Are We There Yet?

The-most-important-tripNo one is perfect, we are all just human. As such, we will all make mistakes, say things we don’t mean, do things we wish we hadn’t, and be left with the mess to clean up.

Sometimes you will be the person who made the mess, and sometimes someone else’s mess will land on your head. I’ve certainly been on both sides of that equation, and neither one is especially fun. If someone else’s mess lands on your head, you may have some pretty strong feelings about it. Especially if you feel the situation could have been avoided. But there are always two or three (or more) sides to every story, and your perception is just that. Nonetheless, it’s very unlikely anyone is intentionally “messing with your head.” I’m not saying that never happens, and if you feel you’re caught up with someone who is, then get yourself un-caught. Quickly. Because life is too short for that.

But if it’s the kind of messy stuff that happens as a result of simply being human, work through your feelings, express yourself, shampoo your head, and let it go. If it was your moment to blow it, examine what happened so you can show up differently the next time. Know yourself, and be accountable, but also try to give yourself and the other humans you know a break. We all want to feel appreciated and loved. It feels terrible to be the object of someone’s pain, or anger, or contempt. And it also feels terrible to be angry, disappointed and resentful. Don’t “boil yourself” alone for too long. Talk things out with people you trust, and whenever possible, practice forgiveness so you can set yourself, and the mess maker(s) free. Because you’re going be the mess maker too, it’s just a matter of time.

We need to love each other. We need to know how to look someone in the eye and say, “I blew it, I’m so sorry”. (You can’t do that all the time, though, or “I’m sorry” becomes meaningless!). This business of being human is not easy, and it’s a nightmare for perfectionists (full disclosure: I know because I’m a 97% recovered perfectionist). Being in a constant state of disappointment with yourself and others is no way to live; it’s life in prison. Forgiveness is the key. You can find it tucked away in this little pocket in your heart. Reach in there if you need to and set someone free. You may be the someone. Be kind to yourself and to everyone you encounter. We are all in this crazy, beautiful, mysterious, gorgeous mess of being human together. The path is full of twists and turns, and so are we. We are all going to trip and fall and screw things up sometimes. May as well recognize that and have the hose ready! Sending you love, and a hug, Ally Hamilton

That’s So Last Year

“If you carry the bricks from your past relationships to the new one, you will build the same house.” ~Unknown

Past relationships include familial ones and romantic ones. We are like sponges, and if we let ourselves, we are learning all the time. This is especially true of children. If you didn’t have a healthy model of what a loving relationship looks like, it’s a bit difficult to have a frame of reference once you get out there in the world yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn and grow and heal your way into a state of love, because you most certainly can. It just means if you don’t do the work of healing, you are probably going to play out your history.

None of us would choose to drag our past into our present, yet most of us have done it to some degree or another. If you haven’t healed your “original wounds”, that’s the stuff that will probably show up as you enter your first few relationships. It’s the subconscious at play. Something in here is hurting and wants relief. Let’s see if we can rewrite history to make this go away. Sadly, when you have deep unacknowledged pain, you are probably just going to repeat history, not rewrite it, thereby strengthening your hypothesis.

And the more we play this stuff out and re-open those old wounds, the more concrete our ideas become. If you have an outlook that says, “Everybody leaves” you are likely to pick people who are prone to leaving. That way you can be “right” and blame your pain on someone else’s actions. Our pain is ours to examine. Anywhere you have unhealed wounds, it’s like a marker, a beacon of light that will draw you to it saying, “Here, look. You are still carrying this around, and it’s so heavy.”

If you avoid those beacons because it’s just too exhausting to be with your pain, do not expect to heal or grow. Plan on stumbling over many things behind you. Otherwise, quiet your mind and open your heart and embrace your pain. Sit with it, lean into it. That’s how you release the heat of it. Thats how you open to a new way of being. Ignoring or repressing it gives it strength. It has to come back twice as hard to get your attention.

The work of healing is easier than you think, because mostly, it involves realizing what you already know. Stripping away those layers of armor that have hardened around your heart, like fear and guilt and rage and shame, so that you can let all your love out without having to go into battle with yourself. Then the only thing you’ll be tripping over is your own laughter. Rage and resentment weigh us down and make us sick. Love is our natural state. And love doesn’t trip. Get some and give some. I love you, Ally

Start Sweeping!

You can only clean up your own path, and let love in. Sometimes someone will stumble across the winding road you’re on, or maybe you’ll invite them to walk with you, and they’ll shatter the glass of their fear or their rage or their pain all over the place and you will cut yourself and bleed. You may need to sit down and cry for awhile. Awhile may be days or weeks or months, and in some cases, years. If you chose to be in a situation that made you bleed for a long time, then you’re going to need to look at the story of your participation, not the story of all the things the other person did or did not do. That’s their story and their path to examine and clean up. Or not.

If it’s life or loss that’s shattered that glass along your way, please have a good deal of compassion for yourself. Take your time, find your way slowly. Just know that at a certain point, you’ll have to get up, do what you can to heal your own wounds and keep walking.  Hopefully there will be a hand to hold. If not, you are never alone. You may feel that you are, but if you tune in to it, you will feel the energy of so many people walking their own paths, trying to heal and return to their natural state of love and joy and curiosity. There are certain losses that cut so deep, you are likely to have a shard of glass in your heart forever. Even so, you can still acknowledge that pain, and let love in.

Blame and shame walk hand in hand. Pointing the finger at people or circumstances to explain or justify your own inability to open to love will not get you anywhere except a dark ditch on the side of the road. Shaming yourself for your participation in a blood-letting for your heart will only lead to more pain and confusion. We are all human. We all have a journey to take. It’s not always going to be pretty. There are no wrong turns in the road, there are just many opportunities to learn more about yourself. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find your purpose and be at peace. And the more accountable you’ll be for the energy you’re spreading, the way you’re showing up in life, the way you take care of the hearts of others.

Some people don’t enjoy the path, or they only want the part that’s smooth and full of sunlight. Don’t be afraid of the dark, wet, slippery slopes and falling rock zones. Hail pelting the top of your head. Those are the places where you strengthen and stretch yourself, where you learn to trust yourself, where you begin to understand what you’re made of. Once you realize you’re made of love, it’s not so much about letting it in, as it is about shining it out all over the place.  I hope you do. Sending you a ton of love right now, Ally.

Are You Tense?

The-past-the-present-andYou know what’s funny? The past, present and future will show up everywhere with you if your mind is running the show, because the mind LOVES time travel. And it prefers the past or the future to the present. We humans are supposed to be elevated because we can reason. But we are so great at screwing it up. We’re like a bunch of talking heads. Blah blah blah.

I believe a mind that is serving your heart and your intuition can be a beautiful and powerful tool. You can use your mind to answer questions like: How do I put my dreams into action? How do I face my fears? How do I have this painful conversation, what is the best way to go about it? What actions can I take to make a difference, to bring more fulfillment and purpose into my life? What tools or methods appeal to me, how do I go about this journey of healing, of quieting, of discovering?

But in order to function optimally, we have to be able to quiet the mind, so we can hear that voice that knows the way. Our intuition can chart the course to our purpose, fulfillment and joy if we have the courage to follow it. Otherwise, the obsessive, redundant nature of the unchecked mind will spin us right out of the joy, wonder, beauty, pain, love, anger, confusion, grief, laughter and connection that is ONLY available in the present. That stuff is the juice of life. Without it, life is a painful process of change and darkness, fear and anxiety, confusion, depression and longing. Because usually when we visit the past we do so with some sadness or regret or desire. If we’re revisiting a person we’ve lost, the memory may be happy, but the resulting feeling will be the thud of grief that lands on the heart and renders us breathless. (And please don’t misunderstand me, I believe in remembering those who have been taken from us too soon. I just don’t think they’d want us to live in that space of pain and heartache for too much of our present. I believe they’d want us to find the joy again, and to open to love). And when we think about the future we do so with anxiety or fear, or craving. We might have a vision of how we want things to be, and then feel frustrated or dissatisfied with how things are.

I’m going to say something that I feel is left unsaid too often. There are certain losses that will never fully heal. If you’ve endured a loss like that, then you know what I mean. I’m not talking about the break-up of a relationship. I’m talking about the kind of loss where your heart and mind scream with the pain of, how do I possibly face this? All that can be hoped for in those extreme cases is the discovering of a new normal, where a certain amount of sadness is present, more so on some days than others. And hopefully that sadness will lead to greater compassion and understanding for ourselves and others.

But allowing yourself to move through life as the servant of your mind is a sure way to be absolutely miserable. If your body (which is your home) were a building, the un-mastered mind would be the top floor, and there’d be about 900 people up there, running around in circles, arms waving, holding files full of thoughts, judgments, ideas, shoulds, can’ts, why’s, and worries, screaming at each other. With harsh lighting, and windows that don’t open.

The heart would be right in the center of the building. Quiet, with huge, floor-to-celing windows, a beautiful breeze blowing in, and the most extraordinary light. No yelling, no people, just a presence, just a voice, just you. Or me. Or any of us. Because that spark lives in all of us.

In the basement, you have storage. File cabinets full of every experience you’ve ever had, some marked “awesome”, some marked, “heartache, betrayal, loss”, some marked, “rage, jealousy, moments I wish I could do over”, some marked, “really unhealthy choices”. There are no windows in the basement, and there’s no light, because there’s no potential in the past.

The 900 people on the top floor love to race to the basement and grab files to run around with. They might pass by that peaceful, quiet, truthful floor of the heart, because it can be uncomfortable to face reality as it is. To come into the now. To realize how extraordinary you are. To take responsibility for your own peace, even if it’s the peace of enduring what cannot be changed, and healing where we can heal. The view from the heart is so expansive, sometimes it scares people and they go running for the basement. But when the heart takes over, it is a gorgeous thing. Because you know what the heart does?

It goes upstairs and fires almost everyone. The most efficient person will remain to keep things organized. Two or three others may be left behind, but they’ll only be able to cause a minimal amount of trouble, and only on really challenging days. Mostly, the heart will be able to shush them easily. Then the heart goes to the basement, and sets fire to all those old files. Except for two or three very special entries that may need to be protected. And then the heart goes and sits by that open window, with the breeze blowing by, and watches the whole world unfold with new eyes, with relief, with, Yes. Finally.

Life is such a gift. Just the experience of being here. Of learning. Of growing. Of screwing it up and trying again. Of finding your purpose. Of being really, truly present and awake and aware. Engaged with the now of the thing. Your heart has a beautiful song to sing. If you want to be at peace, you have to let it. I really really hope you do. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

The Pitfalls of Pinball

The hairs that stand up on the back of your neck do not lie. That sick feeling in your gut is there for a reason. If you have nagging doubts or fears, or something just does not feel right, don’t ignore that, or you will end up running heart first into a brick wall.

Having said that, if you have been betrayed in the past, you have to recognize the difference between listening to your intuition, and assuming all people will hurt you because one person did. And if you find that you are continually choosing people who treat you badly, then you have to look at why you feel you don’t deserve to be loved and cherished. Sometimes people send me emails that say something along the lines of, “Everybody cheats. Or lies. Or leaves”. No. Everyone you’re choosing does those things, and you need to figure out what deep pain is at the root of your choices. What original wound has not healed? You wouldn’t be playing it out over and over again, and trying to rewrite history if you had unhooked your journey from that old experience.

Overriding the voice of your intuition is a sure way to land yourself in a world of pain. And listen. Maybe you need to do that a few (or several) times to get the lesson. I remember times in my past knowing I was making an unhealthy choice, being aware of those hairs on the back of my neck, and doing it anyway. That’s one step ahead of doing it unconsciously, or one step further on the path of trusting your gut. So don’t beat yourself up, but don’t let yourself off the hook when it all goes bad, either. Don’t point the finger at the other person, turn it around and deal with yourself. Eventually you will realize hitting the wall feels really bad, and turning and walking in a different direction feels really good. Empowering. Liberating. Like you’re finally loving yourself.

I believe your heart and your intuition have it all figured out, and the mind is a mess. The mind is so loud and full of shoulds and ideas and judgments, and, “Oh, this looks great on paper, you’d be crazy not to pursue it!”. I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, either. We do this professionally, too. If you don’t get a hold of it, your mind is like a giant pinball machine, and your subconscious is the ball. Your unhealed wounds pull the trigger, and you, my friend, are falling down the chute.

A quiet mind is a gift. And it takes a lot of dedication and determination, but you can absolutely create space between your thoughts. A fair amount of it if you practice long enough. (This is the  most beautiful and most life-changing result of a consistent yoga and meditation practice…it’s no magic bullet, but I can tell you after 20 years of practice six days a week, it works. And your hard work pays off because you actually become engaged with the present. Awake in the moment. I could go on for quite awhile because I’m so grateful I found yoga. Without it I would have been a loud pinball machine). When the mind isn’t screaming at you all day, you can hear the quiet, calm, truthful voice of your intuition. And if you’ve taken the time to heal yourself, you won’t even have to think about whether or not you should follow it. You’ll just be like, “Oh, really? Awesome, let’s get out of here!”. You won’t waste the gift of your time here setting yourself up to get hurt. Because, you know, you’ll love yourself. You’ll keep moving in the direction of that resounding yes within you. You probably won’t spend much time on the maybes, either. Your intuition doesn’t know the word maybe. It’s going to say yes, or no. Your mind throws in the maybe, and my belief is that a maybe is usually a no.

Go with your yes. Follow your heart. Of course take your (quiet) mind along for the ride. But let those hairs on the back of your neck tell you which way to go at every fork in the road. And be amazed by what unfolds. Wishing you enough quiet to realize what you know, and to remember who you are. Love. Ally

This Moment is Already Part of Your Past

It’s so easy to get caught up in this lie of living to work. Of racing through the day. Of being so tired and distracted when you are with your loved ones, you really might as well be somewhere else. All with this idea that it will “get better when…”

We’ve set up a crazy system where we’re all separated from each other; we have glorified self-reliance to the point of isolation. We’ve bought into the idea that we must compete to survive. It’s good to be able to take care of yourself, to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading, to take responsibility for your own happiness, or lack of it. But we are so much on our own that in order to survive we believe we have to race. I think thats just a form of numbing out. Of avoiding the reality that we are all going to die one day. Maybe if I’m insanely busy I can forget my days are numbered. When I see people out in the world, mostly they look stunned, dazed, depressed, asleep. I want to say, “Wait. What are you doing? This is your life, it’s happening right here, right in this moment. Why are you sleeping?!” There are many times I want to hug someone awake. Total strangers. Hug-to-hug resuscitation.

If your entire focus is on racing, there’s really no time to be breathing. Listening. Tinkering. Exploring. Soaking in all the beautiful moments that are going by in a blur, that will never happen again. And if you want to be at peace, it must seem obvious that racing isn’t the way to get there. Because peace doesn’t come in a paycheck (assuming you have your basic needs met, of course). If you’ve got a roof over your head and clothes on your back and good health and food in your refrigerator and people in your life who love you, You. Are. Blessed.

In our crazy system, it would be very easy to race right over that reality. To take it for granted. To want more, something different, something bigger or better or new. To think you can appreciate all that stuff you do have when things calm down. Things will NEVER calm down unless you take yourself out of the race. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard. But I am saying if you’re doing something you love, if you can carve out some time every day when you feel like you’re helping people in any way, it’s not going to feel like work. I do not accept you are here to work at a job you can’t stand 80 hours a week, living for a vacation one week out of the year, collapsing on the weekends, accruing money and stuff. I do not believe anyone really wants to wait until they’re retired to start enjoying life. I mean, better then than never, but what makes any of us think long life is guaranteed? That love can wait. That our deepest dreams can be kept on the back burner? Or maybe you know all this already. Maybe you’re not racing, but perhaps your quiet moments are spent in despair instead of gratitude, because you are just not allowing yourself to act upon that voice inside you that knows what you want.

Osho has a beautiful quote, “The real question is not whether life exists after death. The real question is whether you are alive before death.” Don’t wait. If there’s something deep within you crying out for your attention, something pulling at your heart and weighing on your soul, something that is just longing to come out of you, open your mouth and sing it out all over the place. That’s your purpose. That small voice knows exactly what you need to do, which direction you need to move, what action you need to take to start living the life you want to be living. Denying yourself that roadmap is senseless and it’s also an act of ingratitude. Because you’re not only denying yourself all the light and love that is available within you, you’re denying everyone you encounter as well. It’s not watering the flower inside your own heart. Can you get the picture of a wilted daisy in your mind? That’s what’s happening inside your heart if you are ignoring it. You have to water that flower if you aren’t already. You might have to water it with an ocean of tears for awhile. But being awake and in pain long enough to heal and find freedom and live your life with your heart wide open is so much better than being asleep. You could be shining. You could be loving your life, with all its imperfections and surprises and challenges, and even with its pain. You could be joyful and grateful to be on this journey even as it breaks your heart. Isn’t that crazy? Life won’t wait forever. Love won’t happen in your past or your future, but you could dive into it right now. I hope you do. Sending you an ocean of love to dive into. Ally

That’s Okay, I’ll Drive!!

No one can make you feel anything, unless you let them. This is a tough one to swallow, I know. But it goes hand in hand with another important reality, which is that you cannot save anyone, or make anyone happy. (In other words, you can’t make anyone feel anything, either).

I say this is tough to swallow, because many people think in terms of cause and effect when it comes to interpersonal relationships. This other person said, or did, x, y, or z, and it made me feel hurt or angry or disappointed or excited or happy. Your feelings are yours. Where you invest your time and energy is a choice. What you allow yourself to open to is a decision. If someone says something that hurts your feelings, the first thing to do is examine whether you believe the thing that was said is true. If it’s not true, there’s no real reason to get worked up. Earlier this afternoon my almost 6-year old son called my 3-year old daughter, “Poopy-head”. She got very upset and came running to me and I looked at her very seriously and asked, “ARE you a Poopy-head??”, and she paused and said no, with a little bit of a smile, and a twinkle in her eye.  And I said, “That’s right, you’re not. So he’s saying something that isn’t true. So why are you upset?” And she started laughing. Sometimes people are projecting something of theirs onto you. (Not that my son is a Poopy-head, he’s just 6 ;)). And, we are all going to be misunderstood from time to time. If it is true, then you have to figure out what is being reflected back to you. What within you needs some healing?

If a person isn’t happy, you cannot fix that for them. Sylvia Boorstein is a beautiful meditation teacher, and she wrote a great book called, “Happiness is an Inside Job”. It totally is. Sometimes we fall in love and those happy hormones take over for awhile, but I promise you, if you or the other person was not happy to begin with, the high of the newness will wear off, and the pain underneath will rise back up to the surface. This is why people who bought that line, “You complete me” are always disappointed at the 3 or 6-month mark in a relationship. How come my completion doesn’t feel as awesome anymore? Maybe this isn’t the right person, after all. The “right person” to complete you, is you. Two complete people coming together can create something beautiful. But that happens less than half the time. Are less than half the people happy? Shouldn’t we do something about that? Like maybe teach our children how to follow their hearts?

The not-being-able-to-save-anyone part is not easy, either. When we care deeply for someone, it’s painful to watch them struggle, or self-destruct, or continue patterns of behavior that will only bring them more despair, or loneliness, or isolation. But everyone has to “do” their own journey. You just can’t manage another person’s path. You can do everything in your power to help, you can communicate your feelings, you can make suggestions, or even lead a person to the doorstep where genuine help is available, but ultimately, they are gonna have to walk through that door on their own two feet, because they want to, because the old way isn’t working anymore, or it will not work. The healing will not hold. And sometimes in order to love yourself well, you need to step away. With your keys. And drive with the windows down, weeping if you need to. Sending your love out into the wind, hoping it will land.

I’m sending you some right now. Ally