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:

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

Petty Things That Matter Not

I-have-found-that-if-youThe real question in life is how do I show up with love? We can get caught up in details and heartbreak and clinging to our pictures of “how things should be”; we can make lists of ways we’ve been wronged and file them away in the space at the front of our hearts. We can pound the earth and shake our fists at the sky and ask why people won’t feel the way we want them to feel, or do the things we want them to do. We can tell ourselves stories about what has happened to us, and why we are the way we are. We can feed the tendencies and ideas that weaken us and make us feel less than, easily abandoned, victimized. Or we can get busy, and make better choices.

Life is as it is, and people are as they are, and it is not personal. There is no boogeyman out to get you, or me, there is no monster under the bed, there is no saber-toothed tiger coming after you, not today, not tomorrow. People may have hurt you, in fact, I can almost guarantee you have been hurt, heartbroken, betrayed, disappointed, and I say, welcome to the human experience. None of us gets a road map, and most of us screw things up from time to time. Maybe your parents didn’t love you well, and even that is not personal, although it feels personal. But parents are people and people have the tools they have, and they are where they are, and maybe you showed up at an inconvenient time, before your parents were grown enough to show up well. So be it.

When we get caught up in fear and anger, we block ourselves from love, joy and gratitude. You can’t just block out the challenging stuff–if you build walls, it all gets stuck outside, and then you’re left to wonder why you feel alienated and alone. Sadness is part of life. We love, we lose–we grow or we shrink in response. Loss is part of life, nature is teaching us this very thing every minute. The tide comes in, the tide goes out, you cannot stop it. The sun sets, and it rises again. People are born, and you love them with your whole heart, and one day you will die, and I will die, and eventually they will also die, but while we are all here, the thing is to love, wholly and completely. That is the only thing. Accruing money and stuff won’t stop the world from spinning or time from ticking. Covering your gray hair and denying your wrinkles with creams and god knows what else won’t stop you from aging. Celebrate your life, even if it looks nothing like you thought it would or wanted it to; try to make peace with the shape of things. There is always something to mourn and there is always something to celebrate, so do both. Feel the piercing sadness when it arises, and open to the joy when it overwhelms you. If you stop denying the shadow emotions, you will find there’s much more light than you might think. This isn’t Cloak and Daggers.

If you’re going to collect something, collect moments. If you’re feeling alone right now, surround yourself with art, with humanity. There’s so much of that available, so much to show you and assure you, you are not alone. Find the art that soothes your soul, and immerse yourself in it. Create art yourself, and don’t question it. Do that with your days, with your words, with your feelings. Maybe do it with your hands, your voice, your fingertips, whatever you’ve got. If you were an entire universe, and I believe you are, your heart would be the sun, so trust that. Your intuition would be like the oceans, flowing, rising, ebbing, sometimes calm, sometimes thrashing. Wonderful, swim with that. Your dreams, your hopes would be the stars in the sky, sometimes shooting brilliantly through the galaxy, sometimes already gone, like some of the stars you see when you look up at the sky.

The point is, don’t wait, and don’t allow yourself to become distracted with petty things that matter not. Life is precious, you are precious, and you have the blink of an eye to get that, and to shine. Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton

The Perils of Poker

There-is-a-sacredness-inWhen we don’t speak up about what we’re feeling, it comes out in other ways. This is particularly true in any intimate relationship, whether familial or romantic. Things we hide from ourselves will also swim to the surface to bite us in the a$$ and demand our attention, but you can multiply that bite by at least two when we’re talking about the way we relate to others. It’s not surprising that clear communication is so difficult for the majority of us, because we’re taught to edit our feelings from an early age. “Don’t cry”, “Don’t be sad”, “Don’t be scared, “Don’t be angry”–these are like cultural mantras we hear as early as we hit the playground, and often sooner, in our very own homes. Loving parents say these things, so I’m not throwing anyone under the bus, I’m just saying we need to understand when we love people, we have to teach them that it is okay to be sad, scared or angry, it’s what we do about the feelings that matters.

It’s never easy to watch someone we love as he or she grapples with difficult feelings. We know the pain of it from having grappled ourselves. Of course we want to spare those we care for, pain, anguish and discomfort, but these feelings are part of life, and they’re an essential part of knowing ourselves. If we learn to push down the feelings that make those around us feel uncomfortable or inadequate, you can safely bet we will also have no clue about how we feel as we reach adulthood. When we cut ourselves off from what is true and real for us, we also cut ourselves off from our intuition, and that is the surest way to get lost on the path. And when I say “the path”, I don’t mean there’s one path for everyone, I mean the path that will lead any of us to our deepest joy.

Recently, I was talking with good friends of mine who were laughing about a heated game of poker they’d played over the holidays. Apparently, my friend’s wife and his mother went head-to-head, and his wife wondered if she should go easier on her fairly new mother-in-law, but my friend assured her this made her an official part of his family. Friends of theirs chimed in, and said things also got crazy and competitive in their house when the cards or board games came out. The woman turned to me and said, “You should try playing with THIS heartless prick”, and pointed her thumb at her boyfriend, whom I’d only just met. I knew from our mutual friends that she adores her boyfriend and thinks the world of him. I knew she was just trying to join in on the “heated family games joke”, but the words “heartless” and “prick” came out with a lot of force, and I watched his face change from the happy, social mask we wear when we’re meeting people for the first time, to a closed one that was obviously covering hurt and surprise. She turned to him with her eyes dancing, and saw that her words had landed in a way she didn’t intend, and she immediately apologized. He recovered but they walked away shortly after, and my heart went with them. I knew they were probably in for a difficult conversation at best, and a rough night at worst.

There’s always a little truth in a joke. I don’t think this woman believes her boyfriend is either heartless, or a prick, I think she’s in love with him. But I’d also guess there’s some anger swimming underneath the surface of whatever is happening between them, and it reared its head for an instant. If there’s anger there, it’s coming from some kind of pain. Either she perceives that he’s hurt her or disappointed her in some way, or he actually has. Either way, her pain has not been acknowledged and dealt with in a way that’s satisfying for her (maybe she hasn’t brought it up, doesn’t know it’s there, etc), and so it’s popping up at parties over card games. Isn’t it amazing how these tiny little things can turn into land-mines? Something as innocent as poker can bring up a well of pain neither party sees coming. And now he’s hurt, and probably angry.

Why do we hurt each other? We have pain, and things arise as they always do when two people are close, and we either deal with these things in the moment, or we don’t. When we don’t, it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe we’re afraid of confrontation, rejection, or heartache, but it’s fear of some kind. Our fear causes us to hurt each other. If only we could give one another the benefit of the doubt, if only we could breathe and consider whether someone we love is intentionally hurting us, or whether there’s a chance we’ve misunderstood, taken something to heart that wasn’t intended that way, are dealing with their pain that’s coming to the surface in a way that’s hard to understand, or are bringing some of our history into the present, we’d save ourselves and those who love us a lot of feelings of alienation, frustration, sadness and anger. And we’d save ourselves, as well.

It feels terrible when someone we care for deeply won’t forgive us, or is so ready to doubt our love. That alone feels like a betrayal. I saw it between those two people I barely know—he felt betrayed she’d said something hurtful to strangers in a social situation with zero provocation from him, and she felt betrayed that he would doubt her love over something that was supposed to be funny, but ended up coming out badly. Again, maybe there’s some unresolved pain on both sides there. I have no idea what’s happening inside their relationship. But I’ve seen that moment they had a million times. I’ve been in that moment myself, and I’ve watched it happen between other people more times than I can count, and it’s always the same moment with different words. It’s never about poker, that’s for sure.

The more we learn to acknowledge and deal with our own uncomfortable feelings as they arise, peak and subside, the more we can do that for the people we love. Not every feeling in life is like unicorns or leprechauns or stardust. Some feelings hurt us to the very core. Rage, grief, shame, guilt, fear, loneliness—none of these are easy, but they’re all normal human emotions we are going to deal with at some time or another. Denying that is futile. If you don’t learn to embrace and examine your painful feelings they are not going to magically disappear, they’ll just keep trying to get your attention, because that’s all we want when we’re struggling or suffering. We want someone to say, “I see you, I feel you, I understand why you feel the way you do, I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Hang in there, it won’t always be this way. “ We just want understanding. We want to be seen and held without anyone telling us that what we feel isn’t true. And the sad thing is, we can do this for ourselves, but so many people run from their feelings, or numb them, or deny them, and so pain rules their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the main reasons I teach yoga is that it changed my entire life for the better. I was one of those numb-ers and deniers myself. I tried to manage my pain that way for years and I was anxious and depressed a large majority of the time. I kept trying to fix things from the outside. Maybe if I met the right person, or got thinner, or had a perfect job, then I’d be happy. None of these things ever worked. Until I sat down and faced my pain head on, it owned me, and at a certain point I decided I did not want to be owned by pain, I wanted to be owned by love. And then I found out love doesn’t own you, it liberates you. And so I teach, because I think if it worked for me, it could work for anyone. It’s not a magic bullet. Change is hard. It’s a practice, and it has eight limbs, and you have to work every one of them. But it’s doable and beautiful and eventually it’s inspiring and you want to see how much you can open, and what it means to really love and release your grip on the story. Sending love to all of you, Ally Hamilton

We Need Not Wait

If-we-could-changeThese are strange and confusing times we’re living in. It has never been an easy thing to be human. Solitude is hard. Intimacy is hard. Not knowing how long we have here, how long our loved ones have, or what happens after this—these are all difficult parameters to deal with. We tend to be a violent species, and you have only to look back in history if you need verification. As we’ve evolved, so have our tools of destruction. As we’ve grown as a society, we’ve fed this violent undercurrent to such a degree that when our boys reach puberty, if they’re angry, if they feel alienated, isolated, insecure, different from their peers, different from all the images they see on television and at the movies (and what teenagers don’t feel some, if not all of these things?), there are so many channels open to them where they can go with their rage and their pain.

Our girls and women are just as confused and hurt, but tend not to be as violent. Deepak Chopra was recently on Conan O’Brien advocating for more women in politics. He said in general, the mantra of men is “f&ck it, or kill it”, and that we need our nurturers to come and balance things out. Of course that’s a generalization. There are plenty of kind, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent men who have way more than two gears. He was just trying to make a point. You might not listen to Deepak Chopra, and that’s fine. You might think more violence is what we need in order to fix things in our world. It’s your right to believe that and to say that, and it’s my right to disagree, and act on my own beliefs. But our rights are not really the thing to argue about at this moment in time, although everyone gets up in arms (literally) about that. Every right has its limitations. Our world is the thing. Our world, and the way we’re moving through it.

Yesterday my kids, who are six and nine, stayed home from school because of the bomb threat, which people are today calling a hoax. It was a hoax in the sense that no bombs went off yesterday, and the claims in the email were not true. But it was not a hoax in the sense that these are the times we face, where we all believed it could have been true. Mass shootings are so commonplace, we have drills for them in our schools. Yesterday, I thought to myself, “I grew up with snow days, and my children are growing up with bomb threat days”, and I felt sick. And then I thought about how I was going to explain to them why it was they were not in school, without making them feel afraid to be in this world.

It’s hard not to despair. We’re so polarized, and we have little faith in our government and our politicians. We think to ourselves, “the system is broken, the politicians are owned by lobbyists and corporations, there’s gridlock in Washington, nothing I say or feel has a shot of making a difference”, and all of those thoughts are so awful, we shrug our shoulders and shake our heads and numb ourselves and buy holiday gifts and hope things will get better. But “things” don’t have to get better, people have to get better. We have to get better.

We’re a violent species, but we’re also capable of incredible empathy. We’re built for connection and shared experiences. We’d all choose a hug over a fist to the face, right?  We’ve built pyramids, created the Louvre, The David, The Mona Lisa. We have art within us and vision and unbelievable beauty and brilliance. Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen. If you look around the world and you feel despair and depression, that’s understandable, but it won’t help anything. If you look around the world and focus on the beauty, on the incredible gift of just being here, in this insane and often mind-boggling mystery, that will affect the way you carry yourself and interact with other people, and move through your days.

We have such constricted definitions sometimes. If we love someone, we think that is a good and pretty thing. Love and flowers and running through fields, laughing like we’re in a Viagra commercial. Sometimes love rips your f&cking heart out. Sometimes we love people who don’t know how to love us back. Sometimes loving someone means accepting them as they are, even though it means you have to let them go. Love is not like a Viagra commercial, even at its best. If you want to love, you’d better be ready to get your hands dirty, and work, because that is what’s required.

Grief—we think of people grieving and throwing themselves on a grave, but grief grabs you by the throat in the night so you wake up gasping for air and wonder how to do anything. How to move, how to think, how to go on. Grief comes in waves and knocks you off your feet and pulls you under, and when it’s done with you it might let you up for air, and it might not. In the beginning of a huge loss, there’s barely any time above sea level. It’s not like a Hallmark card.

Peace—you believe in peace and you think of hippies and dandelion crowns and a group of people with long hair singing kumbaya or John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed, but sometimes peace is getting bludgeoned in the head because you went to protest peacefully and it didn’t go that way. Sometimes peace is ugly and violent and the road to peace is often strewn with bodies of great people, like Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi, neither of whom made perfect husbands, but, my god, the impact they had on this earth and on our collective well-being.

Our civilization is young compared to the rest of the world. We are the teenagers in the midst of many elders, some of whom have screwed things up so badly, we’re all suffering for it. People want to blame the guy in the Oval Office, especially if he isn’t the one they voted for, but the mess we’re in is a good century in the making, it involves both political parties, it involves the religion of money, and a mismanagement of a complex and painful history in the Middle East. Pointing fingers and shouting is a fool’s undertaking. It doesn’t help.

What helps, as far as I can decipher, is trying to stay calm in the midst of this storm. Throwing our hands up, ignoring things, praying for a miracle, digging our heels in over our political differences, none of these things helps one iota. What we see around us is a reflection of what we see within ourselves. Not all of us. There are many, many people who’ve worked hard to cultivate a peaceful inner environment, and that gives me something we need, and something that does help. You know what it is. It’s the opposite of despair, it’s hope. There are good, kind, wonderful, beautiful people in this world who are not closing their eyes to what’s happening, who are not giving up, who are not accepting that this is just the way things are, who do not want their children to be afraid to live in this world.

None of us can look our children in the eye right now and promise them they’re completely safe, but that has always been the case. I do think we’ve reached a summit. I do believe these are sad and scary times. I think we’ve let ourselves run wild for too long. I think we’ve created a society that alienates its men and women, that turns out adults who, by and large, do not know what brings them joy, peace or a sense of meaning. But I also believe more and more people are recognizing we’ve been sold a false bill of goods, that more and more people are understanding happiness and peace come from within, and that they’re passing that information on to their children. Hatred is taught at home, but so is compassion, tolerance, respect, and critical thinking. Try not to despair. Direct your attention to what you can do today to make the world around you a little better. We are all looking for reassurance, for stability, for right effort. None of us wants to live in a world where we wonder if our children are safe at school, at the mall, at a concert. None of us wants to accept mass violence as the norm, and something we can’t change.

Try to trust that there are more good people in the world than angry, hateful ones, because there are. Try to trust that most people have hit their limit, and then some, for the things we’ve been watching on the global stage. Let your heartbreak motivate you to act, to stand up for what you believe in, to participate, to engage, to get your hands dirty with love and grief, so we can unearth joy and trust. Don’t let fear be your bedfellow and constant companion. Believe in the power of one person, you, to have an impact on the world around you, because you do. Trust in that, honor that, and do something good with that. If enough people follow suit, we’ll set this thing right. Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton

Ally’s First Book!

OpenRandomlyFINAL1-2Happy Holidays to all you wonderful blog readers. I want to thank you for all of your continued support and enthusiasm. When I started this blog five years ago, I had no idea it would take on a life of its own, and become such a huge part of what lights me up every day. Your participation, insight, honesty, and willingness to dive into painful and uncomfortable topics in the service of healing and opening and living life to its most wonderful wonderfulness is inspiring and motivating and gratifying. So, thank you!!!

I know many of you are not on Facebook, and it suddenly occurred to me you might not know I’d published my first book :) I am no salesman, and feel a certain “yuckiness” around self-promotion, but I do want to help this little book make its way out into the world, because it reflects such a huge part of my heart, and also of this experience I’ve had with you all over the last five years. The response to the book has been beautiful and overwhelming, and I’m very grateful.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon if you want to take a look. There are some amazing reviews by some of my very first blog readers. I know and appreciate all of you! I remember the very beginning with Aviva Shore, Elizabeth Quayle, my parents (:))and so many others. Sending you all a huge hug and a lot of love!!

Happy Holidays,


Ally Hamilton

Don’t Date Steve

Life-has-no-meaning-EachPart of our misery comes from our constant striving to be happy. Culturally, we seem to have this expectation that once we get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit, we’ll solve the happiness equation. Those puzzle pieces might vary from person to person, but they usually include someone to love, something to do that feels meaningful, and something to look forward to (which might include anything from a 2-week vacation to this idea we have of a utopia that will occur “when things calm down” and we can reap the rewards of our efforts).

The thing is, life is full of everything, and we are inherently vulnerable. It might be interesting, exciting, unpredictable, heartbreaking, exhilarating, and often full of joy, but no one would argue that it’s easy to be human. Expecting to reach some mecca where everyone is happy all the time is like following a mirage in the desert. I know I used to buy into this delusion that if only I could “get things right”, I’d be happy. Those things included graduating from a good school, dieting until I was “thin enough”, finding the right person, having children, and finding something to do that was going to bring me joy. In retrospect, I can tell you that three out of five of those pursuits set me down the wrong path. I mean graduating from a good school is wonderful, but it’s not going to miraculously set you on a meaningful path without your own experimentation and soul-searching. And searching for the “right person” is funny, because all you need to do is look in the mirror. Once you get right with yourself, you’ll have a much easier time finding someone you might like to share your canvas with. Dieting and obsessing about the way you look is an utter waste of your time, energy and resources. The way you look is the result of a genetic lottery, and it’s the most fleeting thing about you. If you love yourself, you’ll feed yourself well, and you’ll take your body for a spin on a regular basis because sweating and getting your heart pumping and stretching and embodying your beautiful body will take care of everything. Throw out your scale, and anything in your refrigerator with more that two syllables, anything that contains aspartame and/or high fructose corn syrup, find a way to move your body that feels good to you, and you’ll be off to a good start.

For me, finding something to do that brought me joy turned out to be the essential thing. I’m not saying it’s like that for everyone, because there’s no formula to this, it’s personal. But for me, that created an environment for everything else to fall into place. When you feel like you’re getting up and contributing something that might uplift someone else, you are bound to have a great day. Giving to other people is a shortcut to your own happiness. Also, when you make it your business to try to help other people, you realize you’d better know yourself well, and deeply, so that anything blocking you from giving everything you’ve got is not unknown to you. Basically, the motivation to heal yourself increases greatly when you recognize that you can never nurture other people to the best of your ability until you nurture yourself. If you have tendencies that cause you to doubt your worth, seek approval, or place more importance on other people’s opinions and desires than your own, you start to understand all that mess is going to get in your way and prevent you from offering up what’s in your heart, so you get busy cleaning it up. At a certain point, your history is just that. There’s no need to drag ancient pain into your present possibilities.

Before I realized I wanted to spend my days teaching and writing, I was pretty lost. I was also depressed and anxious a lot of the time, and convinced most of my feelings about myself and life in general had to do with other people. When I had relationships, they became the center of my world, and when you don’t have any other passion in your life, and your sole focus is on what this other person needs, wants, feels, thinks, or doesn’t think, when you have nothing to fill your time except obsession over whether things are heading in the direction you want them to, or not so much, it’s a drain on both parties. And you aren’t showing up as your best, most inspired and fulfilled self.

Lastly, on my list of things I thought would bring me joy, it turns out having children brought and brings me more joy, fulfillment, meaning, purpose, gratitude, excitement and motivation than I ever could have imagined. Again, there’s no formula to this, I’m just sharing my own experience. Loving people is the best stuff in life, whether those people are your best friends, your family, your partner, or a total stranger on the street. Shared connection, the feeling that we are all in this together, all part of this mystery, all experiencing the same sense of wonder, confusion, fear, anxiety, loss, joy, excitement, empathy, laughter and hugs—I just don’t know of anything better.

If I could go back and talk to my twenty year old self, I’d say, “Get off your a$$ and stop blaming other people for your unhappiness. Stop devoting all your time and energy to romantic relationships and people who don’t know how to do anything but hurt you. Figure out why you’re attracted to those people, and heal that. Find something to do where you can give something essential of yourself. Direct your attention to using whatever you’ve got to try to uplift the people around you. Trust that things will happen in their own time, and that trying to force or rush life won’t get you anywhere. If you want to be happy, that’s an inside job, and it’s a feeling that can overtake any day, if you focus on all the abundance instead of all the lack. And don’t date Steve.”

Anyway, maybe some of that will help you. Sending you love, and wishing you peace! Ally Hamilton