The Art of a Good Fall

Halloween did not go the way I had hoped. My almost 6-year-old fell off the jungle gym at school and broke his elbow. We spent most of the afternoon and evening at the ER, and a few hours yesterday with the orthopedist. He now has a red, waterproof cast that will come off in 3-5 weeks.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been watching him process the ramifications of this fall. No karate, gymnastics, yoga, soccer, baseball, P.E., running or jumping for a month. The fact that he’ll have a cast on during his birthday party. The rescheduling of a field trip his entire 1st grade class was taking to our yoga studio for class with yours truly next week. All because he lost his balance and fell. He’s been handling it really well. A strong reaction when he realized he couldn’t scratch his arm when it itched, and another one today when he understood his arm would have to stay bent inside the cast. Sadness over the fact that he can’t write or draw with his right hand, and that recess is going to be tough for awhile. Earlier this afternoon I saw his brow furrow and his lip quiver as he realized he wasn’t going to be able to rough house with his uncle in a couple of weeks. The only way I can help him with any of it is to validate what he’s feeling. To let him know I understand, and that I’m sad about it, too. That’s when I see his face soften.

I share all of this with you not because I’m confused. I’ll take a reason like this to be at the hospital with my kids any day of the week. There are parents inside that hospital who would’ve traded places with me in a heartbeat. I could weep thinking about that. This is a nothing, it’s a blip, his elbow will heal like nothing ever happened, and he’ll have a memory of the birthday with that cool red cast.

I share this with you because life is like this sometimes. You’re going along doing your thing, climbing on that metaphorical jungle gym, and suddenly you have a set of unwanted circumstances dropped in your lap. Your life gets turned on its ear for a moment. You think, wow, what did I do to deserve this? Sometimes you have done something. Maybe you’ve made choices without thinking about how they might affect other people. That’s what I would call a self-inflicted sh&t storm, and I’d take it as a marker for a place that could use your attention and care. A little uncomfortable but necessary self-examination. And sometimes you haven’t done anything at all.

Life brings all kinds of situations. Some of them we long for, and others we hope to avoid. There’s no controlling any of that. The only thing to work on is our response. How am I going to show up in the midst of this storm that just blew in? How can I be present and keep my heart open even though a whole bunch of stuff has just gone down that feels awful? That leaves me feeling raw and vulnerable and disappointed and deeply sad?

Be sad. Or be angry, or confused, or scared, or whatever else you need to feel, to acknowledge the reality of your current situation. That’s how you keep your heart open in the middle of a storm, whether you brought it on yourself, or it landed on you out of nowhere. And remember that the storm will pass. They always do. The sun will burst through and you’ll be running and jumping and down-dogging your way through life again. Give yourself the respect and time and space to process your feelings. Somewhere inside yourself remember every good thing that has been gifted to you as well. So that you both allow your pain but remember your blessings. That way the pain will be fleeting because you won’t be pushing it down and making it struggle for your attention.

May we all remember the sunny days on the playground, the hard falls in life, the ebb and flow of everything, including ourselves, and the love that makes it all so beautiful. Ally

Root Down and Rise Up

For-a-seed-to-achieveIn almost every pose we do in yoga we are “rooting down” and “rising up”. Whatever is touching the floor is rooting down and how we balance ourselves on top of that foundation and breathe is really when the yoga happens. We don’t always stand on our feet. Sometimes we stand on our forearms or our hands or our sit bones. We keep looking at things from different perspectives, balancing ourselves, breathing in and breathing out.

The same can be said for life. If you want to rise up, you are going to have to root down and get real with yourself. A structure is only as strong as its foundation. If your foundation is built with denial or rage or bitterness or laziness, it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses in on itself.

In order to blossom into the you that has been waiting, your authentic self, you have to be willing to unravel, to unlearn, to un-think, and to unhook your journey from past experiences so you can be free to set a new course. There is an element of destruction. You do away with those things that block you from moving forward, and prevent you from letting go.

Sometimes people stand in the wind, contemplating a new way of being. We like our routines in life. We prefer to keep the seed of our being hidden, even from ourselves. But if you want to be at peace, you had better be willing to unlearn everything, and crack your seed open. Crush to the wind those ideas and ways of being that were never yours in the first place. That’s where the growth happens.

You have the seed of beauty within you. The seed of love and compassion and kindness. The seed of your own truth. Plant something that is yours alone, and rise up toward the sun, beyond the sun, add your spark to the limitless universe, why don’t you? Sending you love, a shovel, and the strength to deal with your fertilizer for awhile. You’re going to grow a gorgeous flower if you can hang in there and breathe.

Ally Hamilton

ImageCarl Jung has a beautiful quote, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

If you want to be at peace you are going to have to do the work of healing yourself. If you choose not to do that, and it is a choice, then you will live a life of confusion, pain and darkness. And there’s just no good reason for that. Life can be so achingly beautiful, even when it’s painful. Rejecting your own soul is the loneliest thing you could do.

I don’t know why it feels so overwhelming to us. I don’t know why we run from it for as long as we do. It’s like anything else that’s unknown to us, I suppose. We let fear of the unknown take over and decide we’d better stay where we are, even if it’s totally screwed up. Because at least it’s familiar. But really, we ought to be running for that rabbit hole. Diving in head first, with our mind quiet and our heart open, and one idea: let me know myself. Let me sit in front of the mirror of my soul and download the information that I already know. That I’ve somehow forgotten, or covered over, or run from. Because any answers you need about how to live the life that is going to bring you fulfillment, joy and peace, are within you. They are down that rabbit hole.

Some people get stuck playing chess with the Queen for years. They look long enough to identify their stuff, but that’s as far as they want to go. So they can tell you why they are the way they are, but they don’t make the moves necessary to do anything about it. Healing requires action. Identifying your pain is a start, but it’s definitely not the place to quit. Because justifying an unhappy present as the result of a disappointing past is just not going to get you anywhere.

We humans love to be the victims or the heroes or the martyrs. We love our stories and our rationalizations and our coping mechanisms. But if that’s where things are at for you, I’ll bet you’re downright miserable. Those are not the moves that bring you peace and understanding. You have to be willing to get real with yourself. In a compassionate way, you have to look honestly at your stuff, and deal with anything that isn’t serving you. Commit to feeding thoughts, words and actions that are going to lead to joy, love and growth. And start starving everything else. Give up the coping mechanisms that keep you numb. Put the crutches down, or better yet, use them to start digging. Because time isn’t waiting for you. Life is happening. Today is Halloween. Soon it will be Thanksgiving, and just like that we’ll be saying Happy New Year!

If you’ve already climbed out of the rabbit hole, isn’t the view stunning?!?! And if you haven’t, how long are you gonna wait? How much time are you going to spend at the Mad Hatter’s crazy table? How long are you going to play the part of a pawn? You can heal yourself with some bold and decisive moves. Don’t let laziness and fear be the reason you don’t live a life you would love. That would be so sad. And in case you want to know what time it is, it is NOW. Are you a late rabbit? Get hopping!!! Happy Halloween! Why don’t you show up as yourself?! Sending you love, Ally.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Every-man-has-a-train-ofDo you remember the story about The Little Engine That Could? Because in retrospect I think it’s kind of brilliant. You will be alone with your thoughts for most of your life. The quality of your internal dialogue will be the greatest influence on the experience you have as you move through your days. You know the Henry Ford quote? “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”. And I mention that with the full understanding that the playing field is not level, that some people will come into this world with advantages, and some people will have to fight for every single break they get. Nonetheless, a person’s way of thinking has a huge impact upon the way life will feel, regardless of advantages and obstacles.

If you are full of fear and doubt and negativity and judgment, you are probably not going to experience a lot of joy. Because you’re going to walk through the world in a defensive manner, in a hopeless manner, in an angry and resentful way. If you fill your caboose with stories about every way you’ve been hurt and disappointed, you’re just not gonna make it up that hill.

We are energetic beings. Wherever we go, we spread energy, and we take it in, as well. If you’re feeling down and dark and depressed, it will affect the way you carry yourself, and the energy you’re spreading as you go about your day. If you are in a frame of mind that says, “Everyone is out to get me”, or, “I never get any breaks”, or “People suck”, believe me, it will be something people can feel. They may not know exactly what they’re feeling, but chances are, they’re going to move away from you, not toward you. Thus strengthening your idea that people suck. I’m not talking about tough times here, so please don’t misunderstand me. If something heartbreaking happens, you have to feel your feelings around all of that, and take your time. What I’m talking about is a way of being, your general outlook. And of course this is going to be shaped by your history, but at a certain point, we all have to take the reigns.

On the other hand, if you’re on a track that says, “You know, things aren’t perfect but I have my health. I have a place to call home. I have food in my refrigerator. I have people in my life who love me, and people I love with my whole heart. There are damaged people in the world, but there are also so many good people. And life can be devastating, but it can also be devastatingly beautiful. I’m going to do whatever I can with whatever I’ve got to try to make this world a little brighter”, I guarantee you that will also affect the way you move through your day. The more you can pick your mind up and bring it back to all the amazing things you do have, the more thankful you will feel. And the more you focus on all the things you don’t have yet, that aren’t going well, that haven’t unfolded the way you’d like, that other people have and you don’t, the more miserable you will be.

Yes, life will bring circumstances, and some of them will break your heart wide open. You can let those experiences close you and harden you. You can decide life is something to get through. You can say things like, “I’m killing time”. Or you can let those experiences open you and soften you. You can keep picking the mind up and bringing it back to love. I’m not saying everything in your life will be magically perfect if you do that. I’m simply saying that being in a state of gratitude feels so much better than being angry and shut down.

And being kind to yourself is a huge part of the equation. Because if your inner voice is harsh, unforgiving and merciless, wow are you going to suffer. You can beat yourself down into a state of loneliness and confusion and shame if you’re not careful. You can come to believe you are totally alone and no one cares. Thats a lie, of course, but you can convince yourself of that if the mind is dark enough. And you can wear your despair and disappointment on your sleeve. Or you can work on feeding a loving voice. A kind, compassionate, caring voice. Because whatever you feed will grow and strengthen. Feed love. Feed it with everything you’ve got. Be vigilant about it. Because what you think absolutely affects how you feel, and how you feel influences what you say and do, the level of compassion you extend to yourself and others, your ability to forgive your own mistakes and those of all the other humans around you, your likelihood of finding your purpose, of moving in the direction of that inner, burning Yes… all these things require love.

If all that sounds good to you, you’ve got to put your train on the Love track. And don’t just think you can, know you can. I know you can. Sending you love and a little Toot, Toot! Ally Hamilton

Grab Your Suit, and Let’s Do This

There-are-two-ways-to-beI think a lot of people search for happiness, but a long time ago I started searching for the truth. When I say the truth, I just mean the truth as it exists in my own life; I’m not suggesting what’s true for me is true for you. I just don’t believe it’s possible to find any kind of inner peace if you’re lying to yourself in any way, or refusing to accept the truth about relationships or situations in your life. That means knowing yourself, understanding what lights you up, recognizing when you don’t show up the way you’d like to and examining what happened for you so you can do it differently the next time. Being accountable for the energy you’re spreading, being aware of the things you’re feeling and saying and doing. That kind of truth.

Blaming other people for your unhappiness (which I certainly used to do), is a form of lying to yourself. If you’re over 25 (and I’d really kind of like to say 20), and you are not happy with the way your life looks and feels, it is on you, now. No matter what may be behind you, what you’ve gone through, or how many different ways you’ve been hurt or disappointed, only you are responsible for your own happiness.

Clinging, manipulating and numbing out are all forms of lying to yourself. Love is not something you force. It’s something you give, freely, with the understanding that you may be hurt. Sometimes you’ll get hurt because we are always growing, and two people don’t always grow together. Sometimes you’ll be hurt as a result of where a person is on their particular path. People can only be where they are, they can only give what they’ve got. If you don’t accept the truth of the situation, you are in for a world of pain.

We all know when things just don’t “feel right”. There’s no hiding from that reality, but people try to do just that all the time. They hide with busy-ness or distraction or drinking until they’re comfortably numb. With shopping or decorating or eating or not eating or video games. With trying to manage another person’s journey, or trying to cajole the love out of them. Love is not a sales pitch. You should not have to prove you’re worthy of it. If you feel you do, you need to stop everything and figure out how you could not know that you are. Because that is some deep pain. That is the number one thing you’d better get busy healing. And time passes in the fog of a lie. It won’t get you anywhere. Wherever you go, you will bring the pain of the lie with you, and you will have to use most of your energy to push it down. You will make yourself sick in your soul.

I would rather know the truth and be in pain than sleepwalk in a lie. There is no beauty in delusion. The truth to me is a comfort, even if it cuts down the center of my heart. Because it’s real and I know I’m awake. I don’t want to distract myself from life, I want to be soaked in it. I want to swim, you know? I do not expect smooth waters all the time. We are all going to be thrown against the rocks in life. In my experience, that’s when the growth happens. When you’re cut and bleeding and you think, “How did I not see this coming? Why did I swim this way, and hang out here in the eye of the storm for so long? Why don’t I love myself?”. You need to find the answers to those questions if this is speaking to you. And you know, sometimes you love yourself but a storm hits, anyway.

This may sound kind of dark, but it isn’t at all. Its simply that life is full of joy and pain, of darkness and light, of laughter that comes from your very center, and tears that come from that same place, too. And if you’re awake and swimming, you will also be there to appreciate and soak in all the love, all the joy, all the yes of life. The incredible moments when someone looks you in the eye and you know you are being seen. Understood. Celebrated. You’ll know that that’s real, too. If you want to be happy, you’re going to have to swim in the ocean of your truth. That’s where the love is. That’s where you find your happy. Grab your suit and start paddling. I’m sending you so much love, and a boogie board, Ally Hamilton

If Not You, Then Who?

The-hardest-battle-youreWe live in this crazy world where everyone wants to look the same and sound the same and dress the same, and we are taught to color inside the lines and get in line and sit down and stand up and be quiet and SMILE! when a picture is taken. To follow the rules and stay the course and buy, buy, buy!

Meanwhile our souls are crushed, that spark that’s inside every one of us, that is unique to each of us is just screaming, just bursting to come out, to sing, to dance, to own this thing, you know? That’s why you’re here, to discover that gift that is only yours and to give it away with everything you’ve got, with abandon, with delight. But you’ll never find it if you’ve loaded yourself down with the weight of should. If you’re trying to fit in and be “normal”.

You wanna know what normal looks like? Someone who works 60 hours a week at a job they don’t really like because that’s what they went to school for, or that’s what their parents were hoping for, or that’s what they thought they wanted until they realized they didn’t but were too afraid to change course. Normal looks like someone who has a horrible relationship with their own body, who wants to control it or defeat it, or fit it into those size zero jeans, or buff it out until they can’t wear a button down shirt. It looks like miserable relationships where people sit in front of the tv together all night and go to bed in a zombied-out stupor. And then one day they die. This is what we’re told is “normal”. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Do you think you’re here to be like anyone else or to do your journey the way other people tell you you should? No one can be a better you than you. You are here for a reason, you have something inside you no one else has. It may be buried under ideas and beliefs, pain and grief and shame and anger, but I guarantee you, it is there. Embrace yourself. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Check your internal dialogue and see if there’s room for more compassion. Discover and surprise yourself. Because you’re extraordinary, you know? You’re the only you there has ever been or will ever be. You’re miraculous and it would be such a shame to deny the world of your particular miracle. Be you. Be you all the way. Let your heart run the show, let your head follow along. Face your fears so you can see they weren’t as overwhelming as you thought. And move in the direction of your yes. Your intuition knows the way. Your whole being wants to go there. Please let it. And unless you are naturally a size zero, burn those jeans. Lots of love to you, Ally Hamilton

Don’t Miss the View!

I-want-to-stand-as-closeThere are two ways to do life. One way seems like the easy way. You follow the status quo and decide it’s all about what you have and how you look and who you’re with, and you devote all your time and energy to these things and find ways to numb yourself out from the absurdity of it all. You do this with food or drugs or sex or stuff, but most of the time you feel miserable and tired. You think things like, “What’s the point of it all?”

The other way seems like the hard way. You face your fears. You listen to that small but truthful voice inside you that says, “There is NO WAY this life is about how big your butt is, or your bank account, can we please get real? There’s a life to live here that is beautiful and amazing, there’s a song you need to be singing, what, exactly, are you doing???” And you get busy. You get busy paying attention, listening deeply, acknowledging your pain, doing the work. You stop chasing happiness in the form of “stuff”, and you start chasing the truth (I mean what is true for you). You probably feel sick to your stomach and lonely and scared and like you must be crazy for walking away from your comfort zone and all the people waving you back like the Wild Things. But comfort zones are located in the middle. You cannot see the incredible view from there.

That may seem like the hard way, and it is brutal for awhile, there’s no doubt. Getting real is a painful process of shedding anything you’ve taken on that isn’t authentic to you, including ways of thinking and being. It hurts. But it is so much better to move through your pain for awhile, realize what you know, remember who you are, discover why you’re here, and take your gorgeous self right out to the edge of life, where the sun is stunningly bright and yellow and orange and pink and you can be your true self. You can stand with your feet on the ground and your heart wide open, and just be awed by all the beauty and suffering, all the love and confusion, all the light and darkness. And you can sing the song of compassion and add your colors to this incredible life, this chaotic, mysterious, mind-bending experience. When it breaks your heart wide open, you can cry a real, true cry, right from your gut. And when it amazes you, you can receive the gifts with gratitude and love and delight. We have this thing backwards. The easy way is the hard way. The hard way is only hard for awhile. Then it’s awesome. Pick awesome. Start walking. Awesome won’t wait, and you do not want to miss it. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton