Love Doesn’t Blossom in a Prison

Sometimes, in an effort to feel secure, we strangle the life out of a thing. For many, many people, facing the reality that anything living is in a constant state of flux is a hugely uncomfortable task. Nature is teaching us all the time, though. The seasons change, the leaves fall off the trees, the branches are barren and then the buds appear and the tree blooms again. Flowers grow and blossom and fade from whence they came, and new flowers spring up. You, yourself are always changing, shifting, evolving, growing; so is everyone else you know. Your body has an unknown expiration date, so does everyone else’s. We won’t know for sure what happens after this until we exhale for the last time. If you want to hide from the vulnerability and constant motion of this experience, you’re going to need to find a huge rock, earplugs and something to tie around your eyes, too.

It’s completely understandable that we’d like to be able to count on at least a few things, to create a little order out of all the uncertainty. The thing is, nature is wild and gorgeous and uncontrollable, and you are part of nature, you’re not separate from it. You can make choices about what you’d like the shape of your life to look like, and the way you’re going to show up, and you can control your behavior if you work on it. You can develop the ability to choose one thought over another. You can do the work to heal your deepest wounds, and you can uncover the limitless well of love you have within you. Then you can share it. So those are two things you can count on: everything is always changing, and your power lies in your response to what life puts in your path. But if you want to control your path or the people who may be walking it with you, you’re in for trouble.

Human beings are funny. We meet someone and we think, ohhhhh, look at this person, so beautiful, so wonderful, this is a person I want, and we enjoy the rush of the beginning. When the lust/dust clears, if something real is there we begin the process of knowing each other. It takes time and a willingness to see clearly. Right out of the gate people struggle with this. They want to see what they want to see. Maybe they’ve been waiting for love for a long time, and in the rush of hormones they’ve thought, “This is it!” They’re in love with the idea of being in love, and then the clinging begins. This has to be it, so this person has to conform to the idea I have about how my partner should be, they have to look like my vision board! They have to want what I want them to want, and anything that challenges my vision has to be rejected. The minute you cling to an outcome, you can bet you’re going to suffer. People are not possessions, and they are not obligated to want what you want, but love is a vulnerable undertaking, too, and it’s natural to want to feel like you can relax. How else to trust and open?

Two people have to keep choosing each other every day, every moment, that’s the only way. You can’t force someone to feel the way you want them to, you can’t cajole or convince anyone to fall madly in love with you; they will or they won’t. Selling yourself is a terrible price to pay for security. So is trying to be something other than what you are, in all your unique beauty. Withholding your love or attention or affection to get what you want is not loving. Setting up markers for your relationship, certain brass rings that have to be grabbed by certain deadlines is not loving, either, but when our fear outweighs our love, what ought to feel like an embrace becomes a stranglehold.

Love is not controlling or manipulative. It doesn’t need shackles, and it won’t grow in a prison. The more fear you put in the soil, the more you strangle the plant. No one wants to be owned or controlled. People long to be seen, heard, understood, cherished, but no one wants to be crushed under the weight of someone else’s insecurity. We’re all insecure enough; insecurity is a given. Also, being human, when we feel completely secure we start to take that security for granted. We don’t pay as close attention, we don’t show up the way we did. A relationship is a living, breathing thing. It needs nurturing, it needs to be fed. If you neglect it or mistreat it, it’s going to die. If you love someone, you’re making the choice to see them and to honor them, and you have to keep making that choice if you want the love to last through all the ups and downs and vulnerability inherent in the nature of all living things. I’m not just talking about romantic love, here. You can’t predict the future, you can only love in the now. When you recognize that everything is always changing, and nothing can be taken for granted, you’ll feel inspired to love with everything you’ve got, every moment you’ve got. Better get busy if you need to.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

There Are No Postcards from Limbo

In order to open to something new, to completely throw yourself into it, generally you have to let go of something old. The something old might be an idea you’ve had about yourself, a relationship that’s ended but hasn’t ended completely, a way of being, a job you’ve had forever, or a role you’ve played for someone that just doesn’t feel right anymore. We human beings are complex, and sometimes we try to jump and hold on at the same time, and then we lament the fact that our arm really hurts, and wonder why we can’t fully land in the new adventure, but seem to be swinging in agony somewhere between what was and what is.

I get emails from people who have gone through a breakup, but are still sleeping with the ex, because no one new is on the horizon, and it feels familiar and comforting in a scary, uncertain world. I think many people can look back on relationships that just wouldn’t die. The break up and make up thing, the going back once more, just to see, and just once more after that. Or people who stay in jobs that don’t inspire them at all because the idea of looking for something else seems daunting and overwhelming. People who are tortured and depressed because they’ve told themselves they can’t or shouldn’t pursue their dreams, some of whom are convinced they aren’t worthy of love, or happiness, or a life that feels good to them. People who think their past trauma renders them broken.

The only thing that comes from trying to leap and cling at the same time is pain. You’re attempting to perform diametrically opposed actions at once. You leave yourself suspended, hurting, neither here nor there. Limbo isn’t a great place to hang out. Change can be scary and it can really hurt if it isn’t wanted, but as always, the only power we have is to face reality as it is, and try to be fearless. Fearlessly open, accepting, heartbroken, afraid. Fearlessly afraid, that’s a concept, huh? But what I’m talking about is the ability to embrace and examine your feelings, and to accept what is true for you, and also what is true for other people.

When you know yourself and you know how you feel, you can speak about it calmly and with compassion. That’s really all you can do. You can’t control circumstances or other people. You can’t make anyone happy, you can’t force someone to love you or open to you, or decide to go for it with you. You can’t expect to forge a new path for yourself if you’re clinging to the old one. At a certain point, you have to let go and leap. It isn’t easy; few things in life that are worthwhile are also easy. Love isn’t easy, it requires bravery and a willingness to be vulnerable. Sustained gratitude isn’t easy, it demands that you pick your mind up and bring it back to all the things that are going well, that you do have, again and again. The birthing process isn’t easy, whether we’re talking about birthing a person into this world, or a new way of being, or a work of art. All these things require your willingness to go through the pain of opening, but you know what’s worse? Hanging out in the birth canal where you can’t breathe deeply and you can’t see the light. Where you feel like your head might explode, and where, if you screamed, no one would hear you. That’s not living, not in a way that’s sustainable.

If the journey is the thing, and I believe it is, hanging out endlessly at the forks in the road isn’t likely to fulfill you. There are all these amazing views and experiences and new languages and tastes and roads to be traveled. I understand it may break your heart to leap off the road you’re on, but you never know what’s around the bend, and clinging will never lead you to happiness. Trust that if you let go, you’ll land on your feet.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Plan for Change

Embracing the vulnerability of being human isn’t always easy. Most of us want to feel some sense of stability and order while we’re on this spinning planet, in these bodies with their unknown expiration dates, loving people who also have a finite amount of time, so we make our plans, and we have our routines and habits, and we try to envision the path ahead. We imagine that we are in control, at least to some degree.

Sometimes the desire to create stability is so intense, we start to push things down — feelings that challenge this plan we’re working, truths that would create the necessity for change. Just as the earth is spinning away, everything living is always in a state of flux. The desire to grasp and control is understandable, but it leads to suffering. If you do have feelings, pain, ideas that are dying to burst from deep within you, they really need and deserve your kind attention. Sometimes the plan needs to be scrapped so a new path can emerge. The birthing process is many things, but easy isn’t one of them, and any change, even the most positive, has some loss attached to it. In order to open to something new, we have to let go of something old.

If you want to be at peace, and you want to be able to offer everything you’ve got, every inspiration, every drop of love, every creative spark, then the ability to sit with your feelings, and not ON them, is really key. To be willing to look fearlessly at what is within you, and also what is within the people around you, without resistance, without argument, takes incredible courage, but it’s also so liberating. You don’t have to act on every feeling you have, and you don’t have to give weight to everything you think, but if you want to know yourself deeply, and you want to know those closest to you as well, you have to be able to open to it all, especially those feelings that might turn your plans upside down.

Human beings are complex. We all have our experiences, our pain, our hopes and fears. We all have a lens we look through that is sometimes clear and sometimes very foggy. As we grow and evolve, what we see and what we need may shift; life is always bringing its twists and turns. Fear of change and fear of death can be crippling, but clinging to a stagnant plan isn’t living and it isn’t loving. Working on the ability to sit with intense sensation calmly is so worthwhile. People run from the discomfort of confrontation and never know themselves or the people they love most, and life passes them by.

You can create a container for all your feelings so you can hold them without worrying they’ll overwhelm you. That’s a huge part of the yoga practice, the ability to be less reactive and more responsive. Wishing you the strength to face your deepest truths and to live your life in alignment with them, and to be able to honor the same in those you love. May we support ourselves, and each other. That’s the stability we have on this spinning planet, in these bodies with expiration dates.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Nothing Stays the Same

Nothing stays the same, not the house you grew up in, or your beloved dog, or your first crush. You aren’t the same you you were in high school, or even the same you you were last year and neither is anyone else. Do you have family or friends with kids you only see a couple of times a year? Aren’t you always astounded at how big they’ve gotten? We tend to try to keep things the way they are in our heads. This person exists this way in my mind. That guy I dated who broke my heart is a person who lacks compassion and doesn’t think about the effect of his actions on other people. Is that still true twenty years later? Maybe it is, and maybe there’s been incredible growth. My parents were this way or that way when I was growing up, and so now I’m like this. Are they still that way? Do you still need to be like this?

The earth is spinning around, and we are spinning around on it, and yet somehow we want to peg things down. I go to this grocery store and I buy these items and I eat at this time, and on these days I go to yoga and I get upset if someone else is in my spot. I know my partner, s/he is this way, and my best friend is like X, and you get the picture, right? Even your dog, who will love you consistently and unconditionally with every breath for his or her whole life, is changing, but we resist that reality, and are usually shocked and dismayed when loved ones die, even if they’re 97 years old and we knew it had to happen eventually. It’s almost like we think death happens to everyone but us. People almost always say that the loss of a loved one puts everything in perspective. Does it take death to wake us up? Do you really give a sh&t about ninety percent of the stuff you obsess over?

There are two times people seem to take action — when they’re desperate and when they’re inspired. Otherwise, you see most people simply trying to maintain the status quo. The status quo is changing, too. If it’s living, if it’s made up of energy, then it changes. When we resist the natural process of change, we strangle ourselves and others. We prevent our own growth, we limit our own potential, and we cling to things as they are, even as they’re slipping through our fingers as if we’re begging, “Please, I worked so hard to get here. Leave things alone, I’m all good.”

Things will keep shifting whether you want them to or not, so you might as well accept that; resisting it is futile and exhausting. If you’ve been participating in a situation that’s causing you deep pain and you’re feeling desperate for something to give, you need to examine your participation. The why of it is the key to your healing and the “good news” is that desperate people get things done, not that any of us would ask to get to that point. Chances are, if you haven’t been loving yourself well, that’s where you’re headed. Maybe it’s what you needed in order to start to move in a different direction. If you get to a point at work or at home where things are just intolerable, you’ll start to think of a way out. Your mind will begin with all its machinations to forge a new path and as soon as your mind begins to do that, to even consider a new way, you will figure out how to make it happen, even if you’ve been telling yourself for a long time that it’s impossible, that there is no way. There’s always a way.

If you can allow the idea that everything is in a constant state of flux to inspire you instead of terrify you, you’ll probably start to live with a little fire under your a$$, which is a good thing, I think. Too many people talk about wasting time or “killing time”, as if it’s limitless and it is. The world was spinning before we got here, and it will go on spinning after we’re gone. The real question is, what will you do with the time you’ve got? That’s finite. My feeling at this point in my life, is the more you invest your time and energy toward spreading love, the more you uncover your gifts and share them, the more you treasure those moments that are so easy to take for granted and recognize that just breathing deeply is a gift, the more you notice the beauty that’s all around you, the more your time here will have incredible meaning. Because it does. Your particular spark is not an accident. Shine it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Breathe In and Breathe Out

There are really only a few things that cause us to suffer, but they definitely get the job done. One is clinging — there’s something or someone we desire, some particular set of circumstances, some way of thinking or being, and we simply refuse to let go. When we’re attached in any way, we’re setting ourselves up for pain. Attachment to other people (which is a by-product of being human) leads to suffering because we are all in process all the time. You can’t “peg” a person, or pin someone down, or own anybody. People will choose to be with you or they won’t. Human beings have an expiration date as well, so even if a person chooses to be with you, eventually they’ll leave you or you’ll leave them. Attachment leads to suffering, and with human beings there’s no way around it, nor do I suggest you try to find one unless you truly feel called to move to a cave. The joy in this life comes from connection, from uncovering your gifts and sharing them, from touch, from laughter, from being seen and heard and understood and cherished. I wish that for you. I hope your heart expands with so much love you have moments you think it might just burst. Otherwise, I really can’t say what the point would be. You will lose people you love and it will hurt beyond anything you can fathom, but there’s a beauty in having loved that way —  that can’t be taken from you. You have a light and you’re meant to shine it with whatever time you’ve got, and attachment to an idea or a way of being leaves no room for anything else to unfold, to evolve, to open. You’ll keep growing and learning if you allow yourself to shift and change, to loosen your grip on the story. It’s natural to all of us. Stifling that is a form of death, of strangulation.

Another is avoidance or denial. We know the truth of something, but we refuse to accept it. We are so not okay with an idea or a situation, we reject it. We fling it from us, or numb ourselves to the heartbreak of the thing. We tenaciously push away the undesired outcome, or we make ourselves drunk with distraction so we can pretend it isn’t happening this way. You want the truth?  You might as well because trying to push it down or push it away is simply not sustainable, it makes you sick in your soul and it’s exhausting. Denial leads to depression. Denying your own feelings takes up so much energy, you simply don’t have much for anything else. Getting out of bed feels like a herculean effort. Forget about tea with a friend. Who can muster the energy to shower and go out in public and find the facial muscles to smile?

Fear of death is the final one. Your own death, or the death of people you love beyond words. The idea that someone could be ripped from you, or you could be ripped from everyone and everything you know can be crushing or paralyzing for people. For a lot of people, there’s so much fear and anxiety around that it’s hard to function, to go out into the world with an open heart and and open mind and open arms because there are too many giant what ifs in the way. The truth is, it’s a thin, thin layer between this living life we have, and whatever it is that happens after we exhale for the final time. I think it’s like a membrane between here and there. That was my experience once, many years ago when I was sick with pneumonia and almost let myself drift off because I didn’t want to take medication. I got to this place of feeling so floaty, so peaceful, I thought, maybe I could just go now and that would be okay. Of course, I had a temperature of 104, so that may have been influencing me, but something in me wasn’t ready for that, so I got two shots of penicillin in my a$$ and here I am, so grateful.

The second time I experienced that sensation of how thin it is, the here and there of this thing, was during childbirth with my son. We didn’t have an easy time, and there were many moments I wasn’t sure which way we were headed. I’ll tell you at that time I fought with everything I had to keep us both here. I clung to this life, for him, and for myself. I wanted to see his face. I wanted to hold him, to kiss him, to look into his eyes. It is a fragile thing, so I would say let that inspire you to treasure it. Cherish it. Live it. Don’t wait and don’t hold hold your breath because you’ll miss out. If you love someone, hold their face in your hands, and make sure they know it. Life can be both piercingly beautiful and painful. Some of it will break your heart wide open. I think your job is to let it. Let it soften you and open you, so when the joy comes, when the love comes, you’re ready to receive it.  You don’t get to own it, or keep it in a box, you don’t get to control it, so breathe in and breathe out, and let it wash over you and through you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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