Direct Your Energy

churchillNot everyone is going to like you, or me, that’s just a reality of life. Sometimes we’ll be misunderstood, judged, rejected, excluded, or ignored. None of these things feels good, but human beings are complex. Some people need to be angry, or they need for you to be the bad guy, or they need to rewrite history so they can live with themselves. There’s nothing you can do about that. If a person won’t or can’t communicate in a respectful and compassionate way, there isn’t a lot of hope for mutual understanding or closure. On the flip side, sometimes we’ll screw up, and we may not be met with forgiveness. Once you’ve owned your mistakes and apologized, there’s not much more you can do, except try to do it differently next time.

Sometimes we spend our energy on the people who are looking to bring us down, thereby using up energy we could have spent on the people who can see us clearly. And look, I’m not saying we’re all wonderful. We all have work to do, places to heal, ways we could show up for ourselves and the people in our lives that might be infused with more enthusiasm or presence or gratitude. I’m talking about the tendency to get snagged on those people who are full of venom. Sometimes you’re dealing with a personality disorder, but if you try to rationalize with someone who cannot hear reason, you’re as nuts as they are. It’s not like we have all the time in the world, and where and how you direct your energy has the biggest impact on how your life will feel.

By this same token, sometimes we dwell on all the things we don’t have, and all the ways life is presenting its challenges, when we could be focusing on those things that are flowing, and are fulfilling. I’m not saying we should shun people who are struggling, in pain, or full of rage. Compassion when possible is always the path, but to spend hours, days, weeks, years getting caught up in other people’s dramas is not the best use of your time. You have a song to sing. You have dreams, fears, things that inspire you, scare you, excite you. You probably have a vision of how you’d like life to be or to feel, gifts within you that you long to share, ideas that you’d love to see blossom into being. That’s where you want to direct your energy. There will always be barking dogs, or, in the vernacular of our time, “haters gonna hate.” Don’t allow too much of your precious time and energy to go toward that stuff, and try not to dwell on what you’re lacking at this particular point in time.

It’s not always a choice, but the more we can choose to be grateful for all we have, the better we’re going to feel. This is not realistic when you’re dealing with heartache, rage, grief, jealousy, guilt or shame. I’m not one of those, “It’s always in your power to be happy” kind of yogis. Real, actual, devastating things happen sometimes, and your best bet is to feel all of your feelings. We don’t take the road marked, “Spiritual Bypass” on this page, but short of tragedies and great losses, direct your energy toward the good stuff. You’re not going to get to the end of your life and think, “I wish I’d been angry and defensive more. I wish I’d held onto my righteousness a little more fervently. Too bad I didn’t judge and gossip more of the time.”

Open your heart. Nurture yourself and the people close to you. Care about everyone, but don’t get stuck in a ditch with people who do nothing but hurt you. You aren’t here for that.

Sending you love, as always!

Ally Hamilton

Free Yourself and Forgive

forgiveSometimes I write about forgiveness and people get very upset. I recognize there are some things we want to put into the category of unforgivable, so let me clarify what I mean when I say I believe forgiveness is freeing and vital if you want to be at peace. I am not talking about deciding that something traumatic or hurtful that happened in your past is now okay with you. I’m not talking about picking up the phone or sending an email to a person who betrayed you, and telling them it’s water under the bridge. You don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to speak to the person, or see them ever again, but if you’re holding on to anger, they’re still hurting you, and that’s my point.

When we’re enraged with someone, we’re carrying them around inside our heads and our hearts because whatever happened is in the past, but in order for us to stay angry, we have to keep thinking about it, and fueling that flame, and rage is a poor constant companion. It seeps into everything. It makes it hard for us to be intimate, to trust other people, to let our guard down, because to do that, you have to be vulnerable, but to hold onto rage, you have to be tough; staying angry requires constant vigilance. We end up depleting our energy on that, when we could be spending it on opening to love, which feels so much better.

How do you forgive someone who stole any chance you had at a normal, innocent childhood, for example? That’s a difficult one, right? Because something was taken from you, and you can never have it back. You can never know what it would have been like to be in Kindergarten feeling safe and secure. You can never know how it might have felt if you’d been able to relate to kids your age, not just in Kindergarten, but in elementary school, junior high, high school, college. It turns out not having a childhood affects you for your whole life. So how do you forgive that? You can re-parent yourself. That little kid who was scared and confused and hurt and alienated is still available to you, and you already know that. If you’re an adult, you aren’t powerless anymore, and it’s never too late to heal. Maybe you get yourself some help, some support. In fact, I’d highly recommend you do that.

Healing takes dedication, time, energy, and a willingness to lean into your pain. If you refuse to work with your issues, don’t expect them to get tired and go away, they’ll just keep showing up for you in every area of your life. They’ll be bubbling right underneath the surface of everything you say and do. If you face your fears, your rage, your loss, your grief, if you allow yourself to mourn, you’ll find you don’t mourn forever. The deep feelings arise, and they hurt, and you cry and you feel raw and maybe some days you feel hopeless or alone or scared, but you hang on, and eventually the heat and the power and the strength of all that old stuff starts to subside, and you can loosen your grip and start to breathe again, maybe for the first time in a very long time.

It’s just, if you’re using a ton of energy to stay angry, you’re probably not going to have enough left to heal. Blame keeps us stuck. It places our ability to be happy in someone else’s hands, or in events over which we had, and have, no control. The past can’t be rewritten; whatever happened, happened. Some things shape us, but the only thing that defines you is what you do about what you’ve been given; how you proceed, how you live your life, and show up for yourself, and the people you love, and the people you don’t even know. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It has very little to do with anyone else.

Sometimes people balk at the word forgiveness, so let me say this. If you’re living your life and you’re happy and you don’t feel like you’re carrying someone who betrayed you within your heart, then I think you’re good to go. You don’t have to call that forgiveness, but that’s what it is in my book. You are not a prisoner of another person’s actions or inactions; you’re liberated.

The same goes for people who enter our lives later in life. Maybe you had an idyllic childhood, but something unthinkable happened later. This is your life. You get to decide how much energy you’re going to spend looking back. If you work on it enough, you can witness your experience. You can examine your thinking. You can choose one thought over another and there’s so much power in that. Choose the thoughts that strengthen you. Feed the love. Let the rest of it go, as much as you can. It doesn’t have to fit into a neat little box. You certainly don’t have to be grateful for everything that’s ever happened to you, just try to grow from your pain. Allow it to soften you and make you more insightful and compassionate, and likely to reach out to other people in pain. That way, at least, some beauty grows from it. Learn to love yourself as you are right now, and understand, you wouldn’t be you without every event that’s ever befallen you. Remind yourself that you’re strong, and unhook your journey from someone else’s past behavior. That’s their journey, it isn’t yours.

Sending you love, and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

Your Most Important Relationship

jimrohnIt might sound strange to some, but you are currently, and have always been, in a relationship with your own body. Like any relationship, you may have healthy and unhealthy patterns, but thinking in these terms is a very good way to get clear on whether your relationship could use some work.

Your body is full of information and wisdom. If things are going well between your body and your mind, then you’re in a fairly constant conversation, and you’re honoring each other, but for so many people, that’s not what’s happening. We aren’t taught to listen and respond to what we’re feeling. Sadness creates sensations in the body. So do fear and rage. Many of us grew up hearing things like, “Don’t be sad”, “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t be scared”…as if we could just turn the feelings off, make the sensations go away through sheer willpower, and we’re taught the same as far as feeding ourselves, too.

If you bought into the idea that you could just shut a feeling down, chances are you lost touch with your intuition long ago. Why should a child not be sad sometimes? Because it’s making the adults around him or her feel uncomfortable or inadequate? Sadness is a normal human emotion we will all experience. When we’re taught to edit out our emotions, we become lost to ourselves. Where a feeling ought to be, instead we find shame, self-loathing and confusion. Thus the desire to numb out.

The more you relax, the more your body opens. I say this in the context of a yoga class, but also in the context of your life. If you’re gripping and clinging and “white-knuckling” your way through life, it’s going to be hard to breathe. You’re probably going to observe tension in your body, because it takes effort to hold on so tightly. The more you release the idea that you’re in control, the more your body releases tension. This doesn’t mean we don’t work and try and put our effort in, it just means that we watch the quality we’re bringing to the effort we’re making. There’s a difference between working hard and killing yourself.

If your body is tired, are you listening and responding? For the sake of this exercise, think of your body and your personality as the two players involved. Is your body saying no, while your personality is saying, “hell, yes!”? Are you forcing your way through life? Discipline and determination are good; if you want to get things done, they’re essential, but so is compassion for yourself.

How are you feeding yourself? Are you eating stuff with seventeen syllables and wondering why you’re exhausted all the time? Your body talks to you when it’s hungry, but it never asks for aspartame or red dye #40. If you want your body to feel good, you have to treat it nicely, and give it fuel it can use. Try an organic fuji apple, they taste great. Or an avocado. Or a million other things that aren’t processed or bagged or shot full of chemicals. Give it a month and see how you feel. You’ll be amazed if this is new to you.

What kind of listener are you? When your body talks, do you take in the information, or think you have all the answers? Do you treat your body like it’s an object you own? Do you think it should bend to your will? Would you treat another person the way you treat your own body? Are you disgusted with it? Do you lament the way it looks and feel disappointed that this is the body you have? What if you expressed those feelings to another person? What if you told someone you hated the way they looked and that they were an enormous embarrassment to you? What if you called someone else names, or told them to stay up when they desperately needed to sleep? What if you told them they didn’t know anything and you had all the answers, and they should just be quiet? Wouldn’t that be a horrendous way to treat someone? If your body was your partner, would she or he want to break up with you? How are you treating yourself?

Your body is your home, it’s where you’re going to live for your whole life. You don’t want to terrorize it or abuse it. Like any relationship, the kinder you are the more trust there will be. The more you listen and respond, the more your body will pull through for you when you ask, but if you want to open and release, you can’t force that. You know that’s true if you’ve ever had anyone scream at you to relax. We respond to love and compassion. That’s the stuff that opens and strengthens us. When we feel safe, we blossom. If you don’t know how to be kind to yourself, or you’ve lost the ability to be in conversation with your body, your yoga mat is a great place to work this stuff out.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You Are Free

letgoweightsSometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself the permission and the space to mourn those relationships that have ended, or the ones that never existed in the way you’d needed and wanted them to. If you arrived in your parents’ world at a time when one or both of them did not possess the tools to love you well and put you first, for example, I think you’ll have to grieve the childhood you never had, the loss of your innocence, or your ability to feel safe, nurtured or protected. The loss of your belief that your feelings mattered, or even registered anywhere. Once you’ve grieved, you can put it to rest and begin to build a life where you honor what you feel, and you do feel safe.

The thing is, life is full of beauty and pain, joy and heartbreak, love and fear. We all face losses, some people’s worse than others, and we have different levels of resiliency. What tears one person down in a household, may not affect their siblings in the same way. Sometimes we look at a person’s actions or inaction, and find the situation incomprehensible. How could someone do that, or say that, or feel that way? How could they reconcile a choice like that? How can they be okay when they face their reflection in the mirror, or put their heads on their pillows at night?

It isn’t your job or mine, to figure out what someone else is doing or not doing. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. Our job is to figure out how we’re going to respond to what we’re given. Our job is to keep our own side of the street clean, to work on how we show up for ourselves, and for the people in our lives, which is plenty of work for any of us. We really don’t get to know where someone else is coming from, unless they decide to tell us. You can’t force closure, you can’t look at a chaotic or self-destructive environment and think you can fix it or solve it with your love or your logic. You can’t save people from themselves (although I think you ought to try to help in any way you can without making yourself unsafe).

If someone is horrible to you, understand it’s a reflection of where they are on their own journey, and not a result of anything lacking in you. When people treat us with no respect, decency, kindness, consideration or compassion, it’s because they don’t have these feelings for themselves, on a very deep level. You can wrap your head around that and try to wish them well, or get them support if appropriate. You can do your best to communicate honestly and openly, but you can also decide this is not a person you wish to have in your life. Sometimes we compound a painful feeling by denying ourselves permission to feel what any reasonable person would feel. We get bogged down and pierced through by our “shoulds”, when really, we ought to keep our eyes trained on what is.

Whatever has happened, has happened. These things may have shaped you, and they may have left you with scars, but your past does not have to define your future. You are free to create a life that feels good to you. You are free to create boundaries. You are free to understand if a person is horrible to you, you can walk away, and you do not have to feel badly about that, or miss them or want to try to fix it. You could simply let it go so it doesn’t weigh you down. You are free.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find the books here <3

Boundaries

whatuallowBeing kind and understanding is very different than allowing yourself to be abused, mistreated or disrespected. Sometimes there’s a thin line between compassion for other people, and abuse of self. Being spiritual does not mean we allow ourselves to be injured, dumped on, taken advantage of, or treated like a doormat. When you’ve lost your self-respect and you’ve allowed your tender heart to be handled in a reckless way, you’ve betrayed the most vulnerable part of yourself, and that’s the source of your light and your strength. There is no true spiritual practice that demands you hand that over.

Sometimes I get emails from people wondering where the line is. I’ll tell you what I think. I think in order to help, nurture or support anyone else, we have to be doing those things for ourselves, first. You can’t be a source of strength for anyone if you’re doubting your worth, and if someone is treating you badly, your job is to remove yourself from that situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut this person out of your life (although it will mean that in some instances), but before you can figure out what to do or how to respond, you have to get yourself to a safe space. I mean that physically, mentally and emotionally. You are not here to participate in the dimming of your light, or the crushing of your spirit.

We can recognize when people we love are in pain, and of course, it’s natural to want to help. We can’t save other people, or fix them, though, or make them see how beautiful they are. The reality is when a person is in acute pain, you’re likely to get some spillover.

This is where boundaries come into play. Standing up for yourself does not run counter to having empathy. You empathize, but you get the hell out of Dodge and do that from a distance where you can still honor and protect your own gorgeous heart. If someone is in a space where they abuse you, neglect you, belittle you, or discard you like trash, you really can’t participate in that and feel good about yourself. It’s okay, and it’s imperative to say no sometimes. No, this is not okay for me. You deserve love and kindness and respect as much as anyone else, and you serve no one by forgetting that, or compromising your own sense of what’s right.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations we never thought we’d allow. I think most of us have been there at least once. Sometimes it’s romantic relationships, sometimes it’s familial, once in awhile we allow ourselves to be abused by a “friend” or co-worker or boss. Maybe it’s insidious. Things start out well enough, but little by little things deteriorate, until one day we wake up and wonder what happened, and how exactly we landed ourselves in this painful situation.

Start where you are. If you’re being abused in any way, get yourself some support. Gather yourself up and remember your work here is to love and to shine and to connect, and do whatever you need to do to make yourself safe. That’s your baseline job. That’s the number one thing. Until that basic need is met, until it’s safe for you to be vulnerable, you won’t be living.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If you like the posts, you can find my books here <3

Communication 101

When-you-give-yourselfWhen it comes to relationships of any kind, honest communication is everything. If you want other people to know you, you have to be willing to show yourself. It’s not realistic to expect others to read your mind. And as much as you might think you have someone pegged, the only way to truly know how anyone feels, is to ask. But sometimes we repress something we need to say out of fear of hurting someone else, and other times we don’t ask questions when we’re afraid of the answers, and what they might mean for our tender hearts.

We’re taught that certain emotions make people uncomfortable (“Don’t be scared”, “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t be sad”), and many of us started editing ourselves as children. If you have care-taking, codependent tendencies, you probably really need to work on your ability to honor your own feelings, and act on your own behalf when necessary. Which is pretty much every day. Saying what you mean is a gift you give yourself, but it also extends to all the people in your life. It’s so nice to know where you stand with someone. And to relax, and trust that if something comes up (and it always does), they’ll talk to you. This is how we develop a bond with another person. This is not the same as being unkind. Being able to say what’s true for you, calmly, and with compassion, is a strength worth working on. Because it just simplifies everything.

Life is challenging and confusing enough without having to try to figure out where someone else is at, or how you should act in order to elicit the response you desire. Being unable to stand up for yourself feels terrible, and it’s debilitating. Playing games is fine if we’re talking about cards or chess, but if we’re talking about human emotions, that’s really not the way to go. Not if you want true intimacy, anyway. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships. If you want anyone to know you well and deeply, you have to be able to say how you feel, and ask the scary, uncomfortable questions when they arise.

Sometimes the games we’re playing have nothing to do with hurting anyone else, or being reckless with someone else’s heart. Sometimes we don’t want to admit our own vulnerability. We cover our real feelings with an air of indifference or toughness, so no one will know the depth of what we feel, or how much power they hold over us. That’s fear. That’s a fear of trusting that anyone else could hold a space to really see you, in all your beauty and occasional absurdity, with all your strengths and all your flaws, all your history and all your mistakes, and still. Still cherish you. And if you let that fear run the show, you’ll never know. You’ll never give anyone the chance to prove to you that they could do it. Not your best friend. Not your mother. Not your partner. No one.

Life does not have to be like that, but you have to be willing to stop hiding. Everyone likes to put his or her best foot forward, but we all screw up sometimes. We all have fears, some unfounded, some based on past experience, some flowing from a sea of self-doubt. If you don’t ever admit your humanness, chances are the people around you will be reluctant to own theirs, as well. But the truth is, we’re all more alike than we realize. We all cry ourselves to sleep sometimes, or despair, or have our existential crises. It’s really okay. Show yourself and free yourself, and the people strong enough to do the same will show up in your life, and those who can’t do it will fall away. But while you’re here, you might as well be you, don’t you think? Sending you love. Ally Hamilton

Choose Wisely

Dont-choose-longtermSometimes we’re in so much pain we just act out. We find some way to ease it or numb it out or deny it in the short-term, and we can breathe again. Maybe part of us feels sick about it, disappointed in ourselves, ashamed of our weakness or dysfunction or poor choice in the moment. But this is a normal part of being human. No one operates from their highest selves all the time.

When we’re on the outside of a thing, it’s so easy to see when a loved one is heading down a prickly path. And usually, it’s true, when we act impulsively so we can feel better, it might work as far as instant gratification goes, but for the long haul, we’ve probably set ourselves back. As hard as it may be to witness, though, we never know what anyone else needs for his or her growth and healing. Sometimes a person needs to slide down a slick, muddy hill into a tree trunk again and again to “get it”.

If you, or someone you love is going through this, try to have compassion. Very few people consciously want to be in pain. Sometimes we’re working out old stuff. Sometimes we have self-esteem issues and things have to get really intolerable before they can get better. We might be acting on unconscious impulses to play something out in order to heal it. We may be in a situation that’s clouding our judgment. Being in love can do that. Maybe there are other people along for the ride with us, who will be affected by the choices we’re making. Basically, being human is complicated. Being a happy human takes a lot of effort, and a willingness to sit with the discomfort of our pain sometimes.

Do you ever have a day, or a bunch of days when it’s just deeply uncomfortable to be with yourself? Maybe you’re feeling abandoned or envious or afraid or angry, or you’re feeling tremendous guilt. Maybe your internal dialogue is harsh, shaming, unforgiving, relentless. Lots of people do not want to sit with any of that. Of course, there’s no way to know yourself if you don’t sit with your feelings as they arise. But many people run from that work for a good, long while.

Usually being on the run gets old, and the realization dawns that if nothing changes, nothing will change. And since we can’t change the external stuff—circumstances, what people will say, or want, or do—we have to change the way we respond. But in the meantime, try to have patience with yourself and the people in your life. We all get there (and by “there”, I mean to a comfortable place with ourselves) as we get there, and we’re never done. We’re always in process. Obviously, try to honor your tender heart. Try not to be reckless with it. When you are, examine what’s happening within you, how you’re feeling about yourself, and what you hope to accomplish with your choices. Know yourself, is what I’m saying. But be kind, and have some faith that you won’t always choose the muddy, slick hill that ends with a painful collision with some raw, unhealed place within you Sending you love. Ally Hamilton