To Be Seen

If you want easy and comfortable, forget about intimacy, because in order to be truly known by another person, you have to be willing to be honest, even if that means shining light on some part of yourself that isn’t fully healed. If you want to be understood and seen, you have to be willing to show yourself, and in order to do that, you really want to feel safe.

Your heart, your time, your energy and your attention are the most precious gifts you have to offer anyone. There are only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a lifetime. You will spend the large majority of your time in the company of your own internal dialogue, processing the data you receive from the outside world, and from the people you encounter; those closest to you, and those you meet in passing. You will do your best to make sense out of what is coming at you. You can only know what you know, and you can only be where you are. Your experiences have shaped you, they’ve become part of the way you understand what’s happening around you. Sometimes the lessons we’ve learned are damaging; we’ve only seen a sliver of reality, but it’s all we know, so we make our assumptions, we fill in the blanks, we project, and we tell ourselves stories. These are ways we might close ourselves off, keep people out, keep ourselves safe, or make ourselves miserable.

I get so many emails from people who feel alone and alienated and angry, or at a total loss. People who feel no one sees them or cares one way or the other, but that’s just the people they’ve known, or maybe it’s just the way they’ve experienced those people. You can’t assume anything. What seems obvious to you or me may be a total mystery to someone else, because we are alone unless we actively reach out. No two people have had the exact same life, memories, experiences and feelings. How vulnerable are you willing to be, and how truthful? I mean, there are some things better left unsaid even if you want to be known, some things that only cause pain, but short of that, how much are you willing to open yourself? To speak up when you feel uncomfortable or hurt or angry or confused? To try to articulate, calmly and with compassion, your own experience? How much are you willing and able to open to the idea that your view is only that; that there’s the distinct possibility you missed something, or crushed something unknowingly beneath your words or with your actions?

Most people do not set out with the intention of hurting anyone. I’d say the majority of people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got and what they know, to piece together some fulfillment, meaning and happiness, to live a life that feels good to them, to figure out what lights them up, and what brings them down, and to do more of the former, and less of the latter; to know themselves. It’s a process, all of it. Usually we’ve just gotten lost. We’ve followed the shoulds instead of the yeses. We’ve dropped the thread, or we’ve become a player in someone else’s story, or we’ve landed in a ditch full of rage and blame. Most people do not follow a linear path. You have to screw up in order to understand your own humanness, and to have compassion for other people when they blow it. You have to grow enough to realize it is not your job to judge or control or try to manipulate another person’s journey.

Whatever happens, happens. Maybe you’ve had your heart broken badly. Maybe you’re in mourning for something you’ve never had, or for something that was robbed from you. Maybe someone was ripped from you too soon, with no warning on a sunny Tuesday morning, or a rainy Friday afternoon. These things can crush you, crush the breath and the will out of you. It could be that you were abused, neglected, ignored. There are stories in this world that are hard to hold in your head and in your heart, but human beings have an incredible potential to heal. I asked my four year old daughter why she was so sweet the other night while we were cuddled up. It was rhetorical, but she said, “That’s the way nature designed me.” Like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and I really believe that to be the case. I think at the very center of you, there’s love. I think if you peel away the layers of blame and rage and shame and despair and loneliness and confusion and fear, you will hit the jackpot. Love is the most freeing, accepting, powerful force I know. If you want to get things done, let that power you. You just might have to dig for it for awhile.

Love gives you the courage to bare yourself, to embrace all parts of yourself, even the stuff that you wouldn’t post in a status update. To be able to share those parts with the people closest to you is really the only way for you to feel known. Cherished. Close to people. If you just show the shiny perfect parts, if your whole life could be displayed on Instagram, my guess is you’re going to feel pretty alone. Human beings are built for connection; we come in needing each other, we go out needing each other, and in between, you can bet we need each other. When you show yourself, you give other people permission to do the same. When you can communicate how you feel and what’s happening within you, you give the people in your life the gift of being able to love you as you are, not as you think you should be, or as you want to be someday, but as you are right now. Not everyone will be able to do it. Some people are not ready to be naked like that with you, but you don’t need many. True connection between people is so beautiful. You don’t even have to know someone well to be intimate in the way I’m describing. You just have to be willing to be present and aware and open. That creates the possibility of seeing another person fully, and of being seen, and that feels pretty great.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Why It’s Good if You Feel Angry, Depressed and Alone

thetruthwillsetufreebutfirstA couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about forgiveness. I got lots of emails, one from a woman who’d just found out her husband had been having an affair. This came to light just hours before the article was posted, and she told me she was struggling to forgive him. Last night I was talking to a friend of mine, and she told me that one of her closest friends had betrayed her over a business opportunity. She said she knew there was a lesson in it somewhere, that she’d known her friend operated this way, but that there were also amazing things about her. She felt the onus was on her since she’d been aware, and had remained close to her friend, anyway. Here’s the thing…

Read the rest of the article at:
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11950/why-its-good-if-you-feel-angry-depressed-and-alone.html

It Takes Courage to Surrender

You-surrender-to-a-lotRejection is one of the worst feelings known to humans. It starts when we’re little–the first time you weren’t invited to a party or a sleepover. The first time your best friend decided she wanted lots of friends and not just you. The first time you were left out of a game, or were the last person picked for dodgeball. Maybe you grew up being bullied or teased or excluded. Or you’ve always had a tough time making friends. We’ve all had our hearts broken at least once, badly. You could have experienced feelings of rejection from your own parents or siblings.

There’s research that suggests the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain is also triggered when we feel rejected (the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC if you’re interested in these things). That we are as distressed by feelings of being excluded as we are to a physical injury. That could explain the level of panic and desperation many people feel when they’ve been left, and of course there’s always personal history that can compound the situation. And many people experience heartbreak as an actual sensation, or mix of sensations, in the body. A heaviness, an emptiness, the lack of appetite or motivation to get out of bed. The exhaustion, and physical pain deep in the belly or around the heart.

Have you ever been rejected by someone you didn’t even like that much? Even in that case it doesn’t feel good. If you have any deep-seated doubts about whether you are truly lovable, it’s highly likely you’re going to feel the desire to run toward people who reflect those doubts back to you. Because if you can convince them, maybe you can convince yourself and heal an old wound. If you’ve tried that, you know it doesn’t work.

Here’s the thing. If someone wants to walk out the door or throw in the towel, or if a person expresses doubt in word or in action about their feelings for you early in a relationship, the only truly loving thing you can do is let them go. Trying to sell yourself is damaging to your soul, it’s going to make you feel sick. Running or chasing after people also makes you sick. Like you’re hooked, and can be yanked in any direction. Like you’ve lost your power.

Love with your heart, your mind, and your hands open. People may change or leave, they may disappoint you in many ways. In order to love yourself, you cannot allow yourself to be abused. When you feel like your light is being crushed, and when you participate in the crushing, you really can’t nurture anyone else. If a person doesn’t see you or understand you or get you or celebrate you, let them go and do your best to wish them well. Do that for yourself, and the other person. Because love does not force or manipulate or control. It doesn’t sell or run people down. I know we all have our visions, or ideas of “how things should be.” But you really do yourself and other people a disservice when you refuse to meet them where they are. Too many people get caught up in the potential. “I’m so in love with the way I know this person could be, if only…” That’s not the same as, ” I’m so in love with this person.”

Your story may not unfold the way you’ve written it in your mind. You cannot control what other people will do or say or want. But you can love yourself. And you can heal yourself. And if you do those things, you will happily walk to the door anyone who doesn’t seem fully psyched to be with you. You’ll do that for you, and you’ll also do that for them. Thich Nhat Hanh on this, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” Not every lid is meant to fit your pot. No point forcing it. Sending you love. Ally

If Not You, Then Who?

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

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

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

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

Expose Yourself (not like THAT)

The-strongest-love-isSometimes stealthy fear sneaks in using any and all of it’s cohorts–anger, bitterness, doubt, envy, blame, despair, loneliness, shame, or guilt, and puts the mind in a vise grip. Thoughts carry energy, and if you’re in the grip of any of these states, you’ll notice a tangible bunch of sensations in your body, as well. The breath shortens, the shoulders tighten, the brow furrows, and the heart actually hurts. It’s perfectly natural that you would feel alone in these moments, because you are now “outside the flow”, you’ve been tricked away from your natural state of love.

If at all possible, the heart is the place to go. All you can ever do is your best, and sometimes the terrain is rough and rocky, and the way is uncertain. Being human means being vulnerable. The more you embrace your vulnerability, the degree to which you’re able to be with these painful and uncomfortable feelings, is the same degree to which you’ll experience the flip side of all these emotions. When you feel overtaken by a painful feeling, you can also rejoice a little, because you are here, you are alive, you are aware of your feelings and engaged with them.

When we try to avoid the feelings that make our hearts ache, we also close ourselves off to the feelings that make our hearts sing. The pain is there to reveal something, to teach us something, to help us along our way, to give us something essential. And if you can be with that, if you can open to that, you will equally open to the flip side of fear: love, and all it’s cohorts~ trust, forgiveness, joy, connection, worthiness, ownership of your feelings and and knowledge about yourself. Circumstances are constantly changing, giving us an opportunity to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep opening and deepening. Love is always there, always waiting, always ready to spread some light, even in the darkest of times. So even when the ground is slipping out from underneath you, see if you can tap into that love. Let it deepen your breath, calm your mind, and open your heart once again. Then the way will become clear, the strength will be there for you, and a tiny little voice inside will say, “Yes, you can do it”, even if the path is dark and uncertain. Love always lights the way. Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton

On Gurus, Pedestals, and Dogs…

The-dream-begins-with-aThe work of becoming awake and aware is not easy for anyone, and it’s even harder without a community of people on the same path, and a teacher (or teachers) along the way. When you choose a teacher, hopefully it’s because you feel some energy flowing from them (probably love), and you have some feeling this person has grasped something you may not have, as yet. Otherwise, what can they offer you?

I have had many amazing and gifted teachers along the way, and I have incredible gratitude for each of them. When I first started practicing yoga, I put a few of my teachers on pedestals. I had stars in my eyes and was falling in love with the process of coming home to myself. Once or twice I did this because a couple of them gave me the impression that’s where they belonged. If you put your teachers on pedestals, you do them, and your own process a disservice,  although it’s very understandable.

There are a few definitions of guru, and they vary a little between Eastern and Western schools. In the east, a guru is someone who has attained “God-Union”, someone who is going to help to bring you back to God. In the west, a guru is usually thought of as a spiritual teacher, or a “remover of darkness.” We tend to over-use the word in my opinion. Someone can come into your life, and help you begin to lift your own darkness and explore its roots, and heal. I believe that’s the work of a great teacher, to create an environment where healing is likely to occur. These people have a serious and lasting effect on your life, you are forever changed, but if you put them on a pedestal, there’s only one way for them to go. And if they’ve asked you to put them up there, they themselves have gotten lost. It’s a huge red-flag for me when I see someone refer to themselves as a guru, a master, a visionary. That’s a person who has started to lose their grip, and it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to help you much, because they are attached to an image of themselves, and of external confirmation of their own greatness; they have become confused.

If a teacher disappoints you over time due to their actions, it is still possible, and I believe it’s right, to remain grateful for the help they were able to offer to you. Just like a failed relationship, it’s still good to be thankful for the experience, and celebrate the love you were able to explore, and the growth that happened as a result of that. Anything that brings you closer to your truth, closer to that well of love within your heart, more in line with your inner voice, more aware of the divinity that exists within you, is a great thing. Of course if your trust was abused, or your vulnerability was exploited, it’s very difficult to remain grateful. There are a couple of teachers in my past for whom I have mixed emotions. But I’m still grateful they appeared in my life when they did, and helped me along my way, even if they proved to be all too human later.

I’m sharing this with you because I think finding your teacher at any given time is important and not to be taken lightly. Listen to your intuition. If it feels like an act, it’s an act. If it feels like a sales pitch, run. If it feels like a schtick, be careful whose Kool-Aid you’re drinking. I believe the work toward healing yourself and getting back to love is sacred. I believe teaching is an honor, and anyone teaching is hopefully open and honest and aware, willing to share their struggles and imperfections with you, not pretending to be anything other than human. If you’ve been hurt by a trusted teacher, my heart goes out to you. I will say, the best teacher you’ll ever meet lives within your own heart. I’ll also share that the teachers who have never let me down once, and who have removed the most darkness from my path, have been the dog I was blessed to live with for a decade because that was a lesson in unconditional love, and my two children who teach me so much about true love every single day. I have been in the presence of the Dalai Lama a few times, and I believe he has the goods. Other than that, I have been blessed with some very amazing, very human teachers, and I bow to them all. Sending you love, light, peace, and the ability to follow your intuition as you make your way, Ally Hamilton

Be A Leaf, Why Don’t You?

In-the-depth-of-winter-IIf you were a leaf, everyone would want to look at you and celebrate you in the Fall, when your color was the most vibrant, and you were expressing the fullness of all your experiences. But we cling to the green. People spend a ton of time and energy trying to look green, and we romanticize the idea of wiping the slate clean and being innocent again, having everything ahead of us again.

The truth is, you can retain your innocence if you walk into each experience with curiosity. Nature is teaching us all the time that everything is always changing. Nothing living is exactly the same twice, so you can always walk into a situation with open eyes and an open mind and an open heart. And you can wipe the slate clean at any time. You don’t have to keep your past alive by feeding it too much energy. You can continually, “start again”, allowing yourself to open and grow and embrace your experience as it’s happening. Surprise yourself. You don’t have to put yourself in a box. You don’t have to decide you are “THIS” kind of person, or you would never do “THAT”. Allow other people and experiences to surprise you, too. Examine sweeping generalizations carefully.

When we are “green” we are working it out…our time of greenness usually involves some confusion and loneliness and flailing about. The wind can really whip us around as we try to figure out our purpose, and what it is that’s going to allow our Fall to be full of color. Why cling to that? And as hard as we cling to the green, we also resist our Winter, the time when everything hardens, and gets brittle and cold. We forget to acknowledge and honor and celebrate the wisdom that usually comes when someone is granted a long and healthy life, and that frequently, although the body may harden, the heart can be at its’ softest and most open state.

There’s nothing to cling to, and nothing to resist, it is happening. And if you consider areas in your life where you may be suffering, underneath that pain there is almost certainly a craving for something, or an aversion to something; craving and aversion are at the root of all suffering. At our core, if we keep craving the green and feeling aversion about the inevitable Winter, we will certainly suffer. If you can live your life celebrating all its seasons, rejoicing in your own growth, your expanding potential to spread love, and living in a way that recognizes your experience is fleeting, then you will truly want to be alive and present and open to each moment, you won’t want to miss or minimize or resist anything. You will want to embrace each breath, each conversation, each smile, each tear, each hug, each breeze, each rain, each sunrise, each heartbreak, each joy. Of course it’s human to fear the unknown, but if a leaf eventually falls to the forest floor, and is gently blown into the river, and that water ends up feeding the very tree the leaf grew upon, I think it’s pretty likely we all keep feeding the whole, feeding the LOVE.

Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton