Everything is Happening

everythingI’m not an “everything happens for a reason” yogi. I believe we can grow and open from each experience, I’m just not one to say that there’s a divine plan, and every challenge in front of you is there for the evolution of your soul. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t. Of course it’s a nice idea. It’s comforting to think we get more than one ticket to this carnival, more than one chance to get things right, more than one lifetime to love the people we love. I hope that’s the case, but no one knows for sure how this works. We have our ideas, we figure out what makes sense to us, individually. We’re all in this mystery together. We’ll find out for sure when we exhale for the final time. And because we cannot know, I don’t feel it’s comforting to tell anyone who’s going through pain, grief, or serious life stress, that it’s all happening for a reason that will make sense someday. Like the single mom of two who was just fired from her job, and receives no support from her ex. That would lack compassion, and compound her frustration.

I can look back on my life and say that everything I’ve been through has led me to this moment, and that I’m very grateful to be here. There are a few lessons I would happily give back, a couple of things I’d really rather not know, but we don’t get to choose. I’m thankful for almost everything that’s happened, because those experiences, even the more devastating ones, taught me so much.

I think when we go through life feeling like everything is happening for a reason, we start to feel victimized when we’re faced with obstacles. If this is happening according to some plan, then there’s intent behind it, right? So the thought process becomes something like, “I’m getting fired and having to figure out how to feed my children with no support for some unknown but important reason, and I must deserve this or need it.” That outlook intensifies the pain. It feels like this personal assault where you’ve now become the beleaguered victim, and the truth is, I don’t think that stance is going to help you. “Why me?” is not a useful question. Nor would it be useful to tell a grieving mother or father that their child has died for a reason that will make sense someday. F&ck that. Seriously. Some things will never, ever, ever make sense. Some things will never be okay. Some things you will just carry with you. Yes, there’s beauty in having loved so deeply. Some people never love like that, but you don’t have to put everything in the “thank you” column.

So, I’d really try to take that idea out of the equation when you’re faced with pain. Instead, I would just focus on what you can learn and how you can grow. Maybe you’re going to discover reserves of strength and resourcefulness you didn’t know you had. Maybe you’re going to realize there are people in your life who are going to show up for you, and make sure you don’t end up on the street. One way or another, you’re going to rise to the occasion because you have to, and you’ll have that much more confidence and less fear moving forward. That’s “reason” enough to face our path head on. We don’t get to choose what’s put in front of us, but we get to decide how we’re going to respond.

Awful things happen to beautiful people all the time. If there’s a pattern in your life, definitely look at it. For example, if you keep choosing partners who can’t commit, or end up breaking your heart in other ways, it’s time to ask yourself what that pattern is trying to show you or teach you about yourself. That’s different than feeling like these things are happening to you. That gives you some power, right? Why am I drawn to situations that crush my soul? How can I re-frame things for myself so I’m no longer attracted to people who require the dimming of my light?

Is everything happening for a reason? I don’t know. I look around at certain things and just can’t imagine why, what the reason could be. It doesn’t really matter. They’re happening, right? The question is, what we’re going to do about them. One thing I can say with certainty is that the human heart is resilient. It wants to heal and open. We are all a lot stronger than we realize. And most of us, given the choice, are going to choose to live, even when it’s hard. To rise up, to push through, to dig down, to figure it out. If you’re going through pain, hang in there. Ask for help. Trust yourself. And know that whether it’s happening according to some big plan, or it isn’t, you’re going to strengthen and open either way.

Sending you love and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

Letting Go with Love

aninHow do you let go when everything in your being, every cell in your body, has been wired to hold on? The loss of a child, no matter how old, is as bad as it gets. Losing people is the hardest thing we go through as human beings. It’s devastating when we’re lost from people we don’t know how to live without. It’s crushing, it’s hard to breathe. There’s a hole where a universe once existed. It seems impossible the world keeps spinning. Or that people everywhere are getting up and brushing their teeth or driving to work or sending a text as if everything hasn’t changed.


I want to say up front that some things are never going to be “okay”. There are some losses that are so great, you’re just going to carry them. That doesn’t mean that joy cannot exist again, or that you won’t experience great love, or be filled with gratitude for those moments that come out of nowhere and leave you with tears of appreciation. It’s incredible to be alive. It isn’t always easy, but it’s wildly interesting and life is full of the potential to surprise us and help us to grow and open. Of course there are some ways we’d rather not grow, and some lessons we’d rather not learn, but we don’t get to choose. When your heart breaks, it opens and softens and expands, or it hardens and contracts. I highly recommend you allow the pain to open you, but I do not believe you have to be thankful for the opportunity to grow in that way. Not everything in life has to go in the “thank you” column.

 

Sometimes we lose people because they choose to leave us. This kind of pain happens between parents and children, between siblings, between best friends. I think it’s incredibly sad when family members stop speaking to one another. I recognize sometimes that’s the only way to heal and move on. If there’s physical or verbal abuse, if there’s addiction, if there’s a personality disorder that renders a person unable to empathize or communicate with any kind of compassion, then you may not have a choice. Short of that, it breaks my heart when I hear about families ripped apart.

I met a woman at a holiday party one year, and we started talking. Before long, she’d told me she has two sons, but she’s only in contact with one of them, her youngest. He was also at the party. She said her other son had married a woman who just didn’t like her. From the beginning, no matter what she did, it was wrong, or not good enough, and her son was in the middle, and his wife got pregnant, and the longer they were together, the less he found ways to communicate. She’d tried apologizing to her son, and owning anything she could think of, she’d told him how much she missed him. She’d never met her grandchild. She said she had been a single mom, she’d raised the boys on her own. She certainly hadn’t been perfect, but she’d always done her best. Her younger son came over at one point. He put his arm around her, and kissed her on top of her head. When she went to get food, he told me his brother had married a very unhappy woman, and that he was sure his brother wasn’t happy with the situation, but he also told me his mother was one in a million. Always there for them. Working her ass off to make sure they always had what they needed, and most of what they wanted, and that he was furious his brother was treating her so poorly. So it had taken a tremendous toll on their relationship as well. He’d asked his brother what their mother had possibly done to be in a situation where she doesn’t even get to meet her grandchild? And his brother’s response was to shut down their relationship as well.

What do you do in a mess like that? It’s heartbreaking. You cannot force people to communicate or be rational or kind or compassionate. They are those things, or they are not. Sometimes people are weak, or they’re insecure, or they doubt their worth on a core level, and then they get involved with a strong personality who takes over. Controlling people are attracted to fragile people. I don’t know enough about the woman and her sons to have any real sense of what was going on there, but you have a grown man who was abandoned by his father as a small child, and maybe some part of him has always felt doubtful about his worth. If your own parent can leave you, you must be pretty unlovable, right? Like I said, I can’t swear that was this guy’s thing, but I’ve heard from so many people over the years, and I can tell you from my own personal experience, if you don’t heal your deep wounds, they bite you in the ass again and again. They break your heart until you can’t see straight, and you become so lost to yourself, it’s easier to let other people make decisions for you. Tell you where to go and how to be, and how to think, and who to see. I mean, that isn’t a life, that’s a fog, but a lot of people exist that way, and you can’t march into the center of that fog and wake them up. They do that on their own, or they don’t.

It hurts like hell when someone revises history and turns you into a person you don’t recognize. It’s even worse when your own child does that. The person you bathed and fed and strapped into car seats. The person who’s lunch you made and breakfast and dinner, too, for years and years and years. The person who’s hand you held, and knees you bandaged and face you gazed into and saw the moon and the stars and the sun, all at once. The little person you read to and laughed with and fought for and sat up with through sickness and heartbreak and mean kids at school. Of course it hurts to have that person discard you. Deny you. Reject you. And it isn’t easy to go through the day and know that person is going about his business. That you could pick up the phone and hear his voice, or get in your car and see his face. Except you can’t, because you’ve been invited to disappear.

All you can do is communicate your love, your pain, your confusion, and your desire for connection. Once you’re sure you’ve done that, I think you have to do your best to let go with love. Hopefully, your child will find his or her way back to you. Hopefully, eventually, the fog will lift. The pain of being in a false reality will outweigh the pain of healing and making things right. Until then, you have to do your best to remember who you are, to forgive yourself your imperfections, because we all have them, and not one of us gets it right in every moment. You have to do what you can to remove the onus of guilt and blame if they don’t belong to you. That woman at the party told me she must have failed as a mother, to have a son who could do this, but I don’t agree. Maybe he needed help. Maybe he was in more pain than she knew or understood. Maybe she was so stressed out trying to make ends meet for herself and two boys, she missed some signs. Being exiled is a harsh punishment. After twenty-five, we are responsible for how we behave and what we do, and I’m being generous. Really, twenty-five is old enough to know how to treat people. It’s old enough to get help with your healing process. It’s old enough to recognize that you need help. It’s old enough to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse that no one comes between you and the people you love, and this guy was way over twenty-five.

Blaming and shaming and pointing fingers is a sad way to go through life. Being so unsure of your worth that you allow someone else to dictate the terms of your day and your relationships is a prison sentence. Having your heart broken by one of the two people you treasure most in the world is incredibly sad, but these things happen. All you can do is try your best to build joy around the fracture. The fault line is there, there’s no denying it, but doing your best to be kind to yourself, to gravitate toward love, to reassure yourself of reality when you need to, these are all things you can do. If the situation permits, maybe every so often you reach out. You stick with the through line of love, and leave it at that. You take your life day by day, which is all any of us can do, anyway, and you figure out what you can do to nurture yourself on this day. What you can do to uplift the people around you. What you can do that will bring you joy and peace and fulfillment, and you carve out some time for those things. Talking to people really helps. Sharing your story, finding support, being with people who know how to hold a space for your grief without trying to make it better, those things are all helpful. Hopefully one day your child or your parent or your sibling will realize life is short and time is precious. Holding on to rage when you could be opening to love is a poor choice.

Sending you strength, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

Untie the Knot in Your Heart

We-all-have-an-old-knotThe holidays can be a beautiful time of year filled with family, friends, laughter, and a little more time to relax and enjoy, but they can also be a time of loneliness and longing, of regret and despair, and of too much time on our hands to dwell on the “what if’s” and “if only’s”. You can make yourself sick with that stuff.

A lot of people suffer from the holiday blues. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, they’re particularly painful. The grief is compounded by the intense longing to share more time with the person we wish we could hug, when it seems everyone else gets to be with family and friends. Basically, the holidays magnify everything. If you’re happy right now, that happiness is multiplied in the sharing of the experience. If you’re in pain, the pain feels even larger, and more defeating and overwhelming.

Sometimes we’re derailed by our expectations and “shoulds”. We have ideas about how things should be, how life should be, how people should be, and how we should feel. And sometimes our expectations are not realistic. Remind yourself that no feeling is forever, and that you don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. And also, short of grieving the loss of someone due to death, or heartbreak of any kind, try to be disciplined. Again, this does not apply to people who are grieving, because I’m a firm believer that you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings and lean into reality as it is. But short of those knifing losses, be disciplined with your mind. Don’t allow yourself to spiral down, or feed a sad story, or contract against your experience. Open to it, acknowledge your pain or envy or longing, but don’t feed it or wallow in it, because it will become hard to breathe.

If you notice that you’re doing a number on yourself, pick your mind up and choose some thoughts that will strengthen you. Maybe this holiday season will be tough, but who knows what 2015 has in store? I’ve certainly lived through some challenging and lonely holidays. It’s not easy, but then they’re over and life moves forward, and the truth is, you really never know what’s around the bend. Your world could be turned upside down in good ways or difficult ones, on any given day, and with no warning. That’s how life is.

Maybe today is challenging, but tomorrow, anything could happen. You might have an idea that lights you up and inspires you and sends you down a road you’d never have imagined taking. Maybe you’ll meet someone, and you won’t even recognize the way your life looks six months from now. I’m not necessarily talking about romance. I’m just saying, leave room to heal. Leave space to be surprised and amazed. If this holiday season is rough, and you have it in you, find a way to uplift someone else. That will definitely lift your spirits. And do take some time to focus on what you do have, right now. When we feed gratitude, we remember the gifts in our life, and how many things are going right, and that sets us up to come from a place of abundance, rather than fear or neediness. We really can take so much for granted. It’s a gift to wake up, even if you’re in the midst of despair. Just having this experience of being human is a gift. Having a healthy body, a place to call home, food in your fridge, people you love beyond words, who also love you and see you and cherish you. These are the most important gifts in life. Just the potential for connection is huge.

Hang in there if you’re having a tough time. You’re not alone. Sending you love, and extra hugs, Ally Hamilton

Happy Thanksgiving

As-we-express-ourI love this holiday. No gifts, just an excuse to gather with friends and family, contemplating all the reasons we have to feel grateful. Of course, the more we do this regularly, the happier we feel. But culturally, we’re so trained to focus on everything we don’t have, and all the ways we aren’t measuring up. The more we feed that beast of lack, the worse we feel. When we’re coming from that “never enough” place, it leads to hoarding-to feeling that we must grasp at what we’ve got, while striving to accrue more.

Left to its own devices, the mind tends to get snagged on the negative. To focus on the one person who isn’t getting us, the one insult in the sea of compliments, the one person walking away, the one family member who’s challenging, instead of all the people moving toward us. Some of this could be biological. Back in the day, we used to worry about being eaten by saber-toothed tigers. If we weren’t on the alert, if we weren’t planning ahead, and thinking about all the things that could go wrong, we might end up as lunch for some creature. Of course, we’ve certainly turned the tables at this point. There aren’t many of us who need to worry about tigers anymore, but that “negativity bias” can be hard to shake.

Some people are addicted to worry; they’re addicted to stress. The Dalai Lama has a great quote, “If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time.”

You can lose hours, days, weeks or years worrying about things that will never come to pass. You can literally make yourself sick with worry, because thoughts create chemical reactions in the body. We really aren’t made to withstand continuous stress. Short spurts when we’re on the run from that “tiger” can be pretty manageable, but a constant state of high blood pressure, anxiety and fear are depleting and debilitating.

One of the great gifts of a consistent yoga practice is that we get to hone our focus. We use “drishtis” to train the mind on one point. We use sensations in the body (the most important of which is that steady, deep breath) to stay rooted in the present, and in so doing, we create space between our thoughts. We use the breath to calm the nervous system, and to build a foundation of steadiness in a spinning world. Maybe eventually, we develop a seated meditation practice, and start to really understand that we are not our thoughts, and that we do not have to believe everything we think, as the saying goes. Sometimes we’re dwelling on thoughts that weaken us. Yoga practice helps us to pick the mind up, and place it on thoughts that are going to strengthen and nurture us.

A gratitude practice is a great form of health insurance. I’m not saying it cures everything, I’m just suggesting that when we start and end each day reminding ourselves of all the gifts in our lives, that has a huge impact on our outlook, and the way we’re moving through the day, and sleeping through the night. The more we remember how much we do have, and how many things are going well, the more we come from a place of abundance, or “Santosha” (contentment)which leads to our generosity. If we think we don’t have enough, and other people have more, and we’re never going to reach our potential, we come from a place of fear, and we are unlikely to give much when we’re afraid. When we come from a place of gratitude and love, we know we have enough to give, and the beauty there is that giving feels so good.

We could really use givers in the world right now. It would be remiss not to acknowledge the suffering, grief, confusion and division that exists when we look around. We can’t solve these problems by continuing to isolate ourselves or draw lines when we feel hopeless or heartbroken, we have to reach out. And we don’t reach out from fear, we reach out from love. If you’ve just lost someone, this holiday season will probably be painful, and my heart goes out to you. If life isn’t unfolding the way you wish it would, the holidays can magnify those feelings. It might look like everyone else has the family, the friends, the love. You never know what someone has from the outside. Maybe this is a lonely time in your life right now; I’ve certainly had lonely and painful holidays. Remember that feelings are not facts, and they are not forever, and how you feel now is not how you will always feel.

“The best things in life aren’t things,” as Art Buchwald famously said. Connection and shared experiences, the love and laughter of those we hold dearest, belief in ourselves and in the goodness of people, these are the things that allow us to relax and breathe and open. Our main job here is to uncover our particular gifts and share them, because when we do that we feel fulfilled, and we know we’re having a positive and meaningful impact on the world around us.

Wishing you the happiest Thanksgiving, and also hoping the other 364 days are filled with gratitude.

Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Time is a Gift

tomrobbinsBecause our time and energy are finite assets, it’s really essential that we’re careful about where we invest them. It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s dramas, or to allow the mind to get snagged on some thoughtless or unkind thing someone said or did. We can lose hours, days or years dwelling on choices we’d like to do over, differently, or sad tales we tell ourselves about why we are the way we are, or why life is unfolding the way it is.

We can find ourselves trying to chase down love, approval or acceptance, we can allow the sting of rejection to overwhelm us, we can spend time trying to defend ourselves against lies, but it’s time we’ll never have back again. Life will bring us enough ups and downs; we really don’t need to create suffering for ourselves, but so many of us do. I am not someone who believes that there are no tragic events, or that it’s just the way we’re thinking about an event that makes it unbearable. In my view, there are things that can happen sometimes that bring you to your knees and make you doubt everything you thought you knew about heartbreak and pain and the ability to go on. Those same events remind us that there isn’t any time to waste, and that the best use of our energy is to love the people in our lives with everything we’ve got, and to follow our dreams and believe in ourselves. Life isn’t going to hand you five or ten years to be pissed at your parents or your ex or all the people you’ve ever worked for, to boil yourself and keep your rage alive by feeding it, to point your finger in blame, and then hand you back that time one day when you realize what a gift it is just to open your eyes in the morning.

People who want to be angry and bitter deserve compassion, surely, but not a lot of your time and energy. I’m not talking about people who are trying to heal or take ownership of their lives, or make big shifts. I’m talking about people who are unwilling to loosen their grip on their angry story. I had an acquaintance like this. I’d see her at different functions every five years or so, and it was always the same. She’d find a way to corner me, and tell me her tale of why she was the hero of her family and her workplace, the generous but unappreciated benefactor, the one who always got the short end of the stick. Usually she’d be quite drunk, and the more she drank, the more angry and self-righteous she became. For quite some time, I’d listen to her, even though it was exhausting. I thought maybe she just needed someone to hold a space for her to unload the pain. I really didn’t care about the details of her stories, the list of wrongs, the way this person or that person had failed her or betrayed her, but sometimes I’d try to offer up a different viewpoint, and then she’d attack me, too. You can’t help a person who’s armored themselves in bitterness. I don’t make myself available to people who don’t want to let the love in. It’s a choice.

Let me be clear: we do not get to choose what life will put in our paths. We get beautiful lessons in life, and we get brutal ones, too, and that is not a choice. Unthinkable tragedy could befall any of us. People sometimes ask, “Why me?”, but why any of us? There’s no way to predict what any of us will have to endure, and if you go through a knifing loss, I hope you don’t compound your pain by feeling that you ought to be able to get over it faster, or with fewer racking sobs or relentless tears. The more we’re present in each moment, the more we allow the feelings to wash over us and through us, the more we’re honoring our experience. Loving someone so intensely that the loss of them makes it hard to breathe, loving someone that way is a gift and an honor. The loss of the ability to express that love through hugs or phone calls or shared experiences is so painful. If it’s a sudden and unexpected loss, of course that has its own particular difficulties.

My point is, death and loss put things into sharp perspective for us. If you’re worrying about the five pounds you’ve gained, for example, perhaps that’s not the best use of your time. Hugging someone you love would feel so much better. If you’re obsessing over a call or email you haven’t gotten, maybe there’s a better use of your energy. Maybe you could do something nurturing for yourself or someone else instead. If you’re getting caught up in what other people think of you, remember it’s none of your business. When the big losses or heartaches come, you take the time to breathe, to be kind to yourself, to reach out for help if you need it. Short of those tragedies, don’t be your own obstacle by dwelling on the unimportant crap. Pick your mind up, and bring it back to right now. Choose better thoughts. Make better mistakes moving forward. Forgive yourself, and forgive other people, as much as you can. Holding grudges and carrying heavy stories around will weigh you down, and that of course, makes it harder to fly. I really wouldn’t waste too much time.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Spiritual Bypass

hemingwayThere’s a huge difference between focusing on the good in your life, and ignoring or denying difficult or painful issues. There seems to be a manic need from the spiritual community at large to be positive and light in every moment, which is alienating to so many people, because the truth is, life is not “all good.” Part of being at peace has to do with our ability to integrate all parts of ourselves, and all chapters of our story. Part of loving other people has to do with our willingness to accept the whole person, the gorgeous parts, the quirky ones, and the stuff that’s raw and tender. Integrating the painful parts is different from dwelling upon them or magnifying them. We all have our struggles and our fears. We go through periods of confusion or despair, or we suffer because we’ve become attached to a picture in our heads of how things should be. Leaning into those uncomfortable feelings is an act of compassion, and it’s also the gateway to liberation. Pushing things down requires enormous energy, and when we repress feelings, we inadvertently give them power. They’re going to come out in other ways.

Clinging to happiness is no different than clinging to anything else—it’s going to cause you to suffer. The minute you feel anything other than positive, you’ve become a disappointment to yourself; a failure. If you reject any feeling that can’t go in the “gratitude column”, you’re going to be at war with yourself, judging yourself for those feelings and thoughts you deem to be negative or ungrateful or petty or unkind. You’ll just compound your pain with shame. We’re all human, and none of us operates from our highest self in every moment. When we sit to meditate, we don’t deny thoughts when they arise, we observe them. “Ah, I’m thinking, judging, clinging, obsessing, daydreaming…let me return to my breath.” Denying your experience is a sure way to create inner dissonance, when the whole point of a spiritual practice is to know yourself, to accept yourself, to find peace, and to feel the connection between yourself, and everyone and everything around you; to find union. Denial won’t get you there, and neither will rejection.

Imagine if you were getting to know someone, and they told you they only wanted to hear the good stuff about you. How close could you get? Yes, we always want to stay focused on all the things we do have—our good health if we’ve got it, the amazing people in our lives, the fact that we have a place to call home, and food to eat, the gifts we’ve been given, like time, our ability to feel the sun on our faces and the breeze on our skin, or that we can see the leaves blowing in the wind with their million shades of green. Laughter of the people closest to us, and also, laughter of total strangers. There’s so much to take in, and so many ways in which we’re gifted, just because we woke up today. Unless, of course, you’re going through knifing loss, and today is a day when it’s hard to breathe. We have to allow space for that possibility, too, because someone out there is dealing with that right now, this very minute, and they aren’t thinking about leaves, or their good health, or sunlight on their face, they’re trying to understand how the earth is still spinning, and people are doing things like putting gas in their cars as if everything has not changed.

A spiritual practice ought to be there for you when times are tough. It takes strength and bravery to face life head-on, and it also requires acknowledgement of our inherent vulnerability. If you want to do life well, if you want to do love well, you’re going to have to get acquainted with the underside of things. You’re going to have to be strong enough to face the dark, and also to embrace the light. If you try to pretend they don’t both exist, you’re not living in reality.

Joy and despair are flip sides of the same coin. I’m not telling you to be grateful for despair when it comes, I’m just saying we wouldn’t recognize joy the way that we do if we’d never felt bereft. If we’d never felt rejected, misunderstood, unseen or dismissed, we wouldn’t appreciate the feeling and relief of being totally accepted. I can look back on all the experiences in my life, particularly the devastating ones, and recognize how they opened me and taught me things about myself, other people, and the world at large. They were not always things I wanted to learn. There are a couple of lessons I would really, truly give back, but we don’t get to choose. Sometimes your heart breaks wide open and you think, “I won’t make it through this.” That’s when you have to hope the people in your life show up for you. Kindness matters. Caring matters. Being there matters, in fact, it matters a lot. The most insightful, kind, compassionate people I know, the most open and sensitive and trustworthy people, happen to be the same people who’ve suffered and grieved and found a way to let their experiences soften them instead of harden them.

Don’t ever let anyone shame you for your feelings. Feelings are not facts, and they aren’t forever. They arise, they peak and they subside. Some feelings take longer than others to cycle through, and if we’re going through something particularly brutal, like the loss of an entire person, we’re going to move through all kinds of feelings, many times. None of them are comfortable or positive. Shock, grief, confusion, rage, panic—those feelings are real and appropriate when we’re going through tragedy. These experiences and feelings do not have to go in a file marked, “thank you for this”; you don’t have to be grateful for everything. Just feel what you need to feel, and trust that over time you’ll be able to breathe without reminding yourself to do that. And let your suffering matter, eventually. Grow from it, and see if you can use it to be there for other people. At least, in that way, some beauty arises from the ashes.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

What You Give

victorhugoThe best things in life spring from what you give, not what you have or what you get. Giving from your heart feels great. Keeping score is not what it’s about. If that’s how you’re doing your relationships and your life, focusing on whether you’re getting as much as you’re giving, wondering about whether you’re being “shorted”, or holding on to lists of past transgressions or disappointments, you’re probably not going to feel very happy.

Some of this has to do with your outlook in general. If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run, and six people stop to make sure you’re okay, to wait with you until the police arrive so they can give their accounts, too, if one of them runs to get you ice, or holds your hand or your head, who are you going to focus on after the fact? The person who hit you, or the people who helped you? I mean, of course you’re going to tell the story of what happened, but when you think about the world at large, are you going to say, “This person hit me in my car and took off, and people suck”? Or are you going to say, “This person hit me in my car and took off, but a half-dozen other people, total strangers, dropped everything and made sure I was okay, and people are really kind”? What’s your takeaway going to be? What are you holding onto in general? I mean, we all have stories; things we carry around, sometimes like a talisman, that explain who we are to ourselves, and sometimes to other people. “I’m this way because…” And some of these stories strengthen us, and some of them weaken us. If you carry too many weakening stories around, what you really end up with are excuses.

I know this might be a little confrontational, but sometimes it’s really good to consider the quality of our thinking. A lot of our suffering is created in our own minds. Not all of it, so bear with me. There are devastating things that happen in this life that can bring you to your knees, so I want to be clear about that. Sometimes we suffer because someone we love more than words is ripped from us. Grief is real, and appropriate and it’s a healthy response when we’ve lost someone we don’t know how to live without. Sometimes I hear people spout platitudes like, “There are no bad events, there’s just the way we’re relating to the things that are happening.” Tell that to a grieving parents who’ve lost their child in a violent act. There are events that are simply brutal, and they are real, and we will suffer, but short of those tragedies, a lot of our suffering is created by our thoughts.

If you always focus on what you don’t have, you’re going to be miserable. If you always focus on the ways your partner is blowing it, you’re going to feel lousy, and chances are, your partner will, too. It never feels good to be constantly criticized, rejected or ignored. If you throw an epic and ancient list of past mistakes into the mix every time your partner forgets to bring home apples, that’s probably going to weaken your bond, not strengthen it. If you’re giving with a motive, it’s not really giving, it’s giving to get. Am I saying you should never consider how you’re being treated or whether your partner is seeing you? Of course not. A healthy, happy relationship is one in which both people look out for each other. Each party wants the other to grow and expand and be more of themselves, not less, so if you’re in something with someone who’s mistreating you, you really have to look at that, and take some action.

I’m not talking about that, here. It never feels good when we’re small and petty and calculating. Manipulation is a poor use of your time and energy. Directing your thoughts to everything you do have makes you feel good; it makes you feel full, and like you’re coming from a place of abundance. Moving through the world focusing on what you don’t have is going to make you feel terrible, and you’ll be coming from a place of lack. That leads to greediness and hoarding, whether we’re talking about hoarding stuff, or other people’s time, attention and affection. Neediness is a poor foundation for a relationship of any kind; you can’t expect anyone else to solve your happiness issue, that’s your work. Culturally we’re trained to think that we need only meet our soul-mates, and everything will fall into place, we’ll be “complete” and happy. You are your soul-mate. I think we all need to get really clear about that, because it liberates us, and the people closest to us. We get to take ownership of our happiness issue. The Cliff Notes, if you want them, are that giving makes us happy. Be your own soul-mate, and check the catalog of stories you’re toting around, so you can be sure you aren’t focusing on the doom and gloom, instead of the love and light.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton