You Have to Be You

Sometimes you’re so full of gratitude you can feel your heart swell, and other times you’re so full of despair you can feel it breaking. The heart is amazing, pumping away for us through all of it, steady and there and just under the surface of everything. You could put your hand over your heart right now, and close your eyes and take just a moment to feel that, because it’s easy to forget what a gift it is just to breathe. Just to be alive, even if nothing makes sense right now.

What makes you tick? What is it you really want, when you don’t worry about what other people are expecting of you? What would you do with this day if you could do anything at all? I think the answers matter, even if you aren’t living them right now. Your heart has a song that will pour right out of your mouth if you let it, but sometimes we don’t let it because we have fear. Fear of what people will think, or what people will say, or what we’ll do with the life we’re leading now, if it isn’t the one we know is calling to us.

You don’t have to want what other people want, or even what other people want you to want. You’re you. You have to live your life, you have to be able to face yourself in the mirror as you brush your teeth. What you see there will calm you, or it will leave you with a deep sense of unrest. If you’re living from your heart, you’ll be able to relax, because you’ll be doing this one, very important thing: trusting yourself. When you betray what’s true for you, what’s dying to come out, when you try to live your life to please other people, or to fit in, you turn your back on yourself at a very core level, and diminish your faith that you can act on your own behalf.

Do you ever feel that you just give yourself away? That someone or something comes along and you’re just swept away in it with no anchor and no way to right yourself? Your heart is your true north. Wherever you go and whatever you do, your heart goes with you. It’s your center, but it’s also the key to your flight. If you don’t know how to stand on your feet, how can you ever fly? If you don’t know who you are, or what you want, or what lights you up, there’s a good chance you’ll give yourself away, because for most people, some plan is better than no plan. I know people who’ve gotten married and lived the life their partner wanted because they couldn’t figure out how to hear their own plan. Maybe it turned out all right, or maybe, late at night when the house is quiet, they sit up and wonder how things could have been, if only.

Pain is part of life, and the heart is asked to bear it. Some hearts are asked to bear more than others. There’s no escaping pain, though. Trust in your ability to face your pain because it won’t do you in unless you run from it. If you do that, your pain owns you and your heart pays the tab. If you trust in your heart, in its strength and its steadiness, if you let that song pour out, your fear doesn’t stand a chance. Your song will knock it right on its ass, and all those people you worried about will be inspired, or maybe they’ll be threatened because you’re changing, and things are changing, but that’s their journey, and you have yours.

Cars and diets and other people and flashy things won’t ever make you happy for long. Coveting is an endless game that makes you sick. Trusting your heart is a sure bet. Being yourself is the best thing you can be, and the payoff is your happiness. It’s worth quite a lot, because when your heart is full and open and you know you can trust yourself, you can lend a hand to people who need one. When you’re trapped in fear you need your hands to protect yourself. Here’s to wishing you the strength to follow your heart and let your song spill out, for the world surely needs to hear more of that sound.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Sometimes it Hurts Like Hell

No lesson is ever wasted; you need what you need to grow, and you figure things out in your own time. You may have crashed into a brick wall, and you may have done it consciously, but sometimes we need the lesson more than once to fully get it, and be done with it. I can look back on my life and tell you with complete candor, there were some experiences I repeated (in different ways) like I was taking remedial dating. How to Pick People Who Will Break Your Heart 101, over and over again until I decided I really wanted to graduate from that class. Usually when you can spot a pattern, you can also locate a huge marker for a place where you still have healing to do.

Yogis call painful patterns in our lives “samskaras”, Freud called it the “repetition compulsion”, Jung famously stated, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”, and Einstein on this: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Kicking yourself compounds the problem; what you need is compassion. If you have a history of picking people who hurt you in one way or another, you really have to figure out what it is within you that believes you deserve that. Chances are, you’re trying to rewrite history, so you look for a dynamic that has that very strong, very familiar pull. If it feels like home, if I’m obsessed and consumed and feel a little addicted to the interaction, this must be love, right? Not so much. If it has that sick pull to it, there’s almost definitely something very old at play for you.

I had a boyfriend when I was seventeen. He was twenty years older than I was. Already off to a good start, aren’t we? He was emotionally distant and had a history of infidelity with every woman he’d ever dated, but I was sure I could save him. I could be so perfect he’d commit and be faithful, and not just faithful, but also happy. I don’t even need to write anymore, do I? You can’t save other people, you can only love them, and why would you choose to love someone who makes no time for you and sees other people on the side? What could possibly be enticing about that? That’s always the stuff to look at, your own participation, and what it is within you that doubts you’re worthy of love. I wish I could say I broke up with him and made better choices after that, but as I mentioned, it took me awhile. I had to ride that train into the brick wall until my head hurt and my heart hurt and I finally thought, “Enough.” You decide you’re going to get serious about healing when you’re ready, and not a moment sooner.

In the meantime, being kind to yourself is key. If you’re heading for a brick wall and you know it, by all means try to figure out why you aren’t taking better care of yourself. After you hit the wall, see if you can walk in a different direction instead of heading back to the station, because you can’t rewrite history. No train can take you back there so you can get your happy ending. Whatever happened shaped you and informed the way you look at the world, but it doesn’t have to define you. You may have to unlearn some very old ideas you’ve been carrying around. Sometimes the lens we’re looking through is very foggy and the depth-perception isn’t great. You might need to wipe those lenses, especially if you’ve been burdened with the idea that you aren’t worthy of love. You are love. You’re made of love. You may have covered it over with fear or shame or doubt, with insecurity or rage or bitterness or hopelessness. So you may have some digging to do. Find a path of healing that works for you, and don’t stop searching for it until you do. Yoga was the thing that turned my life around, that transformed me from a person who kept getting on the train to heartbreak, to a person who wouldn’t get on that train again if it was the last one running. Human beings are incredible, and so is the human heart. It can break, but the breaking can open you. It can soften you and strengthen you at the same time. You don’t have to let your past harden you, life doesn’t feel very good that way. Wishing you the strength to face your fear and love yourself, so you can open to love in all areas of your life, because life feels great that way.

Sending a hug and an icepack if you need one,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Pick Better Moments

Sometimes a memory will come flooding back to me, whole, detailed, out of nowhere. A fragrance on the breeze, or a song on the radio, or something my kids say as they look up at me, and wham, I’m transported back to a moment I haven’t thought about in years. Sometimes the feeling around the memory is sweet, and sometimes it’s painful, but either way I’m amazed by the experience. Where was I storing that, or has it been continuing on in some parallel universe this whole time? That me that stood on that corner that afternoon, walking one way when I could have walked another. Is part of me still on that corner? Is part of me still having that first kiss, with the sun flooding in through the window, and the shock of realizing that kissing means lips and tongues and a racing heart?

The mind is an amazing thing. What we remember is simply our version of events, the way we experienced the world or another person through our own filter. Did you ever leave a film with a friend feeling one way about it only to find your companion has a completely different opinion? We tell our “life story” to ourselves and sometimes to other people, but it’s just that, it’s just a story; it’s the way we’ve received what we’ve been through. I’m not disputing facts. You were born on a certain day, and this thing may have happened, or this other thing may have happened. People came or they went, they showed up for you or they let you down. Whatever happened, happened, but we choose the things that are the highlights. We grab onto those moments that stand out for us as significant, and we give them weight and life and energy. We weave them into the tale of this is who I am, and why I am the way I am. Sometimes the story weighs us down or closes us off or prevents us from discovering our potential for love or joy or freedom or happiness.

Sometimes people hold on to the wrong pieces. Sometimes a person decides the painful pieces are the ones to highlight. The wrongs are brought to the forefront and held up and fed and magnified until the person is feeling what they felt then. Until the past is fully present in the present, and is very likely to screw up the future, too. We are all human. There have been times I’ve met people and I thought they were more than human, only to find that no, everyone who looks like a human is human. So there’s that. People who look human and think they’re floating above the surface of the earth are the ones to watch out for because that’s a distorted perception. Everyone makes mistakes. No one operates from her highest self in every moment. You will hurt people unintentionally, simply because human beings are complex and always evolving, and how you feel at one time may not grow or expand; you may think you want one thing and realize you want something else. You will almost certainly say and do and think things you’ll wish you hadn’t at some point.

If you can accept that about yourself, then you’ll be able to accept it in other people. If you believe you never make mistakes, and if a person is upset with you it’s due to their own negativity and not attributable to anything you could have done, then you’ll probably be very unforgiving and also very lonely. If you expect perfection from yourself, you’ll expect it in others as well and you’ll be disappointed all the way around, or you’ll be deluded. I know people who believe they’re always right. It’s such a sad stance. It’s a sure way to avoid intimacy and true friendship. If you can’t own your humanness and figure out how to say the words, “I’m sorry, I blew it” and mean it, and look at what happened so you can do it differently next time, if you can’t embrace your vulnerability and your culpability and your capacity to screw things up, you’ll also never discover your capacity to love. The two go hand in hand.

I know too many people who waste too much time holding on to anger, to grudges, to ways they’ve been wronged. It’s a cancer to do that, it eats away at you and life is too short and too precious, and there’s so much love that could be happening. Family members stop speaking to one another over the craziest, most meaningless stuff. Money. Something someone said twelve years ago at a wedding, drunk and full of salmon. How much time do you think you have, and how much of it do you want to spend digging your heels in being “right”? Do you want to be right and alone? Right and missing moments you can’t ever have back again? There are no winners in a fight between friends or family. There’s just pain. Pick better moments to feed. If a person has been nothing but abusive, they can’t be in your life, so I’m not talking about that. But if you have a loved one, and their worst crime is that they’ve been human, let the anger go. Love feels a lot better.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Choose The Thoughts That Strengthen You

When we cling to the past, it’s because we have little faith that the future might be beautiful, that it might surprise us, or that we might surprise ourselves. Sometimes the present is so uncomfortable, we simply know of nothing else to do but try to travel backward in time. After all, what was back there is familiar, even if it was painful. The future is not something we can predict or control, so for many people the idea of opening to it is terrifying. There are many, many people who’d rather hold onto their rage, resentment or grief than to nothing at all.

The truth is, the only potential the past has to offer is the chance to learn and grow from it; you can’t rewrite it or undo it. Holding onto anger, bitterness or heartache won’t get you anywhere good, it really, truly won’t and it’s not about being right or wrong, either. You may be totally right. You may have been wronged eight ways from Sunday. Your story may be rock-solid and still it doesn’t matter because what does it get you? You get to be right, and miserable, alone with your rightness. Being angry doesn’t feel good. It’s an absolutely normal emotion, we’re all going to feel it at times, but it’s not a good baseline feeling. You don’t want anger to be the bed you sleep in every night.

Whatever has happened, has happened. Those experiences may well have shaped you, but there’s no reason they have to define you. You get to choose. I hear from a lot of people who’ve decided all women are crazy, or all men are liars, or the world is a cold and unfair place. I understand the pain underneath a stance like that. You really have to suffer to wear that kind of armor, to steel yourself against intimacy, against being known or seen or understood, against the world at large, against the possibility of love, against your own humanness which makes you undeniably vulnerable. Binding your own spirit is an incredibly sad way to move through life, though, and it also denies the world of those gifts you alone have to offer. If you’re crushed by bitterness, if you’ve hardened your heart and turned your mind into a tight fist that won’t open to the potential that something beautiful might spring out of all your pain and knock you off your feet and split your heart open so you can feel love again, then you’re wasting a lot of time, and your time is precious and finite.

The noise of the mind can be deafening. Thoughts can be habitual, obsessive, and very weakening. Blame is a lonely person’s game; if you’ve decided things are as they are because of past events, the actions or inaction of people you loved or wanted to love, then you strip yourself of power. Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen. You can choose to feed your past and keep it growing right into your present, and you can plant those seeds for your future, too, but you can also feed a loving voice. You can forgive those people and those events of your past, and I do not say that to you lightly. Some people get so incensed at the thought of forgiving a person who’s wronged them, but you don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to call and say, “Hey, you know that thing you did? It’s fine, now.” Forgiveness can be a totally internal process. You might simply start to open to the idea that most people don’t set out to hurt you, any more than you’ve intentionally hurt the people you’ve hurt. Everyone works with the tools they’ve got, and some people could really use a whole new toolbox. It’s not a reflection on you. People can only be where they are when you encounter them. Some people are damaged by life, or have true sickness of the soul or the mind, some people have been so neglected they don’t understand what love is. Some people have had the love beaten out of them, and haven’t figured out how to recover just yet. So maybe you could open to that and let go a little. Put it down because it’s heavy and it’s blocking you. It doesn’t mean you allow yourself to be abused or mistreated. If that’s happening in your present, you need to get out and get busy healing, but if it’s old stuff, liberate yourself.

Of course this stuff will show up from time to time when you’re depleted, when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, when something triggers you, and then you’ll have to work for some amount of time. Maybe an hour, maybe an afternoon or a few days, but if you keep feeding the love and opening to the possibility of something beautiful, you’ll have to spend a lot less time with thoughts and feelings that weigh you down.

Wishing you peace, freedom, and thoughts that strengthen you,

Ally Hamilton

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


Yesterday I received an email from a woman who told me she’s never been in a relationship for longer than three months, and it’s because, “all men lie and cheat, or they leave.” I asked her how she came to that conclusion, and she said, “Because it’s true.” It turns out her dad left her mom for another woman when she was six, and then had several girlfriends while he carried on this relationship with the woman who eventually became her stepmother. Her mom also remarried, and her stepfather had a roving eye as well. She remembers her mom putting her in the back of the car one night to follow her step-dad and see if he was really going to a card game and she remembers her mom bawling as they watched her step-dad enter a house when a woman opened the door and let him in with an embrace. She said she can still locate that sick feeling in her stomach, just like she had as she held her crying mother in that car all those years ago. (I could write a whole post about the damage done to children when they’re forced to be in the parental role.)

She said that every guy she’s ever dated has cheated on her or left. The same thing happened in college and continues to this day. She’ll meet someone she likes and everything will seem okay in the beginning. She doesn’t have a problem letting herself fall, but once that happens she starts to panic. She said it never lasts once the hormones wear off, because no guy wants to deal with all the constant scrutiny and need for reassurance. She’ll get a vibe early on, this one likes a woman at work, this guy still talks to his ex, this one goes out with his buddies a few times a week, and she’ll start looking for clues. Asking questions. Checking their cellphones when they leave the room. Grilling them about their comings and goings. She said it’s not unusual for her to go through a guy’s closets or drawers given the opportunity, to check recent searches on his computer, or to go through his email account if it isn’t protected with a password. She tries to make friends with his friends right away, not just in life, but on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else so she can “keep tabs” more easily. She has “tests” that she doesn’t talk about, but they’re there. Is he calling once a day? Asking her out for Saturday nights? Talking about the future? She said some guys are up front about their commitment issues, and others aren’t, but she assumes they’re there, either way.

There’s no way a relationship can grow in an environment like that. If there isn’t any trust, there’s no foundation and it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles. No one likes to feel like they’re being tested or spied on or paying the tab for someone else’s transgressions. Your current boyfriend doesn’t deserve anger that’s really about your dad, and you can easily flip the genders around here. People drag their past into their present all the time. That’s a great way to keep it alive, and keep yourself triggered, and end up creating the very circumstances you want to avoid. If you want someone to feel like they want to build something with you, violating their privacy is not the way to go. Trust. If you need support with that, reach out, but trust unless or until there’s a reason not to trust. The worst that happens is that you’re disappointed and your heart is broken. That’s okay, it won’t kill you; you’ll learn more about yourself, you’ll grow and you’ll strengthen. The best that happens is you create something beautiful with someone that helps you go deeper and also learn about yourself so you can open up even more to love. If you’re looking for a committed relationship, don’t pick people who tell you they can’t commit, or that they have a history of always being unfaithful. If someone shares that with you, believe them and move on. You’re not going to be the one to change them, because that’s something in them, it has nothing to do with you. Pick wisely, and then open up.

I told the woman who wrote in that all men do not lie and cheat, just the ones she’s picking. We only know what we know. We can only have the frame of reference we have. The first step is to recognize your frame may be severely bent. The glass across your frame may be distorted. You might need to trash that frame altogether, and start building yourself a new one. Believe me, this goes for men and women. I’ve had guys write in who’ve said all women are liars and users. Remember the guy I met last year with the tattoo on his hand, “Trust No B!tch”? If you walk into a situation in defense mode, don’t expect anyone to be able to get to know you. That is the point of trying to connect, is it not? To be seen and understood and cherished, with all your beauty and all your flaws? To be embraced, and held so you can relax? If you have the impetus to want to get close to people, that’s a natural, healthy feeling. Bringing distrust and fear into the equation right off the bat is like deciding you’re going to bake a cake, and blowing up the oven before you start.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Sit on Your Hands, Please!

Public-ServiceYears ago I had lunch with a guy who was fairly well known in the yoga community. He’d just come back from a month at an ashram, and I met up with him because he was passing through Los Angeles on his way back to Chicago where he lived with one of my closest girlfriends. She asked me to meet with him because she had a bad feeling and she wanted me to be the one to break the news to her if there was news to be broken. She said while he’d been gone their communication had been odd, and she sensed he may have met another woman. She hadn’t asked him directly, and I think part of her didn’t want to know, and was hoping it wasn’t true. So off I went to have a meal with this guy I’d never really vibed with, to have a conversation that could have been extremely awkward.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so much awkward as it was enlightening. He started telling me about his trip, and how transformational it had been and he alluded to a deep spiritual connection he’d developed with this woman while he was there. So I asked him if he meant he’d had sex with her, and he choked on his tea and laughed, and said he supposed so, if that was how I needed to put it. He said it was an elevated experience, and that the feelings were so strong and so deep, he’d had to “honor his truth.” He expected my friend would understand. I told him I thought he was mistaken, and that I believed my friend was going to be heartbroken because she was in love with him, and because they were in a committed, monogamous relationship. In fact, he’d been possessive of her, and threatened by any contact between her and her most recent ex, who happened to be the father of her little girl. They’d been living together for six months at this point, and had started looking at houses. My girlfriend had put a deposit down on a place he said he loved before he left for the ashram, and they were about to close on it.

I asked him how he could reconcile the concept of non-harming with his actions at the ashram, but he said because he was aligned with his truth, no harm could result. Then he said, “I guess I’m just an enigmatic and mysterious creature.” I told him as far as I knew, there was nothing elevated or spiritual about cheating on a person you claimed to love, and that you could dress it up in mala beads all day long, but it was still crappy behavior. I said I thought, “honoring his truth” would have involved observing his feelings without acting on them, or discussing it with my friend before he acted so that maybe they could regroup, or come to some kind of understanding together. Then maybe the experience could have brought them closer, but not this way. I also asked him who describes themselves as enigmatic and mysterious? Because really, there are few things in life that leave me speechless, but I think my brain froze for a good minute after he said that.

Here’s the thing. If you want to be at peace, you’re going to have to figure out how to get right with yourself. How to heal those places that are raw and in need of your kind attention. You’re going to have to learn to observe your thoughts without getting carried away by them. Feelings are not facts, and you don’t have to act on every feeling you have. Not all of them are worthy of your energy, time, attention, or action. The feelings aren’t bad, they don’t make you a bad person. We’re all human and we’re going to have all kinds of feelings and thoughts and ideas and fantasies. It’s how much energy you decide to feed that stuff. How much importance you grant to the thoughts you’re having.

Restraint is a tough one for most people. We all want to do what we want to do, but if you want to talk about being “on the path,” if you’re trying to “do the work,” then you’re going to have to find some discipline. Especially when other people are involved. If your path is causing you to become egregiously self-absorbed, it’s probably not a great path. If you’ve gotten to a place where you think you’re justified in doing whatever you want because you’re honoring your truth or following your calling, you’ve really gotten lost along the way. A huge part of this thing is kindness and compassion. Honesty and integrity. Keeping your word. Thinking about the impact of your choices on other people. I don’t expect everyone to want to work this way, but I cringe when people twist a beautiful and demanding practice to suit their own desires. Call it what it is, and I have no issue with it. Say, “I went to an ashram, and I was really attracted to this woman, and I cheated on your friend even though I knew it would hurt her and I have no regrets, but I do have a huge mess to clean up.” That’s truthful, but don’t call it elevated or spiritual because it isn’t either of those things. As it turned out, the other woman was also devastated, because she thought it was going to be a long-term thing. My friend broke it off, and then had to work to make sure her daughter was okay because she’d become attached to this guy as well. When you leave a wake of pain behind you and describe yourself as an enigma, you’ve taken a wrong turn on your path.

I think people get confused sometimes, because the initial movement when you’re healing is inward. If you want to know yourself well and deeply, you have to examine your pain, your resulting tendencies, your coping mechanisms, the way your nervous system responds to stress, stories you might tell yourself about your life or why you are the way you are, areas where you’re stuck in rage or blame or bitterness. You have to figure out what’s true for you. You do all this internal work so you can understand yourself, so you can be accountable for the energy you’re spreading as you move through the world, and for the way you’re treating yourself and everyone in your life. When you become well-acquainted with yourself, and you figure out what brings you peace and what lights you up, what particular gifts are yours to share, then you can take that information on the road. That’s where the joy happens, in the connection, in the sharing. You can bring it out into the world and shine. The ultimate purpose of all that internal work is to help you uncover your connection to everyone and everything. To recognize that while our stories may be different, in so many ways we’re the same. We’re connected. We’ve all suffered. We’ve all been selfish, and hurt people carelessly or unintentionally. We all have choices we’d love to make again, and differently. That’s all part of the process of growing up. So there’s no need to kick yourself if you were the guy or gal at the ashram. We’ve all hung out there. The thing is not to let yourself off the hook. Not to cloak it in sage and walk out the door and pretend to yourself or anyone else that you’re good to go. You’ll never feel great about yourself if you’re living a life that’s all about you and every desire you have. You’ll never satisfy that beast. You can feed it for awhile if you need to, but you’ll find the hunger never goes away. It will never be enough, you’ll always be ready for more. Mass-consumption has gotten us into all kinds of trouble, both personally and globally. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t feed your soul.

In my view, being, “on the path” means you’re trying to see yourself and others clearly. You’re aware of what’s true for you, and you’re able to express it calmly and with compassion. When “what’s true for you” may end up hurting someone else, you handle it with integrity, sensitivity and honesty. You’re thinking about what you’re saying and doing, and how it will affect those people around you. You’re thinking about the path, too. The literal path, the one you’re walking on. The planet, in other words. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it with as much consciousness as possible. And when you blow it and don’t show up the way you want to, which will happen, you examine it and figure out what went wrong so you can own it, and make a different choice the next time. It’s not perfection we’re after, it’s a practice. But it does require a discerning mind and a willingness to be honest with yourself.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

The Power to Pause

listentounderstandIt’s not easy to drop your feelings, opinions and ideas so you can really hear what another person has to say, where they may be coming from, or how they’re seeing and experiencing things. This is never more true than in the context of an argument. When we feel attacked, it’s perfectly natural to go into defense mode, but most of the time, no one is attacking us and deep listening can’t happen if you’re in “fight or flight” mode. People may see things differently, but if you’re in a close relationship with someone, it’s unlikely they want to go for your jugular (and if they do, you’re probably with someone who needs help figuring out how to manage their anger).

We all want to be known, seen and understood. It’s beautiful when you allow yourself to open to another person, but the more you do that, the more you have to be willing to be vulnerable and that requires trust. When you have the feeling that someone is really seeing you, and suddenly that same person seems to be misunderstanding you, it can feel like a betrayal. Sometimes we have embarrassment or unease because some of our flaws slipped out and now this person who had this image of us may be seeing something we don’t want them to see, or something we’d rather not see ourselves. There are all kinds of reasons a person gets defensive, or shuts down, or runs for the door. Often it feels safer to dig our heels in and defend our position, to “win” the fight. If you’re trying to get close to someone, though, and if you want to be seen, it’s not a fight and this isn’t your opponent. A person is either going to love and accept you with all your flaws and absurdity, or they aren’t. You can only be known if you allow yourself to be known. Most people are not going to be able to read your mind and if you’re only willing to show the shiny, status update, perfect picture version of yourself, that instagram glow, the 140-character gem that you thought of while walking your dog, then you’ll never really be seen because we’re all complex and we all make mistakes, and we all have choices we wish we could make over again and differently.

People dig their heels in when they’re attempting to hide or to hold on. Or the level of reactivity is high. That’s one of the main things a consistent yoga practice addresses and encourages — the ability to sit with intense sensation, calmly. A burning feeling in your quadriceps is not all that different than a burning feeling in your heart, like rage. It’s a temporary sensation, and if you can open to it and examine it, it will open you and strengthen you, and teach you something about yourself. If you fly off the handle every time you feel something intense, you deny yourself those opportunities to become more aware, more accountable, and more able to trust yourself.

Of course there are legitimate times when you’ll disagree with someone, or see things in a completely different way, but if you really want to know the people in your life, it’s so useful if you can learn to listen deeply. Open to it even if it’s something you don’t want to hear or accept. Maybe this person is attempting to show you something essential about who they are, or where they are on their path. Maybe you’re going to discover a new way of thinking about something. It’s possible you’re going to realize there’s some fundamental philosophical difference that you’re not going to be able to get past, but there’s no point in denying someone else’s reality, even if you disagree with it. You might as well open your heart and your mind to their point of view. Maybe you’ll go back to your own, and maybe something will shift for you, but real listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to speak and being right is not nearly as satisfying as being seen.

Wishing you love, and the power to pause, breathe, and listen,

Ally Hamilton