Everything is Happening

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you love and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

When to Hold On, and When to Let Go

Some-people-believeSometimes it’s so hard to know when to hold on, and when to let go. This comes up in all kinds of relationships. Often, we’re dealing with people who simply do not know how to love. Maybe there’s a history of abuse, and they’re continuing the cycle of what was done to them. Maybe there are personality disorders, and we’re dealing with people who don’t feel empathy, and are incapable of communicating in a compassionate way. There are people who go up and down…sometimes they’re rational, and other times there’s no logic at all, no possibility for understanding. Those are often the most challenging cases, because we get lulled when things are good, and blindsided when the tides turn. The thing is, after you’ve been through a few cycles with someone, you have to stop allowing yourself to think things are going to be okay every time they have a good week. Your heart is tender, and it can only take so much battering. Also, you are the steward of your own ship, and if you keep sailing into tsunamis, you can’t expect things to go well. There are also cases when we’re dealing with betrayal, and it’s hard to know if we should try to open again, or cut our losses and move on. Sometimes we’ve just grown in different directions and need something else, maybe something we’ve never known before. Like belief in ourselves.

Here’s the thing. If someone has a history of treating you badly, you have to distance yourself. I mean, if it’s not a relationship you want to end completely, then boundaries are your only option. I’m talking about familial relationships here. Most people do not want to cut ties with their parents, siblings, or exes when there are children involved. I really consider that a last resort. There’s a deep pain when we have to walk away from people who were meant to love us, and didn’t or couldn’t. There are cases when ending the relationship and cutting off ties is the only option, so I want to acknowledge that, but short of instances of abuse, boundaries will usually get the job done. We can love people who have a hard time being consistent, while still loving ourselves.

If your parent or parents have never been there for you, if you’ve had a fear-based relationship and doubted your value to them, I do think you need to step away. Sometimes that’s incredibly difficult. If you rely on your parents financially, or you come from a culture where you don’t leave home until you get married, it’s not as easy as just moving out and starting your own life. Obviously, it’s very hard to heal and to create boundaries when you’re living under the same roof with people who’ve let you down in all the important ways. You can recognize that perhaps your parents are repeating what was done to them, but that does not lessen the impact on your own gorgeous heart. It’s beautiful if you can see that it isn’t about you, or anything lacking within you. It takes strength and insight to understand that some people, even your parents, might not have the tools to love you well, and that it isn’t a reflection on you. You’re lovable. You’re made of love and you’re full of love, and if your own parents can’t see that and receive that and embrace that and nurture that, that is very sad for them, and a heartbreak for you all. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t have love in your own life. I would say removing yourself from the situation is ideal, but if you aren’t in a place where you can do that yet, protect your heart in all the ways you can. Nurture yourself, be kind to yourself. Mother yourself.

If we’re talking about romantic relationships, betrayal is a tough one, and I also think it’s a case-by-case situation. Let me say that if you are unhappy in the context of your committed relationship, bringing another party into the mix is a very bad idea. If there are children in the picture, you’re putting your whole family on the line. You’re also making troubled waters murkier. If you’re at the point where you’d even consider going outside your relationship, it’s time to grab your partner and head to therapy, because the answers to the problems do not reside in a third party. That isn’t going to fix things, it’s going to confuse them further. Maybe you and your partner have gotten off track. Maybe you’ve dropped the thread. Maybe you’re so convinced you know everything there is to know about one another, you don’t even pay attention anymore. Perhaps you’re out of balance. Maybe there are little ones in the picture, and you haven’t figured out how to nurture them, keep a roof over your heads, and still find time for romance. Maybe you’re full of rage or resentment, or a list of ways your partner isn’t showing up for you. Maybe you’ve shut down. The things is, relationships need our time and attention. Human beings thrive on love and connection and communication.

Sometimes people blow it. They get desperate. They feel lonely or unseen or unheard, or they feel unwanted in every way, and they act. Maybe they’ve felt rejected or disrespected, and someone at work is making them feel amazing, like everything they say and do is brilliant. Like they’re hot and desirable and hilarious. You know how it goes. A flirtation starts to build and then there’s emailing or texting and the next thing you know, something has happened. I mean, you can’t play with fire like that and expect to walk away unharmed. When there are other people in the mix, like your family, that hurt has deep and far-reaching consequences, and now, instead of focusing on the problems that existed between you and your partner, the number one priority will be fixing what you’ve done, if your partner is even open to allowing you to try. You’re going to have to be patient, and understand you broke their trust. You’re going to have to be transparent, and also compassionate. Basically, you’ve just created a bigger mess for yourself, and you’re likely to feel resentful, because all the other issues are going to take a backseat to your making things right, which might not be possible. Having said that, people can recover from betrayal. It takes two people who are willing to fight for the relationship. If there are kids in the mix, I hope you try. If it’s a pattern, and there’s a history of cheating, you’re probably not in a good situation, but if it’s a one-time thing, and you can recognize that both parties contributed to the deterioration of the relationship prior to the betrayal, you can come out stronger on the other side.

Sometimes there are no kids in the picture, but there’s a long partnership. People sometimes write in and ask if it’s okay to leave someone just because they feel pulled to do so. Usually, these are people who are very used to putting other people’s feelings, needs and wants ahead of their own. I don’t believe anyone would thank you for staying in a situation out of pity or guilt. We all deserve more than that, don’t you think? It’s never easy knowing what to do when our heart is in the mix, and other people are involved. I do think people tend to walk away from their families too easily these days. I think it’s heartbreaking when parents and children don’t speak, when brothers and sisters aren’t in contact, when people walk away from the families they’ve started without giving it everything they’ve got, first. I also think life is short and precious, and that we don’t have time to waste. If you know a thing is dead, release yourself, and the other party. If you’re holding on to something toxic, by all means let go, or get yourself help doing that if you need it. Love is worth fighting for, and sometimes that means we hold on, and sometimes it means we let go. Trust your instincts.

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

Letting Go with Love

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you strength, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

See with Your Soul

 

deankoontzSensation is the language of the body, but we tend to be such talking heads, we’re often overlooking the most important conversation we could be having. The mind is full of “shoulds”, and it’s obsessive and redundant. It’s really hard to hear the quiet voice of your intuition with all that racket going on. This is one of the reasons it’s essential to find something you enjoy doing so much, you lose yourself in the flow. You quiet the storm that rages in the mind and become present and immersed and open. You lose yourself to find yourself.


Years ago, I dated a guy when I was coming off of a relationship that had been dark and draining, and had ended badly. The proverbial rebound. It was fun, at first, as those things tend to be, but pretty quickly, there were red flags. I’m sure if I’d allowed myself to tune in and receive those messages, I’d have realized it was a non-starter. I remember talking myself out of those gut feelings. I didn’t want to accept what I knew on a deep level. I wanted to have fun and just go with it. That’s how you find yourself in an aisle of Whole Foods, six months into your relationship, watching your boyfriend slip a piece of cheese into the pocket of his cargo pants. I’d known I was dealing with some darkness, but I hadn’t wanted to think it went as far as shoplifting, until I saw it with my own eyes. Game over, time for another breakup.

 

When we cut off communication with our intuition, when we refuse to pick up that call, it’s a matter of time before we crash into a brick wall. You don’t always know when you’re in danger, there are times you can be caught completely off guard. Betrayal falls under that heading. I mean, sometimes we have a feeling something is going on, but other times we’re totally blindsided. For the most part, though, if you’re having an ongoing conversation with your body, you’ll find it’s full of wisdom about what’s happening around you, how you are and what you need. It makes life a lot easier.

When I was thirteen, I headed into my ballet class one afternoon, entering after a man who’d walked in just ahead of me. I remember having a bad feeling. In fact, I sped up to pass him on the steep staircase, longing for the safety of the ballet studio, but as soon as I passed him, he grabbed me from behind, one hand over my mouth, the other between my legs. I knew before I knew. I just didn’t have the frame of reference for something like that. I didn’t trust myself. I doubted my sixth sense.

We don’t really think about emotion as sensation, but that’s what it is. When we say we’re sad, that isn’t an idea or a label, we’re talking about the way we feel in our bodies. We’re hurting. Maybe there’s an ache around the heart, or the chest feels tight, or we feel that lump in the throat. Maybe there’s a heaviness to everything. When we say we’re enraged, we’re talking about the feelings of our hearts racing, our jaws clenching, our fingers curling into fists, our blood pressure going up, our shoulders tightening. Next time you say you’re sad or angry or tired or cold or hungry or depressed, notice what’s happening in your body. Make sure what you’re saying is in sync with what you’re feeling. Because if you aren’t used to tuning in to what it is your body is telling you, there might be a huge disconnect between what you think, and how you feel. Are you hungry, or are you bored or lonely?

A lot of the time we agonize over what we want or don’t want. Sometimes we come to a crossroads and we struggle with which way to go. Maybe we find ourselves asking family and friends to tell us what to do, but I really think most of the time, we already have the answers, it’s just that sometimes we don’t like the answers we’re getting. We don’t always feel ready to accept what we know, because usually that means change is coming, and many people resist change, even though it’s futile.

If you’re talking to someone and you realize your shoulders are up around your ears and your arms and legs are crossed, you are not having an easy time communicating. Maybe you feel threatened or guilty or resentful or exposed or vulnerable or scared. Observing sensation gives you lots of clues about how you’re feeling, and while you might wonder why you’d need clues, I can tell you there are a lot of people who walk around having no idea what they want or need.

Sometimes this happens because we live in a culture where certain emotions make people uncomfortable. As a society, we don’t leave a lot of room for men to be scared or vulnerable, nor do we leave much space for women to be angry or assertive. We have names for men who express fear, and women who allow themselves to be angry, and those names are not nice, so a lot of people learn to edit themselves, and push down the feelings that seem to make other people uneasy. It happens in families, too. Maybe you were encouraged to express yourself, maybe you were taught that your feelings mattered and had an impact on the world around you, and maybe not. Perhaps the adults around you felt inadequate or guilty or put-upon if you expressed sadness, so you stopped doing that. It’s very possible to reach adulthood without having a clue about what you want or need, and without knowing how you feel.

The answers are always inside. Find a way to tune into your body. Yoga is the best thing I know (you can try some with me right now, here), but maybe for you it’s something else. Whatever gets you out of your head. Start to listen to those messages. Value them, they’re meaningful, and do your best to respond with compassion and awareness. The relationship you’re having with yourself is the foundation for all the other relationships in your life. Feed it well.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Untie the Knot in Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate the Light

We-all-walk-in-the-darkWe like to label things and keep them neat and clearly defined, but most of life takes place in the grey areas. We really wouldn’t know despair if we’d never felt joy. We wouldn’t appreciate loyalty if we hadn’t been stabbed in the back. We wouldn’t receive the gifts of being seen and understood unless we’d felt invisible and discarded at some point. We wouldn’t celebrate the light if we hadn’t wandered so long in the darkness. But sometimes we want to make our experiences, or other people, all one way, or another. All good. All bad.

You can feel a person’s actions or choices leave a lot to be desired, but still allow for the possibility of remorse and evolution. We’re always in process, and most of us learn the hard lessons by screwing things up. Usually, how it is around us is a reflection of how it is within us, so if we’re rigid or unforgiving or harsh or judgmental, it’s likely we’re all of those things with ourselves, first. And that isn’t a fun way to live. Constant abuse and torment from the inside is a prison. But I think a lot of people live this way. Don’t you hear people say things casually and often, like, “I’m such an idiot! I can’t believe I did that!”, or, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just can’t get it together.” If we said those things to other people under similar circumstances, we, and they, would probably be horrified. Imagine if a close friend made a minor mistake, like taking a left instead of a right, and you called her an idiot, and wondered aloud at how she could have been so dumb. Not super nice, and she probably wouldn’t want you driving shotgun very often. Imagine if your bestie was going though a tough chapter and you said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you and why you just can’t seem to get your sh&t together.” No more bestie for you! Why we might believe it’s okay to talk to ourselves this way is a mystery worth solving. Feeding a loving inner voice is a gift you give to yourself, and everyone you encounter.

The point is, none of us is perfect. We are such solitary creatures in many ways, and we’re all complex and loaded with history and triggers and unconscious drives unless we work to bring this stuff into the light. We all have our “default settings”, or the potential to play an old tape before we realize what’s happening. I’m not saying we shouldn’t get to work, or do our very best to avail ourselves of any and all healing modalities until we figure out what we need to get right with ourselves. I’m just saying we’re always going to be in process, and our growth will be aided by self-compassion, or hindered by self-loathing and shame. Also, the more we can be accepting of ourselves, the more we can do that for others.

Today is the winter solstice. It marks the return of the light. The sun is at its weakest now, but it will grow stronger and stronger until the summer solstice. We’re invited to come home to ourselves, to feed that spark within us until it becomes a flame, a blaze that burns away anything that is inauthentic, untrue, or not working for us. It’s an invitation to shed ways of being, thoughts, ideas and habits that are weakening us instead of strengthening us. I’m not talking about New Year’s Resolutions, I’m talking about getting real with ourselves. It’s a good time to set realistic goals and objectives that are concrete and attainable, not to make a list of things that will ultimately feed our guilt and feelings of disgust and disappointment. That’s no way to stoke your fire.

Begin on the inside. It’s never too late to begin again. Make the world within you a safe space. Feed kindness, and if you’re going to crave something, crave the truth. You’ll make yourself nuts if you try to chase happiness, but if you get really clear about what is true for you, and what is true for the people closest to you, life gets a lot easier, and you’ll find you can show up for yourself and other people in a way that feels good. Shine the light on anything that might be blocking you from living life out loud. And feed that light until you’re lit up from the inside. The world needs more of that. Sending you love, and Happy Solstice! Ally Hamilton