Feel Your Feelings, Don’t Drown in Them!

There’s a difference between feeling your feelings (essential) and drowning in them. There’s a difference between spiritual bypassing or toxic positivity and working with your nervous system to create a calm environment and bring yourself back to center when you’re dealing with big feelings.

Today I did a lot of both. I felt a lot of big feelings – grief, emotional exhaustion, and some of the frustration that comes from the less glamorous parts of owning a small business, and I did a lot of working with my nervous system to stay centered. I’m of no use to anyone including myself if I’m a puddle of sadness on the floor. So I felt all my feelings and I was compassionate with myself but I also did some things to create more peace, comfort and ease.

In practical terms that consisted of 15 minutes of insight meditation and an hour of yoga practice that included a lot of pranayama. Not just ujjayi breathing but also breath-of-fire to get energized and alternate nostril breathing to come into balance. It looked like a slow flow with a lot of long holds and deep stretching. It looked like getting in sweats after without a bra, true story. It looked like working at my own pace, not rushing and not getting everything done.

Some days are harder than others. If you’re having some tough days right now, you aren’t alone. Just do your best to tune in, practice kindness and patience as much as possible, and whenever you can, give yourself some understanding. If you’re looking for a few things to try, alternate nostril breathing is wonderful when you feel like you’re spinning. Feeling your feet on the floor or your butt in the chair or the weight of your hands in your lap, or finding one color in your environment to focus on – all those things are really grounding. 4-7-8 breathing is easy to do anywhere, even whilst driving. And community is everything. If you need help, come find me on the site. I’m there with an unbelievable team of teachers and a global community of yogis and it helps so much.

Whatever you do, take care of YOU. We only get one of you after all ✨

Sending love to anyone who might need it,

Ally Hamilton 

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.

OPR (Other People’s Rage)

neededwantedOnce when I was about sixteen, I was walking up Columbus Avenue with my dad. We were having a conversation about something I can’t remember, and suddenly, my dad lashed out and hit me on the side of my head with the back of his hand, hard. I was completely stunned, because I hadn’t said anything of note, and I turned to him and asked why he’d done it. It turned out he’d misheard me, and had thought I’d said something disrespectful. I know he’d take that moment back if he could. It’s one of those things I hope he’s forgotten, but to me, it stood out. The other thing that stands out for me is that I squelched my feelings about what had happened. I didn’t want him to feel any more terrible about what he’d done than he already did, so I blinked back my tears, and tried to make my voice sound normal, but I had this wave of deep pain, as low in your body as you can feel something. Even though our conversation continued, part of me was back in the middle of that block, getting smacked on the side of the head, again and again. Like instant replay in slow motion, my brain and my heart trying to make sense out of it.

Life is like that sometimes. We’re going along, doing our best to put one foot in front of the other and stay open, and BAM! We get hit upside the head, out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, or because we’ve been misunderstood. Maybe we’ve crossed paths with someone at a time when s/he is full of anger or pain or confusion. Maybe you came into your parents’ lives when they were in the midst of chaos like that. It’s so hard not to take things personally, especially when our ears are ringing or we feel we’re on the wrong end of someone’s unjustified attack.

People can only be where they are, and they can only use the tools they’ve got. If someone lashes out at you, it’s an expression of pain that exists within them, and there’s nothing you can do to fix that or cure that. You can care, and you can try to get them some help if they’re open to that, but you have to take care of your own tender heart. You are not here to be anyone’s punching bag while they figure out their stuff. We all have our stuff. It’s what we do about it that matters. When we try to take the hit for someone else’s bad behavior, we do ourselves, and them, a disservice. It would have been completely appropriate for me to tell my dad I wanted to go home, or be by myself. It would have been fine for me to hail a cab. It would have been okay for me to allow him to see how much I was hurt, but I didn’t do any of those things. I tried to spare him the consequences of what he’d done, and in doing so, I absorbed that pain and robbed him of a chance to grow. I told him it was okay, even though it was not.

If you’re like me, you feel awful when you make a mistake. I can forgive other people pretty easily, but man, do I put myself through the wringer when I don’t show up the way I want to. Part of that is appropriate, but some of it is not good. It’s taken me years to shorten the time I beat myself up when I blow it. It used to be days I’d replay a thing. Eventually I got it down to a day, then an afternoon, then a few hours. These days, I remind myself regularly that I’m a human being, and as such, I will make mistakes. I examine what was happening for me when I let myself down, so I can be more aware of who I am, and do it differently next time. When someone around me makes a mistake, I assume they’ll also have to go through this tedious and uncomfortable process of forgiving themselves, which really might not be the case.

This desire to prevent those we love from having to deal with the consequences of their own actions is not actually a loving impulse, although it feels like one. Sometimes a person needs to see the pain they’ve caused in order to make a change. Robbing them of that process is not a loving act. Forgiving someone for lacking the tools to show up for you in a different way might be a loving act, as long as you don’t forget to love yourself as you do that.

When we take a thing personally, we internalize it. We process what’s happened in terms of cause and effect. If Y happened, X must have happened first, and we start to examine ourselves to see what we’ve done to cause this event, or what we haven’t done. What we are, or what we’re lacking. When really, it may have nothing at all to do with us. When we try to manage another person’s path by sparing them the suffering they might need to feel in order to grow, we are also internalizing pain. Internalized pain leads to rage and sadness. Don’t get me wrong, here. I am not talking about times when we’ve done something to hurt someone and they’ve lashed out. I’m not saying we’re always blameless. I’m saying in those situations when you really feel blindsided, when you are not guilty of doing anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that is not a moment when you need to swallow the monster of someone else’s rage, and carry it with you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Obsessive Thinking

mindyourownbusinessSometimes we “boil ourselves” as my meditation teacher used to say. Something has happened, is happening, or could happen, and we obsess and spiral and get so caught up dwelling on this unwanted turn of events, we lose hours and create incredible stress and pain for ourselves.

This happens frequently around breakups, or in the context of acrimonious relationships. We feel rejected, judged or completely misunderstood, and we go over the details like a detective trying to solve a case. Where was the moment? What was that one thing we said or did that turned the tides and changed things forever? Or we tell and retell our story of how many different ways we were wronged so many times, it becomes mythic. We get caught up in defending ourselves, as if the other person’s opinion is true, even if we know in our hearts it is not. (If you need help snapping out of obsessive thinking, if you’re stuck in a cycle with yourself or someone else that’s causing you pain, try this.) We might replay a conversation that’s already happened, rewriting our lines again and again until we’ve had the perfect comeback in every moment, or we’ve said just the right thing to make everything turn out the way we wish it would have, or we might imagine a conversation that hasn’t happened yet, and get ourselves worked up as though it’s happening exactly this way, right now.

Your nervous system can’t differentiate between a painful conversation you’re actually having, or one you’re rewriting or creating in your head. If your breath is shallow and your blood pressure is going up and your shoulders are around your ears and your jaw is clenching, does it really matter if it’s real or imagined? Your thoughts create chemical reactions in your body, so allowing yourself to fixate on something outside your control can really take a toll, and if it’s happening for an extended period of time, if you find yourself dwelling on your recent or not-so-recent ex, for example,  and what s/he is doing, and with whom s/he’s doing it, it’s really time to pick your mind up and come back to the now. Otherwise it’s like story hour, except the librarian is drunk and angry, the doors are locked, and she keeps reading the same story over and over again.

You can’t redo the past, and you can’t predict the future. You can make yourself sick trying to time-travel, though. There’s no point making yourself nauseated over the great relationship your ex is now having with someone else. Maybe it’s great, and maybe it’s a mess, or maybe they’re three weeks in and getting swept away by hormones, thinking, “This is it!!” People do that all the time, and then when the dust/lust clears, things get real. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter. Your work is always to manage your own mind, heart, choices and actions. If the quality of your thoughts is causing you pain, you have to come back to nurturing yourself.

Loss, fear, grief, rejection, jealousy, insecurity, loneliness, shame and guilt are not easy to lean into, but that’s the best way to release the heat of your feelings. Remembering that feelings are not forever, and they aren’t facts, either, can be enormously helpful. How you feel now is not how you will always feel. Opening to things as they are is empowering and liberating. Releasing your grip on the story and the players, and allowing people to be who they are as the plot unfolds the way it will, is the strongest stance I know. I’m not saying you shouldn’t fight for things, or stand up for yourself or others when that’s the right thing to do. Honest communication is always good; being able to express how things are for you, calmly, and with compassion is beautiful. That’s really the best you can do.

People can only be where they are, they have whatever tools they have. You’re not going to save someone with your love. You’re not going to teach someone the error of their ways. We all have to do our own journeys. Wishing you strength, love, and the hope that you’ll stop boiling yourself if you have been. Love feels a lot better.

Ally Hamilton

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

A Wall is a Wall

BEATING-ON-A-WALLIf you’re involved in a relationship that’s crushing you, you already know it isn’t sustainable. If someone is treating you badly, you have to get out, or you’re going to die. I don’t mean literally, although there are sadly too many cases where physical violence is a real issue, but your light will go out. Without that light, that love, that intuition, life becomes very dark indeed, and it’s nearly impossible to know which way to turn.

Sometimes the biggest problem is that relationships of this kind become addictive. If you think you’re physically attracted to someone who’s tormenting you, I’d challenge you to go a little deeper. You may be attracted to the way a person looks or smells or touches you, but if that same person demeans and abuses you, you’re hooked on something a lot more menacing than their looks. It’s the dynamic. There’s something in the interaction between you and the other person that’s familiar, and probably harkens back to something very old for you. If you don’t figure out what that original wound is, you’re going to keep playing it out in your present, looking for a happy ending, a resolution, and release from your suffering, but you’ll never find it like that, you’ll just have your heart broken again. You’ll participate in the crushing of your own spirit, your own resounding yes. If you want to be liberated from your pain so it doesn’t own you anymore, you have to turn inward. You’re the only one with the key, but before you can do that, you have to create an environment where you feel safe.

You’ll never feel safe when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone who has a history of hurting you, and if you’re loving yourself, you’ll never be attracted to a person who belittles you. I really do understand the pull of something like this, because I’ve been there. When I was seventeen I dated a man who was thirty-seven, who came after me with everything he had, but once he had me, he was incredibly mean to me. He said very hurtful things on a regular basis, and he made choices that brought me to tears on more occasions than I can count. He was cruel, and yet, I was so thankful when he was kind and loving; I craved those times. I waited for them, and then I’d tell myself, “See? He can do it. I just need to help him be more loving more of the time.” I can look back and say with absolute certainty he was in a lot of pain himself. That’s obvious to me now, but at the time I took it to heart, I believed there must be something lacking in me, I allowed his words to get inside my head and play on my deepest insecurities until they were so large I really couldn’t see anything else anymore, and I got hooked on his validation. Tell me I’m lovable. Love me so I know I’m okay and I exist, and you can see me. When you’re feeling awful about yourself, it’s very difficult to act on your own behalf, to think, “I don’t deserve this, and I’m going to pick myself up and get the f&ck out of here.”

So people get stuck, until they’re in so much pain the survival instinct kicks in, and then, with barely anything left in the tank, they drag themselves out the door and collapse somewhere, and wonder how things got so bad. That’s the beginning, that’s the entryway. As Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” That’s the ideal time to start to figure out why you’re feeling so badly about yourself that you’d put yourself in a relationship like that and then stay there.

If you’re stuck in a situation like this, even if it isn’t this extreme, get yourself some support. I get so many emails from people who tell me about relationships where they’re waiting for their partner to grow or change, to show up differently. They keep participating in the interaction, expecting or hoping for a different outcome, even though no one is showing up with different tools. Some people will never get unstuck. Maybe because they can’t, or because they think they can’t, or they don’t want to enough. It could be any or all of those things. If you cannot accept a person as they are, then you have to let them go. If they’re in pain, and that pain has been spilling all over you, you can love them and accept them and recognize their pain, but you have to get out of Dodge. Because if you allow your light to dim to nothing, you may as well be dead. You are not here to be the walking dead. You, who could shine so brightly. You, who have everything you need to heal and forge a new path and begin again. Don’t succumb to the pull of what slices right into the most tender part of you. Protect that. That’s your gift. Don’t participate in its destruction. Don’t break your own heart. Don’t sleep with a person who would cut you down to nothing as the sun rises. You’re a gift to this world. Don’t throw yourself away.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Start Where You Are

IDIOT-MANIACUnderneath most pain is the desire for connection. We all want to be seen and understood, cherished and explored and known, by at least one other person. Sometimes our “self” was beaten out of us, or scared out of us, or made to burrow down deep because other things were more immediate, like survival. You may have become so accustomed to swallowing your feelings, you don’t even know you’re doing it anymore. You might not know how you feel, or what you want. You may be clueless as to what makes you happy.

Sometimes we have ingrained ideas about ourselves. Maybe people told us we were smart or strong or dependable, and so that’s what we are, even though inside, we’re crumbling from the weight of it. Maybe you were made to feel your value as a person was determined by your looks or your intelligence or your ability to make people laugh, so that’s the stuff you focus on even though it feels empty and makes you a little sick inside. Do you ever feel like you landed on the wrong planet, or you’re living the wrong life? Like you took a wrong turn somewhere, and everything shifted, and now you can’t find your way back to that fork in the road so you can turn things around, so you can find your footing and a path that feels right to you?

The thing is, it’s never too late for that, and that place behind you where you took that turn that you don’t even remember really isn’t the thing. The thing is right now. How are you right now, and what do you need to be okay if you aren’t okay? Is it connection you’re longing for, and are you a stranger in your own home, in your own body? I’d really start there. You are not your body and you are not your thoughts, but you have this body, and it’s been with you from moment one, and it will be with you until your final exhale, and it’s full of wisdom about you, and how you feel and what you need. If there’s trauma in your past, your body is storing that somewhere, and tuning into that might help you discover that fork in the road. You probably weren’t even driving at the time, chances are you were a passenger. Your body is like a road-map of everything, and there’s an incredible potential to know yourself and to understand yourself. That’s the most important connection there is. If you’re detached from your own heart, or spirit, or soul or essence, or whatever you want to call it, it’s going to be very hard for you to find nurturing, lasting connection to anything else. You need a foundation. You need to be able to breathe.

A lot of people don’t breathe. I mean, they breathe enough to get by, but they never tune into the incredible feeling of really breathing. Maybe if they take a deep breath and let it out, a ton of heartache will ride out on that exhale, too. Tears and sobs that break your heart and feel like they’ll never end, like they’ll overwhelm you and do you in, but it’s the not letting them out that does that. So many people live in agony, holding on for dear life, pushing that stuff down, denying its existence, but feeling the need to numb out. Imagine living on top of an active volcano, pretending all is well and wondering why you aren’t happy. Why you feel enraged all the time, or scared, or like a giant fraud. There’s a f&cking volcano underneath you, but you put on your jeans and pop a pill or have a drink or take a hit, and go smiling out the door, even though the smile hurts and the jeans are cutting into your hopes and this dream you had about your life when you were a kid.

This is why I teach, practice, and love yoga and seated meditation. I don’t know of many things that bring you so profoundly into your body and into the now with the foundation of compassion and healing. There’s potential in the now; there isn’t any in the past. It’s over and cannot be rewritten no matter how many dysfunctional relationships you have, or how many people you try to save that way, yourself especially. When I started doing yoga, I had this feeling of finally, finally having come home. Home, and that was huge for me, because I grew up going back and forth between my mom’s and my dad’s from the time I was four. I’d been searching for that feeling of home my whole life, and it was a revelation to me to discover home inside myself. That’s connection. To be at home inside yourself. Then you can feel at home anywhere.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Stop and Think

Once when I was about twelve years old I saw a group of kids huddled around a bucket in a courtyard I was passing on my way home from school. Some of the kids were younger than I was, and a few were older, or at least bigger. Some of them were laughing, some were just staring, and a couple looked scared. The biggest one, a boy, was holding a broom upside down, and thrusting the end of it into the bucket over and over again. There was something squealing in the bucket, and I found myself walking over without thinking about it. Some of the smaller kids saw me coming and took off, but the boy with the broom had his back to me, and didn’t notice me until I was right up next to him, peering over the edge of the bucket at a small, white, terrified mouse. It was covered in some kind of powder that smelled like bleach. “What are you doing??!!” I asked him, shocked. He stared at me, and so did the other kids who were still there, frozen. “I don’t know, ” he finally mumbled. “We found this mouse and didn’t know what to do with it.” He looked horrified and embarrassed, but he said, “Fine, you take it,” which I did, bucket and all.

There’s so much I could say about the cycle of violence and abuse. Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. If the people who were meant to love, nurture and protect you, didn’t, due to their own limitations or history of abuse, that’s a wound that needs healing. Few things feel worse than the belief that you are somehow not lovable or that you don’t matter, that you’re invisible. Most people experience times when they feel like that mouse. Terrified and alone and confused, trapped and running in circles, shrieking for help, the end of a broom handle coming at them without any cause. Grief and loss can feel that way. The why of it can strip a person down to her bones. You might believe in karma. You might think everything happens for a reason, or we choose the experiences we need for the evolution of our souls, or we arrive here with debts to pay from past lives. You may believe in chaos theory, in the butterfly effect, or that we turn to worm-food when we die and that’s that. You may think you create your reality with your thoughts. It doesn’t really matter. You’re a human being, and when you experience devastating loss, violence or the kind of pain that makes it hard to breathe in and breathe out, it becomes obvious that we are all equally vulnerable. People cling to beliefs as if they’re shields. If I’m a good person and I do good things, I’ll be rewarded, but life doesn’t work that way, as any number of good people can tell you. Sometimes horrendous things happen to the most beautiful human beings.

We want to believe we can control things, and that our good behavior will guarantee us freedom from suffering. There’s no such contract. You will lose people you love beyond words simply because you’re a person with an expiration date and so is everyone else, and then there’s all the stuff that life brings. The fact is, we need each other. We come into this world needing to be held and fed and cared for, and that need for connection doesn’t end when we learn to walk and can feed ourselves. The joy in life comes out of love. If you didn’t have a foundation of love, you can create one for yourself, but it takes time and work and a willingness to sit with all your pain until the heat of it dissipates. You may need some help with that. You don’t have to repeat what you know, especially if what you know breaks your heart; you can learn something else. You have a choice in life, you can be the person with the broom, or you can be the person taking it away. I believe we all come into the world as people who’d take the broom and save the mouse. I think we all come from love, but if you were taught fear and pain and that people will hurt you and life will hurt you and you cannot trust anyone, then you really need to unlearn that because it isn’t true. If you learned that you are not lovable or that your feelings don’t matter, you need to unlearn that as well, because those are also lies. No one owns you and your past doesn’t own you, either, unless you let it. We belong to each other, but it’s the kind of belonging that’s based on absolute freedom.

It’s my belief that you’re here for a reason. The odds that you are the only you in a world of seven billion people and it’s some kind of accident or coincidence seem extremely low to me. I believe you have a particular song to sing, and that if you fail to sing it, the world is robbed of a beauty it can’t create any other way. Your song may be buried under rage, grief and disappointment in which case it’s your job to start digging for yourself, for your own peace and freedom, and for all the people in your life.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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