Underneath the Words

In the heat of conflict, so much can get lost in translation. When we feel attacked, wronged or misunderstood, it’s so hard to pause, breathe and listen, but if you think back to your angriest moments, underneath the rage there was pain. When people yell it’s because they don’t feel heard, seen or understood. Some part of them is crying out for recognition, for help.

Sometimes we’re like a bunch of talking heads. We get so caught up in the story we forget to see the person; to look into their eyes and maybe put a hand on their arm. Sometimes we all need a tether, a way back to the moment. We need to know we’re being seen and felt, but too often people spend time together and there’s no real connection, just a lot of words, a lot of editorializing. Have you ever walked away from lunch with a friend you love feeling lonely? Maybe you went with a story on your mind and you told your story and you guys talked about it, but your lunch never really gelled because you went with a plan, and didn’t allow for the possibility that maybe your story didn’t need to be told. Maybe you’d already told it too many times. Maybe something beautiful could have happened if you showed up and opened to the moment. Maybe you missed the fact that your friend had an energy about them. Maybe they needed you. Maybe there was a glimmer of mischief or pain or restlessness you missed and cannot have back.

People say things they don’t mean all the time, especially if they haven’t worked on healthy ways to express their feelings. Lots of people push things down until it’s too much and then they explode. Words can be very powerful; I’m not suggesting you don’t want to work on the way you communicate if what you’ve been doing so far isn’t working for you or the people in your life. Learning how to handle your anger in a way that doesn’t burn the place down, and everyone in it including you, is essential if you want to be happy, but no one operates from her highest self in every moment. I know people who write off relationships with family members because someone said something when they were drunk at a wedding eight years ago. Try to see underneath the words. Look for the pain because if you can see that in another person it will soften you and then at least you create the possibility that you can forgive them and release yourself from the burden of carrying all that anger around with you.

Last year a woman wrote in and asked how she could stay on the Facebook fan page, but not see the “inspirational posts” I was writing. She sent an email to me personally to ask. I told her the page was mostly the blog posts, and if she didn’t want to see them, she could just unlike the page. She wrote back and said she wanted to see the “other stuff” but not the posts. I was intrigued by the fact that she wanted to be sure that I knew that she didn’t like what I was writing so I went to her page and saw that she was a writer and a teacher, and I understood something about my posting and the community we have going here was difficult for her to see. I couldn’t say exactly what was going on with her, but there was pain there. So I just responded nicely because it’s terrible to feel frustrated, resentful or unseen, so much so that you want to lash out at a stranger.

A lot of the time we take things personally. It’s hard not to, especially when you feel criticized or rejected. The truth is, most of the time it has nothing to do with you, and once in awhile, someone will just not get you. I would say, always look for the feeling. Words can be misleading, but feelings are fairly clear. You don’t have to respond to someone’s pain with anger. You don’t have to take on their view as if it’s true. You don’t have to defend yourself over every slight. Most people have a lot of pain. Sometimes a hug, literal or figurative, goes a lot further than a thousand words.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Don’t Give Up.

A few weeks ago, someone messaged me on the fan page and said he was going to end his life. I can’t really explain the panic I felt, especially because his message was a few hours old by the time I saw it. He shared some details of his life over the last few years and why he’d come to the conclusion that it just wasn’t worth it. He’d suffered some devastating losses, enough that it was understandable he felt hopeless and defeated. I wrote back immediately and gave him the Suicide Prevention Hotline number (800-273-8255), my number, and also contact information for three therapists I know and trust. I begged him to write back and let me know he’d received my message and also told him there have been times in my life when I’ve felt like giving up, too. Not for many, many years, but I certainly entertained those thoughts at one time in my life. When things feel so dark you really can’t think of a reason to lift your head off your pillow, the thought, “What’s the point of it all?” is natural and understandable.

Yesterday, someone wrote in a thread, “Why can’t we talk about the miraculous sometimes, too?” and then she wrote back and rescinded her question, saying that it “all leads back to joy.” But it’s a legitimate question and there are days when I just write from my heart and send out a hit of love. Or I hope I do. I write about the shadow emotions a lot because I feel in the spiritual community there’s so much focus on being positive and spreading the light. I think it’s alienating for many people. There is so much light. There’s a limitless well of love within each of us, but to uncover that well there’s usually some digging required. A lot of people feel alone in that digging, like there must be something wrong with them and sometimes they give up. Numb out. Run, deny, try to push it all down. Or they become bitter and think other people must have it easier. The truth is some people do have it easier. We don’t all go through the same experiences. There are some people who will suffer losses that are so knifing, so brutally painful you have to hope they’re going to be able to put one foot in front of the other, and that’s usually when some well-meaning positive person will come along and smugly assert that, “everything happens for a reason,” and forget that the foundation of a true spiritual practice is compassion. There’s nothing comforting in telling a person who is trying to remember how to breathe in and breathe out that their loss has happened for a reason, or that they should focus on all the good things in their life, or that one day they’ll understand why. Some things will never, ever be okay. Some things will never make sense. There are some lessons that will never elicit gratitude. Growth, yes. If you get through it. Deeper understanding, insight and compassion? Yes. Gratitude? No. Not for some things.

It’s my belief a spiritual practice ought to be there for you whether you’re moving through beautiful, joyful, miraculous times in your life, or you’re going through blinding pain that makes you want to give up. I don’t worry about those of you feeling gratitude. I love you, but I’m not worried. I do want to reach out to those people in darkness and say you’re not alone and offer a hand. A blog post. A yoga class, a hug. An email. Whatever I’ve got. Because I really think that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to love each other, support each other, and share and grow together and I think that is pretty miraculous. When I look at my life today, it’s hard to imagine I ever wondered what “the point of it all” was, because it’s very clear to me now. The point of it is to love your heart out. To connect. There’s an insane amount of joy in all that. I’ve been emailing with the man who was feeling desperate a few weeks ago. He’s talking to someone and getting support in many areas. Sometimes we need help. It’s not easy, this business of being human. But it is pretty amazing.

Sending you a ton of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

The Person You Decide to Be

I’ve had two weddings, but only one marriage. My first wedding was to a man who kept the antique mirror I (painstakingly) had restored when I was nineteen years old, the one that belonged to my grandma whom I adored and lost long before I met him, and who also kept the vintage diamond necklace that belonged to my great-aunt, which I’ll never be able to pass along to my daughter. I call him Mirror Guy. I didn’t love him and I can’t tell you what I was doing with him because it feels like another lifetime and because I was in a fog fueled by outrageously painful migraines, percocet and a stubborn desire to cling to stories that didn’t serve me, to blame my parents and my childhood for my brokenness, and a general sense that I had no clue what I was doing here. I was coming off of some of the darkest times of my life and I was very young and totally lost. I’d been in that damaging victim mentality for too many years, blaming other people for my poor choices and behavior, numbing out, denying, running. I wasn’t an awful person or anything, I’ve always been kind, I was just a bit of a mess.

You know the syndrome, right? I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, so when you leave the room, I think you’re leaving for good and that’s why I’m freaking out. As if that makes sense. This thing that should have happened did not, so I have fear that no one will love me and nothing good will happen, so I’m just going to sleepwalk, okay? Because I don’t know how to do the ‘awake, I’m-going-to-take-responsibility-for-the-way-my-life-unfolds-thing yet, so if you want to marry me, sure. Sounds good.’ Or something like that.

Of course I thought I loved him or I wouldn’t have worn the Cinderella tulle dress and gotten myself to the beach club on time. But you can’t love if you’re sleeping. You can stick your arms out in the darkness and hope you run into something good, but you probably won’t. If you’re in darkness, you’re most likely going to fall in a ditch and break something, like your heart or your ability to keep sleeping. Something will give, that’s for sure. Nor can you see that the person you’re about to marry is incapable of telling the truth in any form about anything or of being honorable or kind, or of loving you in any capacity at all. I should have known because he told me he was separated when we started dating, but actually he wasn’t and it took two years to sort it out. Somehow I became fixated on that and never realized I didn’t love him and it would have been just fine if he’d stayed married to that other woman, thanks very much. I should have known because my therapist at the time asked me what we did together that was fun, or what it was that I liked about being with him and I literally could not think of a single thing. I should have known because too many of the things he said to me did not make sense and often came back to bite him in the arse later. It’s not like there weren’t signs. I begged for signs. Do you realize if you’re asking for signs that’s a sign? I didn’t.

I have to share about the signs because it’s comical. I’m going to the store to try on wedding dresses with my mom weeks before the wedding and she has to wait in the car because I’m throwing up. I’m throwing up. Nauseated at the thought of buying a dress to marry the man who turned out to be Mirror Guy. I can’t get the song, “You Don’t Know Me” out of my head for weeks. The morning of the wedding it is sunny and gorgeous and I think, “At least that’s good,” because we are getting married on a deck overlooking the water in front of 250 people, most of whom I’ve never met. At 4pm the sky turns black. I’m not exaggerating. Black, and then the sky opens and there’s rain like I have never experienced in my life, not before, not since, not anywhere, even in the jungle of Costa Rica. Torrential rain so thick it sounded like someone was an inch over the roof of the minivan with a thousand power-hoses. Giant frogs dropping from the sky would not have surprised me. Oh, did you catch the part about a minivan? My wedding party left in the limo I was supposed to be in because the makeup artist wanted to do me last so my makeup was fresh, but she ran so late they had to take off, so I went to the beach club in a minivan with my parents and my little brother and his best friend.

More signs: Because there was a weather alert with a red stripe across the bottom of every television telling everyone to get home and stay indoors, the traffic on the highway from the hotel to the beach club was nuts. Like a parking lot, people racing out of the city to make it to their homes. This is in New York, mind you, where this kind of weather simply does not happen. So my step-dad drove on the shoulder of the highway for six miles. So pretty much, on my way to getting married to the very wrongest person, hundreds of people gave me the finger. How many signs do you need before you turn the minivan around? That’s like a punchline, isn’t it?

When I got to the beach club my mom and I raced to the bridal room, and my best friend and bridesmaids shoved me into my dress and someone handed me a glass of champagne because I said I thought I might pass out, and of course champagne is the answer when you feel faint and are about to make one of the worst decisions of your life. So I went down the aisle like a wind-up doll, done up like a princess, vacant eyes. Worse than that. Deer-in-the-headlight eyes. As if I hadn’t said yes to all of it. As if it were just happening to me. When the justice of the peace announced we were man and wife, there was a crack of thunder and lightning so loud you can hear it on the wedding video and everyone laughed nervously and I thought,  “Well. You can’t ask for more signs than that.”

I say he didn’t love me and I know I didn’t love him, even though I believed I did and I believed he did in my sleepwalking state. But he didn’t want a wife, he wanted a mother. Someone to make dinner and read his screenplays and rewrite all the dialogue because people don’t speak like that. Who speaks like that?

More signs:

Him: Hey, why don’t you leave your dog at the kennel this weekend, because actually, I don’t like dogs.

Him: I need to go shoot this commercial, so drop everything and come, okay? Even though it’s in Canada and you’d rather stay home since I’ll be shooting all day and sitting around a set isn’t all that fun, and I don’t want you off exploring by yourself because you’re too young to be off on your own like that in a foreign country.

Me: Um. Canada? I think I can get around because I speak English.

More signs: It was never consummated. I’m not saying we hadn’t had sex before the wedding. I’m saying there wasn’t any after, and there wasn’t much before because he preferred porn to an actual human. But I didn’t know that then, so I was busy thinking there must be something wrong with me and feeling rejected all the time. Anyway, I had the thing annulled. I should say, I woke up several weeks after this wedding and had it annulled. And Mirror Guy is actually the perfect name, because that’s what happened. I looked in the mirror and thought, How? How did I land myself in this mess? How did I not stop, at any of those burning red flags and turn myself around?

Maybe it was compounded by the fact that the much older guy I dated had come before Mirror Guy and by this point I was just wrecked, but I got the message. I got it hard and ugly and in the face. There was no one to blame but myself, because my mom didn’t like Mirror Guy and said as much, and my dad and step-dad didn’t think much of him, either. All my fingers pointed back at myself and I thought, I’d really better turn this sh&t around, now, or my life is going to be bleak and dark and very painful. No light. I’d been doing yoga for a couple of years at this point and that’s the light I used to find my way out of a nightmare of my own making, without the mirror or necklace, but you know what? Such a small price to pay. Because in the years after that I started planting the seeds that sprouted into the life I have today. I look at my life now and I’m blown away. Two amazing, healthy, happy kids. A man who is everything I ever could have hoped for and so, so much more. Friends who know how to show up, a few of whom have been there through everything with me. A community of yogis locally and around the globe because the internet is pretty amazing. And all of you.

You get to decide who you’re going to be, you really do. I’m not saying everyone has equal opportunities or that the playing field is level. I’m saying you have the power to decide how you’re going to do your life, and what you decide makes all the difference in the world. You get to decide what to dwell on, what to emphasize, what to cling to. You get to decide whether to forgive other people and forgive yourself and move forward. You get to decide whether the past is going to determine your future, or be something you grow from. You get to decide whether you’re going to blame and moan or get busy working. I hope you decide to be your best self. To own your story. To refuse to let your past dictate your future. To get your hands filthy with your pain so it doesn’t control your life, because there’s no need for that. Your life can be so beautiful. Even with heartache and tragedy, there’s still so much beauty to be found if you open to it. Wishing that for you, if it hasn’t happened already.

Sending a ton of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Spring!!

springToday, on the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring, it’s such a good idea to think about what you’re planting. Whatever you feed is going to grow and strengthen, and blossom all over your life and I think it comes down to one choice when you strip it all away: Are you going to feed Fear, or are you going to feed Love?

Fear tells you there isn’t enough, and if someone else gets there first, they took your spot. Fear tells you you are not enough. Not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, buff enough, rich enough, skinny enough. You don’t say the right things and you’re going to die without having allowed yourself to be fully realized. Without opening up to your beautiful gifts so you can share them. Fear tells you you should stay where you are because it’s safe. Because you don’t have what it takes to make changes. And who are you to challenge the status quo, anyway? Fear tells you your past has damaged you and there is no chance for peace or happiness for you, no possibility of real connection. (There are times fear is good. You ought to look both ways before you cross a street. You want to pay attention to those hairs that stand up on the back of your neck when you’re twelve and passing a stranger on a narrow stairwell). For the most part, though, Fear is a f&cking liar.

Love knows there’s enough. Love knows you’re enough. Love understands you are here, and you are you, and you are the only one who can share your particular gifts. No one can ever take your spot, because no one else can be you. The only question is whether you’re going to step into your spot and bloom. Offer it up, whatever you’ve got, with everything you’ve got. Love knows your weight, height, hair color, eye color, skin color, waist size, lack of hair or abundance of it really, truly doesn’t mean squat. Your heart is the thing. Your yes is the thing. You heal yourself and you follow your heart. Those are the two essential ingredients if you want to be at peace. Full of yes. Those are the seeds you need. Plant that. Feed that. Watch that grow and strengthen and blossom all over your life. Happy Spring. Get out your gardening gloves!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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