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

How Did This Happen?!

A-person-often-meets-hisDo you ever find yourself in the exact situation you were trying to avoid and wonder how this could have happened, or find yourself thinking the universe has a twisted sense of humor? Are you sure it’s the “universe”?

Carl Jung has a quote, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Any places within you that could use some healing will make themselves known to you one way or another. If you’ve found yourself in a set of circumstances you were consciously hoping to avoid, it’s your unconscious at work, waving a burning flag at you. The flag is a marker. It’s your intuition drawing you toward an obstacle you need to address first, in order to open fully to love. We all want to heal.

Knowing yourself is at the heart of any spiritual practice. And there’s just no getting around those places where we’re raw, where we’ve been hurt or disappointed or betrayed or abandoned. Until you acknowledge those places and sit with them for awhile, they’ll continue to seek your attention.

But it’s not really “them” seeking you, it’s YOU seeking you. You just may have to play it out in order to “get it”. When a current experience feels like the ghost of an old situation, you’re probably in for some serious pain. Because in a very real sense you’re re-living the original wound. Sometimes people have to do that over and over again, especially those who run from the experience or numb it out or push it down. It’s so much better if you can turn and face it, because ignoring or denying it won’t make it go away. It’ll just keep chasing you. And ruling your life.

We all have pain. Sometimes people apologize to me for crying in the yoga room during class. Are you kidding me? Let the tears flow. Give yourself a safe place to allow those feelings to come up so you can release them. This is how you unhook your journey from an old wound and find the freedom to move forward without having to carry that heavy stuff on your back. There’s no reason your past has to rule your present or your future, and there’s no sense in finding yourself on the same painful road over and over again, either. Sit down on the curb for awhile and bawl your eyes out if you need to. When you’re ready, stand up and start walking. Just put one foot in front of the other. When you come to the fork in the road and one sign says “Same Old Road” and the other says, “Highway of Love”, I’m pretty sure you’ll know which way to go. And you’ll still think, “How did this happen?!”, but you’ll have a big grin on your face. Because love feels good. Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton

Look at you, shining and so beautiful.

Love requires vulnerability. If you are not willing to surrender, to kneel down and offer up your gorgeous heart, true love cannot find you. I’m not talking about recklessness. Your heart is precious and you wouldn’t want to offer it up lightly. But if you are feeling that resounding yes abouImaget someone then you will have to find the courage to risk that your heart might be broken, and to trust that if it is, the breaking open will soften you and lead you to deeper healing, understanding and growth. I’m not just talking about romantic love, here.

In order to give love, you have to let go of any idea of quid pro quo. People are not property, and loving someone does not give you ownership of them. Saying, “I love you” is much different than saying, “I love you when you do what I want you to do”. This includes your children if you are a parent. (I’m not talking about teaching children how to be compassionate, accountable people, I’m saying sometimes parents have a hard time allowing their children to unfold. Carl Jung has a quote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment than the unlived life of the parent”.) Love does not control or force or manipulate. It doesn’t cling or judge or punish. It opens and it accepts, it listens and it celebrates. It’s curious and it’s kind.

If love means accepting people as they are, it might also mean that sometimes you’ll have to love them from afar if the “as they are” part is too painful for you. This applies when we love people who are hurting themselves or hurting us. You cannot save anyone. You can love people with all your heart, but everyone has to do their own healing, their own work, their own saving.

Genuine love is not conditional. If you are telling a person they must be a certain way in order for you to keep loving them, you’re confused about love. Because love is a celebration, an honoring, a respecting, a giant, I can’t believe how amazing you are type of hang, you know? It’s like watching a sunset and having your mind and your heart blown wide open. It’s accepting the storms, the rain, the hail, the lightning, and the breeze that come along with the sunsets, too. That kind of love is within you, you’re made of it, and nothing feels better than uncovering it if you haven’t yet. I also hope that you are the recipient of that kind of awe. Sending you a big hit of it right now. Ally

The Picture in Your Head

What-screws-us-up-theDo you know people who get married because they’re thirty and the clock is ticking, and that’s where they thought they’d be by thirty, and so this guy or girl will have to be the one? Or talk to people with rigid ideas about things, like, if they’re dating someone for a year and there’s no ring, it’s over? How about people who go to medical school because that’s what their dad did and their grandfather, too, and that’s just what people in their family do? When you have a picture in your head about how something should look or feel, you are rejecting things (or people) as they are. Sometimes the person you reject is you, your authentic self.

Life rarely looks like the picture we have in our heads. Sometimes it’s so much more incredible than what we had imagined, and other times it’s way more painful than we had hoped. But there are always opportunities to grow and to open, to dig more deeply and see more clearly. I don’t know why things unfold the way they do. I have theories and ideas like we all do, but who knows if they’re right? Some things are so incomprehensibly painful you just have to let your heart be broken open.

Whatever your feelings, the ability to be with things as they are makes the journey so much easier. To look at your life as it is, with curiosity and compassion for yourself and everyone you encounter, because it’s not an easy thing, this business of being human. To be awake and aware and engaged with what is, not with a daydream or a fantasy or a memory or a picture in your head. I’m not saying thoughts aren’t powerful. The chair you’re sitting on started as a thought in someone’s head. I’m just saying, don’t think your way into a box, where nothing but the picture you’ve imagined will do. Because it might not go like that.

I had a beautiful birth plan with my first, for example. Low lights, no drugs, just a few people to support me. I ended up with a respiratory team in the room, monitors blaring, fear like I’ve never known before or since, panic everywhere. But you know what? I have the most amazing son. Like, insanely amazing. Kind and sweet and smart and funny with a smile that could light up any room. He has incredible enthusiasm for life, hunger for information, a contagious laugh. There’s more love than my heart can hold. So much laughter, so many hugs, such an adventure. And we are both okay. And there has been more joy than I ever pictured or imagined or planned for. Open to what is. Be with it. Explore it. Maybe you’ll be surprised, amazed, heartbroken, head over heels in love. I don’t know. But I do know that whatever you take in as it is, is real, is full of truth, and its own particular beauty, even if it’s the truth and beauty of having your heart broken. This is the ride, this is the best mode of transportation I know. The rest of it is numbed out illusion, a dream, a sleepwalk, an attempt to control something that is really no different than if you woke up today and decided you were going to try to manipulate the tides of the ocean. Just get in and swim. So much love to you, Ally Hamilton

Love Smiles at Strangers

Darkness-cannot-driveThe world is in a state of pain because we’ve separated ourselves from each other. If you look around and wonder why you see despair, depression, war, famine, slavery, greed, apathy, pollution, a planet whose depletion is becoming more and more apparent, the answer is simple. We are at war within ourselves. Nothing is happening outside that isn’t happening inside.

It is true that we are going to be alone through much of our time here, sometimes even when we’re in a room full of people we love. That internal dialogue, that relationship you’re having with yourself, is the number one relationship to examine. Because if your inner dialogue is harsh and unforgiving, you are in pain. If you’re in pain, you’re going to spread pain. You won’t mean to do that, but it will happen. In that case, you are living with a nasty roommate you can’t evict, who makes you feel alone, “less than”, resentful, envious, hopeless, angry and frequently bitter. No way you’ll be treating yourself well if you’re feeling that way. And that roommate has a lot of help “out there” to make you believe those feelings are facts. That help comes in the form of constant messages that we are bombarded with from every direction. (Those messages are out there so that we buy stuff as if that will help). You may find yourself asking questions like, “What’s it all for?”

But that roommate is an impostor, and those messages are lies. There’s another voice inside you that is full of love and compassion and truth. It’s a lot quieter and you have to shut out the white noise (which includes the nastiness of that inner critic, your cell phone, your computer, your television, those horrific “beauty” magazines, gossip rags and anything else that tells you, “you suck”) to hear it, but it’s there. The more you make room for that voice, the louder it will get. It’s just been waiting for you. It’s stronger than the critic, it’s stronger than depression, apathy, and disrespect. It does not ever use the word “should” regarding you or anyone else. It is full of compassion and awareness and patience and understanding and forgiveness. The voice is love. We are all made of the same stuff, love, we have just forgotten.

The world is upside down because of that, and although we are all alone on this journey in many ways, we have separated ourselves from each other in a way that makes the ride scary, that makes true connection with anyone else unlikely. Because of course, if anyone knew who you really were, they wouldn’t like you, right? If you edit yourself, no one can know you, thus you will be, in a very real way, alone, and you will suffer. We need connection, we need love, we need to feel like people know us and care. We all need that–people, animals, the beautiful, giving planet. We look around at the state of things and we are overwhelmed by what is wrong with the picture. The picture could be so different. It’s totally simple, but it’s not at all easy. Because the road to uncovering that love might be dark and lonely and full of pain. The more each person refuses to travel that road to internal healing, the more stuck we all become. Love yourself. Love yourself. Love yourself. Three times probably isn’t enough. Say it to yourself a million times. Say it every time some mean nasty thought pops up. Keep going back to love. If you’re full of love, you’ll spread it wherever you go. You won’t mean to, but it will happen. Love smiles at strangers. Love lends a hand for no reason except that it’s natural. Love doesn’t turn a blind eye. Love doesn’t say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do”. We need a serious love explosion. That’s how the picture changes. Sending you love right now, Ally Hamilton