Finding Peace in Life Starts Within Yourself

dalailamaLast week, I went to the local Post Office to mail some of my books to people who’ve been instrumental to its success, like my incredible friend, Dani Shapiro who wrote the foreword to the book, a woman who runs a yoga group on and wants to read it as a possible book for her group to discuss, and some family members in Europe who wanted me to sign it. Since I am basically flying by the seat of my pants these days, I ended up having to sign books as I was standing at the desk, with my list of addresses on my phone, and a bunch of bubble envelopes, airmail stickers, and so on. It took about fifteen minutes, because of course I want to think about what I’m writing inside each of the books, to each of these people. As I was going through this process (and asking myself why I hadn’t thought to sign the books at home, which would have been a quiet and sane place to do it), I became aware of a woman who was talking to one of the employees behind the counter.

I’d noticed her while she was on line, because she was strumming and tapping her fingers on the table while I was writing, and when I looked at her face, she seemed agitated. I was then interrupted by a man who saw the stack of books beside me and asked me if I knew another teacher in town whom he’d studied with for years (I did, small world), and proceeded to tell me how yoga has changed his life, and how he was a crappy father (his words), but is now an amazing grandfather (also his words), and then he showed me a picture of his adorable grandson on his phone. I went back to signing books and addressing envelopes, and the woman at the counter grew louder in her appeal to the person behind the counter. Apparently, her husband had moved out over a year ago, and yet his mail was still coming to their old residence, where she still resides. She said she’d been to the post office several times in the last year with his mail, he’d filled out the change of address forms, and still, his mail kept coming.

A woman got on line and saw my books and asked if I knew anything about yoga and osteoporosis, and whether I thought she ought to be practicing. Inwardly, I told myself I should come to the post office more frequently, with First Class Free cards for everyone. It is quite the yoga hub, who knew?

By the time it was my turn out the counter, the woman with the ex-husband and his mail had lost it. She was sort of talk-yelling that this wasn’t her responsibility, it was the responsibility of the USPS, and that she was doing them a favor by bringing his mail in. Another postal employee who was helping another customer asked under her breath if anyone had ever heard of anyone doing anyone a favor by yelling at them, but I felt for that woman. Obviously, it’s a painful situation, she’s trying to move on, and every day she comes home, and his mail is still arriving. I did wonder why she didn’t speak to her mailman or woman directly, or leave her or him a letter, but who knows? Maybe she did. She wouldn’t be standing there trying to get the situation resolved unless it was really bothering her, and while it’s never advisable to raise your voice when you’re trying to get someone to help you, frustration is a normal human emotion, and it gets the better of us all sometimes. People raise their voices when they don’t feel heard, seen or understood. I don’t know what happened, because she was still there when I left, but I sent her some love. I wanted to hug her, but agitated strangers don’t usually like that, so I just “thought” her a hug, and also sent one to the man behind the counter who was trying to help, and to the other employee who couldn’t see the pain beneath the frustration. Advanced yoga at the post office, probably happening every day. Check it out!

Here’s the thing. Yoga is not about putting your ankle behind your head, it’s about recognizing your own humanity, and the humanity of those around you, and seeing if you can cultivate some compassion and forgiveness for yourself, and everyone you encounter. That’s where the real flexibility comes in. Some days we do better than others. I happened to be in a good head space, I wasn’t in a rush, and I found it amusing and wonderful that so many people wanted to discuss yoga at the post office, so finding compassion for everyone there was easy. I’ve definitely had moments where I was the woman shaking my head at the person losing it, I’ve been the person losing it, and I’ve been the happy granddad, too. I mean, really, we are all so similar.

When I’m teaching, I will often give options and modifications so that everyone in the room has something to do. For example, I might put the class in a “funky chair” or “standing pigeon”, with different options and building blocks along the way for flying pigeon, an arm balance that requires core strength, upper body strength and lots of openness in the hips and hamstrings. Not everyone is going to end up in the arm balance, some people will take their funky chair to the wall while they work on balance, others will bring their torsos parallel to the floor and get a deeper hip release, some might play with clasping their hands behind their backs, some might use blocks under the hands to start to play with lift-off, and some will fly. Everyone in the room is in some form of a balancing hip opener. The point is not the shape you make, it’s what you’re bringing to the moment. It’s the quality you’re feeding as you’re in the balancing hip opener, or on line at the post office. It’s the same thing. Whenever possible, breathing consciously and staying curious is the way to go.

We’ll never control circumstances, what other people do, want, say, need or feel. We’ll never control the USPS. All we can work on is the way we show up, and that has so much to do with the time we take to know ourselves, to nurture ourselves, and to honor what is true for us. If you’re able to practice self-acceptance and self-compassion, you won’t rely on getting it from other people (though it’s awfully nice when you do), and you won’t feel the need to raise your voice to be heard, because you’ll already understand yourself.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton


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