Time is a Gift

tomrobbinsBecause our time and energy are finite assets, it’s really essential that we’re careful about where we invest them. It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s dramas, or to allow the mind to get snagged on some thoughtless or unkind thing someone said or did. We can lose hours, days or years dwelling on choices we’d like to do over, differently, or sad tales we tell ourselves about why we are the way we are, or why life is unfolding the way it is.

We can find ourselves trying to chase down love, approval or acceptance, we can allow the sting of rejection to overwhelm us, we can spend time trying to defend ourselves against lies, but it’s time we’ll never have back again. Life will bring us enough ups and downs; we really don’t need to create suffering for ourselves, but so many of us do. I am not someone who believes that there are no tragic events, or that it’s just the way we’re thinking about an event that makes it unbearable. In my view, there are things that can happen sometimes that bring you to your knees and make you doubt everything you thought you knew about heartbreak and pain and the ability to go on. Those same events remind us that there isn’t any time to waste, and that the best use of our energy is to love the people in our lives with everything we’ve got, and to follow our dreams and believe in ourselves. Life isn’t going to hand you five or ten years to be pissed at your parents or your ex or all the people you’ve ever worked for, to boil yourself and keep your rage alive by feeding it, to point your finger in blame, and then hand you back that time one day when you realize what a gift it is just to open your eyes in the morning.

People who want to be angry and bitter deserve compassion, surely, but not a lot of your time and energy. I’m not talking about people who are trying to heal or take ownership of their lives, or make big shifts. I’m talking about people who are unwilling to loosen their grip on their angry story. I had an acquaintance like this. I’d see her at different functions every five years or so, and it was always the same. She’d find a way to corner me, and tell me her tale of why she was the hero of her family and her workplace, the generous but unappreciated benefactor, the one who always got the short end of the stick. Usually she’d be quite drunk, and the more she drank, the more angry and self-righteous she became. For quite some time, I’d listen to her, even though it was exhausting. I thought maybe she just needed someone to hold a space for her to unload the pain. I really didn’t care about the details of her stories, the list of wrongs, the way this person or that person had failed her or betrayed her, but sometimes I’d try to offer up a different viewpoint, and then she’d attack me, too. You can’t help a person who’s armored themselves in bitterness. I don’t make myself available to people who don’t want to let the love in. It’s a choice.

Let me be clear: we do not get to choose what life will put in our paths. We get beautiful lessons in life, and we get brutal ones, too, and that is not a choice. Unthinkable tragedy could befall any of us. People sometimes ask, “Why me?”, but why any of us? There’s no way to predict what any of us will have to endure, and if you go through a knifing loss, I hope you don’t compound your pain by feeling that you ought to be able to get over it faster, or with fewer racking sobs or relentless tears. The more we’re present in each moment, the more we allow the feelings to wash over us and through us, the more we’re honoring our experience. Loving someone so intensely that the loss of them makes it hard to breathe, loving someone that way is a gift and an honor. The loss of the ability to express that love through hugs or phone calls or shared experiences is so painful. If it’s a sudden and unexpected loss, of course that has its own particular difficulties.

My point is, death and loss put things into sharp perspective for us. If you’re worrying about the five pounds you’ve gained, for example, perhaps that’s not the best use of your time. Hugging someone you love would feel so much better. If you’re obsessing over a call or email you haven’t gotten, maybe there’s a better use of your energy. Maybe you could do something nurturing for yourself or someone else instead. If you’re getting caught up in what other people think of you, remember it’s none of your business. When the big losses or heartaches come, you take the time to breathe, to be kind to yourself, to reach out for help if you need it. Short of those tragedies, don’t be your own obstacle by dwelling on the unimportant crap. Pick your mind up, and bring it back to right now. Choose better thoughts. Make better mistakes moving forward. Forgive yourself, and forgive other people, as much as you can. Holding grudges and carrying heavy stories around will weigh you down, and that of course, makes it harder to fly. I really wouldn’t waste too much time.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Use Your Gifts Wisely

twainOur time and energy are our most precious gifts to give, and they’re also finite. Sometimes it’s really a practice in itself to direct your energy toward thoughts that strengthen you, rather than those that weaken you. It’s easy to get caught up, or snagged on someone else’s thoughtless comment or careless act, to become embroiled in other people’s dramas, or to allow yourself to spin over mistakes you’ve made. Rejection creates this scenario for many people, as does feeling disrespected, unseen, unheard, ignored, excluded, or harshly judged. We can lose hours, days, weeks obsessing over how other people feel about us, when our time would have been better spent getting right with ourselves.

Human beings are complex. We all have our interior worlds, our inner dialogues; in many ways, being human requires our ability to deal with solitude. Obviously, we can reach out. We can seek connection, love, joy, shared experiences. We can uncover our gifts and spread them in whatever ways are available to us. But if you aren’t happy on the inside, no person and no thing can fix that for you. Often, we’re so focused on the externals, we neglect to do the work that would really bring us peace and joy. So many people spend the large majority of their lives trying to prove that they’re here and they’re worthwhile by pointing to things outside themselves. A lot of people have their identities wrapped up in what they do and what they have. If your self-esteem is determined by factors outside your control, you can see how this leads to trouble.

It’s not what we have, it’s what we give, and it doesn’t have to be grandiose. You can change a person’s day by really taking them in, even just for a moment. You can smile at a stranger, hold open a door, allow someone to merge in traffic. These are small things, but they have a huge effect. When we move through the world and people are kind and considerate, it really fills us with a sense of hope and well-being, but having said that, if someone cuts us off in traffic, we don’t want to let that experience rob us of our own peace. There’s no need to let a stranger raise your blood pressure.

Sometimes we have to draw a line with someone. Maybe you have people in your life who struggle, and as a result they can be inconsiderate or self-absorbed or sometimes thoughtless. The truth is, we can all display these tendencies from time to time, and we probably will. Sometimes we have a day or a week, or many years when we feel victimized or angry or lost, and we lash out because we’re unhappy and we can’t figure out how to fix it. We point fingers and come up with our reasons, and make it about other people or circumstances, and as we flail and rage about, we unintentionally hurt those around us. Some people live their whole lives this way. You are certainly free to direct your time and energy toward making other people responsible for your lack of peace, but I don’t recommend it. No one is going to save you, but you. We each have to do our own work, and for most of us, that gives us plenty to do. Anne Lamott has this great phrase for those who suffer from, “Good Ideas for Other People’s Disease.” Isn’t that awesome? Aren’t we all great at figuring out what other people should do to get it together?

You can’t control people or circumstances, nor do you want to try. The more you let go and practice acceptance (which doesn’t mean you allow yourself to be disrespected or abused), the less you suffer. The more you seek to create steadiness and peace inside yourself, the better off you’ll handle the inevitable and ceaseless ups and downs of life. The more you direct your mind to the present moment, the more peace you’ll find. Breathing deeply feels good. Being awake and aware feels good. Being enraged or depressed or anxious for extended periods of time, obviously does not feel good. Are heartbreaking things going to happen? Yes. To some degree or another we’re all going to face loss, grief, confusion, shame, guilt, envy, jealousy, fear and rage. We’re all going to lose people. We’re all going to have to move and shift with changing circumstance, and sometimes we’ll be grieving, mourning, heartbroken and listless, and those feelings will be understandable and appropriate. This is when you hope you have a spiritual practice that’s going to be there for you, along with the people in your life whom you love. This is the dance. You can fight it. Of course we’d all like to be able to count on things, but the only thing we can truly count on is that everything is always changing.

Think carefully about where you’re sharing those gifts of time and energy. You’re not going to save other people, so I wouldn’t squander your resources there. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to find help or support for those in need, but it does mean you don’t try to manage someone else’s path; usually when we do that, it’s because we’re avoiding our own. Things that will surely bring you down—gossip, violent thoughts or actions, self-loathing, clinging to your anger. Things that will absolutely lift you up- remembering all the good that’s present in your life right now. Taking ownership of your story, and righting the ship if necessary. Doing the work to heal, and seeking out whatever tools you need to help you with that endeavor. Reaching out when you need help, and offering it when you’re in a position to give it. Trying to help those you love be their best selves by celebrating them and encouraging them when times are tough. Doing that for strangers, too. These are all great uses of your time and energy, and the beautiful thing is, the more you direct your energy toward helping others, the more you’ll feel meaning and purpose and fulfillment in your own life. Good for you, good for everyone else.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Free Yourself and Forgive

forgiveSometimes I write about forgiveness and people get very upset. I recognize there are some things we want to put into the category of unforgivable, so let me clarify what I mean when I say I believe forgiveness is freeing and vital if you want to be at peace. I am not talking about deciding that something traumatic or hurtful that happened in your past is now okay with you. I’m not talking about picking up the phone or sending an email to a person who betrayed you, and telling them it’s water under the bridge. You don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to speak to the person, or see them ever again, but if you’re holding on to anger, they’re still hurting you, and that’s my point.

When we’re enraged with someone, we’re carrying them around inside our heads and our hearts because whatever happened is in the past, but in order for us to stay angry, we have to keep thinking about it, and fueling that flame, and rage is a poor constant companion. It seeps into everything. It makes it hard for us to be intimate, to trust other people, to let our guard down, because to do that, you have to be vulnerable, but to hold onto rage, you have to be tough; staying angry requires constant vigilance. We end up depleting our energy on that, when we could be spending it on opening to love, which feels so much better.

How do you forgive someone who stole any chance you had at a normal, innocent childhood, for example? That’s a difficult one, right? Because something was taken from you, and you can never have it back. You can never know what it would have been like to be in Kindergarten feeling safe and secure. You can never know how it might have felt if you’d been able to relate to kids your age, not just in Kindergarten, but in elementary school, junior high, high school, college. It turns out not having a childhood affects you for your whole life. So how do you forgive that? You can re-parent yourself. That little kid who was scared and confused and hurt and alienated is still available to you, and you already know that. If you’re an adult, you aren’t powerless anymore, and it’s never too late to heal. Maybe you get yourself some help, some support. In fact, I’d highly recommend you do that.

Healing takes dedication, time, energy, and a willingness to lean into your pain. If you refuse to work with your issues, don’t expect them to get tired and go away, they’ll just keep showing up for you in every area of your life. They’ll be bubbling right underneath the surface of everything you say and do. If you face your fears, your rage, your loss, your grief, if you allow yourself to mourn, you’ll find you don’t mourn forever. The deep feelings arise, and they hurt, and you cry and you feel raw and maybe some days you feel hopeless or alone or scared, but you hang on, and eventually the heat and the power and the strength of all that old stuff starts to subside, and you can loosen your grip and start to breathe again, maybe for the first time in a very long time.

It’s just, if you’re using a ton of energy to stay angry, you’re probably not going to have enough left to heal. Blame keeps us stuck. It places our ability to be happy in someone else’s hands, or in events over which we had, and have, no control. The past can’t be rewritten; whatever happened, happened. Some things shape us, but the only thing that defines you is what you do about what you’ve been given; how you proceed, how you live your life, and show up for yourself, and the people you love, and the people you don’t even know. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It has very little to do with anyone else.

Sometimes people balk at the word forgiveness, so let me say this. If you’re living your life and you’re happy and you don’t feel like you’re carrying someone who betrayed you within your heart, then I think you’re good to go. You don’t have to call that forgiveness, but that’s what it is in my book. You are not a prisoner of another person’s actions or inactions; you’re liberated.

The same goes for people who enter our lives later in life. Maybe you had an idyllic childhood, but something unthinkable happened later. This is your life. You get to decide how much energy you’re going to spend looking back. If you work on it enough, you can witness your experience. You can examine your thinking. You can choose one thought over another and there’s so much power in that. Choose the thoughts that strengthen you. Feed the love. Let the rest of it go, as much as you can. It doesn’t have to fit into a neat little box. You certainly don’t have to be grateful for everything that’s ever happened to you, just try to grow from your pain. Allow it to soften you and make you more insightful and compassionate, and likely to reach out to other people in pain. That way, at least, some beauty grows from it. Learn to love yourself as you are right now, and understand, you wouldn’t be you without every event that’s ever befallen you. Remind yourself that you’re strong, and unhook your journey from someone else’s past behavior. That’s their journey, it isn’t yours.

Sending you love, and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

Own It

ownitIt’s easy to look around and blame external factors for our rage or unhappiness, for our boredom or dissatisfaction. (Please note: I am not talking about times we’re moving through grief, the loss of a person we don’t know how to live without, or the other huge heartbreaks we face in life, I’m talking about a day-to-day focus on what’s happening around us, instead of within us). It’s much harder to take a look at what’s happening within us, to take ownership of our lives and our feelings, and to make changes when necessary, but it’s also very liberating. When we give circumstances or other people the power to control how we feel in any given moment, on any given day, or for days and weeks at a time, we’re putting ourselves in such a weak position.

If someone cuts you off on the freeway, you don’t have to give them the power to raise your blood pressure. You don’t have to unroll your window, or shout expletives, or stick your traffic finger in the air. You don’t have to let it affect you at all. If it does, if you become enraged, that rage was boiling right underneath the surface. That’s something you had within you, and they just gave you an opportunity to unleash it, but that isn’t a healthy way to process your anger or frustration, or feelings of being disrespected.

If your friend gets a promotion and you can’t be happy for them because you want a promotion, that’s something to look at as well. Maybe you feel envious of your friend, or annoyed at his or her good fortune. Maybe you feel you deserve a break more, but now you’re allowing your friend’s good news to make you doubt yourself or loathe yourself or wonder why your life isn’t going along the way theirs is. You’ve allowed an external circumstance to rock your world and make you feel like crap, when in reality, your friend did not just get the last promotion known to humankind. Your friend did not just take up your space in the sun. You have an opportunity to take a look within. It feels terrible to resent the good news of someone else. It makes us feel small and ugly, when we are neither of those things.

We can use these triggers to know ourselves more deeply, and to point us in the direction of where we have healing to do, and then we can get to work. A great way to stay centered is to observe your breath. I know that sounds so simple, but it’s the quickest and most powerful way I know to bring yourself smack into the now.  When we’re obsessing or lamenting over what’s happening for other people that isn’t happening for us, or we’re raging about what this person is doing or not doing, when we point fingers at our partner for the state of our relationship, when we decide we’ll be happy when “things change”, we’re really lost at sea. We have no control over what life is going to put in our paths, nor do we have the power to determine what other people will do or say or want or need; our power lies in our ability to respond with grace and strength and curiosity to whatever it is that’s happening around us. I mean, we can work on that, anyway. The rest of it is not up to us.

Other people cannot make us feel anything, unless we allow them that access, and that goes for the good feelings, as well as the challenging ones. If we aren’t open to receiving love, for example, it doesn’t matter if our partner dances like a monkey, we aren’t going to be able to receive the gift, or dance along. A person cannot rob us of a peaceful afternoon by behaving badly, unless we allow ourselves to boil about it for hours on end. We always have the power to choose one thought over another, but that’s a skill that requires a lot of practice and determination.

Next time you find yourself spiraling and coming from a place of lack instead of abundance, fear instead of love, pause and breathe. Take a moment to come back to yourself. Feel your inhale, and feel your exhale, and place your hand on your heart if it helps, so you can feel it beating away in there for you, and then decide how you want to show up, how you want to respond. Becoming accountable for the energy we’re spreading is a super power worth working on.

Wishing you strength, love, and determination,

Ally Hamilton

Find my books here!

You Define Yourself

growhorizonThere’s no point trying to make someone “see the light.” First of all, you can never be certain that your ideas or opinions about how things should be are right for anyone but yourself (barring the obvious instances where something is clearly not okay, like when a situation puts someone in emotional or physical danger). We never know what other people need for their growth, nor do any of us have a crystal ball, and for most people, strength comes from having been tested. Even if you can see clearly that a loved one’s course of action will end up causing them pain, you can’t know if that very pain will be the thing that causes them to break open and love themselves at last. Sometimes we need to crash into a brick wall again and again before we decide, “Okay, I’ve got that lesson. Next!”

Some people are blinded by anger and their need to be right. It doesn’t matter what you say, your logic won’t help, and neither will your patience or compassion. If someone is determined to make you the enemy, to blame you for their unhappiness, there’s nothing you can do, except decide not to participate in the madness. If you engage, defend yourself, try to point out those instances that prove your perspective, you’re still not going to get anywhere, because if a person needs you to be wrong so they can be right, they will invent the story that backs up their point of view. Trying to communicate is futile, but you can go ahead and exhaust yourself for awhile if you must.

When people are attached to blaming others for the state of their life, they’ve made themselves powerless, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It does not matter what anyone has done to me. I take ownership of my own life. I decide what I’m going to do with what I’ve been given. I rise up, or I allow the past to ruin my present and future. It’s up to me, and it’s up to you. It’s up to all of us. Is blaming other people easier? I don’t really think so. I know it can feel that way for awhile; if we point fingers at other people, we can avoid looking at those places where we still need to heal for a bit longer, but eventually, we’re just on a mountaintop, by ourselves, shouting into the wind. People can spot bitterness a mile away. You may gain sympathy, but what kind of payoff is that? I’d take empathy over sympathy eight days a week. You define yourself as a victim, or a survivor, it’s a choice.

Sometimes a person is so hurt and so confused and so unable to face their own self-loathing, they just spew venom. You don’t help by standing there with your arms open so you can get covered in it, you do them a disservice that way, and you certainly dishonor your own tender heart. Sometimes you have to leave people on that mountain so they can spit it all out until there’s nothing left but their pain. They might die on that mountain, screaming into the ethers about how wronged they’ve been, or they might climb down that mountain eventually, ready to start again. You can’t control another person’s journey. You can love people with your whole heart. You can wish them well. You can offer tools that have worked for you if they’re even remotely open to listening, but if they’re in the blame/rage/shame cycle, it isn’t likely they’ll be able to hear you, anyway.

I know it can be brutal. If someone is close to you by blood, or through circumstance, it can hurt so much not to be seen clearly. That doesn’t even feel good from a stranger, but you know yourself. As long as you know you’ve done your best and you’re doing your best and you’ve apologized when and where it made sense to do that, as long as you know you’ve shown up with love, and in the best way you know how, then you can look yourself in the eye when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of the day. Life is too short and too precious to spend a lot of your time and energy trying to rewrite someone else’s story. You have your own horizon to look toward, and you get to choose the path as you walk toward it, and you also get to choose the way you walk it. That’s enough, and that’s a lot.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Pick Different Moments

Dont-try-to-make-life-aSometimes people write to me with awful stories about things they’ve been through that would break your heart- childhood abuse, neglect, abandonment, violence at the hands of other people, feelings of being powerless, worthless or invisible. Is that fair, when there are people who start out in a loving environment with every advantage, and two parents who want nothing more than to nurture their tender hearts and natural curiosity? Of course not, it’s not a level playing field. We’re given what we’re given, and our power lies in how we decide to respond.

“Why me?” is not where it’s at. Why not you? Why not any of us? Life is full of the kind of knifing heartbreak that can bring you to your knees without warning, and it’s also full of the kind of beauty that can rob you of breath and language and everything but awe and gratitude. If things are good in your world, cherish the people who are gifts to you and share the gifts you’ve been given. If things are not so easy, or have not been good in your world, my heart goes out to you. Sometimes it can be very dark and confusing and alienating and lonely. Sometimes you go through the kind of grief that makes it hard to imagine the muscles in your face will ever make their way into a smile again.

Here’s the thing–everyone has pain, and everyone suffers. Talk to people if you don’t believe me, even the ones whose lives look perfect on the outside. The only way to avoid pain in this world is to detach to such a degree, I don’t know what the point is of being here at all. Some people have more pain than others. Some people have endured loss that makes it hard to breathe, or put one foot in front of the other. You can look back on your life and make a list of all the things that have gone wrong, and of all the people who’ve disappointed you, or abandoned you or betrayed you. You can take your list and use it to explain why you are the way you are. I did it myself for years, so believe me, I get the desire to make it someone else’s fault. Blame lets you off the hook, you don’t have to work on yourself, you can just sit there in your anger and your righteousness and point fingers. It gets old. Also, if you’re over twenty-five, it’s time to stop, and even that is kind of late.

Your life is yours. Whatever has happened, has happened. You could also decide to look back on your life and make a list of all the people who taught you about love. Maybe you had a great teacher who cared, who saw something in you. Maybe you found solace in certain books, or when you went for long walks by yourself. Maybe you learned something about beauty from being out in nature. Maybe your best friend has been like a rock of hope and loyalty in your life. You could make a different kind of list, and use it to explain why you are the way you are. Why, against all odds, you believe in yourself. How it is that you know how to love, even though the people who were meant to love you when you arrived here, didn’t have the tools to do it. You could pick different moments to highlight.

Healing is hard; it requires your willingness to be brave and to look unflinchingly at any patterns, habits, and stories you might be carrying around with you that are keeping you stuck. It means you take those fingers you’ve been pointing at other people, and you point them back at yourself, but not in an aggressive, unforgiving way, in a kind and curious one. You take your power back. You don’t give it to the people with whom you’re angry anymore, you unhook your journey from theirs. You embark on something new, but first you have to go back and make sure you understand what happened. You go back with compassion for yourself and mourn the loss of whatever it is that was taken from you–your childhood, your innocence, your belief that people could be good and loving and trustworthy. You look at that stuff and you grieve for what it is that’s been lost to you, but after you’ve spent yourself, after you’ve examined your pain, and let it wash over you and through you, you pick yourself up. Now you understand your tendencies. Now you know yourself. You don’t have to live in your past unless you keep feeding it.

Your present is full of potential, and believe me, there can be beauty in it, and love and joy and laughter. You can use your pain, your understanding, your insight, your compassion, to help other people who are still stuck and suffering. If you want to feel that your life has meaning and value, find a way to help someone else. It’s the most fulfilling thing I know. You can shine a light, offer a hand, a shoulder, an ear, your kindness, and in that way, you help them, and you make your suffering a thing of value. It meant something, it was worth something; it made you who you are, but not in a way that closes you, not anymore. There’s beauty in that. We’ve all felt alone in this thing at times, but we aren’t.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Stop It!!

Sometimes our expectations of ourselves are completely unrealistic. If you tend to be a perfectionist, if you fall into the Type A category, I really feel for you. I often joke that after twenty-plus years of yoga practice six days a week, I’m a 93% recovered Type A personality, 97% on a good day. I spent years beating myself up, and I can still fall prey to that tendency if I’m feeling tired, tested, or vulnerable.

There are good things about doing your very best all the time. That’s a great way to move through the world, and it really helps when it comes to putting action behind your intentions, but if you set the bar at perfection, you’re in for trouble, because no one is perfect, and you really don’t want to walk around feeling disappointed in yourself all the time. Shaking your head because you said or did something you wish you hadn’t, because you didn’t show up the way you wanted to, because you let someone down, or blew a chance to have compassion for someone. No one operates from their highest selves in every moment, we all blow it sometimes. When you’re used to driving yourself, it can be really hard to find that forgiving voice when you need it.

Berating yourself for hours or days because you’re fallible is a precious waste of energy. The voice inside your head that says, “You suck! I can’t believe you could be so stupid or careless or lame, or fill-in-the-blank”, is so debilitating. Whatever has happened is done, and dwelling on one moment or one interaction you’d love to have back so you could do it over again serves no one. Figuring out what went wrong so you can make a better choice the next time is productive, but relentlessly thrashing yourself around is not. If you’re consistently kind, patient, loyal, trustworthy, sensitive and thoughtful, most people will find it in their hearts to forgive you when you blow it once in awhile, especially if you acknowledge it and apologize. Most people just want to be understood; they want to know that you realize why this thing that happened was painful or disappointing or upsetting. If a person feels heard and understood, most of the time forgiveness follows, unless you’re dealing with another perfectionist, and there’s the rub. If you can’t be reasonable about expectations for yourself, it’s not going to be easy to cut other people a little slack, either. Sometimes we rake ourselves over the coals to such an unhealthy degree, the result is self-loathing and depression, and if we hold other people to the same standard, we alienate them. No one can live up to that. Can you imagine living with someone who never gave you a break, who never extended understanding or affection when you needed it most?

Many people live with an inner dialogue that is so harsh and unkind, it’s a wonder they get anything done. Your internal dialogue is your constant companion; it can be your best friend, or your worst nightmare. I remember reading a piece in the New York Times many years ago, about not making your children feel their mistakes are sins. If there’s no difference between forgetting to clean your room, for example, and cheating on a test, or lying, or stealing something, how are you to figure out what’s a bummer, and what is really not okay? If you’re punished equally for everything, and if that punishment is painful and scary, the message is that any mistake is a problem. Any moment you failed to be perfect renders you unworthy of love and unsafe. Who wouldn’t want to give up?

The other thing that’s important to get is that the longer you replay old events, the more you rob yourself of what’s happening right now. You take the potential for joy, peace or love right out of the current moment. You’re not here, you’re back there, but there’s no potential back there, and that’s the root of stress and anxiety. We find ourselves in one place, but we want to be in another. We rewrite the conversation, changing the way we responded, or coming up with the perfect retort, but it’s already over, so we’re living in a fantasy, we’re time traveling. Sometimes we do it the other way, too. We “future trip”, and make ourselves anxious over mistakes we’re afraid we could make, ways we could blow it.

If this is all familiar to you, I really suggest you get yourself a six-foot piece of rubber. I’m talking about a yoga mat. I can’t swear that it will work for you, but I can say I was able to accomplish two huge, life-changing shifts through steady practice. The first is that I learned to use my breath and sensations in my body to stay rooted in the now. I’d spent so many years “up in my head”, this was a revelation to me. Being in my body, being aware of my breath, being engaged with and curious about the present moment, without all that chatter drowning out the peace? Amazing. The second is that when I got quiet like that, I realized the relationship I was having with myself was incredibly unkind, and I simply refused to continue to feed that harsh inner critic. When it would arise, I’d come back to my breath and back to compassion for myself. I tend to believe if I could do that, anyone can — it’s why I teach. If you’re tormented by your thoughts all day, there’s simply no way you can spread love as you move through the world. I’ve come to believe that’s really what we’re here to do. In order to spread it, you have to be brimming with it, and the funny thing is, if you get quiet and strip away enough layers of rage, shame, blame, regret and fear, you will find love. If you feed it, it will grow and blossom within you, and then it will blossom around you. You might think you get stuff done because you have an inner voice that’s demanding and dissatisfied all the time, but I promise you when your inner voice is rooting you on, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Sending you love, and wishing you the gift of a kind inner voice,

Ally Hamilton

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