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

You Are Here

I love how this graphic looks like a graveyard plaque, because if you’re stuck, if you’re postponing your yes, your authentic self, your purpose, if you’re comparing and contrasting your journey to other people’s experiences, if you’re stuck in bitterness and resentment, then you are, in essence, not living. Existing, killing time, obsessing, waiting…none of these resembles truly living with your heart wide open.

There was a time in my life many years ago when I was very stuck. My, “Before Yoga” days. Before Yoga Daze. I was stuck in blame and anger and excuses and rationalizations and numbing out. I made unhealthy relationship choices, and didn’t take care of myself well. I was pretty miserable. I was attached to my story because it let me off the hook. I could just keep retelling it to myself to explain away my own poor choices. But after awhile, sad stories become really boring and kind of lame. Because there’s another story that could be unfolding if you decided to get out a pen and develop a new plot. And somewhere inside yourself you know that, you can feel that. And the not doing it starts to make you sick in your soul. Soul-sick.

Every day, I see people asking some variation of the question, “Why is this happening to me?” The “this” might be life, or the ending of a relationship, or the loss of a loved one or a job, or some combination therein. It’s a perfectly natural and understandable question to ask, especially if life is presenting you with incomprehensibly painful circumstances. Tuesday as I was driving around having a perfectly lovely day, I found myself with tears streaming down my face at the thought of some situations we are presented with in life. Not me at this particular time, but just the awareness that there are people out there right now dealing with the kind of pain that just takes your breath away.

If you look at life as something that is “happening to you”, as opposed to something you are co-creating (because yes, life is going to present the circumstances, but you are going to decide how you’ll respond), then you’re going to feel like a victim. And there’s just no power in that. I understand there can be short term pay offs when we point fingers and justify, or decide it’s too much, and sleepwalking is a better option, but ultimately if you want to be at peace, that stuff is simply not going to get you there. There’s incredible strength that comes from forgiveness. Forgiving yourself, other people, life itself. Unhooking your journey from your painful experiences. Not forgetting about them or denying them, but just sitting with them long enough to release the heat of the pain so you can move forward in love. In compassion. In patience and understanding.

And comparing and contrasting your life to anyone else’s is also a grave waste of your time and energy. Everyone has their own path to walk, to mend, to discover. Instead of, “Why is this happening to me?”, try to keep it simple, “This is happening”. And do your best to be present and aware and awake so you can respond instead of react. We can never control circumstances, but we can work on how we deal with them. There’s tremendous power in that. Taking responsibility for the parts of your life you can affect feels good. Then you can start to get creative with your pen. You can create any plot your heart can hold. That doesn’t mean it will turn out exactly the way you want it to, but if you’re moving from your heart, from your Yes, the journey is going to be beautiful. Even the pain and disappointment will have a sharp-edged beauty to them, because you’ll be awake. And your heart can hold so much when it’s open. Being awake with an open heart is a great way to travel. Start where you are. Sending you love. Ally

Let it Go (But don’t let go of actual balloons ;))

Oh, the mind. It gets so easily snagged on the negative. Something happens and it doesn’t unfold the way we hoped and the mind just spins. And replays. And spins some more. Sometimes it’s our own behavior that disappoints us. We feel angry or heartbroken about the way we showed up with someone and long to do it over. Rewrite it in our minds. Say it right, or do it differently.

Sometimes it’s someone else. There are so many experiences in life that just don’t have clear, definable endings. People do not reveal themselves in a linear fashion anymore than life does. Once in awhile someone we’ve been close to for a long time pulls away suddenly and without explanation. Or we are betrayed or shamed. This doesn’t feel good when it happens with people we are just getting to know, either. It’s hard to let go of things without closure, without a full understanding of what transpired. But life and people just don’t come wrapped up in neat little packages like that. We humans are messy and complicated, and life is always throwing us curveballs and forks in the road. When we hold on to anger or judgment or blame, or drive ourselves crazy trying to redo something that can’t be redone, we are the ones who suffer.

Here’s the thing. You are not going to understand everything. Not everything is going to be explained. Not everyone is going to communicate in a way that gives you peace. Very frequently in life, you have to find the peace yourself. We all make mistakes. No one shows up as their highest self in every moment. At a certain point, you really have to forgive yourself and forgive others for their humanness. Human-mess. And…Let. It. Go.

Pain is perfectly natural. Sometimes we are in pain with no explanation and the only solution is to open to it. To lean into it, to explore it, to accept this is how things are for now, and to remember everything is in a constant state of flux. To be kind to yourself. How you feel now is not how you’ll feel forever, or even next week. Sit with your pain, but do your best to release the details, the obsession, the do-overs. Because that is called living in the past. That is called missing the moment. And the moments are precious. You don’t want to spend too many of them agonizing over what has happened and why, or making yourself sick with worry about what might happen in the future. Just come back to right now.

You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to get everything right, and neither does, or will, anyone else. It’s part of the deal of being human. Embrace that. Examine your mistakes long enough to understand yourself, and well enough to avoid repeating them. Accept that other people have their own path to walk and manage, and it may not always be pretty. And carry on.  Life is too short to miss. I’m pretty sure of that. Sending you love. Ally

There is a Crack in Everything

Ring-the-bells-thatRumi has a beautiful quote, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Any pain you’ve endured has the potential to open you and soften your heart. The kindest people I know have all suffered. We don’t invite suffering, we don’t ask for pain; nonetheless, the darkest times tend to lead to the most growth, the deepest understanding, the greatest expansion of compassion for ourselves and everyone we encounter.

We live in a crazy world where we’ve learned to lie to each other all day. “How are you?” “I’m fine! How are you?” Maybe you’re not fine, maybe you’re falling apart right now. But we’ve got this idea that we’re supposed to edit ourselves, to keep it “light”, to, “Smile as Your Heart is Breaking”. And then we go home and weep. Do you think you’re alone? Do you think you’re the only one who feels despair and heartache and fear sometimes? What could be more vulnerable than the condition of being human? Of knowing we have a finite amount of time to figure out how to shine, how to love with our whole hearts, how to be at peace, how to release fear? What if we started telling each other the truth? “How are you?” “Well, I feel stuck and I’m not sure what to do about it. I have a deep feeling I should be moving in a different direction, but I can’t act because I don’t want to disappoint all these people who are counting on me to keep sleepwalking through my life. How are you?” That would be a little different, no?

And when we feel other people are somehow cruising through life with no doubt, no fear, no suffering, of course we start to think it’s us. And if I’m so broken, how can I possibly save myself, or spread any light anywhere? Let me tell you something. We are all broken. Life is happening in all its brilliant inexplicable chaos and we are here, breathing, trying to make sense of it all. Embrace your pain, your fear, your doubt, your shame, your guilt, your insecurity. You are human like every other person you will ever meet, no matter how perfect they may seem. Human beings are not perfect. No one’s life is perfect. Until you embrace and accept yourself in your entirety, as long as you deny your “cracks”, you just cannot open to love.

Love is accepting. Love will celebrate you, sing your name to the stars, wrap you up in yes, teach you how to use your pain to heal yourself and anyone you may encounter who could use some love, some light, a hug, a touch on the arm. Some forgiveness. Some relief. Some, “Oh, yes, me too!”. You are not meant to be perfect. You are meant to be amazingly, humanly, you.

Find your gift. It may be covered in debris, and you may have to dig for a while. You may bleed in those moments where you pick up memories like shards of glass. You may weep and think there’s nothing there. But if you listen hard enough you will hear a small voice. You may not recognize it at first, but it is the universe speaking through you, showing you your own particular truth, your own path to healing. Because we are all in this thing together, we are all made of the same stuff. And I am positive we’re supposed to be helping each other. You don’t have to be perfect to help. You just have to be you. And you are miraculous, you truly are. You could help so much, just by healing yourself. When you do that, it feels so incredible you want to help other people do it for themselves. You want to say, “I’m going to help you dig until you find that shimmering essential spark that is just yours. And then I’m going to watch you spread it all over the place.” I think I just said that to You. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton