Water Your Plants

Any living thing you feed will grow and strengthen, and anything you starve will die. This includes relationships. If you don’t put any effort or energy into it, it won’t sustain itself, and that happens all the time; that’s why our divorce rate is so incredibly high. A relationship is a living, breathing thing that exists in the space between two people. It’s a third thing, a singular creation that could never have occurred without the intersection of two particular lives.

I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, but also familial ones, close friendships, acquaintances, colleagues, strangers. Two people come together and each one contributes something. If you put your boredom, frustrations, rage, thoughtlessness or fear into the space between you and another person, that’s a choice you’re making. No one is perfect, and no one is going to choose well, or operate from their highest selves in every moment. Sometimes we’ll regret our contribution. That’s when the words, “I’m sorry, I blew it” are brilliant. If you’re in pain, chances are you’ll spill some of that into the space between you and the people in your life. You won’t mean to do that, it’s just natural that we spread whatever is within us. This is why your healing process is so critical. It’s not just something you do so you can be a peace within yourself, it’s a gift you give to everyone you encounter. When you’re filled with love, you’ll spill that, too and you won’t have to be sorry about it.

The thing is, it’s easy to point fingers and hard to look in the mirror sometimes. You can blame the other party if things aren’t going well, or you can choose to try adding something new to the mix. Maybe your lover or friend or mother or brother has been careless with you, or neglectful or cruel. If we’re talking about abuse, you create as much physical and emotional space as you can between you and the person who’s in that kind of pain. Short of that, you could just try a different approach. You can teach people how you want to be treated by example. You could plan something special for no reason, even if you feel the other person doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes we shut ourselves down or close ourselves off. We erect barriers because the pain has become so great we don’t know what else to do but defend ourselves against it. Walls shut out the love, too. They close off the possibility for understanding, connection, intimacy. That’s not sustainable; being in a relationship where you feel unseen, unheard and unloved is so much worse than being on your own, but sometimes we give up too soon, and miss a huge opportunity to grow.

Growth hurts. This is why we have the term “growing pains.” Blame is easy. Making ourselves right, feeling victimized, bitter, resentful, those are all stances we can choose to take, but curling up with your righteousness isn’t comforting. Making yourself powerless is draining, not inspiring. You can’t control other people, or save them or make them happy. Each person has to do her or his own journey, but you can grab someone’s attention by doing something loving and unexpected, and maybe they’ll feel so grateful, they’ll see it doesn’t take much, and they’ll grab your attention next time. That’s generally a better way to go than a constant stream of criticism. Most people will not be able to take that in after awhile. Instead of listening to you with the intent to understand, they’ll shut down or storm off or go on the defensive, and you might have discovered people on the defensive have their hands up. They don’t outstretch their arms. I’m not saying you shouldn’t communicate honestly, because of course you need to do that. I’m just saying if that hasn’t been working, try something else, something completely different. Just to see. We all just want to feel like at least one person is getting us. At least one person has our back, accepts our flaws, celebrates our beauty, cherishes us. Of course we can all have at least one person in ourselves, but connection between two people is some of the best stuff in life.

When people stop feeding the space between them it becomes empty. The roots dry up, and the plant shrivels and dies. There’s no bond left, eventually. There’s just painful history, defense mechanisms, anger, justifications, and attachments to a particular version of the story of what went wrong, and it isn’t easy to come back together at that point. It won’t save every relationship, but the more you decide to offer love, the more it will blossom up around you. You can’t control what other people will want or say or do, but you can work on the way you show up, and what is is you give. You have a gorgeous heart that was built for love. If you’ve erected walls around it, you can tear them down, too.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

Love is Your Birthright

If you have trauma in your past, you are not defective, you are not “marked” for life, you have not been shut out of any chance at happiness; you’re just as worthy of love and joy as anyone else. You may look around and think you’re the only person with serious pain in your past, or in your present, but I can assure you that isn’t so. I get emails from people every day who’ve been through things that would break your heart in two, or who find themselves in situations they’re desperate to flee.

If the people who were meant to love you and protect you, to nurture you and support you, were not able to do that because of their own damage, that is not on you. It is not a reflection of your worthiness to receive love. You were worthy the millisecond you came into existence. The other day I was talking about time folding in on itself; moments overlapping each other, or continuing long after you’ve grown away from them. Here’s where that gets tricky: the “grown-up you” may easily grasp that some people are damaged, and that maybe your parents fall into that category, or did at the time you came on the scene, but a child doesn’t get that. Children have no choice. The situation is what it is, and a child in an abusive environment must figure out how to survive, how to appease, or how to be invisible. At a certain point, a child in that framework will seriously begin to doubt in her own lovableness. She’ll think it must be something within her that is just bad, or that love is conditional, and must be earned. A child in that kind of family has to question if there’s something defective about himself because the alternative doesn’t occur to a little person. A child simply does not have the frame of reference to understand that some people are carrying around so much pain, are so ill-equipped to take care of themselves, they’re in no condition to be responsible for anyone else. In general, the cycle of abuse is repeated, or the person who was hurt breaks the cycle and heads in the opposite direction. In other words, if you were abused, it’s very likely the person who inflicted pain upon you was also abused, but I know a lot of amazing parents who grew up in a war zone. You can come out of abuse and create something beautiful. Your past does not have to define your future (or your eventual parenting style should you have children) once you’re old enough to make your own moves.

If you question whether there’s something within you that is unworthy of love, allow me to say that’s not it; that’s not the problem. You are love. I genuinely believe that. We’re energetic beings and my belief is that the energy from which we arise is love. The problem is your doubt in yourself, because when you fail to recognize what a gift you are, what a miracle you are, and I do not use the word lightly, or in any cheesy kind of way, you just aren’t seeing clearly. I believe in accidents, I think some things are just random, but I do not believe in accidental people. You’ve had your experiences and they are unique to you. You’ve had your pain, the ways you were let down or neglected, the ways you’ve had your heart broken. People have come along who’ve broken you down more, and some have lifted you up. You have your memories and your stories and your internal dialogue. You have your dreams. You have your specific heart. No one could ever replace you. Not ever. To me, that’s an incredible and obvious miracle.

So you have that. You have you. Maybe you have a lot of healing to do to begin to understand what a gift that is. The great news is that healing is possible, you just have to find the path that works for you. I really think talking to a great therapist is essential, and I also think some physical expression is key. Whether it’s yoga or hiking or windsurfing, whether you get regular bodywork or you dance, I think there’s something powerful that happens when you tune into your breath and into your body. Your body is full of incredible wisdom, and sometimes it’s also holding on to so much pain. Old pain. Pain from when your shoulders were hitched up around your ears, or your arms were protecting your head, or you were cowering in a corner, terrified. Pain in your jaw from wanting to scream but knowing that would only make it worse. Pain in your heart because you weren’t being seen or loved. You really need to release that pain, because a lot of the stories are ancient and woven into your body, and they won’t strengthen you. There’s nothing good that comes from grasping them or feeding them or pushing them down into some deep place so that your only hope then, is to numb out.

I’ve had people apologize to me after class because they found themselves weeping in a hip opener, or thought they might start bawling in Savasana. You know what? Weep. Bawl. The job of a yoga teacher is to create a space where healing is likely to occur. A safe space. A person letting it out would indicate the teacher has done a good job. Feeling secure enough in someone’s class to fall apart is a beautiful way to say thank you. We are all human beings. Raw emotion is gorgeous. Everyone has pain. Some people have more than others, some people are more resilient than others, but everyone has pain. You let that stuff out so you can uncover the love. You may have been forced to bury it, you may be inclined to doubt that it’s there, but I guarantee if you find the ways that work for you to dig a little, you’re going to be amazed. Love is your birthright. No one can take it from you unless you let them.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Your Life Belongs to You

You cannot please everyone; if you must, go ahead and try, but when you’re done you’ll find you’ve gotten nothing for your troubles but exhaustion, despair, and resentment. People in your life may want all kinds of great stuff for you and from you, but no one else has to live your life. At the end of the day, when you’re looking in the mirror as you brush your teeth, you’re either staring at a friend or a stranger.

When we live our lives to please others, we lose all sense of self and the result is a deep feeling of disconnection. If you don’t know who you are or what you want, it’s not at all easy to chart a course and it’s very likely you’ll get caught up in someone else’s plan. If you know yourself and you’re in touch with what’s true for you, but are still unable to allow that pull to move you, it’s even worse because that’s a conscious betrayal of your true self.

All kinds of things create conditions where people are susceptible to self-sabotage — fear is a huge one, so is guilt. If I say how I feel, or do what I know in my heart I must, this person may be hurt or disappointed or angry. They may not approve of me anymore. There’s also the fear of making big changes, that stops a lot of people dead in their tracks. If I talk about the huge elephant in the room, I can’t then try to sweep it back under the rug. I’ll have to act, and I have no idea what that means for my life, or for the people in it. Sometimes it’s easier to blame other people than it is to take responsibility for the way life looks and feels. I’ll keep telling myself I can’t act because this other person would be devastated.  When in reality, you’d be better off just sharing the truth for their sake and yours. You can’t sabotage yourself and expect to be at peace.

When you decide your life is your own, and you are responsible for your feelings and your actions, things get a lot easier. Harder at first, if it’s new to you, because you’re leaving your coping mechanisms in a heap on the floor behind you, and having to sit with the discomfort of creating a life that feels good to you, but easier in the long run because your inner compass is lit up. You have to be true to yourself. If you spend a lifetime pushing down your own dreams, hopes and desires so that you can measure up to someone else’s idea of how you should be, or society’s idea of how you should be, that’s a lifetime you missed. You are not here to be a martyr. You’re here to uncover your gifts and share them. You’re here to shine, but in order to do that, you really have to drop the facade that your life belongs to anyone but you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

The One You Feed

twowolvesWe are all capable of incredible kindness and light, and also of indifference and self-absorption. It’s easy to move through life with blinders on, thinking of the world as though it’s rotating around us. As if whatever happens is happening to us. As though we are being punished or rewarded, or as though we are owed something. Some of life is incomprehensibly painful, and some of it will crack your heart wide open with gratitude. Life is just life, it is happening, it is moving and flowing. This was true before we existed, and it will be true after we’re gone. We get a blink, you know?

With your blink, I recommend you blaze your way through. How you respond to this life is your choice. What you feed is up to you. I believe in free will. I believe in facing your fears and slaying your dragons and sitting with your pain and owning your truth. I believe in acknowledging those places where you may be weak, and turning them into places of incredible strength. I believe in knowing yourself, and I believe in accountability. I believe if you want to be happy, you need to shift your focus and consider what you might do to uplift someone else. You cannot control circumstances, but you can work on the way you respond to them. You can weigh yourself down with resentment and rage. You can do your days bitterly. Or you can feed gratitude and light and love and oh, that sunset is unbelievable. You can soak the joy out of every moment possible, and when it is time to cry, you can cry openly, freely, on your knees with a pure heart. You can fight your way through this thing, or you can open to the flow. It takes courage to surrender, to be vulnerable, to realize you are not in control, and to meet each day with your heart wide open, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting you deny your shadow (And I also don’t feel those shadow feelings are “evil”, either. They are natural, human emotions we will all experience). When you’re angry or in pain, open to those feelings, too, because if you run from them or repress them or numb them out, they will own you. I’m simply saying don’t get stuck there. Try not to stoke the flame and keep yourself boiling. You really don’t want to hold on to a sad or angry story about yourself, life, or why things are the way they are. There is always potential for growth, for change. There’s always the possibility of a new story, every day. You get to co-create it. I think the key is just to receive those darker feelings when they arise, and explore them and let them wash over you so that the heat of your rage or your heartache or your despair or grief or betrayal is released, so you can be free to move forward. You may have a wound in your heart that will never fully heal if your loss has been profound, but that doesn’t mean your heart cannot open around it. The heart is so expansive.

Watch what you feed yourself in every area. Everything you take in is your food. Some of it feeds your body, some your mind, and some your heart. You cannot exist on a steady diet of Not. Good. Enough. and expect to be able to love yourself well. You cannot feed yourself a regular stream of violence (even if it’s fictional), and think that does not seep into your being. You cannot dwell on everything that’s wrong in your life, everything that isn’t happening the way you’d like it to, and think you’ll feel any gratitude, which is one of the best feelings there is, and a very sad thing to miss. Sending you love, and hoping you will realize who and what you are. Because you are really so stunningly beautiful and so capable of shining. If I could, I’d hold up a mirror for you so you could see that blinding light within you if you’ve lost sight of it. Wishing you peace, and hoping for peace everywhere, Ally Hamilton

Grab Your Suit, and Let’s Do This

There-are-two-ways-to-beI think a lot of people search for happiness, but a long time ago I started searching for the truth. When I say the truth, I just mean the truth as it exists in my own life; I’m not suggesting what’s true for me is true for you. I just don’t believe it’s possible to find any kind of inner peace if you’re lying to yourself in any way, or refusing to accept the truth about relationships or situations in your life. That means knowing yourself, understanding what lights you up, recognizing when you don’t show up the way you’d like to and examining what happened for you so you can do it differently the next time. Being accountable for the energy you’re spreading, being aware of the things you’re feeling and saying and doing. That kind of truth.

Blaming other people for your unhappiness (which I certainly used to do), is a form of lying to yourself. If you’re over 25 (and I’d really kind of like to say 20), and you are not happy with the way your life looks and feels, it is on you, now. No matter what may be behind you, what you’ve gone through, or how many different ways you’ve been hurt or disappointed, only you are responsible for your own happiness.

Clinging, manipulating and numbing out are all forms of lying to yourself. Love is not something you force. It’s something you give, freely, with the understanding that you may be hurt. Sometimes you’ll get hurt because we are always growing, and two people don’t always grow together. Sometimes you’ll be hurt as a result of where a person is on their particular path. People can only be where they are, they can only give what they’ve got. If you don’t accept the truth of the situation, you are in for a world of pain.

We all know when things just don’t “feel right”. There’s no hiding from that reality, but people try to do just that all the time. They hide with busy-ness or distraction or drinking until they’re comfortably numb. With shopping or decorating or eating or not eating or video games. With trying to manage another person’s journey, or trying to cajole the love out of them. Love is not a sales pitch. You should not have to prove you’re worthy of it. If you feel you do, you need to stop everything and figure out how you could not know that you are. Because that is some deep pain. That is the number one thing you’d better get busy healing. And time passes in the fog of a lie. It won’t get you anywhere. Wherever you go, you will bring the pain of the lie with you, and you will have to use most of your energy to push it down. You will make yourself sick in your soul.

I would rather know the truth and be in pain than sleepwalk in a lie. There is no beauty in delusion. The truth to me is a comfort, even if it cuts down the center of my heart. Because it’s real and I know I’m awake. I don’t want to distract myself from life, I want to be soaked in it. I want to swim, you know? I do not expect smooth waters all the time. We are all going to be thrown against the rocks in life. In my experience, that’s when the growth happens. When you’re cut and bleeding and you think, “How did I not see this coming? Why did I swim this way, and hang out here in the eye of the storm for so long? Why don’t I love myself?”. You need to find the answers to those questions if this is speaking to you. And you know, sometimes you love yourself but a storm hits, anyway.

This may sound kind of dark, but it isn’t at all. Its simply that life is full of joy and pain, of darkness and light, of laughter that comes from your very center, and tears that come from that same place, too. And if you’re awake and swimming, you will also be there to appreciate and soak in all the love, all the joy, all the yes of life. The incredible moments when someone looks you in the eye and you know you are being seen. Understood. Celebrated. You’ll know that that’s real, too. If you want to be happy, you’re going to have to swim in the ocean of your truth. That’s where the love is. That’s where you find your happy. Grab your suit and start paddling. I’m sending you so much love, and a boogie board, Ally Hamilton