Freedom

futurepastIt seemed like a a good day to write about freedom. When we haven’t done the work to heal, and by that I mean, get real with ourselves and seek help if we need it, we are owned by our pain. If we have doubts about whether we are truly lovable, worthwhile, special, unique…that doubt and fear will permeate everything. Following your heart takes enormous courage, and in order to be courageous, you have to believe in your ability to shine; to offer up something only you can. So many people are owned by the idea, “Who am I to chase my dreams?”, or, “Who am I to color outside the lines?”

If you doubt your worthiness to be loved, you’ll play that out by chasing people who seem on the fence about being with you. Rejection will be like a hook, because you’ll see your own doubt in yourself reflected back at you, and in your effort to heal, you’ll pursue, thinking if you can convince other people, maybe you’ll also convince yourself. But it doesn’t work that way, and this is what I mean about being a slave to your pain. Anything we repress, deny or run from, owns us. It might be unconscious, we might not even realize what’s driving us; people suffer without knowing why, it happens all the time. You will never be free from your past, or free from your rage or your fear or your grief until you allow these feelings to catch up with you, until you turn around and sit down and allow this stuff to wash over you. I realize that doesn’t sound like fun, but it’s a lot better than the alternative, because you might be deeply uncomfortable in the short-term, but you’ll be on the path to your own liberation. The other way, you’ll be on the run your whole life.

Knowing yourself is the most freeing thing there is, and not knowing yourself is the loneliest thing I know. When we aren’t sure what lights us up, what scares us, what excites and inspires us, or where we have healing to do, we’re left to flail around in the dark. When we don’t have a strong center, the chances that we’ll betray ourselves in important ways increase exponentially. If you want to be free, you have to take ownership of your life, and you may have to abandon your way of being if it isn’t working for you. When I say “your way of being”, I mean your way of being in the world. If life doesn’t feel good, whatever you’ve been doing so far isn’t working well. Maybe you’re owned by ideas like, “Everybody leaves”, or, “Everybody cheats”, or, “You can’t trust anyone.” How about, “Life isn’t fair”? Or, “I never get any breaks”, or, “No one likes me”? If any of that sounds familiar, I’d get busy breaking those chains, because that’s a prisoner’s mentality.

We can’t control or rewrite what has already happened, any more than we can predict the future. What we can do is lean into our pain and look unflinchingly, but with compassion, at how we’ve been managing ourselves. How we’ve been showing up for ourselves and the people we love. How willing we’ve been to reach out and ask for support when we need it. How much we’re trying to control, and how much we’re able to face reality as it is. To be curious about how things are, instead of being attached to a picture in our heads of how things should be.

The more able you are to work on the things you can control (the way you respond to whatever life puts in your path), and let go of the things you cannot (pretty much everything else), the more you’ll free yourself from suffering. Wishing that for you, and for all of us. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be free.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you might like the books!

Compassion

angerWe can forgive people without deciding that what they’ve done is okay. We can find compassion for people, even if we cannot comprehend what has driven them to do the things they’ve done. I think these are important distinctions to make, because a lot of people seem to feel the need to hold onto their rage in order to make the other party pay, but when we cling to our rage, we’re the ones who suffer. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, not the other person.

How do we have compassion for someone who’s hurt us? Maybe we’re dealing with someone who’s come out of so much abuse, they know no other way but to perpetuate what was done to them. This does not make their hurtful behavior okay; it simply gives us a lens of understanding to look through. Maybe we can release the grip on our pain and allow ourselves to soften. Maybe we’re dealing with a person who has a personality disorder that renders her unable to empathize or sympathize. That can’t be an easy or fulfilling way to move through life.

You might be dealing with someone who knows right from wrong, but chooses wrong. Maybe you’re dealing with a person who is truly focused on what’s good for her or him, and nothing else. I would argue that most people are not trying to hurt us, and most people do care, but there are certainly a few people here and there who are in it for number one, who don’t care about you, or how you feel. I’d still argue that’s a crappy existence, and I wouldn’t want a life like that.

Some things can be taken that you can never have back, like your innocence, or your childhood. How the f&ck do you forgive that? You can swim in your rage, or you can mourn and grieve for what was taken from you. You can lean into that sadness, that despair, and let it take you out to sea for awhile. Allow yourself to feel everything you need to feel around that, and then release it, free yourself. Otherwise, you have to move through life with this anchor of pain, and it will pull you away from love and it will pull you away from creating something you’ve never known. Then these things that were done to you will render your present and your future unlivable, and the person or people who hurt you in the first place get to keep hurting you.

If you’re caught up in a linear story about what’s happened and how these things have affected you and brought you to this point and made you the way you are, I would say, rewrite the story if it’s miserable. Create something out of thin air and hope that feels like a life you want to be living. If you aren’t there yet, then whatever you’ve been doing is not working, so try something else. Get help if you need it. There are so many healing modalities available—yoga, seated meditation, therapy, body work. Just explore and keep exploring until you find a path that starts to bring you some relief, some peace, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t cling to your rage like a shield, because it will block the love. Put it down. Truly. Life is too short for too much of that.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You can find my books here <3

You Are the Steward of Your Own Ship

If-you-feel-lostSometimes it’s really hard to stay centered. Maybe someone has said or done something hurtful, maybe you’re being ignored, left to figure out what’s happening on your own, in the dark. It could be that things are shifting rapidly in your life, or that you’re feeling stuck. You might be wildly in love, or going through a heartbreak. Maybe you’re under incredible pressure at work, or you’re trying to figure out how to make ends meet. You might feel judged, rejected, or invisible, or perhaps you’re the object of someone’s intense desire.

Any and all of these situations can throw us off balance, and again and again, it comes back to how much we need reassurance, affirmation and love from other people. There’s nothing wrong with wanting connection in life, with wanting to be held and seen and cherished. If you need those things because you doubt at your very center that you’re worthy of love, then you’re in trouble, because if one person says or does something that leaves you feeling rejected or discarded or “stung”, you can bet you’re going to spin for awhile.

Our time, attention and energy are the most precious gifts we have to offer. We don’t get a do-over; there is no roll-over plan for wasted moments in this life. Other people can’t make us feel anything, unless we let them. To feel love, you have to be receptive to it, you have to be ready to receive, and to give, to open and to trust. If you feel insecure, ashamed, or rejected based on the actions of another person, some deep part of you is in doubt; somewhere within you, you must not be sure of yourself, otherwise why would it bother you so much? I’m not saying it’s a minor thing if someone pushes you away, or doesn’t bother to treat you with respect, consideration, and compassion, I’m just saying you don’t have to receive the insult. If you know you’re doing your best and you’re trying not to hurt other people, then you can feel centered and at peace. It won’t matter so much if other people say nasty things behind your back, or to your face, because at the end of the day, you can face yourself, that’s what matters. Of course we care about the opinions of those nearest and dearest to us, and if one of those people tells you it’s time to do better, I’d take that into serious consideration, but ultimately, you have to trust yourself.

It doesn’t feel good to be held in someone’s contempt, and it’s even worse to feel unseen, but you are the steward of your own ship, you decide your course each day. You’re a human being, so some days you’ll come up against the rocks, or the seas will be rough, or you’ll be thrown overboard and pulled under by the current. As soon as you can, grab your compass and get back to it. If you need to dock on an island for a bit so you can explore the source of your pain, fear or doubt, by all means, get on that. Otherwise, try to direct most of your time, attention and energy toward sharing whatever you’ve got to give. As long as you’re approaching life with an open heart, and doing your best to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading, you won’t have much cause to doubt yourself. I wouldn’t let someone rob you of an afternoon, a few days, a week, or more, because time is too precious, and you won’t always know or understand another person’s pain, but you can bet we all have some.

If you’re off center because of great circumstances, enjoy every moment. Just don’t lose yourself, and don’t forget about your family and friends.

It’s not possible to understand what’s driving a person unless he or she tells you. People do things that are confusing and hurtful when they’re in pain. That’s where they are on their journey; it’s no reflection of anything lacking in you. So if you’re going through tumult around that kind of storm, try to get back on your feet.

We can be rocked by circumstance, thrilled when things are going our way, and depressed when they aren’t, or we can keep coming back to steadiness. You might call that steadiness “knowing yourself”, or inner peace.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Focus on the Days, Not the Decades

Waiting-is-painfulSomebody sent me an email today asking what I do when I don’t know what to do. She said she has big choices to make, but none of the options look good; no matter which way she turns, there’s suffering. Life is like that sometimes, and it’s just not easy when we come to those forks in the road.

I like the saying, “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything,” and of course, there’s the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland”, with his famous line, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” When I don’t know what to do, meditation is always helpful. Getting quiet so you can hear the voice of your intuition is a good plan.

When your decisions are mostly going to impact you, it’s a bit less daunting. You may make a regrettable choice, but sometimes that’s how we have to learn, so we can make different choices the next time, or so we learn something about ourselves, or life, or other people. Maybe there are growing pains, but anything that helps us to see ourselves more clearly is ultimately helpful. When your decisions impact other people, like your children, for example, it’s exponentially harder.

“Paralysis through analysis” springs to mind. We can’t nurture ourselves or anyone else when we’re stuck, and in fear. Fear is a perfectly natural feeling we’ll all experience, but it’s not a great motivator. I mean, sometimes we have to feel the flames scorching our ankles before we move, I’m just saying whenever possible, coming from love is always better than coming from fear.

None of us has a crystal ball. It’s not like we get to make both choices, living our parallel lives so we can see which way is better, and then circle back and decide. Also, we really have no clue what anyone else’s journey is supposed to look like. If you’re making choices that impact other people, you just have to do the best you can to weigh it all out.

Sitting at the fork in the road biting your nails and agonizing isn’t going to serve anyone. If you have to act, move in the direction that seems the most likely to be the least painful. That’s the very best you can do sometimes. Life doesn’t always unfold the way we expected or hoped, and you truly never know what may happen down the road. Maybe nothing makes sense right now, but later the pieces will all fit together.

It isn’t all light and positive. Some of it breaks your heart. Sometimes you have to make your best guess and feel your way along and see what happens. You do the best you can with the information you’ve got and you try to move toward love. Something will happen, you can be sure of that, and maybe you can work on trusting yourself, and your ability to open to the vulnerability inherent in this experience of being human. You can always find beauty, joy, love and gratitude on any given day. Focus on your days and not the decades out in front of you. Try to unearth the gifts each day. The smile of someone you love, or someone you don’t even know. The sound of laughter from those closest to you. Hugs. The sun on your face. Your ability to uplift other people in small ways and large. Give everything you’ve got from your heart, because you’ll never run out of love. Move toward those things that inspire you and light you up. Piece together a bunch of those days, and you’ll be looking at a good life.

Sending love and a hug to anyone who needs it,

Ally Hamilton

Don’t Drown in the Ripples

Sometimes the pain we inflict upon ourselves is worse than any other pain we face. I know so many people who grapple with self-loathing, who feel shame, guilt, despair and rage because they’ve made mistakes and don’t know how to make things right. An unforgiving internal dialogue is a painful and relentless prison, and sometimes it seems the key is somewhere far, far away.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes we make huge ones, with lasting ripples that follow us way into our futures. The worse you feel about yourself, the harder it is to pull yourself out. You can drown in those ripples; people can drown in two inches of water. We all have pain, and some people have more than others; it is in no way a level playing field. Some people are more resilient than others, human beings are not robots, and life doesn’t follow a formula. Judgement about another person’s mistakes is nothing more than self-loathing turned outward. We never know what it is to walk in someone else’s shoes, and we don’t have the skinny on what other people need in order to learn and grow. Each of us has plenty of work to do keeping our own paths clean.

I know people who feel undeserving of love; unlovable. I want to be clear. There are people who don’t make it easy, who are cruel or cold or uncaring. Do you know what it takes to get a human being to that place? I’m not talking about personality disorders, that’s another topic. I’m talking about people who’ve given up on love, and have decided you can’t trust anyone, and no one cares, and life is brutal, and they will be, too. Usually the people who hurt us the most are the ones in the greatest pain. That doesn’t make it okay when you’re on the receiving end, but it helps to understand what’s motivating a person who has let you down, broken your heart, or left you without any sense of closure or understanding.

The people I’m talking about feel unworthy of love because they can’t forgive themselves. If you’re coming out of pain, if you’re filled with despair, you’re going to spread it, that’s just how it works. When we aren’t loving ourselves, we tend not to take good care. Sometimes the pain is so great, the desire to numb out and make it go away is intense. When we’re in a fog we don’t think clearly, we can’t see straight. Fog might be a relief for awhile, but eventually that’s a prison, too. Life isn’t meant to be endured in a haze, it’s meant to be lived with an open heart and mind. How else to see the beauty? To receive the love? To have your breath taken away? To be overcome with gratitude just for the experience of being alive? A fog robs you of that. A haze blurs those edges, too.

At a certain point you have to forgive yourself. It’s never too late to start again. We all do it, every day, every moment. The whole thing is shifting all the time, nothing stays the same. If you were in pain and you caused pain as a result, you do your best to make it right. That’s all you can do. You show up, the best you can and you say you’re sorry, but if you aren’t forgiven, eventually you have to forgive yourself. Otherwise it’s a vicious cycle of hating yourself and needing the haze to blur the awful feeling of hating yourself. That’s prison.

You’re a human being on planet earth. Whatever time you have ahead of you, make it count. Turn things around. Remember your kind and beautiful heart. Did you mean to hurt anyone? Were you just lost? Turn your attention to any and every gift you’ve got. Your health if you have it. People in your life who love you and believe in you. People you love beyond words. A place to sleep at night and food to eat. The sunrise, or sunset, or rain on your face. The way the wind moves the leaves of the trees. You are not the same you you were ten years ago, ten days ago, ten minutes ago, and neither is anyone else. Everything is in a constant state of flux, including you. Move toward beauty. Open to love. Forgive yourself, forgive yourself, forgive yourself. Then start again.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Is This Love?

Nowhere is our stuff more likely to come up than in the context of an intimate relationship; anytime we’re really baring our souls to another person, trusting and opening and revealing and hoping that we’re safe, that we’re choosing wisely. You really do want to take your time when it comes to giving your heart to anyone, that’s a precious gift, and not something you want to do recklessly, or because your hormones are raging, or you’ve been waiting to connect deeply with someone, anyone, for a very long time. Longing to be seen, understood and held is understandable, but this isn’t stuff you can rush or force.

These are natural, beautiful, very human desires; we want at least one person to really see us in all our beauty, with all our flaws and uncertainty, to accept us in the face of all our past mistakes, poor choices, times we let ourselves or others down. It’s a beautiful thing to strip away the protection and stand there in all your vulnerability, but you are the safe-keeper of your tender heart, and I think part of loving yourself well involves your ability to discern what is real from what is not.

I get so many emails from people in confusion around this stuff. If your interaction with someone is making you feel “less than”, insecure, anxious, or extremely confused, there’s no way you’re going to feel safe, and it would be reckless to proceed to offer yourself up without getting some clarity about what’s happening. Honest communication is essential, games are for kids. If you can’t get clear about what’s going on no matter how much you articulate your experience, at a certain point you have to step away. You’re of no good to anyone, including yourself, if you allow your light to be dimmed for too long. Also, when you find yourself participating in a relationship that’s painful, you have an opportunity to do some healing. If someone rejects you or tells you that you don’t measure up, the only reason it hurts is if some part of you believes it to be true. At your core, do you doubt whether you’re worthy of being cherished and treated well? That would be a very good thing to look at, on your own. You can’t heal an old wound if you’re letting someone stick a knife in it all the time.

Sometimes it’s very very painful. We meet someone, and we’re attracted and maybe we’ve been lonely for a good long stretch, and we just dive in. I’d say, go ahead and enjoy yourself, be open and curious, but don’t start planning your wedding, or deciding this is “the one”, give it plenty of time. Let the drug of the beginning subside a little; you can’t really see anything well until the lust/dust clears. If you jump off the deep end and think, “This is it!” in the midst of all that intensity, there’s a decent chance you’re going to run into a brick wall in your not too distant future. Not always, of course there are times when it is, “it”, but if you’re attached to that outcome, you’re going to project all kinds of things onto this other person you really don’t know, instead of getting to know the person they are, which isn’t fair to either one of you. Much of the time, the beginning is so awesome, and then it dies down, and one party or the other is waiting for the person they hung out with in the beginning to show up again. People can wait for years.

Dealing with reality as it is, is always your best bet. It may not unfold the way you wanted it to, or thought it would. Life is full of surprises, twists, turns, disappointments, joy, heartache, loss, love that expands your heart beyond anything you could have imagined, and tears of all kinds. The more you open to the ride, the less you suffer, that’s the truth. The more you cling and try to convince or connive or manipulate or control or force or dance like a monkey to get the outcome you want, the more you rob yourself of the possibility for something authentically, organically amazing to unfold. Reality could be better than your dreams, but you have to trust in that idea, and also trust your gut. If it isn’t flowing, it’s probably not the right thing.

Relationships take nurturing and energy and effort on both sides, but the whole thing shouldn’t feel like one giant struggle, or a constant drama. Being triggered is not the same as being in love. Sometimes an interaction is so familiar, so charged because some of your deepest wounds are in play. People often mistake the intensity of that experience for true love; playing out ancient history and assuming this is it because it feels like home, even if home was nuts. Love feels good. Love is freeing and accepting and embracing. It doesn’t pull you close and push you away. People struggling to love do that. Use the tools you’ve got. Feel with your heart and your gut and see with your eyes and trust yourself. Take good care of that gorgeous heart.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Head for the Eye of the Storm

Many of the feelings we’re going to experience in this life are not comfortable — rage, grief, shame, fear, doubt, jealously, envy, loneliness, bitterness, feelings around being betrayed, abandoned or neglected — none of these are easy feelings. Sometimes we’re in so much avoidance around this stuff, we flee. We keep ourselves insanely busy, or we numb out all the time, or we cling to a false reality and insist those who are close to us do the same. None of that works, assuming you want to be happy and at peace.

The desire to feel good can be so strong, we excuse and explain behavior of others that we really shouldn’t tolerate. Forgiveness feels better than rage. Gratitude feels better than the feeling of lack or bitterness. Being in love feels better than acknowledging something at the core is just not right. What we know is more comfortable than what we don’t, even if what we know doesn’t feel good, but forced joy is not the same as true joy. Should you be happy because it’s the holiday season? Should you get married because you’re thirty and all your friends are doing it? Should you be careful around the word “should”? You feel how you feel, and your best bet is to deal with it.

If you’re enraged because your spouse had an extramarital affair, you can’t race to forgiveness; you have to be with all the other messy feelings that come up first, and see if you can work your way toward forgiveness later. If your grown child is determined to head down a painful path, you do a disservice to everyone if you deny that reality and insist everything is okay. Clinging to positivity is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s not all positive and light, some of it hurts like hell. Some of it makes your blood boil. Being spiritual does not mean you shun those feelings or push them down or feel shame around them, either. The greatest gift of a spiritual practice, whether it’s yoga or seated meditation, hiking or salsa dancing or cooking or whatever speaks to you (and yes, anything that you do consistently that helps you quiet your mind and tune into your own intuition, that helps you become a part of the flow, and lose your sense of separateness, can be defined as a spiritual practice), is the ability to face reality as it is. It’s not about being positive and thinking positively every second and clutching at the light like it’s going to save you. Being able to be with the darkness can save you. Sitting with what is real for you and owning it and allowing painful feelings to arise so you can understand yourself is incredibly liberating. If you don’t do that, you’ll be driven by unconscious forces, and wonder why it is you keep making choices that send you headfirst into brick walls.

The pressure to be happy is enormous. It’s all around you. Watch what you feed yourself, and I don’t just mean food. Everything you take in through your eyes and your ears is food for your mind. If you feed yourself a constant diet of “everyone else is happy and I suck”, you’re probably going to feel pretty badly. Not everyone is happy, many people are suffering in silent agony because they don’t know how to get from here (despair) to there (peace), and very few people talk about the shadow stuff. I think it’s the responsibility of people in the spiritual community to get their hands dirty and shine a light on the stuff that hurts. Knowing yourself can be a deeply painful, lonely process. You may have made a series of choices based on what you thought you should want, or what other people wanted you to want, and you may have a lot of unraveling to do to get back to what’s true for you. That hurts. You may have old wounds that are unhealed that need your kind attention, and that hurts, too. You may find that certain relationships need to be examined from the roots up, and that they may not survive the move to new soil. Birthing anything into existence is uncomfortable at best, whether it’s a new way of being, or a new life that feels more authentic to you.

Too many people are hopeless and numb, internalizing their own rage, walking around feeling depressed, and wondering how all these shiny people on Instagram are doing it. No one posts the pictures of days they shuffle around in their pajamas, feeling lame and alone. You don’t see many status updates that say, “I feel scared because my life is going by and I don’t know what I’m doing”, but everyone has pain, fear and questions. That’s the stuff you run toward, although that might not be intuitive. If you want to be at peace, you have to be willing to walk through the storms, too. They don’t kill you, they don’t wash you away. Avoiding them does.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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