Glow from It or Grow from It

You can experience life as though it’s happening to you or for you and either way you set yourself up to feel like there is some quid pro quo, like you can tilt the odds in your favor if you’re a good person or you can manifest the reality you want if you try hard enough. You can tell yourself rejection is protection and everything has meaning and has been set up to teach you something. When painful things happen you can experience them as karma or as punishment for something you did or didn’t do. You can decide that everything that’s happening is happening for your growth.

The thing is, the earth was spinning long before you or I got here. The ocean existed before we showed up, the waves were rolling in, the waves were rolling out. The sun rose and set. The storms came and passed. The earth will keep spinning long after we’re gone. The chances that everything has been set up for any one of us are pretty small. That doesn’t mean we don’t matter or we don’t have the power to have a positive and lasting effect on the world around us, it just means that it might be a much kinder and gentler ride if you exchange the thought that “everything happens for a reason” to simply “everything happens” and it’s up to me to take from it what I will and to endeavor to be the best human being I can be while I’m here.

Whatever situations you face, whether we’re talking about a relationship or a job or anything else, you’re either going to glow from it – meaning it’s going to light you up and inspire you, or you’re going to grow from it. You do not have to do the mental gymnastics to put everything in your “thank you” column. When painful things happen, when you experience loss, grief, betrayal, or an unwanted twist in the plot, you can bet that you will grow. You may not have wanted the opportunity to grow in that particular way, you might wish with all your heart that you didn’t know what you now know, but we don’t get to choose what’s going to happen. The earth is spinning. We are here and my feeling is this is an extraordinary thing, just to be here with each other. Just to wake up each day.

Glow or grow in love,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

If the posts are helpful, I also have books!

And you can join me for yoga classes and entire courses here.

Stay in Your Own Lane

It is so easy and so human to get twisted up with this idea, but the more you can stay in your own lane, the better. Any time I find myself thinking I know what someone else ought to feel, say or do, I realize I’m avoiding my own work. I have yet to meet another human being who has their own stuff so dialed in, they’re in a position to start weighing in on anyone else’s behavior, choices or way of being.

But it’s so appealing, isn’t it? Don’t we love to think we have all the answers when we stand on the sidelines of someone else’s life? If only they would do this (insert your opinion here), everything would get better for them! A lot of the time, our tendency to want to manage another person’s path is coming out of love. We want to help someone avoid pain or steer around a pothole we can see in the road that they don’t seem to see coming. It’s natural to find it excruciating to watch someone we love suffer, but sometimes we all need to struggle in order to strengthen. I know there have been times in my own life during the gnarlier moments of my healing process when I knew full well I was getting on a train that was going to crash into a brick wall, but I didn’t have the strength yet to not get on the train. We learn the lessons when we’re ready, and not a moment sooner. No one else can do that work for us, and even if you drag someone off the train, the minute you turn your back, they’re gonna jump back on unless they are ready to choose a different road themselves. See also: you can’t save anyone. This is particularly tough to swallow if we’re talking about our children or our partners, but there are times when the most loving thing we can do is just be there to listen, to help pick up the pieces, to offer our hugs and our hearts and our belief in them.

Have you ever tried to manage someone’s reaction to something you desperately need to say or do for your own well-being, sanity, or ability to survive? Maybe you’ve swallowed your own feelings to avoid hurting someone else? That’s also not staying in your own lane. I have found that most people want to be dealing with the truth, even if it’s heartbreaking. Most people would choose dignity and respect over pity or avoidance. That doesn’t mean compassion and sensitivity aren’t key when you need to share something you know is painful or disappointing with someone you care for, but most people would rather have full-on love instead of half-measures. And everyone deserves full-on love.

When I find myself trying to manage another person’s path, I remind myself I don’t drive the big bus with the LIFE license plate, I drive a tiny little car with the Ally license plate. That’s the car I get to drive, and even then it isn’t easy. That alone is plenty of work, especially if I want to show up in the world with compassion, patience, empathy, understanding and a sense of humor. And I do want to do that! Even if I stay focused on that work, I still don’t control the road ahead of me. I still might find myself in a falling rock zone, or a sudden storm, I still might get blown off the road by a tornado I failed to see on the horizon, or I might get a flat or my AC might break on a really hot day. All I get to work on is how I respond to whatever happens. I get to check my oil, make sure my tires have enough air, clean my windshield, pick a speed that’s safe for me and other travelers on the road, use my turn signals, pay attention to the signs, use a map or find my own way…but I don’t control the rest (and neither do you).

Sending you lots of love on the windy road,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

If the posts are helpful you can find my books here, or you can come practice the art of opening to everything (yoga) with me here!

Our Collective Undoing

Uncertainty is the name of the game in life. This whole business of being human – arriving on a spinning planet in a vast galaxy with no idea how long we’ll have here, no clue how long anyone else will have, no idea what happens after this – none of these are easy parameters to deal with and integrate. We don’t know what kind of sudden loss we might face on a “normal” Wednesday or whether we’ll wake up in the morning. We don’t know if the person we adore will continue to adore us, we don’t know if our children will be okay when we drop them off at school (back when we used to do that), we don’t know if we’ll realize our dreams, no matter how hard we work. It’s a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning and keep showing up, but that’s the very thing about human beings, we are a wonder.

In the face of all that vulnerability, we do get up. We brush our teeth and get dressed (pajamas count at this point) and we start the day. In “normal” times we might make a pot of coffee and start tackling our to-do list whether it’s written or not. Pack lunches for the kids, check! Get them up and make them breakfast, check! Drive to school in the nick of time, check! If it’s Monday, maybe we head to the grocery store after school drop-off and buy groceries for the week. Maybe Monday nights we go to yoga and put our mat in the same spot we like. The point is, we have our routines, our plans, our checklists, our habits, our schedule, our deadlines, our expectations and off we go. These are the things that help us forget our vulnerability, because in “normal” times and on most days, things go (mostly) the way we expect. Things go according to our plans, dammit, and this helps us feel okay on a spinning planet in a vast universe where we don’t know what the hell is going on.

In the last several weeks, all the things we count on to forget our vulnerability have been taken away from us. You can’t go to the grocery store unless you’re ready to suit up, mask up, glove up and wait on line six feet away from the nearest other person just to get in the store ten people at a time, and all of that reminds you of your intense vulnerability, so there went any comfort from your grocery routine. Maybe ordering online is better for now, you think. You can’t go on your hike because the trails are closed and you can’t go to the beach, either. You will survive this, these are small sacrifices you understand you have to make to care for the vulnerable members of your community, and yet these things help you with your mental wellness, but you’ll figure it out. You can’t meet your friend for coffee and a walk because you can’t see friends right now and there’s nowhere to have coffee and walking is really like some weird game of keep-away with strangers that is no fun at all. Hugs with anyone outside your house are not possible and if there’s no one in your house with you, there go hugs for awhile and here comes a lesson in skin hunger. Basically, what you have right now, what you get to acknowledge and roll around in and possibly avoid marinating in for a bit with a Netflix binge or three, is your vulnerability and the intense recognition of the fact that you are not driving the bus and you never, ever were.

If you make plans and your plans happen, that is called good fortune. If you have a checklist and it’s reasonable and realistic and your day goes the way you hoped it would, that is called hard work and good fortune. If you love someone and they love you back and this goes on for days and days and weeks and months and years, that is called enormous good fortune, it is called two people choosing each other again and again day after day, it is called hallelujah, and even then, one of you will be left at some point. There is no way through this life without loss and suffering, not a single one of us escapes it. There is no such thing as a “normal” day or the luxury of “wasting time” – the only sure thing we have is a lack of surety.

We all know this on some level. It’s tough to swallow, acknowledge and honor every day, but it’s real and it’s true and you can count on it and you know this in your heart of hearts and in your gut. You know this. All the plans and routines and regimens won’t change it. You can be totally ripped and gluten-free, you can do burpees or run miles or do nine hundred chaturangas a day (not recommended) and still, you can’t escape it. All the lists and deadlines in the world won’t stop it. What is different about the last several weeks, what makes this time unprecedented and unchartered as everyone has said and said and said again is that we are all going through this intense realization at the same time. Usually we experience this individually. We lose someone we love, and for us it’s like the world has stopped spinning and an entire universe has disappeared and it doesn’t seem possible people are out in the world having a good day. Our world has stopped. For a time our perspective changes and we remember how fragile we are and how fragile life is and how thin is the membrane between being here alive and being out in the ethers. We understand it for a time, but that is not easy to hold onto because it hurts, it’s painful, it makes us feel small and powerless and not in control. So eventually we “get back to living” and we make plans and lists and find a routine and a new footing and this person is still gone and sometimes the grief knocks us off our feet in the middle of a plan or a deadline and we remember again, but we get back up.

What’s different about this experience is that we have had a collective undoing, a group lesson in vulnerability and not being in control and it’s painful and it hurts and grieving and mourning make sense and there are no normal days and that is always true. There are angry people out there screaming about their rights being violated, but that anger is just the emotion on top of the pain and the rights they’re speaking of are gifts they can’t access to feel better and to feel in control. Some people deal with their vulnerability better than others. Some people try to suit up against it and armor themselves against the world, but that never helps in the long run. Your heart is meant to be broken again and again so it can keep softening and opening and you can know more and care more and have more compassion and understanding, awareness and patience and love for yourself and others. Does this mean we shouldn’t make plans or assume we’ll see our children at pick-up or pursue our dreams or try to meet our deadlines? Of course not. We are wonders after all and we should never give up on ourselves or each other or on life’s ability to surprise us with joy and adventure we never imagined. But somewhere in there, we ought to keep remembering, this is a gift, this is a gift, this is a gift.

May we all remember.

Sending you so much love and the hope that you are being gentle with yourself,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

 

If the posts are helpful you can find my books here my yoga classes and courses here and live meditations and group support here.

Definition Matters

Most of us have been through heartbreak, loss, disappointment and pain. It’s very unlikely everything has turned out the way you thought it would or wish it had. Some people deal with more heartbreak and loss than others.

Regardless of what you’ve been through, you do yourself no favors if you define yourself as a victim of your experiences. You are a survivor. The minute you shift your mindset in that way, you gain some power over how you’re going to rise up in the face of whatever has happened. You start to focus on your resilience instead of your rage. If you can’t change the situation, if you can’t go back and rewrite history, then the best thing you can do is shift the way you’re thinking about it.

I don’t say this lightly, there are some losses in life that are so gutting, rage is an appropriate response. You just don’t want to get stuck on the mountain of your rage shaking your fist at the sky or pointing your finger at other people. There’s no power in that. At a certain point you want to hike off that mountain and find a path where you can move forward, one step at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time. The world awaits you but it does not wait for you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

 

This Is Everything

I had a really hard time getting pregnant with my son and tried everything. Literally. Acupuncture, peeing on sticks, boiling “tea” that stunk up the house and even allowing a giant Maori healer to “rolf” my uterus (from the outside, haha. Even at the height of my insanity I wasn’t that crazy :)). I couldn’t figure out a way to practice non-attachment at the time, I just found myself intensely missing a person I hadn’t even met, a person who existed only in my mind and in my heart. Eventually (after a year of needles, tea, sticks, tears and said rolfing session, I went to a fertility doctor who discovered my estrogen levels were a little low, and presto, the bigger kid in this picture started materializing. If you had told me during that year to try to relax and trust that the exact right human was going to show up at the exact right time, I wouldn’t have believed you or been able to do that. I really thought I had to keep “doing things” to “make it happen”, and maybe I did. Maybe he would not have shown up if I hadn’t tried everything known to woman to get there, or maybe he would have, or maybe everything was required. I don’t have any regrets because that kid seems to me to be the only kid who could ever have been my son (my sun), and that girl with him? She showed up with no help from tea or needles or giant Maori.

When I got divorced I was devastated and heartbroken. When there are children in the picture I don’t think it can be any other way. It was not the vision I’d had or wanted, but it became clear to me that it was the only path forward where there could be love and nurturing for everyone involved. It was not easy and it has not been easy. Letting go of the picture of How Things Should Be or how you want things to be for yourself and your children is so hard, and trying to trust that a new path will emerge is also really hard. I credit my yoga practice for any strength and grace I was able to muster through all of that heartache, and I know for sure that’s the thing that kept me sane and strong and able to be a good mama to these small people who have little protection in the world unless we, as parents, figure out how to move through our grief, rage, disappointment, bitterness and all the other feelings that come up (especially when they involve the other most important person in our children’s lives, namely, their other parent), without allowing it to spill over onto them. That is also hard, and for me, again, I credit having been a child of divorce and knowing what that’s like, my yoga practice, therapy (highly recommend) and great, supportive, strong and understanding friends to help me through.

I’ve been a single mom for eight years. A few years ago after I’d been trying to navigate the post-divorce, how-do-you-date-when-you-have-children jungle, I thought, “Well, maybe giant romantic love is just not going to happen for me.” It was sort of surprising and disappointing because I’ve always been a huge romantic, but I thought, “Well, that might just not be in the cards for me, and that’s okay. I have these amazing children and work I love and my life is beautiful and fulfilling and full of all kinds of love. I can be okay this way.” And I did my best to let go of that picture of romantic love, too.

Two-and-a-half years ago I met a man at a bar (feel free to laugh) and he said all of these interesting and funny things and four hours went by in a snap and we didn’t even eat. Last Friday night he proposed to me and I said yes because I am not dumb. We had talked about the idea of getting married a couple of months ago, and even that was a shock to both of us. Neither of us thought we’d get married again. I thought living with someone was as far as I’d go. When you fall in love hard, though, this is what can happen. Your vision changes again. We checked in with our kids about the idea, I talked to my two, he talked to his three. We didn’t want to go forward unless there were thumbs up all around. If someone had said to me years ago, “try to trust that there’s a 6’3″ Englishman out there who’s going to show up in your life with his giant heart and huge brain, his kindness, loyalty, affection and wicked sense of humor and turn all of your ideas about what’s going to happen in your life right on their head,” I would have laughed. If someone had said, “There couldn’t have been anyone else for you but him,” I would have laughed again. I might have even rolled my eyes. I’m sharing this because I know how hard it is to trust. To take your sticky hands off the steering wheel and let things unfold and emerge and allow people to show up and show you who they are, and to allow yourself to be heartbroken when the path takes a turn you didn’t want or expect, but also to allow yourself a tiny sliver of awareness and hope that maybe life has something in store for you you cannot even imagine.

I’ve had an insane week. An amazing Valentine’s Day, an incredible birthday. My heart is so full. Have you seen baby goats dancing around? Google that if not, that’s how I feel. Take care of your precious heart. Let it break when it breaks, but let the breaking open you. Sending you so much love and some trust if you can muster it!

 

Ally Hamilton

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

3 Ways to Forgive Yourself and Stop Dwelling on the Past

glassofregretIf you’re human, (and I assume there are no zebras reading this post), then you can probably look in your rearview mirror and spot some choices you wish you could make over again, and differently. The truth is, most of us do the best we can as we go along, and that means most of us will probably fall short from time to time. Life does not unfold in a linear fashion, we do not get to hit the “pause button” until we’re ready, sometimes we think we’re ready for something only to find out we are wildly unprepared or had an unrealistic idea of what we were getting into in the first place. Also, sometimes we’re coming out of abuse or neglect, a dysfunctional family system, a crazy culture that expects us to edit out our difficult feelings, or we’ve developed coping mechanisms along the way that don’t serve our highest good at all. We may have stories we tell ourselves that are not true, ideas about other people that are based on our own misperceptions or lessons we learned that we have to unlearn, or a whole host of other difficulties that come along with being human. It’s an interesting and incredible gig, but no one would argue that it’s easy! You can lose a lot of time dwelling on the past, obsessing over decisions you cannot unmake, or feeling regret that won’t serve you or anyone else.

Here are three things you can do to lift the weight of regret from your shoulders, stop dwelling on the past, and free yourself of the burden of shame.

1. Embrace your fallibility and join the human race.

Welcome to the party, sport. We have all screwed up, some of us in big ways, some of us in smaller ways, but there is not a person on this planet over thirty who doesn’t have some questionable choices in his or her past. We learn as we go, and sometimes we hurt people because we are too young to know what we want, or too confused, or we wanted it then, but five years later we felt the soul being crushed out of us. If you feel badly about some of your past actions, please recognize this is because you have a kind, gentle heart. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t even be thinking about this stuff. If you have a warm and gentle heart, you are not an a$$hole, and that is fabulous. Please take a moment right now, place your hand over your heart, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say out loud in a firm voice, “I forgive myself for being human.”

TIP: If you’re at work, say it in a firm voice inside your head, but say it enough times that you feel it. If you exhale out some tears or other emotions, that’s great.

2. You are not Atlas.

Your work here does not involve carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. If other people won’t or can’t forgive you, that is on them, that’s a weight they’re choosing to carry, and an obstacle to their own freedom; at a certain point, you have to forgive yourself. Having said that, it never hurts to communicate clearly. If there’s something you feel you need to say to someone to make things right, go ahead and say it. Think carefully about your motivation, and how this might be for the other party. If you think you might disrupt someone’s life, or his or her tenuous grip on being okay, if you think the other person might still be healing from heartbreak, then it might be best to write a letter you never send.

TIP: It’s incredibly powerful to get things down on paper and out of your head, so don’t hesitate to put your thoughts in black and white. When you’re done, you can determine whether this is a missive that was just for you, or for you and them.

3. Be present.

It’s good and important work to know yourself, and that means it makes sense to examine the choices, decisions and behavior you regret, but you serve no one by marinating in that sad sauce. Once you’ve looked at your part in any story, owned what you can of it, apologized when necessary or appropriate, then there comes a time when you need to close the book on that story. Your life is not happening behind you, any more than it’s happening in front of you. The mind loves to hurtle back into the past, or careen forward into the future, but all that does is rob us of the present. Of course your memories and experiences are part of the fabric that makes you, you, and of course that makes them part of the tapestry that is your present, but how can you do a journey with your back to the road? That’s not a great way to navigate, or open to things as they are now, but it’s an excellent way to crash into feelings, things or people who are trying to get your attention in this moment.

Everything is in a constant state of flux, and if you keep looking back over your shoulder, you are trying to stop time and stop the current. Maybe your mistakes will help you travel through your present-day waters with more ease, strength and insight. Perhaps recognizing the bumps in the road will help you avoid repeating mistakes, so you can, at the very least, make better mistakes as you go. Your breath is an excellent anchor-point. When you become aware of your inhales and exhales, you’re directing your mind to focus on something that’s happening right here, right now. This is an excellent way to catch yourself when the mind wants to head in a downward spiral, when you notice obsessive thinking, or when you recognize you’ve already examined a situation to the degree that it’s productive.

“Svadhyaya” means “self-study”, and it’s one of the Niyamas. We want to understand ourselves and know what’s motivating our choices and actions, but we also want to embrace the reality that we’re continually evolving. Don’t allow yourself to continue to set your compass toward something behind you, because you’re failing to integrate your own metamorphosis. That’s not something you want to miss!

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

intro-seated-meditation

Petty Things That Matter Not

I-have-found-that-if-youThe real question in life is how do I show up with love? We can get caught up in details and heartbreak and clinging to our pictures of “how things should be”; we can make lists of ways we’ve been wronged and file them away in the space at the front of our hearts. We can pound the earth and shake our fists at the sky and ask why people won’t feel the way we want them to feel, or do the things we want them to do. We can tell ourselves stories about what has happened to us, and why we are the way we are. We can feed the tendencies and ideas that weaken us and make us feel less than, easily abandoned, victimized. Or we can get busy, and make better choices.

Life is as it is, and people are as they are, and it is not personal. There is no boogeyman out to get you, or me, there is no monster under the bed, there is no saber-toothed tiger coming after you, not today, not tomorrow. People may have hurt you, in fact, I can almost guarantee you have been hurt, heartbroken, betrayed, disappointed, and I say, welcome to the human experience. None of us gets a road map, and most of us screw things up from time to time. Maybe your parents didn’t love you well, and even that is not personal, although it feels personal. But parents are people and people have the tools they have, and they are where they are, and maybe you showed up at an inconvenient time, before your parents were grown enough to show up well. So be it.

When we get caught up in fear and anger, we block ourselves from love, joy and gratitude. You can’t just block out the challenging stuff–if you build walls, it all gets stuck outside, and then you’re left to wonder why you feel alienated and alone. Sadness is part of life. We love, we lose–we grow or we shrink in response. Loss is part of life, nature is teaching us this very thing every minute. The tide comes in, the tide goes out, you cannot stop it. The sun sets, and it rises again. People are born, and you love them with your whole heart, and one day you will die, and I will die, and eventually they will also die, but while we are all here, the thing is to love, wholly and completely. That is the only thing. Accruing money and stuff won’t stop the world from spinning or time from ticking. Covering your gray hair and denying your wrinkles with creams and god knows what else won’t stop you from aging. Celebrate your life, even if it looks nothing like you thought it would or wanted it to; try to make peace with the shape of things. There is always something to mourn and there is always something to celebrate, so do both. Feel the piercing sadness when it arises, and open to the joy when it overwhelms you. If you stop denying the shadow emotions, you will find there’s much more light than you might think. This isn’t Cloak and Daggers.

If you’re going to collect something, collect moments. If you’re feeling alone right now, surround yourself with art, with humanity. There’s so much of that available, so much to show you and assure you, you are not alone. Find the art that soothes your soul, and immerse yourself in it. Create art yourself, and don’t question it. Do that with your days, with your words, with your feelings. Maybe do it with your hands, your voice, your fingertips, whatever you’ve got. If you were an entire universe, and I believe you are, your heart would be the sun, so trust that. Your intuition would be like the oceans, flowing, rising, ebbing, sometimes calm, sometimes thrashing. Wonderful, swim with that. Your dreams, your hopes would be the stars in the sky, sometimes shooting brilliantly through the galaxy, sometimes already gone, like some of the stars you see when you look up at the sky.

The point is, don’t wait, and don’t allow yourself to become distracted with petty things that matter not. Life is precious, you are precious, and you have the blink of an eye to get that, and to shine. Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton