Let’s Not Give Up on Each Other

eachotherThe last few days have been painful in our country, but in all fairness, for many people the pain has been real and heartbreaking for years. I needed a couple of days to process, because I was shocked by the result of our election on Tuesday, and in that shock, I needed time to recognize and think about  my own ignorance. When half the country votes in a way you never saw coming, you understand you have been out of touch with a huge segment of the population.

 

 

I am not confused about the pain in our country, and I was not unaware of it. Rampant gun violence, black men being shot by the police, women being paid $.80 for every dollar a man makes, I mean, you have to be asleep to miss the fact that we are not living as the country we purport to be. This is not the land of the free, everyone is not equal, and working your ass off does not mean you are going to realize the American dream, or even guarantee health insurance or a college education for yourself or your family. People are tired and angry and frustrated. Many feel unrepresented, disenfranchised, and enraged.

 

This election season has been the ugliest I’ve ever lived through; I have never seen anything like it, and hope I never do again. As a country, we embarrassed ourselves on the world stage. The level of conversation was so low, it is hard to fathom how it could have dropped any lower. In my view, the hatred, rage and fear that were enflamed were done so intentionally. There’s plenty of it out there, I just did not realize how much, and that is the part that has shocked me and broken my heart. I think a lot of people feel the system is broken, Washington is owned by rich people who don’t give a shit about them, and all politicians are liars and cheats. It seems half the country felt the best idea was to send in somebody from outside the system to blow things up from the inside. I really get that, I just don’t believe this was the right somebody. I understand frustration. I understand distrust, we all do. The problem for me is many-fold.

 

Hate speech against minorities and women is absolutely never okay in my book. Ever. That is not leadership, that is bigotry, racism, sexism and misogyny. When you rile people up in that way, when you feed on the worst in us, you never bring out the best. The people who feel heartbroken right now are heartbroken about that, it isn’t even the political piece. The people who are afraid right now are the people who have been watching and listening to the kind of speech that makes us all wonder what is going to happen now. Whose rights are going to be violated, or taken away completely? We were already in trouble, and now we wonder, can this person who said such hateful things about so many of us, any of us who aren’t white Christian men, possibly bring our torn country together again? Or shall we prepare ourselves to watch everything we hold dearest go up in flames?

 

It is too easy to label anyone who voted differently than you as crazy or ignorant. I know it’s tempting. I understand some of us are absolutely flabbergasted, but what’s vitally important to grasp, is that the people who voted differently feel the same way about you. They cannot fathom how you don’t see what they see. They cannot understand why you don’t feel the way they feel. When we don’t even try to understand, to find a thread of commonality, we’re lost to each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t feel your fear. I feel it. I’m concerned about our Supreme Court. I’m worried that the hate speech we heard will become commonplace. I am scared for my children, especially my daughter. My son is a white, blonde, blue-eyed kid, and he cried his eyes out Tuesday night. It hurt me to see my child affected that way, but it also gave me hope. His tears were not political, his tears were emotional. He has friends at school who are worried their parents are going to be deported while they’re playing handball at recess. He understands compassion already, at ten. He does not understand racism or sexism or bullying, it makes no sense to him, or to my daughter, and I hope it never does. His tears pained me, but they also comforted me, and that’s the first time my child’s tears have ever done that. We need the next generations to come up and fix the things we’ve gotten so wrong.

 

I know we want to point fingers and lay blame and separate ourselves from each other. The Canadian immigration website crashed Tuesday night. I saw many people posting about Australia. I, myself, thought maybe now would be a good time to go to Ireland, which has been singing a siren song to me for years. Calexit was looking good to me. The truth is, though, I would never leave right now. We need to stay and work this out, and we will not get there in fear. We will not get there by labeling half our country as insane. We will not get there by only worrying about our own families and our own lives. We are each other’s keepers and we have not been doing a good job. We have not been hearing each other, but my God, we are hearing each other now. Don’t scream into the void. Don’t join the hatred and rage. Try not to label and villainize people, it won’t help anyone. Try to understand, try to listen, try to hope. Take action where you can, and where you feel called to do so. Fight for the things that are meaningful to you, speak out whenever you see someone or something that insults your soul. Treat your neighbor as the family member she is. Understand that we are one people on one planet, and no one can change that or take that from us. Where you don’t understand that, pause and reflect. You get to decide how you’re going to rise up in this situation, and who you’re going to be. We’ve had dark days in our country before, and we will get through this together.

 

Sending you love, and a big hug,

 

Ally Hamilton

 

If you need help coming back to center, try these classes:

https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/meditation-intro-to-meditation-ally-hamilton-2586

https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/meditation-complete-breath-for-peace-john-sahakian-3097

https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/meditation-blessing-of-connection-sifu-matthew-cohen-2880

Focus on the Days, Not the Decades

Waiting-is-painfulSomebody sent me an email today asking what I do when I don’t know what to do. She said she has big choices to make, but none of the options look good; no matter which way she turns, there’s suffering. Life is like that sometimes, and it’s just not easy when we come to those forks in the road.

Sometimes I like the saying, “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” And of course, there’s the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland”, with his famous line, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” When I don’t know what to do, meditation is always helpful. Getting quiet so you can hear the voice of your intuition is always a good plan.

When your decisions are mostly going to impact you, it’s a bit less daunting. You may make a regrettable decision, but sometimes that’s how we have to learn, so we can make different choices the next time. Or so we learn something about ourselves, or life, or other people, and we grow. Maybe there are growing pains, but anything that helps us to see ourselves more clearly is ultimately helpful. When your decisions impact other people, like your children, for example, it’s exponentially harder.

“Paralysis through analysis” springs to mind. We can’t nurture ourselves or anyone else when we’re stuck, and in fear. Fear is a perfectly natural feeling we’ll all experience, but it’s not a great motivator. I mean, sometimes we have to feel the flames scorching our ankles before we move, I’m just saying whenever possible, coming from love is always better than coming from fear.

None of us has a crystal ball. It’s not like we get to make both choices, living our parallel lives so we can see which way is better, and then circle back and decide. Also, we really have no clue what anyone else’s journey is supposed to look like. If you’re making choices that impact other people, you just have to do the best you can to weigh it all out.

Sitting at the fork in the road biting your nails and agonizing isn’t going to serve anyone. If you have to act, move in the direction that seems the most likely to be the least painful. That’s the very best you can do sometimes. Life doesn’t always unfold the way we expected or hoped. And you truly never know what may happen down the road. Maybe nothing makes sense right now, but later the pieces will all fit together.

It isn’t all light and positive. Some of it breaks your heart. Sometimes you have to make your best guess and feel your way along and see what happens. You do the best you can with the information you’ve got. And you try to move toward love. Something will happen, you can be sure of that. And maybe you can work on trusting yourself, and your ability to open to the vulnerability inherent in this experience of being human. You can always find beauty, joy, love and gratitude on any given day. Focus on your days and not the decades out in front of you. Try to unearth the gifts each day. The smile of someone you love, or someone you don’t even know. The sound of laughter from those closest to you. Hugs. The sun on your face. Your ability to uplift other people in small ways and large. Give everything you’ve got from your heart, because you’ll never run out of love. Move toward those things that inspire you and light you up. Piece together a bunch of those days, and you’ll be looking at a good life. Sending love and a hug to anyone who needs it. Ally Hamilton

It’s a Traffic Circle!

We-must-walk-consciouslyMany people say they want change, but not everyone is willing or able to work toward it unless a crisis occurs. Sometimes it’s an external trauma that becomes the catalyst for a new way of thinking or being. The loss of a loved one, for example, sadly stops the world for a moment and puts everything in perspective. For some people that shock, that realization that the line between life and death is so fragile, becomes a springboard for a different way of thinking about life and how to live it. And sometimes it’s an internal pressure that causes the need for something new. If your way of being in the world hasn’t been working for you, then at a certain point it will become too painful to carry on blindly, stubbornly, or bitterly.

Sometimes we are forced to see that we’ve been living a lie in some essential way. That’s just no way to walk through life, and if that’s how a person has been traveling on his or her path, a fork in the road will come. One sign will read “Numb Out and Carry on Avenue” and the other, “Let’s Get it Together Trail.” Some people choose the avenue, but the trail is where it’s at; “it” being the beauty in life. The path to your truth and your peace, which may very well be full of ditches and blind alleys and caves full of sorrow, tunnels on fire and hail in your face. Tell me that doesn’t sound awesome?! No one would choose the trail unless the avenue had just become unbearable. But the the avenue is nothing more than a traffic circle.

Change is the only constant, but we resist it and flail about trying to avoid it or deny its existence. Sometimes we try to stop it in its tracks, as if we could stop the tides of the ocean. That’s no different than standing at the shore freezing and raw, screaming at the moon to stop pulling on everything so hard. The moon isn’t stopping, the earth doesn’t have a pause button, you have already changed since the time you started reading this post. Sometimes people grow in different directions and leave, and in any case, those we love dearly are on loan, as are we. What you wanted five years ago may not be what you want now. Maybe the way you treat the people you love most isn’t working for you. Maybe you’re treating yourself terribly; those things usually go together. You’ll know if you’re in crisis, there’s no mistaking it. And you’ll know if you need to make some changes.

Knowing doesn’t mean you’ll do it. You may decide to keep riding in circles for awhile because the trail looks scary from the comfort of a car we’ve been driving for years that might be on cruise control. Maybe the ride is not fulfilling, but at least it’s the gear we know, right? When your battery dies or you get rear-ended or you have a head-on collision, or you are just so freaking tired of sitting in traffic blaring your horn, you’re going to pull your car over, right onto the shoulder where there will be signs posted that you will be fined if you do that. You’ll do it anyway because you cannot take it another second. You will walk away from that car and head toward the trail and eventually you will look back and laugh. And shake your head. And wonder why you spent so much time driving in circles when you could have soaked yourself in the downpour of your own truth, could have felt the sunlight spill right into your heart, could have laughed the laugh you did when you were five. Maybe you’ll be someone who doesn’t need a crisis to do that. I wasn’t, but maybe you will be. I wish that for you. Sending you love, and letting you know the fines for driving in circles are a lot higher than anything you’ll pay if you pull your car over! Ally Hamilton

Stand Up Eight

Fall-down-seven-timesThe key thing in life is not to give up. If finding inner peace was easy, the world would be full of happy, loving people, and we’d have a much different set of global circumstances, too. How it is outside is a reflection of how it is inside, and we simply have too many people at war within themselves at this moment in time.

In our culture, we’re taught to be against ourselves, we’re trained to have an adversarial relationship with our own bodies. In other words, we are taught to go to war at home. You’re going to live in your body for your whole life, so in a very real sense, it IS your home, and you’re going to keep the company of your internal dialogue. How sad that we’re taught that almost nothing about us is okay, and how obvious it is that we’d need some healing. This business of being human is not easy, and you may feel lost, alone and in darkness for quite some time. Yesterday in one of the threads, someone said she wished she had a set of tools for healing. The best tool for getting unstuck is knowing yourself. Figuring out what makes you tick, what lights you up, what feeds your soul. And then finding the courage to make choices that are in alignment with your big, resounding inner YES. Acknowledging and embracing your pain so it doesn’t rule your life. Accepting all parts of yourself not with shame or fear, but with grace, with compassion. Understanding that your work is not to be perfect, but to be real, to be perfectly you, perfectly human.

How do you know yourself? There are so many tools. I teach yoga because that’s the set of tools that worked, and continues to work for me, six days a week, and more than twenty years (and counting) later. Talking to at least one someone you trust is also essential. Someone who will mourn with you, but will also kindly hold up a mirror for you when you are not showing up as your highest self, or when you are acting in a way that is harmful to your own well-being. A great therapist will do those things for you. Treating yourself well, feeding yourself well, and examining relationships with people that may not be healthy. Getting out in nature, feeling the sun on your skin, the breeze on your face. Reading books that open you, that shed a little light into your darkness (anything by Pema Chodron, Sylvia Boorstein’s, “Happiness is an Inside Job”,”The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell, “Devotion” by Dani Shapiro, and “Being Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh are all favorites of mine, along with the poems of Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Rumi, Rainer Maria Rilke…I could go on and on, but that’s a good start if you need some inspiration), and a seated meditation practice (check out http://www.dhamma.org/ if you’re interested). These are the tools in my particular shed, but knowing yourself means figuring out what you need in yours.

Falling down and staying down is a commitment to misery and darkness and rage and bitterness. It’s going to be a long, unhappy life like that. Yesterday someone else said they’d given up, but I don’t believe that, because then, what are you doing on this page? You know I’m gonna come out swinging every day about the beauty in life and the beauty in you, and that I’m going to keep talking about healing yourself and doing the work and being accountable and taking a hold of this one, amazing, gorgeous, painful, unpredictable life, and riding it all the way. Please don’t give up on yourself, or on life. That would be such a shame. Because no one else can be you. You are the only you we’ve got, and you have your own particular gifts to uncover and share. Robbing yourself of that opportunity is also robbing yourself of the joy of life, the sweetness of your purpose, the great, true laughter of your heart. It’s also robbing the world of gifts only you can offer. You may have grown up, you may shave your face every morning, or your legs, but there is still a little kid inside you who is hoping beyond hope that you will do it. That you will face the dragons and slay the sh&t out of them. That you will charge the fence with everything you’ve got and break yourself out of the illusion that you are not good enough, or that the world isn’t beautiful even with all its pain. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. Don’t let yourself down, don’t let yourself get counted out. I hope you stand up right now. Sending you love, and a very hot cattle-prod if you need one, Ally Hamilton

Make Your Art

Dont-think-about-makingThis is pretty much how I feel about life. Every day we are granted is a chance to make art. The art of living life with your heart open. The art of moving from, and with love. The art of healing yourself, of listening deeply, of giving whatever you’ve got to spread some light, some joy, some laughter. The art of a great hug. The art of creating a space where healing is likely to occur, for yourself, and for as many other people as you can. Some of the most beautiful art I know, is the art of being present. Of giving someone your time, your attention, access to your soul. Everyone deserves that. To be truly seen, heard, experienced.

You won’t always succeed, but treating your life and the way you’re living it as your canvas, and painting it with every gorgeous color in your soul is the only way I know to make the art you’re here to share. Worrying about how you’ll be received or perceived is all too human, but it’s also a complete waste of your resources. Trying to please everyone is exhausting and impossible, and it’s also a surefire way to cut yourself off from your inspiration, your yes, your divine spark. If you make your art from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong. You may not please everyone, but as long as you aren’t intentionally hurting anyone (I’m not talking about those times when we will all inevitably hurt people because we’ve grown in a different direction. I’m talking about indifference to someone else’s well-being, feelings, situation, heart), you have to shine your light. You have to dip your brush in the well of what is true for you, and splash the stuff that lights you up from within, all over your canvas. It is not your job to convince anyone that your art is worthwhile or important or good. It’s not your job to wipe someone else’s lenses and sell them on how awesome you are. You are supposed to be awesome. You’re no different than the sun, or the ocean, or the bella luna. You’re part of all of that, with some stardust splashed in, too. There is nothing to prove. There are just many incredible and obvious things to be: Curious, loving, open, attentive, laughing, grateful, awake, amazed.

That’s your light, and you’re meant to shine it. You’re meant to uncover it and share it and spread it everywhere you go. We need to feel that connection to what is true for us, and the joy in life comes from the sharing of it. Of course it is extra special to be received with love. But you are love, so you can do that for yourself, too. Some people will come and share some of their art on your canvas in this life if you let them. And you will sometimes paint on someone else’s also. If you have children one day, you will want them to finger paint all over your stuff until they find their own canvas. Sometimes in life someone’s art complements our own so well, we decide to share a space to shine, and sometimes the art moves in two different directions. If at all possible, celebrate the process of making it, and try not to worry too much about whether it’s turning out the way you envisioned. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Maybe some color will come out of you that you never knew existed. Be bold. Be willing to get messy. Try not to be disturbed when every color coming out of you is dark. If you looked back on the canvases of the most happy people you know, I guarantee you somewhere you’d find the midnight blue of despair. The dark grey of loneliness. The muddy brown of confusion. The blackness of fear. And splashes of those shadow colors throughout the entire piece. How else would you see the extraordinary light if not for the darker hues? Because this work of being human is messy and complicated. Sometimes it will break your heart, and sometimes your broken heart will open in ways that create the most piercingly beautiful colors. It is all gorgeous and necessary and worthwhile. It is all your art. And it is stunning, just like you.

And just so you know, you can come paint on my canvas anytime. Sending you so much love, and flicking a little paint at you, too, Ally Hamilton

Answer the Questions that are Going to Feed Your Soul

In-the-end-these-thingsCan you imagine if the questions were: How much money did you make? How much stuff did you accumulate? How many hours did you work? How many accolades did you receive? How much did you weigh? Would that not be INSANE??! And yet, that seems to be much of our focus. And people buy into this (literally), and live their entire lives as slaves to the wrong questions.

They’re the wrong questions if you want to be happy, anyway. I am absolutely positive life is not about accumulating money and stuff. Are there the basic necessities of keeping a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator and clothes on your back? Absolutely. But once those needs are met and you’re not scrambling to make ends meet, your happiness quotient is not going to expand in any kind of correlation to your bank account. If you’re not happy on the inside, nothing external will fix that. And if a person isn’t thankful for everything they already have, they’re not going to be satisfied with more. If you can’t take the time to eat a slice of pie and really savor it, a whole pie isn’t going to help you with that. Because it will never be enough. If you don’t fill the void with love, it’s a bottomless pit.

Loving well is an art. It takes constant practice and study and patience and a willingness to be totally vulnerable. You have to expose the soft underbelly of your heart and offer it up. It requires listening well. Seeing well. And it means figuring out how to do those things for yourself, too. Love doesn’t control or manipulate or cling. It accepts and it surrenders with grace, with understanding. Love celebrates truth, and sometimes love is required to let go. Love wants to lift us up, to say yes! Go, do that thing that’s burning within you, whether I get to come along or I’m left to watch you shine from afar. Love honors us and says, of course you can. Loving well means walking through the world with your hands, heart, mind and eyes wide open. And love is inside of everyone. Sometimes people have to dig deeply to uncover it, but I believe we’re all made of the stuff, and learning to love well simply involves realizing that.

Living fully is so much about listening to your heart, to your intuition, to that YES inside you that’s bursting to come out. About recognizing that every single day is a gift to be opened and relished, and hopefully, received as another chance to spread more love. To finding your purpose, your gifts, and sharing them everywhere you go, to the best of your ability. Living fully involves presence, awareness, engagement and a desire to take nothing for granted. No smile, no touch on the arm, no rushed goodbye on the way out the door.

And letting go is embracing the reality that everything, everything is in a constant state of change. Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain. That scares the sh&t out of most people and it’s so understandable. But we are not in control. We do not get to decide what will happen and what won’t happen. All we can do is move toward healing and love, over and over again. All we can do is love with our whole hearts and try with everything we’ve got to shine as brightly as we can for as long as we’ve got. To help each other. To lend a hand, a shoulder, whatever is needed. Each day we are given an opportunity to practice. Each day we have a chance to move from love. The more we’re able to do that, the happier the day will be. If you can string a whole bunch of those together, that’s a formula for a very happy life. Make sure you’re living answers to the questions that are going to feed your soul. And have a gorgeous day. Sending you so much love, as I always am, Ally Hamilton

Falling

Sometimes-when-thingsWhen you’re in the midst of things that are falling apart, whether they be jobs or relationships or a way of being, this is a tough concept to embrace, but things fall apart so they can fall together in a different way. That doesn’t mean “everything is happening for a reason”, it just means that this is the nature of all living things–people, emotions, situations, and the leaves on the trees around us. Everything is always in flux. If a relationship ends and your heart is broken, of course you’re going to grieve and examine what happened, and depending upon circumstances, you may have a lot of healing to do. Those times when I’ve felt desperate, or paralyzed by fear, or heartbroken because I couldn’t see a path in front of me and realized I’d have to cut through the brush and create one, have also been the times when I’ve learned the most about myself and have grown in ways I never would have otherwise. That doesn’t mean you have to put everything in a box marked “thank you”, it just means we always have the choice to create beauty out of our pain.

Sometimes the thing that’s “falling apart” is you. In yoga philosophy and practice, you might come upon the concept of “The Dark Night of the Soul”, which is not a yogic concept, but rather a poem (and later a treatise about the poem) written by the Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. In the poem, he narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. In the yogic context, we have something called “isvara pranidhana”, which has a few different translations: devotion to the divine, devotion to the Ultimate Reality, devotion to your True Self.

It’s basically that time that comes when the old way of being in the world isn’t working anymore, and the new way of being isn’t clear yet. The old way may include relationships, jobs, coping mechanisms, the way you see yourself…anything that feels inauthentic, that just doesn’t “fit right” anymore, that will now have to go. It’s an extremely uncomfortable, lonely, painful, and scary process…and it takes a lot longer than a night. For me I’d say it took about five years. Any spiritual path (and there are many), will hopefully lead you to your own truth, your own peace, your realization of the incredible and limitless well of love within you. But in order to get there, you’re probably going to have to sail away from the shores you know, and head out to sea for awhile, waiting for your internal compass to kick in.Knowingly plunging yourself into darkness doesn’t usually sound appealing to people unless they’ve tried everything else first.

I’d feel comfortable saying that if the path you’re on isn’t making you a more compassionate person, it’s probably not the right path. Because ultimately, we are all so much the same. All grappling with life’s big questions: What’s the meaning of it all? What am I doing here? What happens when I die? We all breathe the same air, all live off (and on) the same planet, all love our children, all have fears and doubts and hopes and dreams and places within ourselves that need healing. So whatever you believe, I hope it opens you so that when you meet people, you really see them. And so that you realize that although they may be smiling at you, last night they could have cried into their pillow until they finally fell asleep. Because maybe everything is falling apart for them right now. It’s not easy, this business of being human. Things do fall apart. We will never know for sure if our answers to those big questions are right. And one day we will die. For me personally, I feel I’ve grappled with those questions and come up with answers that feel right to me. But you may answer those same questions with completely different answers, and you know, you may be right. We’re all just doing our best here.The only thing I’ve come up with that I believe in my heart is universal, is that we are made of energy, and that energy is love. Anything else is taught and learned. When things fall apart, whether it’s your way of being that isn’t working anymore, or it’s a relationship or a job, and you just can’t envision how things will possibly work out, see if you can open your hands and your heart and your mind instead of clenching your fists. We cannot control circumstances. We cannot control what other people will think, or do, or say. We cannot manage anyone else’s journey. But we can manage our own path, and we can keep heading toward healing and love.

What I want most in this world is for my children to be happy. I want them to live in a peaceful world. I want you and your children to be happy. I truly believe we are all family. Your children are related to my children, even if you live on the other side of the world. The only way I know to a peaceful world, is one person at a time. One person at a time taking the journey inward and doing the work to heal. One person at a time being willing to let things fall apart if they need to so that something strong and beautiful can emerge. If your house is peaceful, if you model loving behavior for your children, if you teach them what it means to be compassionate by being compassionate, they will do as you do. And if you don’t, they will also do as you do. That’s how we change the world, I’m pretty sure of that. I believe almost everyone is capable of healing. I realize our culture encourages sleepwalking but I don’t underestimate the power of a growing number of people who are awake. Engaged. On fire. When things fall apart, the desire to go to sleep, to numb out is understandable. But I’d rather be awake and in pain than asleep. And I’d rather be awake for all the incredible joy, too. Aware of all the gifts. Open to all the love. I’d rather accept that everything is always changing, and that one day I’m going to die. I hope it’s a long long time from now. But however long I’ve got, I want to use every minute to spread love. I won’t succeed. I’m a human being. I’ll get angry, or discouraged or tired or cranky or depressed sometimes. But I’ll do my best. And I know you will, too. And I hope we all live long enough to see the impact of a bunch of loving people doing their best and coming together. Wouldn’t that be freaking awesome? Sending you so much love, and a very big hug if things are falling apart for you right now, Ally Hamilton