or we see if we can accept what little is being offered, and somehow be okay with it. This is not a healthy scene, and it isn’t good for your heart.

People change and grow, but it’s never our job to manage anyone else’s path. People are ready if and when they’re ready, and it isn’t loving to try to manipulate or force or control an outcome that we want, but our partner or friend or family member does not. Love is accepting, and sometimes that means you have to accept that what you want is just not what someone else wants, and you have to let it go, even though it hurts like hell. Because the alternative is not livable or sustainable. You can’t allow your light to be dimmed and your spirit to be crushed, and expect that life will feel good, or that you’ll blossom the way you could. Maybe your paths will cross in the future, or maybe something else will unfold that you never could have imagined. It’s impossible to know. But one thing you can know is that you have to be you. You really can’t compromise on that. You can make adjustments, and work with the people you love so you can coexist harmoniously, so you can respect one another’s needs and space and dreams and necessary solitude. But you can’t try to be something other than who you are, because there’s only one of you. I don’t know if I can get across how amazing that is, but there are roughly seven billion people on this planet, and yet, we only get one you, for one blaze of time. Don’t let rejection be your hook. Really, you don’t have time for that. Let inspiration be your hook. Let that be the thing that sets you off running to show what you’ve got, not because you have anything to prove, or any doubt to undo, but because you have so much to give. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Trust and Release

October 13, 2014

Were-all-just-walkingSometimes you have to let go of a relationship, not because you don’t care about the person or people with whom you were once close, but because there’s nothing growing or good or real or substantial holding things together anymore. We grow together and sometimes we grow apart, and this happens in romantic relationships and long-term friendships, as well. Sometimes we cling or we grasp because we just can’t bear the idea of having things change. Most of us tend to resist the unknown until circumstances become unbearable, or we find ourselves dreading plans, or feeling resentful about time and energy we’re spending on a situation that just doesn’t feel right anymore.

Sometimes connections are borne from circumstances; you meet another mom in your prenatal yoga class, and go through the end of your pregnancy together, and maybe you meet for tea that first year, and compare notes on motherhood, lack of sleep, aching boobies, your partner’s support, or lack of it, how much sex you’re having, and when to start solid food. Maybe your babies become friends, and then one day, years later, that little toddler who was once so cute starts bashing your kid in the face with his toy truck, or hitting him over the head with his bag of beach toys, and your friend just stands there. Maybe you decide to step in, rescue your kid, and parent your friend’s child, and that isn’t received well. Or maybe you try to talk to your friend when it happens for the fourth or fifth time, and your friend becomes defensive and angry.

Other examples—you date someone and you think “this is it!” because the first three months are so amazing, so amazing, and no one has ever understood you this way, or been so attentive and present and hot for you, and in your face, and then eight months later you don’t even recognize this person who’s too busy to take your call during the day, and too swamped to make plans on the weekends. Or maybe you make a friend at work, and you’re both dealing with the same unreasonable boss, and you bond over lunches and text each other at night, things like, “Can you believe what she said at that meeting?” and, “Someday she’ll work for us!” And then one day you quit, or you’re fired because you had the audacity to say no, you would not go and get coffee, that was not in your job description, and this is not why your parents took two jobs and a second mortgage on their house, and now you work somewhere else, and you and your friend have nothing to talk about anymore. Or maybe you bond with a friend while you’re both single. Maybe you find a great wing-man, and you’re on the town every weekend, beach volleyball by day, bars and clubs by night, until your buddy meets some girl, and now you’re on your own again.

The point is, things change and people change, and sometimes we bond in times of stress or duress or excitement. Some things are lasting and real and deep, and some are of the moment, of the time, of an era. Also, people change and shift and grow. How someone was when you met them five years ago is not how they are today. You are not who you were five years ago, either. Transitions are hard. Goodbyes are hard. Acceptance is hard. Sometimes people feel all this stuff but they just don’t want to put the words to it, they want you to figure it out. Maybe you’ve been that person who just didn’t know how to have the awkward conversation, so you just let something fade. No one wants to be the person to say, “I don’t want to pursue this friendship anymore.” And no one wants to be on the receiving end of that, either. Sometimes we long for closure. We aren’t having the same experience as our friend. We aren’t feeling that distance or dissonance, or maybe we are, but we just don’t want to accept it. The truth is, some things will never be explained, and our best hope for closure is acceptance.

We love for things to be stable. We want to count on some things, and some people. Hopefully you have a few true friends who’ve been with you through thick and thin, and are more like family than anything. Hopefully you have some family members you adore. But if you want to count on something, count on the reality that everything is always shifting, and so is everyone. Count on your ability to show up for yourself, and to open to reality as it is, or work on that. Spend your time and energy on those things that light you up. Share your gifts, even as the ground moves beneath your feet, and you aren’t sure what will happen next. Give it everything you’ve got, and trust that when it’s time to release something, it’s okay. Life is full of loss, and it’s probably good that we understand that, and practice dealing with it. It’s also full of joy and beauty. Our work is to shift and move and open and breathe, not to cling and grasp. Trust your process. Wishing you the strength to be true to yourself, to trust your gut, to say the hard things when they need to be said, but to do it with compassion, and to keep your heart open. Wish people well as they enter and exit your life, or as they stay on the path with you, grinning from time to time, weeping from time to time, and sharing in the adventure. As Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton

Get Sweaty

October 10, 2014

The-best-things-in-lifeI think many people out there are miserable because their expectations are unrealistic. If, for example, you’re thinking you’re going to reach some point in your evolution when you’re ecstatic every moment of every day, I think you’re going to be disappointed, and I don’t believe you’re ever going to reach that place. It seems many people are searching for the “high highs”, and as a result, they find themselves dealing with the “low lows”. We’ve all heard it a million times, but it bears repeating: happiness is not a destination, it’s borne from your process.

When we get caught up in the externals, in the results, in the material proof of our successes, we’re way off the path of what brings us fulfillment and true satisfaction. An object will never be able to provide you with feelings of worth or meaning for long. Neither will an altered state of consciousness. Nor will another human being. What do you spend most of your time doing? Really look at that. Because most of your time adds up to most of your life, and if you’re spending a large majority of it feeling dissatisfied, or like you’re just punching a clock, or doing what you’re “supposed” to be doing, I wouldn’t expect life to feel very good for you, regardless of your bank account. In other words, you might be making lots of money and accruing lots of stuff, but if you don’t love the way you’re spending your days, it won’t amount to a happy life.

And happy doesn’t mean ecstatic. I know we see all of our friends with their shiny Instagram lives and pithy status updates, but please understand everyone goes through the same stuff. The people who are genuinely happy with their lives still have their struggles, their challenges, their days when they don’t feel like getting out of their pajamas. It’s not “all good”, and it’s not all positive, and you don’t have to be grateful for every experience you’ve ever been through, or every loss you’ve yet to endure. It’s a tough gig, being human. It’s awesome, it’s wonderful, it’s interesting, but it’s not easy. And we get sold a false bill of goods, and sent down an unfulfilling path until we wise up and get right with ourselves.

Focus on how you’re spending your time. Take a look at what you’re contributing, and how you feel about it. Working toward something you believe in feels great, but it’s not easy. Take a look at the people with whom you’re spending your time. It’s one of your most precious gifts; that, and your energy. And sometimes when we step back from the “grind”, or the “rat-race”, we realize we’re giving our time and energy to pursuits and people who weaken us, rather than strengthen us. And maybe we remember it shouldn’t be a grind, and we aren’t rats. Obviously there are the practicalities of life. We have to be able to feed and clothe ourselves, we have to keep a roof over our heads, and if we’re responsible for other people, we have to make sure they’re taken care of as well. But what lights you up? What feeds your soul? What excites you, scares you, inspires you? These are questions you’ll have to answer if you want to be at peace. That’s my definition of what it means to be happy. It means you’re feeling good about the way you’re living your life. It means you’ve figured out what your particular gifts are, and you’ve found a way to share them. Does that way have to be the thing that keeps a roof over your head? No, not necessarily. I think that’s ideal, but I think the main thing is to be sure you’re devoting a nice chunk of your time to those paths that bring you joy, and that offer you an opportunity to share what’s in your heart.

Self-acceptance is another huge part of the puzzle. If you despise yourself, you’re not going to be happy. Obvious, yes? If you have healing to do, there’s simply no avoiding it. If you’re enraged, ashamed, in a cycle of blame and shame, you’re going to have to move right into the center of your pain and have a seat. You do not have to stay there for the rest of your life, so don’t tell yourself it’s too hard. What’s too hard is living your whole life feeling frustrated and lost. Sitting with, examining, and understanding your issues, your pitfalls, your raw places and those tendencies that aren’t serving you, are the very things you need to do to liberate yourself from a lifetime of suffering. You can’t avoid your rage, or internalize it, or attach it to people outside yourself, or numb it out and think it’s going to go away, because it won’t. You have to deal with the source, and that’s deeply uncomfortable, painful work, but it’s also finite. Once you have a thorough understanding of why you feel and have felt the way you do and have, it will lose its grip on you. I promise you, this is the way it works. I’m not saying you’ll never have to deal with it again, I’m just saying this stuff will not own you anymore, it won’t rule your life, your behavior, and your choices. It won’t show up in its unrelenting way and block you from feeling a sustained sense of meaning, purpose and peace. Then you can go about the business of figuring out how you want to spend your time, and with whom, and how you’re going to share your gifts. And if you start to do your days like that, you’ll find you’re having some pretty happy and fulfilling weeks, months, years and decades. It’s not what we have, it’s what we give. Focus on giving, and the having takes care of itself. You’ll always have enough with this formula, because what you’ll have is meaning and purpose.

Lastly, take this literally several times a week. Get sweaty. Feel your heart pumping. Remember you have a body, and use it and move it. Become your breath and your heartbeat and your sensations, and get out of your loud mind with it’s relentless and obsessive thoughts. Yoga is great for that; that is actually the purpose of yoga–to calm the storm that rages in the mind. It’s not about turning yourself into a pretzel, it’s a way of moving through life. It’s about the quality you’re bringing to whatever it is you’re doing. We practice being present on our mats, so we can be present in our lives. You can take this class with me, right now Sending you love, Ally Hamilton


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