Happy New Year!

Ive-learned-that-youAs we close out the year today and set ourselves up to begin again tomorrow, it’s a good time to think about what you might release that isn’t serving you. It could be an attachment to a certain outcome that just isn’t going to happen. This can be difficult or even heartbreaking to relinquish, but sometimes we’re gripping so much, we’re using up a lot of energy that would better be spent opening and trusting and allowing. As always, we cannot control circumstances, or other people, or what anyone else will want or say or do or need. We can simply work on the way we respond to what we’re given, and on the way we’re showing up, without looking away, or pretending that things are different. That doesn’t serve anyone. Maybe it’s a way of being that’s creating obstacles for you; a particular stance, or lens you’re looking through that’s coloring everything you do and say as you move through the world. Maybe it’s the way you’re thinking of yourself, or the way you’re treating yourself, or it could be a habit that’s weakening you or taking you prisoner. It’s possible that you’re holding up your rage and blame as a shield, and it’s also possible you’re pushing your anger down. There are all kinds of ways we can sabotage ourselves.

The thing is, life doesn’t wait for any of us to get it together. We do or we don’t, and either way, the clock strikes midnight tonight, and a new year begins. This is a gift, regardless of what’s happening in your life, because as long as you’re alive, there’s potential. There’s potential for joy, for peace, for love, for laughter, for the feel of the sun on your face. There’s the possibility of love so deep and mind-blowing, it will take the breath right out of your lungs, and fill your whole being with gratitude. There’s the chance that you could help someone, in big ways or small. There’s the chance that you’ll do the work to know, accept, honor and celebrate yourself, so you can uncover your gifts and share them with everything you’ve got. There’s the prospect that you could create something gorgeous and unexpected and needed, like incredible love within you, and love all around you.

If things aren’t unfolding the way you’d hoped or wanted or envisioned, I’d get really concrete about your goals and objectives. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions because they tend to be vague, and they usually address symptoms rather than root issues. “This year I’m going to lose ten pounds” might sound concrete, but it’s not meaningful. Are you having an adversarial relationship with your body? Do you struggle with your body image? What’s your relationship with food? Are you in a constant state of deprivation, with occasional binging because you feel so starved? Are you carrying an extra ten pounds around, or are you buying into some insane vision of thinness? Do you eat when you feel afraid, lonely, angry or bored? If you don’t get at the underlying issue, the “resolution” will be out of reach, and anything you write down on a piece of paper will probably lead to feelings of disappointment, shame and self-loathing. No one needs to start the year with a list like that.

Most New Year’s Resolutions fall under that umbrella. “This year I’ll meet someone.” Why do you want to meet someone? Are you feeling good about yourself, and longing for connection and the chance to share the love you’ve cultivated? In that case, a better objective would be, “This year I’m going to take a cooking class, or sign up for salsa dancing, or play golf on Saturday mornings, or fill-in-the-blank with something you love to do.” Because if you get out there and do the things you love, you’ll meet other people who also love those things, and you’ll connect on a deep level, whether we’re talking about friendship, or something romantic. If you want to meet someone because you feel desperate since all your friends are getting married, or you feel empty inside, or you think someone else is going to complete you, you’re in trouble, and you’re setting yourself up for heartache. We always have to get at the “why” of things. Why do we want what we want? What’s driving us? We have to know ourselves, and that’s another reason I love yoga so much. It’s a process of coming to terms with who you are, and figuring out how to integrate everything. Everything you’ve been through, everything you want, everything that’s true for you. If you’re in pain, make it a priority to explore healing modalities. Make an appointment with a therapist. Find your local yoga studio and try a class. Book a massage. Go for a hike. Listen to music that feeds your soul. Connect with yourself.

My point is, try to get very clear about what’s blocking you or holding you back, and then avail yourself of the tools you need to start healing. We’re always in process, but sometimes people avoid their pain and run from that kind of work because they think they’ll be overwhelmed. The reality is, the longer we run from our pain, the longer it rules our lives. That is a fact. The more we work with it, acknowledge it, deal with it, the more we take our power back. Your life belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to your past.It belongs to you, and what you do with it is up to you. I believe your very first priority is getting right with yourself. Nothing else flows until we do that. If we aren’t happy on the inside, if we aren’t at peace with ourselves, nothing external will make it right.

If you’ve been chasing love, approval, affection or self-worth, figure out why you’re doing that, and get yourself some support, so that you can have the feelings and urges and impulses without acting on them. Obviously, I teach yoga because it changed my life, and I believe if it could do that for me, it could do that for anyone. I love sharing the tools that helped me make the biggest and most important shifts in my life, and continue to help me to do that. But maybe there’s a different path for you. Get passionate about figuring out what you need to be at peace with yourself, and don’t stop pursuing that until you’re able to live your life in a way that feels good to you. If you’re struggling and suffering, and have been for quite some time, then you know you’re not going to solve that by midnight tonight, nor do you need to feel any pressure to do that. But take a step today. Do one solid, tangible thing to nurture yourself. Remember that there’s always the potential to start again, in every moment, in every breath. Begin again. Wishing you the happiest New Year, and a 2015 full of love, laughter, hugs, joy, great surprises, good health, and healing if you need it. I’m so grateful to be in conversation with you all, you have no idea. Here’s to more love in the coming year,

Free Yourself and Forgive

forgiveSometimes I write about forgiveness and people get very upset. I recognize there are some things we want to put into the category of unforgivable, so let me clarify what I mean when I say I believe forgiveness is freeing and vital if you want to be at peace. I am not talking about deciding that something traumatic or hurtful that happened in your past is now okay with you. I’m not talking about picking up the phone or sending an email to a person who betrayed you, and telling them it’s water under the bridge. You don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to speak to the person, or see them ever again, but if you’re holding on to anger, they’re still hurting you, and that’s my point.

When we’re enraged with someone, we’re carrying them around inside our heads and our hearts because whatever happened is in the past, but in order for us to stay angry, we have to keep thinking about it, and fueling that flame, and rage is a poor constant companion. It seeps into everything. It makes it hard for us to be intimate, to trust other people, to let our guard down, because to do that, you have to be vulnerable, but to hold onto rage, you have to be tough; staying angry requires constant vigilance. We end up depleting our energy on that, when we could be spending it on opening to love, which feels so much better.

How do you forgive someone who stole any chance you had at a normal, innocent childhood, for example? That’s a difficult one, right? Because something was taken from you, and you can never have it back. You can never know what it would have been like to be in Kindergarten feeling safe and secure. You can never know how it might have felt if you’d been able to relate to kids your age, not just in Kindergarten, but in elementary school, junior high, high school, college. It turns out not having a childhood affects you for your whole life. So how do you forgive that? You can re-parent yourself. That little kid who was scared and confused and hurt and alienated is still available to you, and you already know that. If you’re an adult, you aren’t powerless anymore, and it’s never too late to heal. Maybe you get yourself some help, some support. In fact, I’d highly recommend you do that.

Healing takes dedication, time, energy, and a willingness to lean into your pain. If you refuse to work with your issues, don’t expect them to get tired and go away, they’ll just keep showing up for you in every area of your life. They’ll be bubbling right underneath the surface of everything you say and do. If you face your fears, your rage, your loss, your grief, if you allow yourself to mourn, you’ll find you don’t mourn forever. The deep feelings arise, and they hurt, and you cry and you feel raw and maybe some days you feel hopeless or alone or scared, but you hang on, and eventually the heat and the power and the strength of all that old stuff starts to subside, and you can loosen your grip and start to breathe again, maybe for the first time in a very long time.

It’s just, if you’re using a ton of energy to stay angry, you’re probably not going to have enough left to heal. Blame keeps us stuck. It places our ability to be happy in someone else’s hands, or in events over which we had, and have, no control. The past can’t be rewritten; whatever happened, happened. Some things shape us, but the only thing that defines you is what you do about what you’ve been given; how you proceed, how you live your life, and show up for yourself, and the people you love, and the people you don’t even know. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It has very little to do with anyone else.

Sometimes people balk at the word forgiveness, so let me say this. If you’re living your life and you’re happy and you don’t feel like you’re carrying someone who betrayed you within your heart, then I think you’re good to go. You don’t have to call that forgiveness, but that’s what it is in my book. You are not a prisoner of another person’s actions or inactions; you’re liberated.

The same goes for people who enter our lives later in life. Maybe you had an idyllic childhood, but something unthinkable happened later. This is your life. You get to decide how much energy you’re going to spend looking back. If you work on it enough, you can witness your experience. You can examine your thinking. You can choose one thought over another and there’s so much power in that. Choose the thoughts that strengthen you. Feed the love. Let the rest of it go, as much as you can. It doesn’t have to fit into a neat little box. You certainly don’t have to be grateful for everything that’s ever happened to you, just try to grow from your pain. Allow it to soften you and make you more insightful and compassionate, and likely to reach out to other people in pain. That way, at least, some beauty grows from it. Learn to love yourself as you are right now, and understand, you wouldn’t be you without every event that’s ever befallen you. Remind yourself that you’re strong, and unhook your journey from someone else’s past behavior. That’s their journey, it isn’t yours.

Sending you love, and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

How to Love People in Pain & Still Love Yourself

Sometimes-people-changeEarlier this week I wrote about being held hostage by someone else’s depression, addiction, personality disorder, or general instability, and I heard from a flood of people who wonder what to do when these challenging people are cherished loved ones. I heard from many mothers, struggling with their children, grown, or almost-grown, or very little, and from people who are having difficulty with one parent or the other, a sibling, their partner, their best friend.

I’m going to say the most excruciating thing is watching your child suffer. That’s a pain and powerlessness that’s simply brutal, and if that’s what you’re grappling with, walking away is not an option. If we’re talking about depression in a small child, you have to find help; a great therapist would be step one, there are brilliant people who specialize in working with children. If finances are an issue, and you’re here in the states, go to http://www.nami.org/ and get some support for yourself and your little one. This is a great resource for anyone suffering from mental illness, or loving someone with mental illness, at any age.

Parents who watch their grown children struggling often blame themselves. I’ve heard a lot of that over the last few days; the heartache and feelings of failure and shame, so I think the first thing I’ll say, is please try to stop beating yourself up. If you were there, if you were present, if you loved your child with everything you had and did the very best you could, you have to release yourself from feeling that you’re the root of your child’s suffering, whether your child is 19 or 49. If you didn’t do a great job with your parenting responsibilities because you were a child yourself when you had your babies, or because you were suffering from your own mental illness, personality disorder, addiction or depression, that’s a heartbreak for you and your kids, but blaming yourself just perpetuates and feeds the pain. Let go of blame.

We’re all going to suffer. This is not an easy gig. The parameters make us all vulnerable, and some people have a harder time with that reality than others. There are people who always see the glass as half empty. People who look on the dark side of things, expect the worst from people, and feel frequently disappointed in themselves. If you’re seeing that tendency in your little one, I’d get in there and point out a different perspective whenever you can. Keep re-framing things for your child, but also be sure to normalize their feelings. There’s such a desire to make everything okay for our little people, and loving, well-meaning parents say things like, “Don’t be sad”, or, “Don’t be angry”, or, “Don’t be scared,”, but the truth is, these are normal human emotions we’ll all experience. When we, as children, get the sense that certain feelings are not okay, like fear, or sadness or anger, we start to push things down. We start to edit ourselves, and that’s the beginning of loss and confusion. We become lost to ourselves. Also, show them what it looks like to be a forgiving and compassionate person. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, but don’t berate yourself. Our kids do what we do, not what we say.

If you see your little one feeling down, you might just speak out about it, as in, “Hey buddy. You seem a little blue today. Everything okay?” If you don’t get far with that, you can get more specific. “What was the best part of your day today?” and, “What was the hardest part of your day?” Just keeping the lines of communication open is huge. Making your child understand that s/he is safe to talk to you about anything, any feeling or any situation, or any confusion that might arise creates a foundation of trust. Naming what you’re seeing in a loving way is also good. “It seems like you’re focusing on everything that isn’t going well. Can you think of three good things that happened today? Or one thing you’re really thankful for?” Basically, you are your child’s nervous system when they’re little. They can’t always self-regulate, so you’re helping them learn how to process and integrate all the things life is putting in their path, whether that’s the changing structure of your family, a friend who’s moving away, a new school, bullying or exclusionary behavior from someone else, or their own acting out. Any intense emotion that’s flooding their little nervous system might require some help from you. The steadier you are, the easier it will be for them to lean on you, and the more you’re accepting of all their feelings, the more comfortable they’ll be to share everything with you.

If you’re dealing with your older child, and this could mean your teenager, but it could also include your 50 year old child, you’re in a different area. With depression,  I’m going to recommend what I did above; a great therapist is the place to start. If you’re dealing with addiction, then chances are the whole family is being held hostage, and you’re going to need help for everyone. There’s always a family system in place, roles each person is playing, a dynamic between all parties which needs to be examined and, in most instances, changed. If it’s serious, rehab may be your best hope, with additional support for every member of the family. Al-anon is a great resource here, both for people suffering with addiction, and the family members around them, but search for yourself, because there isn’t just one way, or one solution. There are obviously so many different situations with all their complexities, but understand when you’re living with and loving someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re also in the mix. You can’t save them, but you can do everything in your power to get them some help, and I think radical honesty is a good bet in that case, too. If you have things you want to own, own them. If there’s anything you wish you’d done differently, tell them, but also let them know they’re on their own path now, and they have the power to make it great, or to stay stuck and that you’re going to help them, but you’re not going to enable behavior that keeps them powerless.

If you’re dealing with mental illness or a personality disorder, it’s rough. Certain behaviors can’t be helped, they can only be regulated. It’s not easy to love in the first place. It requires that we make ourselves vulnerable, and it’s really hard to do that, and even reckless, when we don’t feel safe. So loving someone you cannot rely upon to be steady is no easy feat. It’s hard to love and protect yourself simultaneously. I think the best thing you can do in that case is have enormous compassion for yourself and set up a solid support system, so you don’t feel isolated in your experience. Find those people you can trust, and lean on them when you need to; sometimes our feelings of being hijacked and imprisoned make it hard to reach out. Think about what you need to feel respected and understood. This is where boundaries come into play. You can love someone who’s having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. You can love someone who careens from high highs to low lows. You can love someone who says one thing to you one day, and something completely different the next. But it’s not easy. As always, your first responsibility is to your own heart. If you betray that, you won’t be able to help anyone.

Sending you love and hugs,

Ally Hamilton

The Snack Bar

A couple of days ago I received an email from a man who’s in agony; last week he had a terrible fight with his father. He’s been working for his dad for years, in the family business. He started over the summers when he was in high school, and went right to work full-time when he graduated from college. He and his dad have always been close. His dad coached him through Little League, cheered him on through high school, and never missed any of his college games. They went camping in the summers, and skiing in the winters.

People have always commented about how close they are, but they’re also both passionate and stubborn, and have had a hard time apologizing to each other over the years. He said once they’d gotten into it, and hadn’t spoken for a month. His mother was miserable, caught in the middle and unable to make headway with either of them. He was playing baseball at this point, and he had the last game of the season this particular weekend. He and his dad had spent another week gruffly and pointedly ignoring each other. He saw his mom and sisters and little brother in the stands at his game, but no dad. His team won, but he said he felt kind of dead inside because his dad hadn’t been there to see it. Except he had. His uncle told him later in the week that his dad had driven with him separately and they had stood next to the snack bar watching. When his team won, his dad had punched the air in victory, turned, and walked off to the car. He told me at that point, he’d gone and found his dad in his office. He said he walked in, and at first his dad just looked at him, kind of guarded, and then he said, “Dad, I’m sorry”, and his old man started crying. Two big guys hugging it out in the middle of the office, and it was forgotten.

Anyway, they hadn’t let that happen again until last week. He’s gotten older, and so has his father, and he’s really tried to work on staying calm when he feels angry. That month they didn’t speak was hard on the whole family, and he’d promised himself he wouldn’t let that happen twice, but it isn’t easy when tempers flare, and working for his dad makes it tougher, still. He said any time he’d try to do things a little differently than his dad had been doing them for years, pops took it like a judgment against himself, as if his son was questioning him, or suggesting he was losing his edge or getting old, or that he was, “not with the times.” So they had a blow up and he said a bunch of things to his dad that he wishes he could un-say, and he stormed off. A few hours later his uncle called and said they were on the way to the hospital. His dad had a heart attack. By the time they got to the hospital, it was already over, and he can’t take it back. He can’t undo the last conversation, he can’t tell his dad he’s sorry, he can’t make things right.

I guarantee you, and I guaranteed him, things are right, they really are. His dad knew he loved him, there’s zero doubt in my mind about that. We all have conversations we’d like to do over again, things we regret saying. This is a tough one, when there’s no way to go and look the person in the eye and say, “I’m sorry for a lot of what I said. I didn’t mean it, and I love you.” It’s hard to bear a last conversation that was heated and full of “you always”, and “you never”, but we’re all human, and we are not going to operate from our highest selves in every moment. Part of him is scared he caused the heart attack by yelling at his father, even though admittedly, his dad had high blood pressure, a diet that wasn’t great, and a habit of sneaking cigarettes at work. He’d often go home and have a glass of bourbon after dinner. All things his doctor had been warning him about for years because there’s a history of heart disease in the family. All things his wife had been worried about, as well, and the reason he smoked at work and not at home.

Sometimes in life, your work is to forgive yourself for being human, which sounds crazy, right? I mean, what else could you be? Not everything is always going to be resolved and perfect with all the people in your life, and we all have a finite time to be here; we all have unknown expiration dates. Of course you want to let that reality seep into your bones, so that as much as possible, you let the people in your life know how you feel. So you don’t allow things to build up or unravel for too long. Ideally, you get to a point where you observe your feelings as they arise without acting on them, but if you have one conversation with someone one day, after a history of love and laughter and joy and being there, and yes, tears and misunderstandings and fights sometimes, (because that’s what most relationships look like over the long haul), believe me, one conversation isn’t going to take all that away. You can trust that the people who love you well and deeply, know your heart. You can trust that they’re standing by the snack bar cheering you on, even when you can’t see them and don’t know they’re there. Some things in life you have to carry, and some things you have to let go. Figuring out which is which is one of the great keys to your own peace.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Don’t Drown in the Ripples

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Forgiveness is an Embrace

Directing your energy is one of the most powerful ways you can decide to be happy, and often, it really is a decision. If you’re grieving, if there are things happening in your life right now that are so painful you question your ability to get through the day, this does not apply to you. Short of those knifing losses we face sometimes, the ability to choose one thought over another is like a super-power we too frequently forget we have.

It’s easy for the mind to latch onto ways we’ve been wronged, disappointed or mistreated. You can get snagged on thoughts like those and let them grow in your mind until they’re so big, thorny and uncomfortable, you feel you may burst or suffocate. We are human beings on a spinning planet with no real idea what will happen next. That’s not an easy gig, but I wouldn’t want to miss it. If you can embrace the vulnerability of this thing, your own exposure and lack of protection, you free up so much energy for the joy in life. When you let go of the pretense that you’re in control, that your carefully mapped out plans will all come to fruition exactly as you’ve envisioned, life becomes so much easier.

Some people want to be angry, to hold onto the pain and feed it and strengthen it. Maybe there’s a payoff. Maybe being angry like that excuses them from action and accountability, or maybe it protects them from being hurt by others. Maybe they get sympathy and that feels almost like love, or maybe it feels like home. Just because something is familiar to you doesn’t mean you have to curl up with it. You’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes, everyone you pass today, no matter how shiny or perfect they may seem, has made mistakes. It’s part of the deal of being a human.

There are also people who don’t want to be angry, but aren’t sure how to stop, how to shift gears; the thing is to catch yourself. When you’re driving, or folding laundry, or taking a shower, to notice where the mind has gone, particularly if it’s taking you down a path of pain. The past is in the past. It’s absolutely worth examining so that you can glean the information you need to move on and make informed choices in the future, but sometimes something is so painful we obsess over it. Betrayal is like that. When you’re shocked because someone close to you has done something you never thought possible, it’s hard not to turn that experience around in your mind over and over again looking for clues, because things like that make you question everything. You wonder about your own judgment, the relationship, whether there was anything real there or if you were confused, other relationships in your life, your ability to discern what’s real from what isn’t. Betrayal is a tough one, as are breakups, the loss of a job, rejection, any of life’s tougher experinces. But the reality is, once you’ve looked at something carefully and learned all there is to learn from the experience, nothing productive comes from dwelling on it. It’s easier said than done, and time definitely helps remove the sting, but at a certain point you just have to pick your mind up and consciously turn it to something else.

When you boil it down, you can feed your fear, or you can feed your love. Feeding your love feels so much better. A huge step in that direction is simply to practice forgiveness. When you forgive people, it doesn’t mean you have to tell them, or have them in your life. It just means you’re committed to your own peace, and you hope they find some, too. It means you’re unhooking your story from their actions. Sometimes there is room for reconciliation, it’s case-by-case. Freeing your heart is the thing, and forgiving yourself, as well. You don’t want to walk around with a closed or hardened heart. We don’t get a lot of time. Even if you live a “long” life, it’s not a lot of time, so I wouldn’t waste too much of it looking back. Regrets are normal, but that’s also a form of looking at things with rose-colored glasses; if only I’d changed this one thing, then…and the truth is, you can’t ever change “just one thing”, if you go back and undo one decision, there are a million others connected to it. You’d have to unravel your whole life, and the truth is, you’d just be trading in one set of circumstances for another. Every single path has some pain, you can’t escape that.

The jagged edges of your life, the decisions you made in desperation and with longing, the unexpected joys, the surprises, it’s all part of your adventure. The whole thing isn’t going to be fabulous, some of it is going to be really heartbreaking; that’s called being human. The thing is to move toward joy, to grab it with both hands, to celebrate it when it shows up in your life, to try to create some for others, and to be kind. I wouldn’t use too much of your time pining for the past or worrying about the future, because whatever is behind you is behind you, and who knows what’s in front of you? I think I’d focus on how much love I could give today, that seems like the best plan to me.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Get Cooking!

I’d guess that most “real” chefs don’t work this way, but for me, I clean as I go when I’m cooking. Of course there will always be pots and pans at the end of the meal, and the dishes you eat on, but everything else I wash as I’m done. I’d just prefer to have less of a mess to clean later. I wouldn’t try to convince anyone else of that, maybe you like to make a huge mess in your kitchen because doing it any other way would disrupt your flow, but in life, it’s definitely the way to go.

For lots of people, the pain of acknowledging that they’ve screwed up is so great, they’d rather hold it in, push it down or run from it. As we’re all human, we will all make mistakes, have moments when we don’t act from our highest selves, make choices we’d love to do over again, and differently. If you come from a background where you paid dearly if you screwed up, the words, “I’m sorry, I blew it,” may get strangled in your throat, they may get choked off by fear. The more you can take ownership of your actions and apologize quickly and from your heart, the less energy you’ll have to spend trying to convince yourself or others that you’re never wrong. The ability to forgive yourself and other people is in direct relation to your chances of opening to love and true intimacy.

Most people want nothing more than to be understood. Most arguments stem from the sense that we’re not being seen clearly, we’re not being heard; this is why people raise their voices. Maybe if I just say it louder, this person will remember who I am, or see things the way I want them to, or admit that they’re wrong. Very often, people dig their heels in and fight for their position. Defenses take over, and the object becomes winning the fight, but there aren’t any winners when two people who love each other hurt each other and compound things by standing their ground. I know so many people who’ve lost years of time with family members over arguments that were completely meaningless.

There are other ways people create a huge mess for themselves. Sometimes a person’s addiction takes over her life, much to the dismay of those people who love her. Sometimes a person’s rage is so intense, it drives away the very people who love him, and want nothing for him but his happiness and peace. Sometimes we do things we know we shouldn’t, but we convince ourselves it’s okay. Making a mess is part of being human. The more you can own it and do your best to make it right, the less energy you’ll spend kicking yourself, or feeling guilty, beholden or resentful. It’s not uncommon for people to shun those they love because they’ve gotten a glimpse of something that’s not so pretty. Years ago, I had a teacher I idolized. Eventually we became friends and I realized he was just a human being like everyone else, but he didn’t like that. He liked the adoration. I offered real friendship, but he wasn’t interested in that. He didn’t want people around who had really seen him, or who poked a hole through the perfect facade. Not everything is pretty and light. Everyone has pain. If you want people to know you, see you and accept you, you’re going to have to be willing to let them see your pain, too. They’ll either receive it and understand and move closer, or they’ll flee. If they flee, they aren’t part of your crew; better to know that.

Life is really too short to let things fester. The more you open to what’s true for you, the more you accept yourself, the easier it is to live in alignment with what’s in your heart. When you’re living in a state of peace with yourself, you’ll screw up a lot less. You’ll never be mistake-free, it’s just that you’ll get used to speaking your truth calmly and with compassion. It’s a lot easier to move through the world without having to hide how you really feel; you’ll make a lot less of a mess that way. Don’t overuse the words, “I’m sorry,” or they’ll lose their power. If you have to be sorry a lot, figure out why that is and get busy working on it. As much as you can, forgive yourself when you blow it, and forgive others, too. This is a challenging stew we’re in, after all. If you want to boil something, get out a pot and make yourself a nice soup. Don’t boil yourself, though. Don’t give yourself a meal of disappointment that you serve over and over again. Clean up what you can, savor everything else and eat good chocolate sometimes.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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