How to Live in the Now and Trust Yourself

montaigneThe mind just loves to time travel, have you noticed? Left to its own devices, it will pull you into the past, or send you into the future, often with feelings of regret, longing, sadness, fear or anxiety. Sometimes the accompanying feeling is a good one, like recalling something wonderful that’s happened, or feeling excited about an event that’s about to happen, but more of the time we’re sad about something behind us, or scared about something that might or might not be in front of us.

Have you ever revved yourself up for a conversation or situation that never came to pass? Yeah. Me, too, and that’s time we can’t have back. Ever gotten yourself heated over an interaction that already took place, even though you can’t go back and redo it? Yup, I’ve done that, too. Do you know that you can raise your blood pressure just by thinking about things that are upsetting? Your nervous system doesn’t differentiate very much in its response to things that are actually happening, versus things that are only happening in your mind.

Also, when you’re dwelling on some event from your past, or worried about some situation that could occur in your future, you are missing the main attraction, which is what is happening right here, right now. If you aren’t present, you also are not tuned into your intuition, which is a living, energetic response system that causes things like the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up when you’re in danger. If you’re too focused on your destination, you might miss the signs that something is off in the environment around you as you’re traveling. If you’re obsessing over a conversation you’ve already had, you might be missing the chance to connect with someone who’s standing right in front of you.

Last night as I was driving to the studio to teach, I turned up the alley to get to our garage and there was a little girl probably about seven, like my daughter, and she was doing a happy dance, full out, for no apparent reason except that it felt good to be her in that moment. Face upturned, eyes twinkling, cheeks flushed. Her dad was looking at his phone. Now, maybe that’s unusual, and I just happened to drive by in a moment when he was texting mom so they could all meet up, or maybe he’s missing lots of moments like that, I don’t know. What I do know is that I made eye contact with that little girl, and laughed with her and waved, because I wanted her to feel seen in her joy.

If you want to trust yourself, you have to be engaged with the conversation your body is always having with you. The body speaks in the language of sensation, and it is very clear in its messages. If you’re happy, you’re going to feel that energy coursing through your system, those relaxed shoulders and that openness across your chest, your arms relaxed, or wrapped around someone in a delicious hug, or holding an ice cream cone, or a mic, or a pen, or your fingers flying across the keyboard of your laptop–whatever it is that brings you pleasure. Maybe your leg will bounce underneath your desk like mine is right now, because you can’t type as fast as the thoughts are coming. Maybe you’ll notice your spine is long as you’re sitting in your chair, or that you’re sweating a little because there’s a sudden heatwave. There are a lot of things happening in every single moment, and your body is talking to you about all of them. A little breeze through the window going noticed or unnoticed, the way the neighbor is talking to her dog, the smell of exhaust as a truck goes by, the sound of a plane overhead, the taste of the cacao and cashew hemp-spread lingering in your mouth because you had a spoonful awhile ago. Those are small things, but bigger things include the feeling that something is not right, or that you’re feeling alone, or stuck or inspired or grateful. There’s so much we can miss when we aren’t paying attention. When you want to know what to do, believe me, your body is giving you information about what feels right for you. When you need to make a change, your body knows, well before your mind picks up the thread.

The quickest pathway to right now is your breath. Your inhales and exhales are always happening in the now, so when you simply allow yourself to become conscious of this unconscious process that is always happening, and therefore always available to you, you become present. You can become aware of the feeling of your lungs filling and emptying, your chest, rib cage and belly rising and falling, anytime, and anywhere. Right now, if you wanted to, you could close your eyes, and let yourself feel that, and if you took a few conscious breaths, I have no doubt you’d feel an immediate sense of peace, of relief.

The mind is full of ideas, and redundant, often obsessive thoughts, and it will spin you in circles if you let it. Culturally, we’re like a bunch of talking heads with all of our shoulds and fears and doubts and worries, and honestly, if you don’t learn to quiet that racket, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and besieged by life a lot of the time. It’s hard to trust yourself if you’re spinning, but it’s pretty easy if you can come to center. The funny thing is, you can do this in a crowded room, before a presentation, while you’re having a tough conversation, while you’re driving–it’s something you can learn to do throughout the day to slow things down, and open up to the story your body is telling, which is full of truth and wisdom. You have gifts to share that only you can, but it’s going to be very hard if you don’t have faith in yourself. If you want to start working on that, I’m ready to help. Try this short guided meditation right now:

meditation

 

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,
Ally Hamilton

The Double-Edged Sword of Attachment

When-we-were-children-weRecently, my dear old dad was visiting from North Carolina. I don’t see him as much as I’d like to because of the distance, but we make the most of the time we have, and the visits are frequent enough that my kids know and adore their grandpa. They’re also infrequent enough that he really sees the leaps in growth for both kids, and I notice the changes he’s going through acutely, as well.

On this last trip, we went to the beach. It was a hot day, and I knew my kids would love to swim in the ocean and build sandcastles, and I figured my dad wouldn’t mind sticking his toes in the water, either. My dad is eighty-eight. He’s got the brainpower he’s always had, but the body is slowing down. He also spent years running six miles a day on the streets of New York City, so the knees are not what they once were. But he works out every morning, looks fit and strong, and still has that spark in his eye. Anyway, we drove to the beach instead of walking, because I knew the hill on the way home would be too much. Also, he’d just talked to me about the particulars of his will, and other things he thought I ought to know about his wishes when the time comes. That’s where we’re at now. It’s not some conceptual thing that might happen in the distant future, it’s a reality, and we both know it. I mean, my great Aunt Tess lived to 103 and was sharp as a whip until her final exhale, so I’m not counting him out. It’s just, you have to start to accept the inevitable at some point. We don’t last in the bodies we have forever and ever. And we’ll all be lucky if we make it to eighty-eight. It’s not like we can ever take anything for granted, including tomorrow. But we do it all the time. So anyway, we drove to the beach.

When we got there, I laid out a blanket, and my kids took off for the water. My dad and I followed. He was wearing shorts, not a bathing suit, so we went knee-deep, but the waves were splashing and he was getting a little wetter than he wanted, so we decided to back up a little. When my dad turned around, he lost his footing and couldn’t recover, and I watched him fall onto his side. I could see he was upset and disconcerted and maybe even a little afraid. I wasn’t sure if I should reach out and pull him up, or let him get up on his own, because he also seemed embarrassed. It’s a difficult thing to have your body betray you, and to have yourself laid out in front of your kid. But the waves kept coming and the sand was soft and uneven, and I could see that he needed help to get up, and that he was willing to receive it, so I put my hands under his arms like I’ve done for my kids a million times, and we got him back to standing. I could feel his heart racing and his body shaking.

He held onto my arm until we were back on the blanket. When I sat down next to him, he said, “Well, that was my act for the day.” And he told me that his balance has been off since he had emergency pacemaker surgery a few years ago. I was grateful neither of my kids had seen, because I think they would have been scared. For me, I just felt sad. My dad has never been a “false bravado” kind of guy; he’s always been honest with me about his struggles, and when I was little, it was way too much. I know he has regrets about that. I see the way he is with my kids, and I know if he had some things to do over again as a father, he’d do them differently. I also know he loves me to pieces. We’ve been through all that, and have nothing left to clear up, which is a gift and a relief. You don’t want to feel you’ve left things unsaid or unresolved. My dad of today is not my dad of yesteryear.

I think this is an important point, because so many people get stuck in a time warp and feed their rage, which doesn’t leave any room for change or growth, and doesn’t allow the space for something new to emerge. You are not the same you of five years ago, and five years from now, the you you are today will have evolved and shifted in ways you can’t imagine. The same is true for anyone. I know so many people who are grown adults, still blaming their parents for their unhappiness. Here’s the reality: some people should not have children because they don’t have the emotional tools, patience, maturity and resilience for it. That doesn’t mean you have to hate them and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be here, shining in all your glory. It just means you may have some serious work to do to get from there to here. So that’s your work. Is that “fair”? No. It’s just what is, and you might as well deal with it, and get yourself whatever support you need to work it out. Because it won’t be that long before you’ve fallen in the ocean and can’t get up.

I think the main thing is to live your life in a way that you can feel at peace about it when you’re eighty-eight. We are all going to make mistakes, some huge and some small. The best thing I know to do is to acknowledge the mistakes when you make them, to examine what happened that resulted in your not showing up the way you wanted to, so you can do it differently the next time. It’s not about not making mistakes, it’s about making better mistakes as you go. And also, you can always try to mend fences when possible. Not everyone will be open to forgiveness. You can’t force it, and if someone won’t meet you halfway, that’s how it is. But change does happen and some people do learn, and do shift, and do want to fix things and grow beauty out of pain. I’m not saying you have to let them. Some things are unforgivable. There are certainly instances where you have to create and maintain boundaries for your own well-being. But those are extreme cases.

Lastly, we should all remember to say what’s in our hearts. Sometimes it’s tempting to think we can wait until it feels easier, or to put things off because we’re busy or immersed in our own lives. But you can’t take anyone for granted, at any age. The vulnerability of being human is just built into the experience. Fighting that, denying it, or ignoring it won’t make it go away, it’ll just exhaust you. Better to open your heart, your hands and your mind, and love the people in your life with everything you’ve got. Better to have the hard conversations that touch the raw places so you create an environment where healing can occur. Better to slow down, and appreciate the beauty, the gifts and the love, because they don’t last forever. Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton

Love is the Best Answer You’re Going to Get

campbellIf it were possible to have irrefutable answers to life’s big questions, I’m pretty sure we’d have them by now. We arrive in this world, and we’re received with love, or we aren’t. We don’t have to worry about a roof over our heads, or we do. We’re afforded an excellent education, or we aren’t. We have a stable home life, or we live in a war zone. We grow up being told what to think, or we’re allowed to make our own way. The possibilities are endless, but we do have some things in common.

We deal with the same parameters, that’s one thing. We’re on this pale blue dot of a planet, and we don’t know how long we get to be here, or how long our loved ones get to be here, either. We don’t know for sure what happens after this. No one tells us the best use of our time and energy, or maybe lots of people do, but we all have to make sense of that on our own. We will all suffer to some degree or another, because this life, even if you have all the advantages in the world, is not an easy gig. It’s wildly interesting, and there’s always the potential for deep love, but along with that comes the potential for knifing loss, and that is not easy to face. We are inherently vulnerable. Some of us will experience the kind of loss that makes us question the point of it all.

But we have this incredible capacity to love, and a great desire to heal our old wounds. We might not have a lot of the answers, but most people who’ve been on the planet for awhile seem to agree that love and connection are the best experiences available to us. I mean, you know you have now. So what are you doing with your now? The greatest shortcut to happiness is to do whatever you can to uplift those around you. Giving feels good. Being seen and understood, cherished and celebrated not in spite of, but because of, all our flaws and all our beauty is a great gift, and it’s beautiful to give that to other people, too. Listening deeply, caring with your whole being, these things feel amazing and they’re available, every day. You can get caught up in your plans and ideas, you can join in the race, but I really think the better focus is the moments. How can you love with your whole heart, today?

If you’re brave enough to get quiet, to sit up tall for a few minutes, and to feel yourself breathing in and breathing out, you will feel a connection to everyone and everything. That simple act will bring you right into the now, and now is where you need to be if you want to feel love, joy, gratitude and peace. You can’t be in yesterday or tomorrow, you have to be in this moment. Being present feels good. You don’t need to buy anything in order to experience that calm, that steadiness. If you want answers, they don’t reside in a place or in another person. The answers you need are always inside, and those are the only answers you’re going to get. Ultimately, you have to make sense out of this world yourself. If you take the time to create peace within you, you’ll experience it around you, and you’ll be spreading it wherever you go. We have tremendous power to affect the way our lives feel. Of course there are devastating things that can happen to any of us, but it’s how we face what we’re given.

We experience our life as if it has a beginning, middle and end. We treat this like it’s our personal story, but that isn’t it. We’re joining a much larger story. We’re in the flow, and then we’re out of it. The flow goes on without us, although what we contribute while we’re here certainly affects it, and those ripples continue on. But it’s not your story, or mine. There are currently about seven billion of us contributing to this dance. What kind of dance are you doing while you’re here?

Being present means we’re opening to things as they are and trying to come back with love. We can focus on everything we don’t have, or we can direct our attention to those gifts we do have. Part of quieting the storm that rages in the mind involves choosing the thoughts that will strengthen us. Yes, there are things that can make us sick from the outside, but a lot of the time it’s our own thinking that’s causing us to suffer. We can argue about all kinds of things, but it’s pointless. We’re all in this mystery together. We can get caught up in names, borders, colors, religions and opinions, but love is the best answer you’re going to get.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

The Part That Is Personal

Sometimes-life-knocksOften I get emails from people who tell me their relationships would be wonderful, if only their partner would change. And sometimes they tell me they’ve been to therapy hoping that would help, but there hasn’t been any movement. Here’s the thing. We can never change other people. No one can ever change us, either, unless we want to make a shift. And you can find yourself at a real stalemate, and start to feel hopeless and stuck.

But just as we can never change other people, we are also not set in stone. You can always change what you are doing, and there’s tremendous power in that. When you look at the situations in your life, the story to pay attention to is not the one about what this person did, or how things unfolded in ways you couldn’t have imagined, or how something beautiful turned to something painful. I mean, you can examine all of that, but the thing you really want to dive into, is the story of your own participation.

Sometimes people get very clear on the “not taking things personally” part, and that’s wonderful. If someone is abusive, cruel, unkind, dismissive, thoughtless or disrespectful, that’s a reflection of where they are on their particular journey at this point in time. Is is not a reflection of anything lacking within you. But, and this is an important but, what is about you is your decision to continue to interact with people who don’t know how to do anything but hurt you. That part is the personal part, that’s the part you want to understand.

We’re not always talking about awful, abusive situations. Sometimes it’s just a matter of the spark going out. People take their partners or loved ones for granted all the time. Sometimes we think we have people “pegged”, and we don’t have to pay attention anymore. But everyone and everything is in a constant state of flux. You are not the you of five years ago, and neither is anyone else. You can’t ever peg anyone. But you can stop looking and listening and appreciating and cherishing and celebrating people, and that’s a sad but common occurrence. And if you find you’re in a relationship like that, where you feel unseen and unheard and taken for granted, you’re probably not going to turn that around by pointing fingers, and letting your partner know all the many ways he or she is blowing it. Because it’s never one person. In any relationship, there are two people, and the third thing, the space between them. That is where the relationship exists, in that space. Each person decides what’s going into the space, and this is true whether we’re speaking romantically or otherwise.

It’s easy to lose the thread. But if there was a spark in the beginning, if there was communication and vulnerability and honesty, you can find those things again, by offering them yourself. When you change what you do, things change around you, people respond to you differently. Also, your happiness is your own responsibility. You can’t put that on anyone else, that’s an inside job. If you are not at peace within yourself, if you’re not feeling inspired, if you’re not loving yourself well, no one can solve that but you. The idea in a healthy relationship is that you support your partner, you don’t look to him or her to solve your pain for you.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, and by that I mean verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, it’s time to do something. Physical abuse demands that you create physical boundaries. In other words, you have to get out, and you’ll probably (definitely) need support in doing that. You cannot stay and expect things to change because they won’t. Or they will, but not in a good way. Your life here is a gift. It isn’t something you want to gamble. And thinking your love or patience or tolerance will finally change things is a dangerous delusion.

If we’re talking about verbal and emotional abuse, boundaries are also in order. If you’re not worried about your physical safety, it’s time to draw the line. If a person cannot treat you with care and consideration, then what is the relationship about? Are you financially dependent? Does the abuse remind you of the way you grew up? Does some part of you believe that you are not good enough to deserve love? If you get a yes to any of those questions, you need help and support. Low self-esteem is dangerous because we betray ourselves when we feel we aren’t worthy of being cherished. We put ourselves in situations that are crushing and heartbreaking, and you can only take that for so long before you become depressed or hardened, or you need to numb the pain. That’s no way to live.

There is no happily ever after without your participation and action. There is no person who’s going to sweep in and save the day and make everything okay, unless you decide to be that person. Be that person, seriously. Life is too short for anything else, and it can be so beautiful. Sending you love and a hug. Reach out if you need help, Ally Hamilton

Choose the Lesson

shannonlalderRecently, a close friend of mine was left suddenly and without explanation by her husband of less than a year. They were having the normal struggles of any newly married couple, exacerbated by the fact that neither of them had lived with romantic partners before. Just the normal communication issues, and the push-pull we all go through when we’re shifting our perspective from “I” to “we”. They’d talked about going to counseling, and about making some other changes, too. He’d expressed a desire to move to another part of the country, and she’d been open to that. Throughout the relationship, right up until the day he took off, their text messages were loving, flirtatious and affectionate, their time together was mostly fun, and she had no reason to imagine he’d bail. One morning he got up, kissed her goodbye as they left the house to go to their respective jobs, and that was the last time she saw him.

When he didn’t show up for dinner, she texted, and he said he was out with friends and that he’d probably crash with one of his buddies. She asked him where he was, but he just said he was out having fun, and he’d see her in the morning. And then he didn’t show up in the morning, and she called and got his voicemail. When she texted, he said he’d be home later in the day, and that he was running errands. It turned out he’d gotten on a plane and flown across the country. She found out from his friend’s wife, when she called to see if he knew what was going on.

She flew across the country to see him and sit down face-to-face, but he refused, and his family told her to go away. He wouldn’t even respond to her texts, his mother texted to let her know he did not want to see her. She’d spent three years with him, she’d spent plenty of time with his parents and siblings, and not one of them would meet her for a tea, or even get on the phone. Her family and all her close friends, myself included, told her to come home. When there’s no communication, there’s also no hope. And when his family also shunned her, we all understood this was their modus operandi.

Two weeks later, he served her with divorce papers, citing irreconcilable differences. Then he proceeded to make demands about all the wedding gifts and furniture he wanted. She told me when she saw the list he sent with the movers, the nine-page list of things he wanted them to collect, it finally sank in. He cared about kitchen knives, but not her heart. He wanted the garbage can, but he didn’t want to know if she was okay, or how she was coping. He just didn’t care.

And so she was left in the dark, trying to figure out what had happened. Was the whole thing a sham? Had he ever loved her? Was the huge wedding he’d wanted just for show? Had he meant anything he’d said on their wedding day, or any day? She told me she felt like she was in the “Twilight Zone”, and that at any moment, Rod Serling would step out from behind a closet door, or from around a corner, and tell her she’d entered another dimension.

Life is like this sometimes. We’re going along, and BAM! A bomb goes off in the middle of our lives, and everything we thought we knew is just blown to pieces. Sometimes it happens because we’re abandoned, like my friend, and sometimes we lose people because they’re ripped from us too soon. Sometimes circumstances create the boom. Maybe we’re fired, or our house burns down, or we’re facing some other huge turn of events we could never have seen coming.

We’d never wish that on ourselves or anyone else, but it happens. And once you feel all the feelings around the experience—the shock, the grief, the confusion, the rage—you have a chance to begin again. Some things are so brutal, you have to accept you’re never going to be the same. Some things will never make sense, some things will never be explained, some things will rip your heart out of your chest and eat it with a fine chianti. So be it.

The question is, what are you going to grow out of those ashes? People and circumstances can hurt you, but they can’t defeat you unless you let them. You can’t rush through your feelings when you’re in turmoil; in fact, I’d say that’s the moment to use every bit of the support system you have in place, or to get busy creating one. That’s when you figure out who in your life is really going to be there for you. And that’s really good information to have, because then you know where to invest your time and energy, and with whom.

All you can ever do, is start where you are. We learn and grow from every experience, but we have to choose the lesson. My friend doesn’t want anyone to speak badly of her ex, and she isn’t fighting him for stuff or money. As she said to me, “The more he takes, the less he has.” How’s that for choosing the lesson?

There are confounding things that people do to each other sometimes. I get emails from people going through divorce with children, and one partner is using the kids as pawns against the other. Who do you think pays in that scenario? But again, those kids will grow up one day, and they’ll choose the lesson. There’s a lot of power in that, so if you’re in a situation that’s making you feel weak, try looking at it from that perspective. No one can take that away from you. Pick the lessons that strengthen you and open you. We have enough hard, closed people in the world. And when things happen that you don’t understand, do your very best to have compassion and recognize there’s probably more going on than you know. We can only know another person’s interior world to the extent that they allow us access. Many, many people have pain and they don’t know how to work with it so they lash out or they take off. Some people suffer from personality disorders that render them incapable of empathy. Some people have been taught that their feelings are the only ones that matter. Imagine how life must be for them. The more they take, the less they have. Sending you love, and wishing you peace and strength,

Ally Hamilton

Let Go and Look

johnlubbockWe’re always bringing so much to the table. We all have our histories, our life experiences, our ideas, our frames of reference. Everything that happens outside of us is filtered through what we know, and what we think we know. So what is really happening? Is our perception different from reality? Can two people participate in a conversation and walk away with totally different feelings about what happened? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Yogis call clear-seeing “vidya”. It means we can differentiate between what is permanent and what is impermanent. “Avidya” is the state of ignorance about ourselves, other people, and the world around us; it’s like a sleep-walking state. The practice of yoga, and by that, I mean all eight limbs, is about wiping the lenses clean, and waking ourselves up. Examining those frames of reference we have, and seeing if they’re distorted. Letting go of our attachment to “how things should be” and allowing them to unfold as they are without fighting or clinging or denying, because there isn’t any power in that. We’re never going to control other people, nor do we want to try. We’re not going to control outcomes, or the weather, either, but we can work on facing reality as it is, and responding with bravery, honesty, compassion, awareness, patience and acceptance. We can also pick our battles this way. There are things, people, and causes we need to fight for, and times when acceptance is not the way. Discernment, “viveka”, is the thing.

We save ourselves and the people closest to us a tremendous amount of pain when we get hungry for the truth. And by that, I don’t mean there’s one truth for everyone, I mean what is true for you? What is true for the people closest to you? What is true about the situations you’re in, the dynamics between you and other people? Are there places where you’re hiding from yourself, things you don’t want to see, or feel you cannot accept? Do you have deeply ingrained ideas about yourself or other people that are weighing you down, and preventing you from opening to love, joy and gratitude? Like, “I’m not good enough”, or, “I’m unlovable or broken”, or, “You can’t trust anyone”?

Also, are you taking things and other people for granted? Are there people in your life you think you know “like the back of your hand”? When’s the last time you looked at the back of your hand, by the way? Everything alive is changing all the time. If you think you have someone pegged, even your partner of thirty years, you’re in trouble. When we stop looking, we miss so much, and we don’t leave space for life to surprise us, either. When we think we know, when our cup is full, there’s no room to learn, and if we aren’t learning, we’re dying. As much as possible, wipe the slate clean, and try to move through the world with curiosity. Life is full of extraordinary gifts, and you don’t want to miss them.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

With Strong Determination…

thichIn large part, our ability to be at peace requires our resolve and our discipline. I am not suggesting that’s all that’s required. There are things that happen in life that would bring anyone to his or her knees. I’m not a yogi who’s going to tell you that you can choose to be happy in every moment, because I believe that’s unrealistic and alienating for people who are suffering great loss. Grief is a healthy response to heartbreak, but short of tragedies that befall us in life, much of our suffering does, indeed, come from our thoughts.

A lot of the time, happiness is a choice. Of course we all want to be happy, we even addressed it as a given right in our Declaration of Independence, but often, in our pursuit, we get snagged on our attachment to a particular outcome, and we suffer if anything else should come to pass. Sometimes we spend a lot of energy worrying about things that never happen, and that’s time we won’t get back. Sometimes we boil ourselves replaying old situations as if we could rewrite them or turn back time. The trick is to catch yourself as fast as you can, and to be vigilant. The days are precious. The moments are precious. We really don’t want to lose too many of them traveling into our past and future, because life isn’t happening in either of those places.

Awareness is clearly part of the equation. If you know you have a tendency to “future-trip” and make yourself sick over all the things that “could” happen, or you recognize your predilection toward revisionist history, you want to be on the alert. That way if you’re driving somewhere, or folding your laundry, or washing the dishes, you can catch yourself if you start to spin, and bring yourself back to the present moment. In order to choose the thoughts and habits that strengthen you, you have to understand you have a choice. This is a huge gift of a consistent yoga and seated meditation practice. We train the mind to focus on what is happening right here, right now. We use the breath as an anchor point because it’s always happening in the present moment. If we pull out our meditation cushions, and sit up and become aware of our inhales and exhales, and somewhere along the way we notice the mind is drifting, we pick it up, and begin again. There’s always the potential to do that, on a cushion, or at your kitchen sink, or behind the wheel of your car.

There’s a Pali word, “Addithana”, and it means “resolve”, or, with “strong determination”. If you practice Vipassana (Insight) meditation, as I do, then you already know this word, because we use it to refer to those meditation sessions where we’ve decided we are not going to move. Maybe the back aches or the knees hurt after we’ve been sitting for a time, but we don’t move, we just observe sensation, and notice that it’s always changing. It might not be comfortable, but it’s interesting, and that practice truly mirrors life. Even if we do nothing, things are always in motion, things are always evolving and changing and shifting. Not all of those changes are wanted, but we don’t have control over that. We just have the opportunity to work on the way we respond. If we aren’t paying attention, we miss the shifts, and we lose the power to make a choice. We’re carried along, being pulled this way and that, up and down, victims of circumstance; that’s how the mind is wired, but you can rewire it.

The thing is, we can make all the plans in the world, and it’s fine to do that if it gives you a sense of direction. In fact, I would encourage anyone to live with intention. It’s a relief to uncover your particular gifts and set about the business of sharing them. That, in itself, is fulfilling, but I wouldn’t get too caught up in making longterm plans, because your plans are likely to change. This is true in big ways, and in small ways. When I go to teach a class, for example, I always have a plan. I think about what we’ve been working on, what we did in the prior class, what themes feel right, what parts of the body I’m targeting, potential peak poses, all of it. Then I walk into the room and look around and see who’s there, and whether or not my plan makes sense. Sometimes I know immediately I have to scrap it. Sometimes I modify as we go, based on the energy in the room, and a ton of other factors. Maybe there are three pregnant mamas in the room, and I’d planned a deep twisting class. I’m not going to follow that plan. Again, that’s just a tiny example, but it’s really true of everything in life. We set our course, we have our intentions, but we always have to factor in the unknown. The unexpected. The curve ball. The moment of inspiration. The shifting circumstances around us. The way everything can change in a split second. We always have to deal with what’s in front of us, and leave room to be surprised and amazed and grateful. Life is not obligated to bend to our will, and it probably won’t. Our best bet is to stay present, to develop a practice that keeps us in tune with our intuition, that leaves room for curiosity and non-attachment, and that teaches us not to waste time.

In order to have a great year, for example, I’d really focus on having great days. What can you do to nurture and strengthen yourself today? What can you do to support the people in your life today? What would bring you joy, right now? Is there a chance you could make someone else’s day by picking up the phone to catch up? Is there anything you could do, even for twenty minutes, that would make your life easier? Anything you’re allowing to pile up, that’s going to be much harder to deal with than it would if you just marked a small amount of time each day to tackle it? Maybe you could start the day by thinking of one thing or one person or one quality you possess that brings a smile to your face, and maybe you could end the day like that, too. I’m just saying, there’s so much potential to cultivate some beauty and some love, and if we do that every day, if we string together a bunch of days in which we feel alive and engaged and present, then we don’t waste time, we celebrate it, and those days turn into weeks and months, and really, I believe that’s how we have a happy week, month, year, decade, and so on; that’s how we live our lives in a way that feels good. That’s how I try to do it, anyway.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton