Gaslit? Grab Your Fire Extinguisher!

We all make mistakes and say or do things that are thoughtless or careless sometimes. No one shows up as the best version of themselves in every situation on every single day. Hopefully, if you are a grown-up, you know how to give a grown-up apology. A grown-up apology is when you say you’re sorry without any other bells or whistles. It isn’t “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I see what you’re saying, but you did X, Y or Z.” It’s a simple, “I hear you. I understand why you feel the way you do and I am so sorry I blew it. I will think about what happened and why I did what I did or said what I said so I make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.” Something along those lines qualifies as a grown-up apology and it’s really good to know how to give one of those because we’re all human. Whether you’re forgiven or not is not up to you, you can only do your end of the equation. People who aren’t willing or able to accept a grownup apology may realize that’s a bad policy when they’re the ones looking for forgiveness, so do your best to give people time.

There are some people who will never apologize, though, and maybe you know people like that. Gaslighting is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it comes from a George Cukor film, “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer – it’s a story about a husband who methodically causes his wife to question her own sanity by telling her the gaslight in their home isn’t dimming when clearly it is. Small things that add up over time and make her wonder if she can trust herself. This is what it feels like when you’re being gaslit. A person behaves in a way that is widely accepted as hurtful or thoughtless, and when you express that you feel hurt or disregarded, they treat you as though you are the crazy one.

If you’ve been in this situation, then you know that it is, indeed, crazy-making. I once expressed my anger and sadness to a friend who’d been very careless and thoughtless, and her response was that she no longer felt safe with me because I’d been so critical of her. What kind of friendship is possible if you express your legitimate and understandable disappointment and are told the other person now feels unsafe? That’s classic manipulation and gaslighting, and it shuts down any possibility for understanding, forgiveness, healing, trust or intimacy.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, the number one thing you can trust is what you have seen with your own eyes and heard with your own ears. If a person is regularly thoughtless, self-absorbed, careless with you, and unable to apologize, you can trust this isn’t a person who is capable of being in a healthy relationship. That hurts and it’s sad, but it’s true and it’s also okay. There are a lot of people like this in the world. It’s very easy to say I’m wonderful. I’m amazing, I’m the best person you’ll ever meet. But if I behave in ways that call that into question, if I’m cruel or rude or a giant blowhard, it’s easy to see that my words and my actions don’t gel, and you can trust that and decide I’m not someone you want in your life. Try not to get twisted. Sometimes we really want to make excuses for people because we love them or are attached to a particular outcome, but it never works when you pretend things are not as they are.

One of the tenets of the yoga practice is vidya, clear-seeing. We’re trying to remove the gunk that prevents us from seeing clearly. That “gunk” might be caused by years of build-up. Maybe we’re used to being treated with little regard, or we’ve come to believe that we’re broken in some deep and essential way. We may have decided that “everyone leaves” or “everyone cheats” or “you can’t trust anyone” because one person left or cheated or wasn’t trustworthy. That would be gunk that’s blocking our ability to see clearly. Maybe we’re coming out of a family where everyone is pretending things are perfect when really, there’s big trouble brewing. Sometimes people you love demand that you love them on their terms, and their terms might be that you accept they are never wrong. There are a lot of different ways we can grow to not trust in our ability to see clearly, to trust our gut, our own eyes and ears. If it looks like a snake and acts like a snake, it’s a snake. Trust that. As the incredible Maya Angelou always said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Does Yoga Teach You How to Trust Yourself and Others? YES!

trustMy parents divorced when I was four. The broad strokes about my childhood experience after that are as follows–my dad liked women a lot, and my mom liked Chardonnay a lot. There was more to it than that, of course, but I spent a lot of time feeling bewildered and concerned about both of them.

Working Through the Confusion

I spent most of my growing-up years care-taking and peacemaking, and trying to be perfect so everyone would be happy. There wasn’t a lot of time or room to think about how I felt about anything, or to value my feelings. By the time I reached young adulthood, I had no clue how I felt about anything. I didn’t know what made me happy, scared, or inspired. I didn’t know what my gifts were, or how I should go about sharing them. I knew I didn’t want to be abandoned. I knew how to make myself indispensable to romantic partners. I knew how to be the good girlfriend, best friend, sister, daughter, student, but I had no clear sense of who I was, not really.

Dealing with the Pain

Needless to say, I found myself broken-hearted and pretty lost in my twenties. I was depressed a lot of the time, or anxious. I had frequent, debilitating migraines. I’d be in the kind of pain that makes you crawl around on the floor, vomiting, unable to see. I had a doctor give me a prescription for Percocet at seventeen and tell me to take it whenever I felt any pain coming on. It became hard to figure out the difference between an impending migraine, and normal stress, tension, or any uncomfortable feeling, so I took Percocet a lot. Basically, I was in a lot of pain.

Learning to Trust Myself Again With the Help of Yoga

When I started practicing yoga during my senior year at Columbia University, I was recovering from a horrendous relationship that had stirred the pot of all my childhood wounds. I had played out a lot of my history, looking to rewrite it, and find my happy ending, only to crash into a brick wall. On my mat, I started focusing on my breath. I was amazed at how that quieted the racket in my head. I started to pay attention to how I felt, and to figure out when my body was saying, yes, and when it was saying no. It took time and dedication, but I decided to place importance on the messages I was receiving from my body, and to reignite a conversation between my body and my mind that I’d been ignoring for years.

The reality is the body is full of wisdom and information about who we are, how we feel, and what we need to be at peace. The mind, while interesting, is full of ideas and opinions about how we should feel, or what we should need or want to be at peace. Some of those ideas are not even ours. A lot of the time we’re so used to being what other people want us to be, we’ve forgotten how to be who we are. And how can you possibly trust yourself if you don’t know yourself? Time and again, I’d put myself in reckless situations. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be loved, but I did not treat myself kindly. I did not protect myself from people or situations, even when my intuition was saying “RUN!!!” I let my mind override my gut feelings for years, because I didn’t trust my gut, I’d been taught to doubt myself. At a certain point, that isn’t on anybody else, including your parents. At a certain point, that’s on you.

Growing Trust for Yourself & Others

The key to growing in trust for yourself and trust for others has to do with listening closely, and responding with compassion, honesty and kindness. These are things you can start to practice on your mat, as I did. If you’re in a pose and your body is saying. “That’s too much”, you back off, you find a place where it’s manageable, where you can breathe. Instead of striving and forcing your way into difficult poses, you give your body time, you work with it, you develop a bond there. You place more importance on the relationship you’re having with yourself than any pose. The more you loosen your grip, the less you get intense about having to “nail” a pose, the more your body opens. You’re not likely to find balance right-side-up or upside-down if there’s no foundation of trusting yourself. If you build that first, you’ll be surprised about where your body will go and what it will do for you, and you’ll also realize that getting your ankle behind your head is not the key to your happiness. Trusting yourself is, though.

When you know that you’re placing importance on how you feel, when you trust that your feelings have an impact on your actions, choices and the direction of your life, you can relax. My mind is full of interesting ideas, and sometimes I enjoy them a lot. Other times, I laugh at the absurdity. As far as choices about where I want to be, how I want to spend my time and with whom, what it is I’m trying to offer up, whether a situation or relationship feels right, or not so much, I always listen to my gut feelings now. I still get migraines occasionally, but the frequency and intensity have lessened so profoundly, they aren’t a meaningful problem for me at this point, and I don’t have any desire to numb out. I want to be awake for my life, and open to all my feelings as they arise, even the ones that are challenging; I don’t want to blur the edges or be in a fog. I changed the way I eat, I make sure I get enough sleep, and when I need to rest mentally or physically, I rest. Having an open and ongoing conversation with your body makes life so much easier. Life is mysterious enough, you really don’t want to be a mystery to yourself!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Want to start opening that conversation between your gut feelings and your loud mind? Try this class. It’s called Follow Your Intuition or Get Burned! Preview it here.


 

Or, try a full course…

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See with Your Soul

 

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Life Doesn’t Happen On Paper

allypaperI get a lot of emails from people struggling with a relationship or a job that just doesn’t feel right anymore, and it seems the people who have the hardest time are the ones who feel like nothing is really “wrong”. When we’re being mistreated, it’s pretty clear; we know we’re going to have to make a move, and probably sooner than later, but when there isn’t a definable problem, and it’s just a feeling of restlessness or uncertainty, it can be hard to know what to do.

Here’s the thing: no one else can figure that out for you. We all have that inner voice, that inner knowing, our intuition. Sometimes it gets lost in the din of all our relentless thoughts. The mind is obsessive and redundant, and it will play over the same stuff endlessly, a spinning hamster-wheel of ideas, shoulds, fears, what-ifs and if-onlys. They say we have 50,000 thoughts a day (and who are “they” and how do they know?!), but I really wonder how many of them are the same thoughts. Probably a lot. All that white noise can make it very hard to hear the quiet voice that knows what you need. I really think most of the time we do know. We might not be ready to face or accept what we know, because if we do, it means change is coming, and sometimes we aren’t ready to wrap our heads around that just yet, but I think we know.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between intuition, and our attachment to a particular outcome. Do we really feel this is the right move “in our gut”, or are we blinded by our need for things to go a certain way? The easiest way to tell which you’re dealing with is to identify the quality of the feelings that come up. If it’s your intuition, you might feel scared, or you might feel dread about what you have to do, but underneath that there will also be relief. Agonizing over decisions and choices can be brutal. Finally accepting what you need, even if you’re scared, ought to be comforting underneath it all. There’s a “rightness” about it. When it’s attachment to a particular outcome, the feeling underneath is more likely to be desperation or anxiety.

Sometimes we look for signs to tell us what to do. Allow me to say that looking for a sign IS a sign. If you’re so sad or scared or desperate that you’re asking for signs, it’s probably time to make some kind of change, even if it’s just with the way you’re communicating.

The thing is, listening to your intuition simplifies everything. When we’re going against what we know in our hearts to be true for us, we’re also betraying ourselves, and we’re swimming upstream–it’s exhausting. Of course you want to think about the way your actions will impact the people you hold dearest, but you can’t live your life in guilt, or feel pity for your partner, or try to nurture people when you’re totally depleted, and expect life to feel good. A relationship doesn’t thrive on martyrdom. Any healthy relationship is built on communication, trust, vulnerability and openness.

Sometimes it’s really hard to make a shift. A young man sent an email last year, and he was in a state of total desperation and confusion. His parents had put him through medical school. His dad had worked two jobs, and taken out a second mortgage to make it possible for his son to finish school. He was in his last year, and he realized he didn’t want to be a doctor. It had never been his dream. It was something his parents had wanted for him, with the best of intentions and a ton of love, but it was not what he wanted for himself. The guilt he felt was crushing, but you can’t live your life to satisfy other people, you really need to move in the direction that feeds your soul. What kind of doctor are you going to be if your heart isn’t in it? How well are you going to treat your patients? Sometimes your course of action won’t make sense to anyone. People in your life might call you nuts or any number of things, but your job is to be at peace, and to offer up your particular gifts, and to follow the pull of your heart. Believe me, I don’t say that without compassion for his parents. They thought he wanted what they wanted him to want. They didn’t realize the pressure he felt, or that it was their dream and not his.

Almost every time I’ve really made a mess of things, it was because I didn’t follow my intuition. I think there are always “red flags”, or that “sixth sense”, and sometimes we ignore those feelings because we’re so attached to another person, or an idea we have about how things should or could go, and so we move forward, anyway, even though we feel a little sick or unsettled inside. There’s no rug big enough to cover over your despair or heartbreak. You don’t want to sweep that stuff under anything, anyway. Life is too short for that. Find a way to get quiet, so there’s some space between the thoughts. Yoga and seated meditation are brilliant for that. You can practice with me right now, here. Then the feelings can arise between those thoughts and “shoulds” and, “can’ts”, and you can figure out which way to go.

Wishing that for you, and sending love,

Ally Hamilton

Get Busy Living

stephenkingEverything worth doing involves sacrifice. If you have a dream, you’re going to have to work if you want to see it come to fruition, and any choice we make involves loss. When we choose one path, we walk away from another. Eventually, you have to figure out what’s important to you, and where you want to direct your time and energy.

People agonize over this stuff. They pick something, and then they wonder if they made the right choice. They look back over their shoulders, or they look ahead to see if something better is on the horizon that they’re now going to miss. Single people do this. They’re single for years, lamenting the loneliness and lack of a partner, of someone who sees them and understands them and is there for them, and then they meet someone, and six months later they’re agonizing over the loss of their freedom. Freedom to do what? Sit home on a Saturday night binge-watching tv? Married people do it, too. They choose commitment, and then envy their single friends out at the clubs. Yes, when we make a choice, we agree to not choose something else. This is why it’s called a “choice.”

The saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, but of course I’m talking about the other saying, “the grass is always greener where you water it.” We can drive ourselves nuts with this stuff, but the truth is, if you made a decision, you made it for a reason. If that reason doesn’t hold true anymore, or you doubt its validity, or it hasn’t played out the way you thought it would, then you’ll have to make some other choices, and hopefully you do that with serious deliberation, and maybe some support. We’re never done, we’re always in process and you can choose to have a good attitude about that, or not. Either way, the reality is the same. I’m not saying anything is fair game. Obviously we want to make choices carefully, especially where they involve other people. You never want to be reckless with another person’s tender heart. If you’ve made a mess, you have to do your best to clean it up with honesty and compassion, but most people would not want you to live a lie. Most people would not ask you to choose pity or guilt over what’s true in your heart and almost everyone I know would choose honest communication over betrayal.

What I’m saying is that you’ll never give your choices room to grow and blossom if you spend all your energy looking over your shoulder. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into choosing things you don’t want, and by the same token, when you say you want something, mean it. Don’t make your decisions someone else’s fault. We spend way too much time blaming circumstances and other people for our own unhappiness. Blame keeps you stuck. It’s liberating to take responsibility for your life and your choices, to take ownership of the whole thing. You’re going to make unfortunate choices sometimes. Another word for those is “mistakes.” That’s part of being human, it’s how we grow. If you don’t ever choose anything, your paths will be chosen for you. You’ll meet other strong-willed people, and they’ll tell you what they want you to want, and what they think you should do, but that’s not the same thing as living your life. That’s living someone else’s life. That’s becoming part of someone else’s story. Yes, we can co-create a story with another person in a healthy and loving way, but that’s when two people come together out of choice. You’re not a leaf on the wind. You’re a particular human being with your own intrinsic gifts to share. Choose wisely.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Trust Your Gut

hesseMany years ago, I met a guy in the practice room of the Ashtanga class I attended. My boyfriend at the time was also in the class, and this guy showed up one morning and joined the crew. After awhile, we all became friendly, and would sometimes have tea after practice. He was new to L.A., and didn’t know many people out here. He was trying to get his massage business off the ground. We would go on hikes, or try new restaurants together, or have him over for dinner. He’d come take my class, or my boyfriend’s, who was also a yoga teacher. Sometimes the two of them would go out for a beer. Anyway, after a few months this way, we considered him a friend.

One day, he asked if he could give us free massages. He was hoping we’d feel comfortable recommending him to students, private clients, and other yoga teachers, so of course we said yes. It’s a win-win, right? So I went over to his place where he had his table set up in his second bedroom. Dim lights, a fountain going, mellow music, everything you’d expect. I got on the table face-down while he was outside, talking to my then-boyfriend on the phone, giving him the code so he could let himself in when he arrived. He was planning on having his massage after mine. In came our friend, and started giving me this massage. I went in feeling totally relaxed, but after a few minutes, I started to feel really uncomfortable.

The way he was touching me did not feel professional or friendly, and I began to have this argument in my head. Was he touching me inappropriately? Was I wrong? Misreading? I mean, he wasn’t doing anything blatantly wrong. It’s not like his fingers were traveling to places they shouldn’t be; that would have been a no-brainer. It was the energy and the vibe. So I second-guessed myself. I thought, he can’t be touching me in a sexual way. There’s no way he’d do that. He’s our friend. He knows we’d never recommend him to anyone. I must be misinterpreting. Instead of relaxing, I was tensing up, and he was saying my name, and telling me to breathe, and to let go.

I tried to relax, but after a few more minutes, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Everything in my body was screaming that things were not right, and I grabbed the sheet and sat up abruptly, and he was clearly, visibly aroused. I told him to get out so I could get dressed. I told him the massage was over, and he said he was sorry, that he’d had feelings for me. To say I felt sick to my stomach is an understatement. I felt violated and angry and betrayed by a friend. I told him again to get out, which he did. I got dressed and told him I was leaving. He followed me outside, all the way to my car telling me he was sorry, that he shouldn’t have offered the massages, that then, this never would have happened.

Anyway, that was the end of the friendship. He stopped coming to class, and after awhile we heard he’d moved away, but the thing that stayed with me was the ten minutes I stayed on that table, fighting my intuition with my mind. I knew what I was feeling, I wasn’t wrong about it, but I didn’t want it to be true and I didn’t trust my gut. It’s not that it was such a horrendous experience; I’ve certainly been through worse, but it was a huge reminder to me that it’s always dangerous to fight what you know to be true. I really think we do this all over the place.

Maybe it happens in a work situation. We’re unhappy or unfulfilled, or maybe we’re even being mistreated, but we start to talk ourselves out of leaving because we need the money, or we need health insurance, or we have nothing else on the horizon. It can happen in romantic relationships. We know in our heart it isn’t right or it isn’t growing or we aren’t communicating in a healthy way, but we talk ourselves out of rocking the boat, because maybe we’ve invested a lot of time, or we’re thirty and think we should get married, or we want to have a baby, or we have children and can’t even fathom what life would look like if we spoke up. There are a lot of reasons we might try to fight the truth of our experience, and some of them are laudable. When other people are in the mix, like your children, for example, it’s understandable that you might think very carefully about what you’re doing and saying, and I think you want to do that in that case. That doesn’t mean you push down what’s true for you, though, it means you do everything in your power to communicate with clarity and compassion. Maybe you start with, “I’m in pain, and I need to talk to you about this.” You’ll never change anything or save anything by repressing or denying what you know to be real for you; that isn’t sustainable.

You might be terrified, and there’s no doubt it takes guts. Sometimes it takes planning, too. Maybe you need to embark on a serious job search before you give notice at your current job, because you need to be able to keep a roof over your head. Maybe you’ve let a personal situation erode to a point where you feel hopeless, but nothing is hopeless if two people are willing to work. One person can’t do it, but two have a shot. Honesty is everything, and by that, I don’t mean you have to share every single thing that’s ever crossed your mind, or every poor choice you’ve ever made. Some things are better left unsaid. What I’m talking about is clear communication about where you are and what you want and how you feel. Sometimes we allow fear to stop us from sharing those dark and unchartered places, but if you want to be known and loved for who you are, you cannot expect that to happen if you’re hiding or numbing out or running away. You have to trust your gut. You have to be willing to show yourself, and work with reality as it is. Then you see what you can do from there. Then, at least, you have a foundation to build upon. Without that, you’re lost.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

A short interview with best-selling author Dani Shapiro

I’ve “known” Dani since I was in college and discovered her books. I devoured them all, “Playing with Fire“, “Fugitive Blue“, “Picturing the Wreck“, “Slow Motion“, “Family History: A Novel“, and, “Black and White“. She was one of those writers whose work resonated with me on a very deep level. I had the feeling she was the kind of person I could be friends with, not that I ever expected we would meet. About nine years ago, a woman appeared in my yoga class. She had a quiet energy and a very focused practice. I adjusted her in down dog, I think we talked about inversions at one point, we smiled at each other before and after class, maybe we said hi. I don’t remember. But about a week later, I received an email. At the time, I had audio recordings of some of my yoga classes available online, and I’d noticed a bunch of subscribers from Connecticut, all of a sudden. This woman told me she’d been in my class the previous week, and had returned to her home in CT, and that she had since recommended my audio classes to several of her friends. She said she’d found peace on her mat with me during a very trying week, and she thanked me. The email was signed, Dani Shapiro. Her website was underneath her name. My eyes popped out of my head. I went to the site and discovered it was, in fact, the same Dani. And I wrote back to tell her how blown away I was, how much her work had meant to me, and how happy I was that I hadn’t realized it was her, because I was sure I’d have been tongue-tied. The next time I went back east, Dani and I met for tea. And as I’d suspected from reading her work, she was exactly the kind of person with whom I could become friends, and the rest, as they say, is history. Our friendship is one that I cherish, she’s as real as it gets. Her last book, “Devotion”, is a deeply personal story of her search for meaning, and answers to life’s big questions.

WATCH: Dani Shapiro on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday
WATCH: Dani Shapiro on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday

Dani was featured this past weekend on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and she was so wonderful–genuine, and present and honest. Her new book, “Still Writing” is a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. You can enter our Facebook drawing today to win a signed copy :). The winner will be chosen on Sunday October 27, 2013. I’m already so happy for the winner of our giveaway, because having a little piece of Dani in your home is a real treasure.

I asked Dani to answer three questions for the Yogis Anonymous crowd in the midst of her book tour and excitement with Oprah, just so you’d get a sense of how lovely she is:

1. Three things you’re the most grateful for right this minute?

My family.  It could have been otherwise — and I am always so aware of that.
Everything in my life –– every misstep, mistake, rebellion, wrong turn –– that brought me to this moment.
The stillness that I have learned to find within me.

2. What inspires you to write?

I write in an attempt (the word “essay” means “attempt”) to create order out of chaos.  To create art of out randomness.  To illuminate inner life.  To connect more deeply with myself and with the world around me.

3. You’ve had a yoga and seated meditation practice for quite some time, now. Do you find these practices have affected the quality of your internal dialogue, and if so, how?

My yoga and meditation practice are the only ways I know to quiet my mind.  When I sit –– or when I unroll my mat –– I am coming home to myself.  I begin to see and hear what’s going on inside me.  If writing, for me, is a way of knowing my own mind, yoga and meditation open the door to my heart.