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

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Every-man-has-a-train-ofDo you remember the story about The Little Engine That Could? Because in retrospect I think it’s kind of brilliant. You will be alone with your thoughts for most of your life. The quality of your internal dialogue will be the greatest influence on the experience you have as you move through your days. You know the Henry Ford quote? “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”. And I mention that with the full understanding that the playing field is not level, that some people will come into this world with advantages, and some people will have to fight for every single break they get. Nonetheless, a person’s way of thinking has a huge impact upon the way life will feel, regardless of advantages and obstacles.

If you are full of fear and doubt and negativity and judgment, you are probably not going to experience a lot of joy. Because you’re going to walk through the world in a defensive manner, in a hopeless manner, in an angry and resentful way. If you fill your caboose with stories about every way you’ve been hurt and disappointed, you’re just not gonna make it up that hill.

We are energetic beings. Wherever we go, we spread energy, and we take it in, as well. If you’re feeling down and dark and depressed, it will affect the way you carry yourself, and the energy you’re spreading as you go about your day. If you are in a frame of mind that says, “Everyone is out to get me”, or, “I never get any breaks”, or “People suck”, believe me, it will be something people can feel. They may not know exactly what they’re feeling, but chances are, they’re going to move away from you, not toward you. Thus strengthening your idea that people suck. I’m not talking about tough times here, so please don’t misunderstand me. If something heartbreaking happens, you have to feel your feelings around all of that, and take your time. What I’m talking about is a way of being, your general outlook. And of course this is going to be shaped by your history, but at a certain point, we all have to take the reigns.

On the other hand, if you’re on a track that says, “You know, things aren’t perfect but I have my health. I have a place to call home. I have food in my refrigerator. I have people in my life who love me, and people I love with my whole heart. There are damaged people in the world, but there are also so many good people. And life can be devastating, but it can also be devastatingly beautiful. I’m going to do whatever I can with whatever I’ve got to try to make this world a little brighter”, I guarantee you that will also affect the way you move through your day. The more you can pick your mind up and bring it back to all the amazing things you do have, the more thankful you will feel. And the more you focus on all the things you don’t have yet, that aren’t going well, that haven’t unfolded the way you’d like, that other people have and you don’t, the more miserable you will be.

Yes, life will bring circumstances, and some of them will break your heart wide open. You can let those experiences close you and harden you. You can decide life is something to get through. You can say things like, “I’m killing time”. Or you can let those experiences open you and soften you. You can keep picking the mind up and bringing it back to love. I’m not saying everything in your life will be magically perfect if you do that. I’m simply saying that being in a state of gratitude feels so much better than being angry and shut down.

And being kind to yourself is a huge part of the equation. Because if your inner voice is harsh, unforgiving and merciless, wow are you going to suffer. You can beat yourself down into a state of loneliness and confusion and shame if you’re not careful. You can come to believe you are totally alone and no one cares. Thats a lie, of course, but you can convince yourself of that if the mind is dark enough. And you can wear your despair and disappointment on your sleeve. Or you can work on feeding a loving voice. A kind, compassionate, caring voice. Because whatever you feed will grow and strengthen. Feed love. Feed it with everything you’ve got. Be vigilant about it. Because what you think absolutely affects how you feel, and how you feel influences what you say and do, the level of compassion you extend to yourself and others, your ability to forgive your own mistakes and those of all the other humans around you, your likelihood of finding your purpose, of moving in the direction of that inner, burning Yes… all these things require love.

If all that sounds good to you, you’ve got to put your train on the Love track. And don’t just think you can, know you can. I know you can. Sending you love and a little Toot, Toot! Ally Hamilton

If Not You, Then Who?

The-hardest-battle-youreWe live in this crazy world where everyone wants to look the same and sound the same and dress the same, and we are taught to color inside the lines and get in line and sit down and stand up and be quiet and SMILE! when a picture is taken. To follow the rules and stay the course and buy, buy, buy!

Meanwhile our souls are crushed, that spark that’s inside every one of us, that is unique to each of us is just screaming, just bursting to come out, to sing, to dance, to own this thing, you know? That’s why you’re here, to discover that gift that is only yours and to give it away with everything you’ve got, with abandon, with delight. But you’ll never find it if you’ve loaded yourself down with the weight of should. If you’re trying to fit in and be “normal”.

You wanna know what normal looks like? Someone who works 60 hours a week at a job they don’t really like because that’s what they went to school for, or that’s what their parents were hoping for, or that’s what they thought they wanted until they realized they didn’t but were too afraid to change course. Normal looks like someone who has a horrible relationship with their own body, who wants to control it or defeat it, or fit it into those size zero jeans, or buff it out until they can’t wear a button down shirt. It looks like miserable relationships where people sit in front of the tv together all night and go to bed in a zombied-out stupor. And then one day they die. This is what we’re told is “normal”. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Do you think you’re here to be like anyone else or to do your journey the way other people tell you you should? No one can be a better you than you. You are here for a reason, you have something inside you no one else has. It may be buried under ideas and beliefs, pain and grief and shame and anger, but I guarantee you, it is there. Embrace yourself. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Check your internal dialogue and see if there’s room for more compassion. Discover and surprise yourself. Because you’re extraordinary, you know? You’re the only you there has ever been or will ever be. You’re miraculous and it would be such a shame to deny the world of your particular miracle. Be you. Be you all the way. Let your heart run the show, let your head follow along. Face your fears so you can see they weren’t as overwhelming as you thought. And move in the direction of your yes. Your intuition knows the way. Your whole being wants to go there. Please let it. And unless you are naturally a size zero, burn those jeans. Lots of love to you, Ally Hamilton

Are We There Yet?

The-most-important-tripNo one is perfect, we are all just human. As such, we will all make mistakes, say things we don’t mean, do things we wish we hadn’t, and be left with the mess to clean up.

Sometimes you will be the person who made the mess, and sometimes someone else’s mess will land on your head. I’ve certainly been on both sides of that equation, and neither one is especially fun. If someone else’s mess lands on your head, you may have some pretty strong feelings about it. Especially if you feel the situation could have been avoided. But there are always two or three (or more) sides to every story, and your perception is just that. Nonetheless, it’s very unlikely anyone is intentionally “messing with your head.” I’m not saying that never happens, and if you feel you’re caught up with someone who is, then get yourself un-caught. Quickly. Because life is too short for that.

But if it’s the kind of messy stuff that happens as a result of simply being human, work through your feelings, express yourself, shampoo your head, and let it go. If it was your moment to blow it, examine what happened so you can show up differently the next time. Know yourself, and be accountable, but also try to give yourself and the other humans you know a break. We all want to feel appreciated and loved. It feels terrible to be the object of someone’s pain, or anger, or contempt. And it also feels terrible to be angry, disappointed and resentful. Don’t “boil yourself” alone for too long. Talk things out with people you trust, and whenever possible, practice forgiveness so you can set yourself, and the mess maker(s) free. Because you’re going be the mess maker too, it’s just a matter of time.

We need to love each other. We need to know how to look someone in the eye and say, “I blew it, I’m so sorry”. (You can’t do that all the time, though, or “I’m sorry” becomes meaningless!). This business of being human is not easy, and it’s a nightmare for perfectionists (full disclosure: I know because I’m a 97% recovered perfectionist). Being in a constant state of disappointment with yourself and others is no way to live; it’s life in prison. Forgiveness is the key. You can find it tucked away in this little pocket in your heart. Reach in there if you need to and set someone free. You may be the someone. Be kind to yourself and to everyone you encounter. We are all in this crazy, beautiful, mysterious, gorgeous mess of being human together. The path is full of twists and turns, and so are we. We are all going to trip and fall and screw things up sometimes. May as well recognize that and have the hose ready! Sending you love, and a hug, Ally Hamilton

Love Smiles at Strangers

Darkness-cannot-driveThe world is in a state of pain because we’ve separated ourselves from each other. If you look around and wonder why you see despair, depression, war, famine, slavery, greed, apathy, pollution, a planet whose depletion is becoming more and more apparent, the answer is simple. We are at war within ourselves. Nothing is happening outside that isn’t happening inside.

It is true that we are going to be alone through much of our time here, sometimes even when we’re in a room full of people we love. That internal dialogue, that relationship you’re having with yourself, is the number one relationship to examine. Because if your inner dialogue is harsh and unforgiving, you are in pain. If you’re in pain, you’re going to spread pain. You won’t mean to do that, but it will happen. In that case, you are living with a nasty roommate you can’t evict, who makes you feel alone, “less than”, resentful, envious, hopeless, angry and frequently bitter. No way you’ll be treating yourself well if you’re feeling that way. And that roommate has a lot of help “out there” to make you believe those feelings are facts. That help comes in the form of constant messages that we are bombarded with from every direction. (Those messages are out there so that we buy stuff as if that will help). You may find yourself asking questions like, “What’s it all for?”

But that roommate is an impostor, and those messages are lies. There’s another voice inside you that is full of love and compassion and truth. It’s a lot quieter and you have to shut out the white noise (which includes the nastiness of that inner critic, your cell phone, your computer, your television, those horrific “beauty” magazines, gossip rags and anything else that tells you, “you suck”) to hear it, but it’s there. The more you make room for that voice, the louder it will get. It’s just been waiting for you. It’s stronger than the critic, it’s stronger than depression, apathy, and disrespect. It does not ever use the word “should” regarding you or anyone else. It is full of compassion and awareness and patience and understanding and forgiveness. The voice is love. We are all made of the same stuff, love, we have just forgotten.

The world is upside down because of that, and although we are all alone on this journey in many ways, we have separated ourselves from each other in a way that makes the ride scary, that makes true connection with anyone else unlikely. Because of course, if anyone knew who you really were, they wouldn’t like you, right? If you edit yourself, no one can know you, thus you will be, in a very real way, alone, and you will suffer. We need connection, we need love, we need to feel like people know us and care. We all need that–people, animals, the beautiful, giving planet. We look around at the state of things and we are overwhelmed by what is wrong with the picture. The picture could be so different. It’s totally simple, but it’s not at all easy. Because the road to uncovering that love might be dark and lonely and full of pain. The more each person refuses to travel that road to internal healing, the more stuck we all become. Love yourself. Love yourself. Love yourself. Three times probably isn’t enough. Say it to yourself a million times. Say it every time some mean nasty thought pops up. Keep going back to love. If you’re full of love, you’ll spread it wherever you go. You won’t mean to, but it will happen. Love smiles at strangers. Love lends a hand for no reason except that it’s natural. Love doesn’t turn a blind eye. Love doesn’t say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do”. We need a serious love explosion. That’s how the picture changes. Sending you love right now, Ally Hamilton

It’s Not You, It’s Me (for real)

Until-you-make-theSometimes the best way to figure out where there may be room for some deep inner healing is to examine patterns in your life. Patterns frequently show up in romantic relationships. If you have not experienced peace and steadiness in your personal life, maybe it’s the time to look back and see if there’s a theme threading through your history. Are you always trying to save people? Are you attracted to partners who are unavailable in some way? Do you go after people who don’t treat you well? Or, are you the one sabotaging your chances for love? Do you run? Do you “check out”? Do you keep finding yourself in the very situation you were trying to avoid?

If you’re getting a yes to any of these, or you recognize other patterns, chances are, you have found the thread that can lead you back to some very old, very deep pain. It seems to be a human tendency to try to “rewrite history”. Even in day to day life, the mind will get snagged on a conversation that has already happened and try to re-do it, to come up with the “perfect” thing to say. But, there’s no potential in the past, it is done, it cannot be rewritten. It’s good to examine it, though, particularly if you feel you might be dragging your past into your present.

If you can identify the “original why” of any patterns you detect, you can take the unconscious repetition out of your future. (Not that it’s easy, speaking from my own experience). Grooves that we repeat are known as “samskaras” in yoga. But your past does not have to determine your present or your future. If you can bring the source (or sources) of your pain into your consciousness, into your awareness, you take the power away from that inner wiring that may be attracting you to the very situations bound to result in more pain. You can “catch yourself”, identify that “old, familiar feeling” that can be mistaken for love (this feels so reminiscent, this must be it!! uh, no), and sit with yourself instead of acting out. Acknowledging and leaning into your pain takes the “heat” out of it, and that old fire that pulls you to act, even when you know you’re heading straight into a brick wall, will start to subside and cool.

Loving yourself is soothing for your soul, it’s a salve, and it’s a relief. The process of rewiring your system will probably be uncomfortable at best, and it’s very easy to slip back into that old groove as you try to head toward something different. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you “must” head into another brick wall. Your awareness alone is huge, and beating yourself up will just make the crash even worse. Eventually, the wall will lose it’s power over you. There are other paths to take that lead toward love. Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton