You Save the Day

There’s no running from yourself. If you have pain, it’s going to surface and if you try to stop it, deny it, numb it out or run from it you’re just going to make yourself sick. People do it every day, all day long. They keep themselves so busy, so scheduled down to the minute, there isn’t any time to feel anything. Others try to feed the beast of their pain with stuff. I’ll just keep consuming until that horrible emptiness goes away. Some people numb it with drugs, alcohol, food, dieting, sex, relationships, shopping, television or video games. And weeks go by, and those weeks turn into years, and a whole life can go by that way.

If you’re on the run, you’re not going to be able to stop and take in the scenery. If you’re in a fog, you’re going to miss some exquisitely gorgeous moments. If you’re in denial, you’re also denying yourself the opportunity to figure out who you are and what you need to be at peace. You can’t reject a huge reality about where you’re at and how you feel, and simultaneously know yourself well. Chances are, eventually you’ll wonder if this is all there is. Your pain does not have to own you, but it will if you don’t face it. We all have our stuff, our histories, those places where we’re raw or jagged, where those deep wounds have left their scars. Your pain might shape you, but it can shape you in a beautiful way so that you open and become more compassionate, more able to understand the suffering of others, and more equipped to lend a hand.

Knowing yourself is some of your most important work, otherwise how can you be accountable for the energy you’re spreading? For the ways you’re contributing to the world around you, and showing up for yourself, and all the people in your life? If you refuse to face down your dragons, they’re going to run your show, and they’re going to throw flames at anyone who gets close to you. You won’t mean for that to happen, you’ll probably feel terrible about it, and yourself, which simply compounds your pain. Now you have the old stuff, and the new stuff that springs up around you in your current life. Won’t it ever release its grip on you? You can keep playing it out, hoping for that happy ending, but you’re not going to get it until you become the hero of your own story. No one is coming to save the day. That’s your job.

The thing is, saving the day is not easy, but it’s a lot better than being on the run or being in a haze or feeling desperate for someone or something to make it better. You get to do that and you’re totally capable, no matter what you’ve been through. I say that with the full understanding that you may have suffered through intense grief, neglect or abuse. Being the hero might simply mean you find your way out of bed today and make an appointment with a good therapist. That would be heroic. Just acting on your own behalf would be something huge, because you may need someone to kindly hold up a mirror and say, “Of course you can.” (You’ll still have to do it yourself.) You might need someone to acknowledge that the old pain is real, and that it’s natural you’ve been carrying it with you for so long, but that maybe you can put it down now. Maybe you can unpack it and lay it all out and hold it up to the light so that you really absorb, as you are now, the full spectrum of your feelings. So that this stuff isn’t buried in your unconscious, outside of your awareness anymore, causing you to do things or say things you wish you hadn’t. Causing you to harm yourself, or hurt other people, or make choices that are inexplicable, even to you. Maybe you’re very aware of your pain, but it’s still overtaking your life. If you feel hopeless, that’s another indication that you might want to reach out and get some back-up. You examine your pain so you can integrate it and recognize it when it shows up. So you can be kind to yourself, and take care of yourself, and empower yourself.

There’s no reason your past has to dictate your future. Rage and blame won’t liberate you, but heading into the dead center of your darkest most painful places will. You don’t have to stay there forever, just long enough to know yourself. Then you can start a new chapter where you, the hero, lay the sh&t down. Where you decide where you’re going and what you’re doing and how you’re going to spend your time and energy. How you’re going to show up. Not the dragons. The dragons are small yappy dogs now. They bark sometimes, but all it takes is one look from you, and those dogs roll over and play dead. Directing your energy and strengthening your ability to choose one thought over another are two things you can work on through a consistent yoga practice. You can learn how to feed a loving voice if you’re in prison with an unforgiving internal dialogue. There are so many healing modalities available to help you find your power again. Better get busy if you need to, and if you need help with that, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here, and my yoga classes and courses here.

Life Doesn’t Happen On Paper

allypaperI get a lot of emails from people struggling with a relationship or a job that just doesn’t feel right anymore, and it seems the people who have the hardest time are the ones who feel like nothing is really “wrong”. When we’re being mistreated, it’s pretty clear; we know we’re going to have to make a move, and probably sooner than later, but when there isn’t a definable problem, and it’s just a feeling of restlessness or uncertainty, it can be hard to know what to do.

Here’s the thing: no one else can figure that out for you. We all have that inner voice, that inner knowing, our intuition. Sometimes it gets lost in the din of all our relentless thoughts. The mind is obsessive and redundant, and it will play over the same stuff endlessly, a spinning hamster-wheel of ideas, shoulds, fears, what-ifs and if-onlys. They say we have 50,000 thoughts a day (and who are “they” and how do they know?!), but I really wonder how many of them are the same thoughts. Probably a lot. All that white noise can make it very hard to hear the quiet voice that knows what you need. I really think most of the time we do know. We might not be ready to face or accept what we know, because if we do, it means change is coming, and sometimes we aren’t ready to wrap our heads around that just yet, but I think we know.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between intuition, and our attachment to a particular outcome. Do we really feel this is the right move “in our gut”, or are we blinded by our need for things to go a certain way? The easiest way to tell which you’re dealing with is to identify the quality of the feelings that come up. If it’s your intuition, you might feel scared, or you might feel dread about what you have to do, but underneath that there will also be relief. Agonizing over decisions and choices can be brutal. Finally accepting what you need, even if you’re scared, ought to be comforting underneath it all. There’s a “rightness” about it. When it’s attachment to a particular outcome, the feeling underneath is more likely to be desperation or anxiety.

Sometimes we look for signs to tell us what to do. Allow me to say that looking for a sign IS a sign. If you’re so sad or scared or desperate that you’re asking for signs, it’s probably time to make some kind of change, even if it’s just with the way you’re communicating.

The thing is, listening to your intuition simplifies everything. When we’re going against what we know in our hearts to be true for us, we’re also betraying ourselves, and we’re swimming upstream–it’s exhausting. Of course you want to think about the way your actions will impact the people you hold dearest, but you can’t live your life in guilt, or feel pity for your partner, or try to nurture people when you’re totally depleted, and expect life to feel good. A relationship doesn’t thrive on martyrdom. Any healthy relationship is built on communication, trust, vulnerability and openness.

Sometimes it’s really hard to make a shift. A young man sent an email last year, and he was in a state of total desperation and confusion. His parents had put him through medical school. His dad had worked two jobs, and taken out a second mortgage to make it possible for his son to finish school. He was in his last year, and he realized he didn’t want to be a doctor. It had never been his dream. It was something his parents had wanted for him, with the best of intentions and a ton of love, but it was not what he wanted for himself. The guilt he felt was crushing, but you can’t live your life to satisfy other people, you really need to move in the direction that feeds your soul. What kind of doctor are you going to be if your heart isn’t in it? How well are you going to treat your patients? Sometimes your course of action won’t make sense to anyone. People in your life might call you nuts or any number of things, but your job is to be at peace, and to offer up your particular gifts, and to follow the pull of your heart. Believe me, I don’t say that without compassion for his parents. They thought he wanted what they wanted him to want. They didn’t realize the pressure he felt, or that it was their dream and not his.

Almost every time I’ve really made a mess of things, it was because I didn’t follow my intuition. I think there are always “red flags”, or that “sixth sense”, and sometimes we ignore those feelings because we’re so attached to another person, or an idea we have about how things should or could go, and so we move forward, anyway, even though we feel a little sick or unsettled inside. There’s no rug big enough to cover over your despair or heartbreak. You don’t want to sweep that stuff under anything, anyway. Life is too short for that. Find a way to get quiet, so there’s some space between the thoughts. Yoga and seated meditation are brilliant for that. You can practice with me right now, here. Then the feelings can arise between those thoughts and “shoulds” and, “can’ts”, and you can figure out which way to go.

Wishing that for you, and sending 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

Say Yes to Yourself

paulocDepending on your personality, the way you were raised, your response to confrontation, your possible tendency toward people-pleasing, your desire to be liked, and many other factors, you may have a difficult time saying no when you need to, or setting healthy boundaries when that becomes necessary.

You can’t be all things to all people; you will never make everyone happy all the time. Some people will not get you, or dig your vibe, or want to take a spin around the dance floor with you, and that is okay. Rejection never feels good, but it’s not ever your job to chase people down to convince them of your worth. If you suffer from low self-esteem, that’s something you really want to address, otherwise you will likely find yourself saying yes to things when you’d much rather say no. You may devalue your own needs and wants in an effort to be liked or loved or cherished, but that never works, because if you aren’t being yourself, you’ll know that. Maybe you’ll “fool” the other person, but you won’t fool yourself, so even if they think you’re just awesome, it won’t relieve your feelings of being unseen.

Some people would rather drown than ask for help, and others have a funny sense of entitlement, and no qualms about asking you to extend yourself on their behalf, even if they barely know you. You are not obligated to comply. Your time is precious and finite, and so is your energy. These are the most valuable gifts we’re given, and they’re also the most valuable ones we give away. Squandering those gifts is a real shame. In order to survive and thrive in this world, you have to be strong. You have to find the tools to heal any raw places within you that may need your kind attention, so that you aren’t driven by unconscious forces. You don’t want to be leading an “unexamined life”, because not knowing yourself is the loneliest thing there is. It’s not a luxury to take “you time”, it’s a necessity. Healing requires energy.

I remember the first time I flew, listening to the flight attendant directing grown-ups to secure their own oxygen masks before helping their children, and as a kid, this made me uneasy. As an adult, of course I get it. If you pass out, you can’t help anyone. If you deplete yourself and neglect yourself, you really can’t be surprised when life’s storms knock you down. Anything you starve is going to weaken, whether we’re talking about your houseplants, or your relationship with yourself.

Maybe you grew up in a house where your needs were not considered. Perhaps you’ve grown into an adult who believes it’s selfish to think about what you need to be happy, but it’s actually selfish to avoid that work, because if you’re miserable or lost or confused, you bring to the world around you much less of what you could be sharing. We each have a particular spark, and our job is to turn that spark into a flame, a fire, a passion of any kind for something. Your passion can be helping other people; that’s beautiful, but you’ll find that the best way to be of service is to clear anything that might be blocking your ability to shine. The more you care for yourself, the more you can give.

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

The Cycle of Abuse

frogsIf you’ve never been in an abusive relationship, you’re probably going to have a hard time understanding what would keep a person in a situation that’s so unhealthy and soul-crushing. This applies whether we’re talking about emotional and verbal abuse, or physical abuse. People who find themselves in these kinds of relationships didn’t land there out of the blue. A person who’s allowing herself or himself to be abused is a person in pain, and judging or shaming someone because they aren’t strong enough to get themselves out of harm’s way, is only going to compound their pain. The last thing a person needs in that situation is to feel someone else’s disdain; people allowing themselves to be abused are already swimming in shame and guilt and low self-esteem. What they need is support.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. It’s not just an issue for women, there are cases where men are being abused by their female partners, but it’s an overwhelmingly larger issue for women.

People who come out of abusive homes tend to seek out those relationships in their adult lives; we gravitate toward what we know, even if what we know feels terrible. So, too, do children of alcoholics tend to marry alcoholics. This might seem insane from the outside, but it’s what Freud called the “repetition compulsion”, what Jung referred to when he said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life, and you will call it fate”, and what Einstein defined as insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” Yogis call these “samskaras”, or grooves that we play out again and again. We all want to heal and be happy, but a lot of the time, we avoid the very work that would bring us peace. Instead of examining, facing, and working with our pain, we run from it, or deny that it’s there, or numb it out, and then we call into our lives those situations that evoke the same ancient dynamic. We don’t do it on purpose, we’re just driven to heal, to overcome, to master those feelings we couldn’t master as children.

This isn’t a formula that works. When we call an abuser into our lives so we can overcome our original pain, we simply find ourselves powerless once again. We revert back to that scared kid. We think, it must be us, it must be our fault, because look, it’s happening again. We think we don’t measure up, we must not be lovable. Sometimes people put themselves in a powerless position financially. Maybe there are kids in the mix, and they think they should take it, because at least the family is intact, and the abuse isn’t affecting the kids (of course it is). There are all kinds of reasons people stay. They might not make any sense from the outside, but if you haven’t lived someone else’s life, don’t expect to understand the way they think about things. Let’s talk about the other side, here, too. Abusers didn’t just become violent out of the blue. Most abusers were abused themselves. That doesn’t make it okay, but condemnation helps no one.

When we doubt that we’re lovable or worthwhile or of value, we’re likely to call people into our lives who reflect those doubts back to us, and if you’re in a situation like that, you might think, “If only I could get this person to love me, then I’d be happy.” Or maybe things are really, really good a lot of the time, and just every so often, your partner hauls off and punches you in the face. It’s never okay. Abusers manipulate. They sweet-talk. They’re contrite. Maybe they cry and tell you it will never happen again, but it always does. Maybe you think if you just love your partner enough, he’ll stop. Maybe you think it’s your fault because you provoke him. Whatever the stories, the bottom line is, none of us was put here to be a punching bag. Love does not abuse you, mistreat you, disrespect you, lie to you, or hit you in the face. Not ever. You can’t be in love with someone’s potential, and in the meantime, excuse his or her behavior, not if that behavior is causing you physical or emotional pain. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. We all have pain, we all suffer, and sometimes we just don’t have the tools or the strength to get ourselves to a safe space. If that’s where you’re at, you have to reach out and get yourself some help. A good therapist is a great place to start. You have to get to the root of the thing. You have to figure out when you started believing you were not worthy of love. You really need to dig that root up, and cut yourself away from it, because that root was planted in the soil of lies. If you need help, or you know someone who needs help, go to: http://www.thehotline.org/

Let me just say that most men are as outraged about this as women. It’s really important to me that these conversations don’t alienate anyone. As always, these are problems we need to solve together, and the only way we can do that is by bringing them into the light so we can help each other.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Get Hungry for the Truth

gloriaSometimes we know something but we don’t want to accept what we know. Maybe we’re attached to a certain picture in our heads of how things should or could be. Maybe we’re in love with someone’s potential and think if we just hold on and wait, eventually this painful situation will grow into something else, something beautiful. There are all kinds of reasons we might reject the truth of how things are. The thing is, it always leads to suffering.

We are energetic creatures, and we all have instincts. That’s one of our main modes of survival. What you feel in your gut can be trusted, but our hearts and our minds are also in the mix, and this is where things get complicated. When we’re attached to people, or ideas about how things could be, it makes it so hard to walk away. It’s brutal. When the mind gets involved with all its shoulds and coulds and questions and rationalizations, it gets even harder to act on what we know. We can stay and suffer for days, weeks, months, years, all the while allowing our light to be dimmed. It feels terrible to ignore, repress or deny what you know to be true. It’s like trying to lift the ocean; it’s futile, but sometimes we’re just not strong enough yet. We’re not ready to let go, to accept, to surrender, to swim.

Those are the times when it’s the least comfortable to be human. When we just suffer and feel a little sick and tired all the time. When we spend our energy developing constructs that support the version of reality we pretend to be living in. The truth is a relief. It hurts like hell sometimes, but it’s so much easier. All the white noise drops away. We can breathe again. Maybe we’re heartbroken, but we can breathe. There is no one way. There is no one person, except yourself. There is no one path. Life is not obligated to give you what you want, and neither is anyone else. Sometimes the healthiest and scariest thing you can do is trust that something else is coming. Something that looks totally different than the picture you’re grasping, or the person you’re grasping, or the identity you’re holding onto like a cat sliding off a roof.

Most people will tell you that their lives did not unfold the way they thought they would. We all have our ideas and our longings, but sometimes our attachment to them really blocks our ability to let life flow. If someone doesn’t want to be with you all the way, release them and release yourself. If someone doesn’t know how to love you the way you long to be loved, accept the way they can love you, or don’t, but love yourself in the ways that are missing. Just don’t lie to yourself. Don’t kid yourself. Don’t numb out so your reality feels less harsh. Let the harshness push you up against the wall until you can’t take it anymore and you have to try something else, because life is short and time is precious, and so are you. You don’t have time to be in denial. I mean, you can do that if you want to, but there are so many better uses of your time and energy. Being with what is, leaning into all the beauty and all the pain, is incredibly liberating.

I understand the desire to be happy. Everyone wants that, but get hungry for the truth instead. Not everything is happy. It’s not realistic to expect we’re going to be joyful in every moment. Sometimes I see quotes that say things like, “We can choose happiness in every moment.” No, we can’t. Tell that to a grieving mother. Sometimes we compound our pain by feeling guilty about not being happy. I think we set ourselves up to fail and we alienate people who are suffering huge losses when we say things like that. It’s okay to be heartbroken or enraged or in despair. It’s okay to grieve until you think you can’t possibly have any tears left. In fact, I’d recommend that a lot more than trying to force yourself to choose happiness when everything in you is looking for a way to keep breathing. Just be where you are. Lean into it, breathe into it. It will change and it will pass, and it will do those things a lot sooner if you accept where you are rather than deny it.

I know sometimes it’s painful. That’s part of the path. Pain opens us and strengthens us and teaches us about ourselves. It shows us where we still have healing to do. It softens us so we understand empathy and compassion. It gives us a sharp taste of the opposite of joy, so that when joy comes, we get to appreciate and experience that fully, as well. Spirituality is not about being positive and light in every moment, it’s about being your authentic self. It’s about honoring what’s true for you. That’s a gift you give to yourself, and also to everyone you encounter. Don’t deny yourself that gift.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton