Go Straight at It!

I-believe-half-of-theFear is the steely cold vise grip around the mind that bellows, or sometimes whispers the words “can’t” and “shouldn’t.” Fear will stop you in your tracks if you let it, and fill you with doubt, insecurity and shame, and all the reasons why not, until you literally cannot move. Nothing will crush your soul and dim your light like being in the grip of fear.

If you want to feel fulfilled, if you want to find your purpose here, you’re going to have to feel your fear and move forward, anyway. You’re never going to be able to shine as brightly as you could if you allow yourself to stay stuck in an environment that’s crushing you. If you’re trying to make a shift, it’s almost guaranteed fear will show up to play. Because even when we’re moving in a positive direction, if that’s an unfamiliar course of action the system is going to feel stressed. You’re trying to re-format your hard drive, and there’s going to be resistance. Coping mechanisms are habits, or ways of being we develop to face the challenging aspects of life, or ourselves (or frequently a combination of both). If you want to follow your heart, and I hope you do, you’re going to need to ditch those crutches so you can run straight at the thing, you know? Because the idea is to be living every day you’re alive, but so many people end up numbing out and sleepwalking instead because the fear overpowers them. Convinces them they’re not enough. You are more than enough and you have an incredible amount of light within you. You are not here to dim it or repress it or sacrifice it for any reason. You know this intuitively, because it’s the truth.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations we could never have planned for, that feel so complicated. This can happen in the personal or professional realm. And the mind starts working over-time, trying to problem solve, or manipulate the situation, or control its outcome. You already have the answers in your heart, even if fear is making it hard for you to hear them. The voice of your intuition is quiet but always truthful. The mind screams back with all of its ideas and judgments, worries and obsessions. Get quiet and accept what’s true for you, and then go straight at the thing and don’t let anything stop you. Certainly not fear. It’s just a feeling, after all, it’s not going to do you in!! Sending you love and strength, Ally Hamilton


Worry-does-not-emptyThis is the thing about the mind: If you don’t get a hold of it, it will head into the past or into the future, and pull you right out of the present moment. Worrying is nothing more than creating a state of anxiety about an event that may or may not come to pass. Worrying will not magically add money to your bank account, or have any effect whatsoever on any situation in your life, except that it will make you sick. Sick with tension. Being tense doesn’t help anything, either. It just makes it hard to eat or sleep. Sleep deprivation will also wear you down and make your thinking muddy. So why do we do it?

When we worry, it’s an attempt to control or predict a future outcome, or it’s an attempt to manage another person’s path. We run every awful scenario through our heads and rehearse our possible reactions. And in so doing, we both over-estimate and under-estimate our power. Of course if you love someone and they are in trouble, worrying about their well-being is natural, but it’s not going to help them. Using your energy to be a source of strength is a lot more helpful. Extending an ear, a shoulder, a hug, tangible support if you’re in a position, are all much more useful than your worry. And sometimes we can love people who are on a path to hurt themselves, and at a certain point, if they’re determined enough, there’s not much we can do but be there. We can’t save other people.
There are times we get ourselves completely worked up over a non-event, a non-issue. Obsession has a very similar set of side effects as worry. When we boil ourselves over a past event or a predicted outcome, although the event isn’t taking place in the present, it might as well be. Because when we fixate on something like a conversation that didn’t go the way we wanted it to, or one we’re anxious about having, we create a set of circumstances in the body that are not much different than they would be if this feared or unfortunate thing was happening right now. Or than they were when the past event happened. Your blood pressure doesn’t differentiate between an actual event or an imagined one if you get yourself worked up enough. Next time you’re “boiling yourself”, notice your shallow breath, your tensed shoulders, your clenched jaw, your furrowed brow. Your body is in a state of stress, and your mind has created it.

Sometimes logic helps. If you catch yourself spiraling, see if you can pull yourself out of it with a few questions: Is the way I’m thinking going to help in any way? Is it a productive way for me to think? Is it going to help me grow and open and learn something about myself? Am I in a state of resentment and blame? Is this a good use of my time and energy? If you come to the conclusion that no good will come from your train of thought, then you have to break out of the groove of it. Something physical usually helps a lot. For me it’s yoga, the movement and the breath, the awareness of sensation, the quieting of my mind, and the opening of my heart. But for some people it’s running, or wind-surfing, or gardening, or hiking. I do think moving your body and breathing deeply are key. If you can’t move your body because you’re stuck at work, then breathe deeply and consciously. If you can get out in nature, or even walk around the block, that is almost always soothing to the soul. Sometimes a dance party to the right song in your living room, or behind the wheel of your car is enough to shake the obsession off. But try to stop the tape and come back to now.

If you’re worrying or obsessing, put your hand over your heart so you can feel it beating, sit up as tall as you can, and take a really full inhale. Hold it in, and then let it all out. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Because you are so beautiful, and you have so much love within you, and that is available to you right now, in this moment. If you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator, I fully get that asking you not to worry is not only unrealistic, it lacks compassion. And if you’re in that place, my heart really goes out to you. But short of that, I just thought I’d invite you back to now. Because we could hang out here together, recognizing that life brings all kinds of ups and downs, all kinds of joy and pain, all kinds of darkness and light, and worrying about any of it won’t change a thing. But being present for the ride is exhilarating. Wishing you a gorgeous day, everything that you need, and the knowledge that you are not alone. Sending love, as always, Ally Hamilton


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

What Are You Doing?

The-difference-betweenThere’s no doubt that a train of thought will affect the way you feel. If you’re in a negative frame of mind, that’s going to create a set of circumstances within you. Some thoughts will affect your physical body–the way you’re holding yourself, the way you’re breathing, the degree to which your muscles are “holding on”, your jaw is clenching, or your brows are furrowing. Some thoughts will affect your ability to sleep or eat well, and some will have an effect on your emotional body, and lead to feelings of listlessness and hopelessness. But nothing is going to have a greater effect upon you than your own actions. At the end of the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror while you’re brushing your teeth. You have to be able to live with yourself. And that’s not going to be easy if you’re acting in ways that are hurtful to you, or to other people.

Having said that, we are all going to hurt other people at some time or another. Sometimes two people grow in different directions, and there’s just no stopping the reality that someone is going to be crushed. Sometimes we’re young and we don’t know what we’re doing. Sometimes we’re selfish and immature, and don’t understand the ramifications of what we’re doing. I’m not talking about that, though. I’m talking about those actions we take even when we realize somewhere deep and real, we shouldn’t. Feelings can be powerful, but they’re just feelings. They come and go, like everything else. You don’t have to act on every feeling that comes over you. Sometimes pain is just brutal, relentless, exhausting, and it’s natural to want a break from it, an escape. But if you’re in pain, the pain is there to teach you something. I know that isn’t a pleasant reality, but it’s the truth. Again, I’m talking about the kind of pain we create for ourselves, not the kind life brings (although frequently we create pain for ourselves because we haven’t healed a wound from the kind of pain that life can bring). Avoiding it or trying to escape it will not make it go away. You can try drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or shopping, or eating or not eating. All you’re doing is prolonging the inevitable. There’s no permanent escape that’s appealing, there’s no lifelong distraction that is going to bring you peace. At a certain point you’re going to have to walk right into the center of your pain and sit your a$$ down. Your pain is your path to freedom. Avoiding it is a jail sentence you’re imposing upon yourself, with the key in your pocket and your mind full of can’t.

I don’t say this without compassion, because I certainly avoided dealing with my own stuff for many years, but it’s really self-indulgent to desist from dealing with your issues. It’s an act of ingratitude. We don’t think of it that way when we’re in the grip of fear, thinking our pain will destroy us; we think of it as survival. But that’s flawed thinking. That’s your real, actual work here–healing yourself, filling yourself with love and compassion and kindness and inspiration, so you can spread those things freely. I realize fear is a big factor. People often feel overwhelmed and defeated by their past, their past behavior, and the idea that they might be able to do anything about it. Not doing anything about it is the thing to fear. A lifetime of emptiness and loneliness and quiet desperation, or not so quiet rage is the thing to fear. A life where you want to numb yourself or distract yourself constantly is something to fear for sure. A life where no one can get close to you because then the real work has to start and you’ve chosen to bow out of that, is something that ought to make you feel a little sick to your stomach. When you refuse to plunge in, your soul gets sick. Soulsickness. Like seasickness, but it’s your heart that’s getting thrown against the rocks.

Your pain won’t defeat you. Not dealing with it will, though. The ability to sit with your feelings without reacting to them is a tool you need to develop if you want to know yourself. If you want to be close to other people. I’m talking about real intimacy, total nakedness with someone else. Trust. The ability to have an uncomfortable, deeply painful conversation with someone about how you feel before you act on your feelings, even if the conversation terrifies you.

“Developing the witness” is something we talk about in yoga and meditation. The idea that you can have your feelings without identifying with them so much. Finding the strength to pause and consider and explore a set of actions before you do anything. That’s freedom. That’s also where character develops and strengthens. In order to change your behavior, sometimes you need to change your thinking. Creating space between yourself and your thoughts, recognizing that you are not your thoughts, is step one.

It’s going to be very hard to love yourself if you aren’t living up to your potential. Because somewhere inside, you’ll know you’re not. You’ll know you’re sleepwalking. And treating yourself and other people carelessly. And you’ll also realize time is passing. You could be shining, that’s the essential thing. You could be so full of love and consciousness and kindness and yes, that it would spill out all over the place wherever you went. Please don’t deny yourself that kind of shining. You could love your life if you don’t, already. You could love yourself and everyone you encounter. You could say, “Okay, Life, let’s dance”. I really hope you do. Sending you love, as always. Ally Hamilton

Please Do Not Feed the Fears!

Please-Do-Not-Feed-theUnless we’re talking about the good kind of fear that stops you from being reckless with yourself, or makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you’re in danger, fear is nothing more than a bully. I’m talking about the kind of fear that stops you from doing what you know in your heart you must. The kind of fear that tells you you’re not good enough, you don’t have what it takes, you can’t do it. That kind of fear can kiss my a$$, and it should kiss yours, too.

Fear puts the mind and the heart in a grip. It shuts down our vision so we can only see what isn’t going well, what could go wrong, all the reasons why we are stuck. Fear travels with doubt and resentment and envy, with a healthy side of criticism. Fear is not kind, and neither are people living in fear, because fear puts you on the defensive. Sometimes when we don’t get what we hope for, we become afraid. “I had a vision of how this thing was supposed to go, how I wanted it to go, and now what do I do?” And the mind starts racing with how awful everything is, how nothing is going right, how things are easier for other people (because fear feeds that comparing and contrasting mind). If you want to shut yourself down and close yourself up and do life in such a way that you’re always wearing blinders and feeding yourself can’t, then fear is the way to go. But, seriously, who wants to live like that? Shut down and numbed out and hopeless and frustrated? Alone and angry and confused, waiting for that magical time when “things will get better”?

Things are not going to get better unless you open to love. And you cannot do that if you are wrapped in a tight little ball with your fists clenched and your eyes scrunched up, and your head full of shouldn’t. Or stories about why you can’t. Why you’re incapable of change. Or so numb you really can’t feel anything. So addicted to distraction the weeks fly by, then the months, then the years, and oh crap, now it’s too late. Anyone who is not suffering from afflictions beyond their control can heal. I’m going to say that again. Everyone. Can. Heal. Love requires courage, participation, and ownership of your own experience.

Love is not for those who won’t be vulnerable, because when you open your heart, there is always the possibility you’re going to get hurt. But you know what? I’d rather have my heart broken fully, deeply, right through the center then live my life asleep and curled up in a ball in a corner wondering what, exactly, I’m doing here. I’d rather be awake with my heart open wide and my head full of Yes, than numbing myself out to avoid my pain. The pain is the path to healing. The pain is where you head. You walk straight into the center of it, and you do not come out until you have faced that sh&t down. Or it owns you. Those are your choices, there is no third, “Can it be a little easier because I don’t want to work that hard?” option.

I refuse to allow any person or any circumstance to rob me of my purpose here, and I hope you do, too. Because anything else is a pure waste of your time, and you aren’t given enough to waste. This is your beautiful, complicated, confusing, joyous, sometimes deeply lonely, other times amazingly incredible life, where sometimes you have your heart broken, and sometimes you feel it expand so much you think, it’s going to come right out of your chest. “This love is so much, so full, so deep it’s going to carry me up above the trees, and over the ocean, and oh, wait, it IS the ocean.” Why, why, why would you deny yourself love like that? Because of some fear? Totally not acceptable. I hope you got a taste of the love I’m sending your way. It has a side of a$$-kick, I know. But sometimes that’s the kind of love we need. If you just need a hug right now, I’m down for that, too.

Ally Hamilton

The Picture in Your Head

What-screws-us-up-theDo you know people who get married because they’re thirty and the clock is ticking, and that’s where they thought they’d be by thirty, and so this guy or girl will have to be the one? Or talk to people with rigid ideas about things, like, if they’re dating someone for a year and there’s no ring, it’s over? How about people who go to medical school because that’s what their dad did and their grandfather, too, and that’s just what people in their family do? When you have a picture in your head about how something should look or feel, you are rejecting things (or people) as they are. Sometimes the person you reject is you, your authentic self.

Life rarely looks like the picture we have in our heads. Sometimes it’s so much more incredible than what we had imagined, and other times it’s way more painful than we had hoped. But there are always opportunities to grow and to open, to dig more deeply and see more clearly. I don’t know why things unfold the way they do. I have theories and ideas like we all do, but who knows if they’re right? Some things are so incomprehensibly painful you just have to let your heart be broken open.

Whatever your feelings, the ability to be with things as they are makes the journey so much easier. To look at your life as it is, with curiosity and compassion for yourself and everyone you encounter, because it’s not an easy thing, this business of being human. To be awake and aware and engaged with what is, not with a daydream or a fantasy or a memory or a picture in your head. I’m not saying thoughts aren’t powerful. The chair you’re sitting on started as a thought in someone’s head. I’m just saying, don’t think your way into a box, where nothing but the picture you’ve imagined will do. Because it might not go like that.

I had a beautiful birth plan with my first, for example. Low lights, no drugs, just a few people to support me. I ended up with a respiratory team in the room, monitors blaring, fear like I’ve never known before or since, panic everywhere. But you know what? I have the most amazing son. Like, insanely amazing. Kind and sweet and smart and funny with a smile that could light up any room. He has incredible enthusiasm for life, hunger for information, a contagious laugh. There’s more love than my heart can hold. So much laughter, so many hugs, such an adventure. And we are both okay. And there has been more joy than I ever pictured or imagined or planned for. Open to what is. Be with it. Explore it. Maybe you’ll be surprised, amazed, heartbroken, head over heels in love. I don’t know. But I do know that whatever you take in as it is, is real, is full of truth, and its own particular beauty, even if it’s the truth and beauty of having your heart broken. This is the ride, this is the best mode of transportation I know. The rest of it is numbed out illusion, a dream, a sleepwalk, an attempt to control something that is really no different than if you woke up today and decided you were going to try to manipulate the tides of the ocean. Just get in and swim. So much love to you, Ally Hamilton

Expose Yourself (not like THAT)

The-strongest-love-isSometimes stealthy fear sneaks in using any and all of it’s cohorts–anger, bitterness, doubt, envy, blame, despair, loneliness, shame, or guilt, and puts the mind in a vise grip. Thoughts carry energy, and if you’re in the grip of any of these states, you’ll notice a tangible bunch of sensations in your body, as well. The breath shortens, the shoulders tighten, the brow furrows, and the heart actually hurts. It’s perfectly natural that you would feel alone in these moments, because you are now “outside the flow”, you’ve been tricked away from your natural state of love.

If at all possible, the heart is the place to go. All you can ever do is your best, and sometimes the terrain is rough and rocky, and the way is uncertain. Being human means being vulnerable. The more you embrace your vulnerability, the degree to which you’re able to be with these painful and uncomfortable feelings, is the same degree to which you’ll experience the flip side of all these emotions. When you feel overtaken by a painful feeling, you can also rejoice a little, because you are here, you are alive, you are aware of your feelings and engaged with them.

When we try to avoid the feelings that make our hearts ache, we also close ourselves off to the feelings that make our hearts sing. The pain is there to reveal something, to teach us something, to help us along our way, to give us something essential. And if you can be with that, if you can open to that, you will equally open to the flip side of fear: love, and all it’s cohorts~ trust, forgiveness, joy, connection, worthiness, ownership of your feelings and and knowledge about yourself. Circumstances are constantly changing, giving us an opportunity to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep opening and deepening. Love is always there, always waiting, always ready to spread some light, even in the darkest of times. So even when the ground is slipping out from underneath you, see if you can tap into that love. Let it deepen your breath, calm your mind, and open your heart once again. Then the way will become clear, the strength will be there for you, and a tiny little voice inside will say, “Yes, you can do it”, even if the path is dark and uncertain. Love always lights the way. Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton