Ask for What You Want!

A few years ago I was leading a weekend workshop and we were talking about clear communication. A woman in the group started talking about her mother-in-law and how she always needed to have this particular condiment when she would come for dinner. If the condiment wasn’t there, she would express her absolute disappointment and it would become the main topic of the night. The woman in the group said she had learned to be sure to have the condiment on hand, because it didn’t matter what else she might have done – it didn’t matter if she’d cooked dinner for twenty-five people, if she’d spent days cleaning the house in advance of the dinner, if she’d baked three different desserts –  if she failed to have this condiment, that was it. It should be noted that this item was not easy to come by, and only one store in the area consistently carried it, a store forty-five minutes away from the woman in the group, but only fifteen minutes away from her mother-in-law, and along the route she needed to travel to come to the house.

I don’t know if this was a power-play on her mother-in-law’s part, or some kind of sad test she conducted to see if her daughter-in-law really loved her enough to travel ninety-plus minutes to get said condiment, but I do know this is unreasonable. If you know you need something in order to be happy or at ease, it’s your responsibility to bring it. It’s okay to ask for what you want, and, in fact, I would highly encourage you to do that when we’re talking about emotional needs. It doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you’re asking for, but it makes it a lot easier on the people who love you. No one can be expected to read your mind, after all. But things like a condiment you have to have? That’s on you.

Ultimately, we are responsible for our own happiness. Of course the people closest to us can increase our happiness quotient. But my happiness is not something I put in anyone else’s basket, that’s mine to work out. If I know myself and know I might like to have some support in certain situations, I can share that with the people closest to me, and maybe they come through, and maybe they don’t. But if I don’t share it, I can’t get upset when they don’t figure it out on their own. If I don’t tell my kids to make their own beds, but then I stew as I’m making their beds myself, and shake my head and wonder why they don’t do it, that’s on me, not them. If it annoys me that I’m the one picking up glasses and plates from all over the house, or the only one to throw in a load of laundry, but I never say anything to my family because I want everything done my way, that’s on me, not them.

Life is short. We can make lists of things we aren’t getting, things people “should” do without being told, things we would never do, things people have said in the past that were hurtful, things we wish someone wouldn’t do, reasons we’re amazing and other people suck, reasons other people are amazing but we suck…you get the idea. There are all kinds of lists we can make, but a list of resentments isn’t the kind of list you want to have in your head! Be responsible for your own condiment needs and ask for what you want! You won’t always get it, but at least you’ll know you advocated for yourself!

Wayne Gretzky: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Proverb: Don’t ask, don’t get. Ask, sometimes get!

Sending you lots of love,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

If the posts are helpful, please find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here!

How to Free Yourself and Forgive

Not one of us makes it through this life (or even most days) without making mistakes, occasionally saying or doing something thoughtless, taking people and things for granted when they’re truly gifts in our lives, or showing up as our best selves in every moment. Hopefully in those instances when we are all-too-human, we catch ourselves quickly, apologize from the heart when needed, and try to make better and different mistakes moving forward. If we are fortunate and wise, we both receive and extend forgiveness as a necessary means to have real intimacy with people and get through this life with open and fulfilling relationships to celebrate. There’s no intimacy without communication and forgiveness. That is not what this post is about.

This post is about people who seemingly lack empathy about how their behavior might affect those around them. People who might have lied to you, betrayed you, disrespected you or abused you emotionally or physically with little to no understanding of why their actions upset you, and no tools to offer a meaningful apology. Maybe you have people like this in your life, people who stampede over your boundaries and look at you like you’re nuts when you get upset. You might even have people very close to you who were “supposed to” look out for you, nurture you and protect you, who “should have” cherished you and received you as the miracle you are, but were completely unable to do so. I put supposed to and should have in quotes because while we might have certain expectations based on societal norms, there’s no guarantee what we expect is going to sync with what someone is able to do. How do you forgive that, and what does it mean to try?

Forgiveness does not mean you have to decide that anything and everything someone may have done is okay, or even tolerable. It does not mean you have to pick up the phone and call the person. It definitely does not mean you have to have this person in your life. It simply means if you spend a lot of time looking back over your shoulder and blaming past events or other people for your current unhappiness, you are keeping these old events alive by dwelling on them, renting space in your head to someone who has hurt you. Where our attention goes, our energy flows. So it’s good to consider how much energy you’re spending on things that have already occurred and can’t be changed or rewritten.

If you have examined your past, your patterns, the things that have happened along the way that may have shaped your worldview and your feelings about other people, if you have gleaned all the information you can from a situation, then there’s no potential left there. There’s no kernel of anything that’s going to suddenly help you find your freedom from all of it. The truth is, we show up in people’s lives whenever we show up. Sometimes they’re ready to meet us with open hearts and lots of love, and sometimes they are deeply struggling or hurt, angry or bitter or totally unprepared to receive the love we’re offering. Re-read that if you need to, because you will notice none of that has a thing to do with you. It’s not about you, it’s about the other person. This is even true if we’re talking about our parents, and perhaps most especially true there. It is so hard not to take it personally if your own mother or father didn’t love you, for example, or didn’t love you in a way that felt like love to you. What could feel more personal than that? Of course it’s understandable to feel like there must be something broken in you if your own parents can’t love you, but there’s something broken in them, not you. Do you know how many people I’ve worked with over the years grappling with that? Me neither, because I’ve lost count.

When someone lies to you, they’re disrespecting themselves first. At that particular moment in time, they are dishonest people and they know that about themselves. It’s not a good feeling to know you are a liar, or that you’re breaking your commitments. Good people make really bad decisions sometimes out of desperation, or because they find themselves in a soul-crushing situation and can’t see a decent way out. It happens all day, every day. It’s easy to sit in judgement of other people and think you would never do what they’re doing, but the truth is, if you had that person’s life and her experiences, you’d be doing exactly what she’s doing.

Hopefully we can all let the little things roll off. We can be big enough to forgive people for thoughtless moments and loving enough to easily accept heartfelt apologies for small offenses. When we’re talking about the larger things – betrayal, emotional abuse or neglect over long periods of time, a basic lack of empathy or understanding or ability to consistently show up with respect and kindness – the essential thing is to recognize it isn’t personal. When someone cuts you off on the freeway, it isn’t about you, this is how they drive all day long, and they’re going to cut off a whole bunch of people after you. Same with the above. It isn’t personal when someone lacks the tools to recognize truly hurtful behavior, this is a reflection of something lacking in the other person, not you. It can’t be easy to go through life being unable to have real intimacy with anyone. If possible, forgive people who’ve let you down. You don’t have to invite them over for dinner, just clear out the space they’re taking up in your mind, and try to wish them some healing and peace if you can.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

If the posts are helpful, please find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here!

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.

Daily Effort

This is a simple reminder to myself and anyone else who might need it: When you are looking to make real and lasting change, it’s the effort you put in each day that makes the difference over time.

In my own life, whenever it has become clear to me there’s work to be done, I want to go all-in, full speed ahead. This is true for me regardless of the goal in mind. It is natural and human to want to get to the finish line quickly, but I have found most of the meaningful things in life are achieved over time, and through dedicated, daily work. If something is important to me, I’m going to prioritize it. There are only so many hours in the day, and we each have only so much energy, so it comes down to choices. If this is important to me, how much time can I carve out for it each day? How important is it and how much do I care?

One of the best ways to get clear on this is to make a list. You can call it anything you like, but for my purposes right now, I’ll call it the Things That Are Most Important to Me Right Now list. Here’s mine:

The health and happiness of my little family.

The health and happiness of those closest to me.

The health and happiness of all people in this world.

The health, happiness and equality of BIPOC in this world because it has become heartbreakingly obvious to me those are the people who need our attention, support and lasting commitment to change.

Finishing my next book.

Relaunching the website.

Being available to the yoga community we have that spans the globe.

This is a lot of things, right? Under each of the priorities on my list are unwritten action items. A list doesn’t do much if there isn’t any action behind it. If I care about the health and happiness of my little family, that means I have to be a present mom and wife. I have to show up for my people and be engaged and care about what matters to each of them and carve out time that is just for them. I have to prioritize and say no to some things so I can say yes to the three people most important to me. If I want to be sure each of them knows how much I love them, I have to show them every single day. Words aren’t enough. Conversations, laughter, hugs, meals together, board games, cuddles, trust, tears, it’s a whole bunch of ingredients that go into a happy family. And my own self-care has to be part of the action I take, or everything else falls apart.

If I care about my close friends, I have to make time to connect. That’s even more challenging under the current social distancing, mask-wearing guidelines. It requires creativity and scheduling and FaceTiming and texting and checking in. These are intense times for everyone, and letting people know you care is not as easy as meeting a friend for coffee or walking on the beach these days, so it requires thought and extra effort.

If yoga practice is about facing reality as it is, then there’s a lot to take in right now. It feels like the world is on fire, upside down, inside out, and spinning on a painful axis at the moment. To not acknowledge that would be to bury my head in the sand, and the whole point of practice is to not bury my head, but rather to open my heart, eyes, mind, hands. To look around and to look within. To figure out my own place in everything, both how small I am but also how powerful I am. To see where I’ve been participating in a system that is unjust. To see where I’ve benefitted from it knowingly or unknowingly. To figure out how to do better and be better. To educate myself in all the ways I do have a voice and can use it. To take the time to re-teach myself history, because a lot of it went un-taught. To re-teach myself about democracy and the importance of an engaged, impassioned electorate, especially at the local level. All of this takes time and effort, it isn’t something I can do in a day, a week, a month. It has to become part of my daily practice, just like rolling out my mat. I am committed to doing something every single day to be a part of the change I want to see, whether that’s sending an email or making a phone call or donating to an organization doing good work or educating myself about an elected official or the policies of my local police department or signing a petition, reading a book, taking an anti-racism course, watching a documentary, having conversations with my family or anything else that helps me learn and grow. It also involves the willingness to make mistakes, to not know, to get it wrong, to think about things from other perspectives, to not get entrenched or defensive. It’s humbling and uncomfortable and that is okay. We do yoga so we can open to discomfort and uncertainty.

If I care about finishing my book, I have to make the time to write. If I care about our yoga community, I have to show up. It all follows the same formula. If I care about something I have to make time for it.

Nothing important, meaningful and beautiful in my life happened overnight. If I hadn’t spent years on my mat opening to places where I needed to heal, to consider, to lean in, to release, to understand, to have compassion…there’s no way I would have been ready for my my children or ready to receive all the love in my life. I wouldn’t have been ready when I met my husband. It’s the things we do each day, the commitments we make, the choices we make, the things we prioritize that lead to lasting change, so whatever it is that’s important to you, that’s the stuff that has to go on your list and those are the things, people, and core values you have to make time for each day.

I’ll end with this – yesterday I was on Instagram and I was scrolling along and up popped an add for a reusable, strapless push-up bra and there were over 1,200 comments under it. Women asking if it really worked and if it was good for big boobs and wondering if anyone else had ordered and blahblahblah and I hid the ad as irrelevant because what could be more irrelevant right now (or ever)? Please tell me you see through this. There are always messages that will keep you distracted and pull you away from everything beautiful about yourself – that will ask you to focus on your boobs and your appearance so you don’t have time to think about how much power you have and how much you could be helping. There are a lot of things I don’t know, but I DO know this – your value does not reside in your boobs or your bank account, your biceps or your car or your next vacation or your big house or your skinny jeans, putting your ankle behind your head, or pressing to handstand – your value resides in your ability to love, to care, to have empathy and to act on all of that. That’s where your value lies. It’s a gift to be here on this strange, spinning planet during these confusing and overwhelming times. It’s a gift to be here because we have an opportunity each day to try to offer something beautiful. If there are about 7 billion people on this planet, but only one you, doesn’t that mean you have a particular spark? Something to offer the world that only you can? I think that’s what it means. So I’ll ask you:

What’s on your list? And what are you doing today to make sure it’s clear those people and values are the ones that matter most to you?

The world is not being gentle with us right now, and maybe that’s a good thing. Nonetheless, I hope you’re being gentle with yourself as you face what’s in front of you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

If you enjoy the blog, please check out my books here and my yoga classes here.

Trust.

You always hear that trust is the foundation of any loving relationship, and you hear that for a reason – it’s true. I have never understood that more than I do at this point in my life. The question is how and whom do we trust in the face of constant uncertainty? Anytime we love anyone – a parent, child, partner, best friend or treasured family member (including our pets), we become enormously vulnerable, and we are asked to trust in the face of that. The fact is, none of us knows how long we have. The one thing we can count on in this life is change. Some change is wonderful – a new job or relationship that feels right, a move when we need more space, a different environment – and some change hurts like hell: the end of a relationship when we hoped for a different outcome, the loss of a job we needed, the end of a friendship we thought would last forever, or the biggest loss – the loss we endure when someone we love is taken from us due to age, or a million other heartbreaking reasons. There is no such thing as deep love without vulnerability. So how do we trust our hearts to anyone?

There are other ways we get hurt when we love, of course, short of sickness, and the random events that can rip loved ones away from us. People can betray you or let you down every way under the sun. This isn’t personal. You meet people on the road where and how they are, and they have the tools and self-knowledge they have. This includes our parents. They are happy or unhappy, kind or unkind, giving or not giving, thoughtful or thoughtless, interested or distracted, curious or self-absorbed. They might also be struggling with their own difficulties – addictions, personality disorders, a lack of empathy, attachment to stories that keep them angry or in a victim mentality. People seek help when they struggle, or they make everyone else wrong. The path is full of all kinds of travelers.

I’ve encountered so many people as I’ve moved through this world, as have you. Connection is a force that drives most of us. We want to love, to understand and feel understood, to laugh, to hug, to touch, to feel not alone. Sometimes the people we reach out to cannot do anything but hurt us. This has to do with our history, what we grew up with, what we’re used to, what feels familiar to us. Sometimes the home we came out of is scary and unpredictable, a place where we didn’t feel particularly safe or loved. If that resonates with you, you might find you seek out friendships and relationships with people who also give you reason to feel unsafe and unloved. We tend to seek what we know until we know better.

I used to be attracted to people who were not available to me, and this includes friendships and romantic partners. I used to chase love, bend over backwards to make people happy (not yet understanding you cannot make another person happy), try harder if someone was unkind to me, take it as a sign that there was something broken in me if someone rejected me, doubt my worth and value unless I was doing something for someone. I used to try to save people, excuse poor behavior with compassion for what had driven someone to behave that way in the first place, work both sides of the equation for people who could never be wrong and never apologize, and accept treatment far below the treatment I would want anyone whom I love to accept. I do not do any of that anymore.

Over the years I have come to understand in a more profound way that trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. This includes self-trust. In order to feel at ease in your own skin, you have to feel like you are ready and able to act on your own behalf, to stand up for yourself when needed, to put an end to abusive treatment, to teach people how to treat you with respect and consideration by showing them what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate. I do not need the people in my life to be perfect, I am certainly not perfect myself, but the standards of what I will and won’t accept from the people closest to me have changed over time, and you may find this is true for you as well. I want people in my life I can trust to have my back, who are going to be kind and considerate, loyal and honest, and whom I can trust to treat me with care, because those are the same things I offer as a friend, partner and parent, and I want nothing less for myself. I want to have people in my life who know how to apologize instead of deny, deflect or make up stories, the same way I have learned how to own my mistakes and examine my behavior when I don’t show up the way I wish I had so I can do it differently next time.

Sometimes this means the dynamic between you and certain people in your life will have to change, or the relationship will no longer be sustainable. It’s sad when this happens, but it’s also okay. Loss and change are part of the human experience and we’re in training for them all the time.

I am in a season of abundance in my own life. For the first time, I am in a relationship with a man I trust completely. The fact that I have not been able to do this before has a lot to do with my own history, with things I learned as I grew up and relationships I was drawn to that confirmed my wrong belief that you can’t trust anyone. That’s a story I carried around for many years, and it’s a story I learned to release because it isn’t true and it wasn’t serving me. If that’s your hypothesis, you will keep drawing people into your life who help you prove your case. If you set out to conduct a different experiment, to see if perhaps there are trustworthy people in the world who know how to show up for you and be good and sweet to you, guess what happens? When you know someone loves you and would never hurt you, when you are cherished and seen and adored, you can relax and be yourself in ways you’ll never be able to in a relationship where trust is not the foundation. Think about the standards you have for the people in your life and the way you’re teaching people to treat you. Teach people to treat you well, your precious heart deserves that.

Sending lots of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

It’s Not You

You can’t change other people, save them or make them see the light. If you’re like me, you might have to test that statement a million times before you get it, but that’s a fact. People change and grow in their own time in their own way and if they want to, just like you, just like me. If you’re talking about self-destructive patterns and/or addictions, that holds doubly true. If a person makes choices that continually lead her to pain, presumably she will get to a point where she says “enough!’ and decide to figure out what’s driving her, but that isn’t something you can do for anyone else. People get there in their own time, or they don’t. When you love people who hurt themselves it’s brutal. When you love people who hurt you that is also very difficult, but there’s room to shift an interaction like that.

There’s an idea in Imago Therapy that our relationship does not happen inside me or you, it happens in the space between us. Our relationship is a third thing, a co-creation. I am responsible for what I put into the space between us, as are you. If I continually put my rage, blame, bitterness, disappointment and frustration into that space, it would be odd for me to think there would be a positive outcome. If I put my patience, compassion and kindness into that space, I still cannot count on a positive outcome, but at least I’m doing what I can on my side to contribute energy that is loving. When two people are thoughtful and mindful about the space between them, the co-creation, you’re looking at a beautiful relationship that’s likely to grow and evolve and serve as a constant source of inspiration.

Sometimes things are out of balance, though. If you find yourself in a relationship where you’re always trying to be aware of what you’re contributing and the other person is careless, that isn’t going to feel good for long. You cannot do both sides of the equation when it comes to relationships. If a person has shown you time and again that he either cannot or will not treat you with kindness, consideration and respect, then there comes a time when you have to question why you’re participating in that interaction, and whether it’s worth it. Your beautiful heart can only take so much battering.

If you find you are often chasing people who end up hurting you or you realize you’ve been in unhealthy relationships with people for years, it might be time to consider whether you have some doubt about your self-worth. Maya Angelou has that amazing quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” There were many times in my life when I didn’t believe a person the 300th time. Sometimes we want to see the best in someone, or we love their potential, or we keep waiting for them to see the light and love us well. Sometimes we have a feeling in our hearts that we are broken, and we find ourselves playing out an old drama hoping for a different outcome. You can trust history and you can trust your intuition. People who can only hurt you don’t belong in your life. If they’re people you must deal with, then solid boundaries are your best bet.

Some relationships end because you grow and evolve and the other person remains the same or grows in a different direction. Sometimes we’re willing to accept certain kinds of treatment when we’re at one stage in our lives, but then twenty years later that same treatment is just not okay for us anymore. It’s sad when a longterm relationship comes to an end, and confusing if a person is acting the way they always have and you are seemingly suddenly not okay with it, but not everything gets wrapped up in a bow in this life. It’s always good to try to communicate with clarity and compassion, but sometimes a person will just trod over your words no matter what you say. Some things are messy or complicated and you have to find a way to be at peace with a lack of closure. The thing is, life is pretty short; your time and energy are finite. There just isn’t enough to spend on relationships that have no real hope of improving. Much better to use that energy focusing on why you have any doubt about your worth, when that doubt arose, and how to believe a better story.

The things we tell ourselves are powerful. Even if you were mistreated as a child, you can start to tell yourself the story of how you overcame that, how you are resilient and strong and committed to your own well-being. That’s a good, empowering and true story that will help you flip the script and start to act on your own behalf to protect and nurture your wonderful heart. Sounds pretty good, right?

 

Sending you lots of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

 

It’s Not All Good and That’s Okay

The more you repress your feelings the harder they have to work to rise to the surface. “What you resist persists.” People make themselves sick this way. Some feelings are incredibly uncomfortable – ugly even – but to reject something you’re feeling is to deny yourself an opportunity to go deeper – to uncover what’s underneath a fleeting feeling of rage or shame, insecurity, fear, envy, doubt, loneliness or guilt. If something is bothering you, disappointing you, breaking your heart, making you anxious, or keeping you up at night, then by all means it’s going to affect you and it’s worth exploring and examining.

I think there’s a lot of pressure in the spiritual community to stay positive, to be grateful in every moment. This is wildly unrealistic, and beyond that it creates a lot of pain for people who are already suffering. A person who loses their child, for example, will never, ever, ever feel grateful for that, appreciate the lesson, want to hear that they should focus on all the good things in their life, that there’s a plan, that everything happens for a reason, that this is happening for them and not to them, or that it may not make sense now but it will someday. It will never make sense, okay?

This is the kind of sound-byte spirituality that alienates people whether they’ve suffered an incomprehensible loss like I’ve mentioned, or they’re going through a breakup, dealing with a debilitating health issue, suffering from stress at work, or grappling with the suffering of someone they love. There’s no compassion in making a person feel guilty for not feeling grateful in those moments. Now the person feels awful, and their pain is compounded with the feeling that they’re also failing in their spiritual practice.

Maybe gratitude will come later in the form of recognizing they’ve grown in empathy because of their experience, or can now be a beacon for someone else going through incredible loss, but don’t ask someone to race to gratitude and skip over feelings of grief, rage, or incomprehension. When I look back on most of the incredibly painful experiences in my life, I am very grateful because that’s when the most growth happened, but there are a couple of lessons I’d love not to have learned. I say that with the acceptance that everything may be happening for a reason, or everything may just be happening, and with the understanding that none of us will truly know until we exhale for the last time. People who think they know and want to force their opinions down your throat are clinging harder than anyone else. I have my feelings about this. I don’t personally believe this is all there is and then we’re worm food. I don’t know if we turn into star dust, or simply live on in the hearts and memories of those we leave behind, but I believe something essentially us lives on. You may feel differently, and I respect your beliefs. We all have to work it out and answer these big questions on our own, in a way that resonates with us. When my son was six, he came home from school one day and said, “Jack says God doesn’t like Buddha because Buddha thinks he’s the real God,” and he looked at me with confusion. This “us versus them” stuff starts at six. Where do you think Jack is getting that from?

Until we have our answers, we are here. That much we know. We’re here, and as far as I can tell, the best use of our time is to spread love. To explore this state of being alive. To know ourselves, and to open to this life as it is, with all its mystery and heartache, confusion and loneliness, chaos and longing, and incredible, gorgeous, pierces-you-right-in-the-center-of-your-heart joy. To accept that sometimes we’ll be full of yes, feeling open and grateful and full of light, and other times the light will go out for awhile and we’ll walk around blindly with our arms out in front of us bumping into walls, falling off cliffs, landing in ditches. Let it all affect you. Open up to all of it, even the uncomfortable stuff, and grow. Know yourself. That’s how you can be of service, and if you want your life to have meaning, that’s the best path I know. Figure out what your gifts are and share them. Connect. Love. Fall to your knees and wail when you need to. Be real. People cannot connect with a false-positive. With someone who screams about Shri all day long. Sometimes the path is full of unbelievable sunlight that feels like it’s pouring right out of your own heart, and other times hail hits you in your face, hard. It’s called life, and it’s pretty amazing, but it’s not all positive.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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