hurttwiceBetrayal stings because it’s usually at the hands of someone we trusted. Of course, betrayal can happen amongst strangers; sometimes people look away when they ought to help a fellow human being. Maybe you’ve heard of “bystander syndrome”?

When someone with whom we were once close lets us down, it feels so personal, and it is, as we’ll now have some healing to do. When people lie, cheat, steal, or repress what’s happening, though, it’s a reflection of where they are on their own path, and not of anything lacking within you. I’m speaking not just of romantic relationships, here, but of familial ones, friendships, and relationships between colleagues. Not everyone is able to speak clearly about what they want, or what’s happening within them. Some people are terrified of change. Sometimes there’s an attempt or desire to communicate, but the other party just won’t have it. Of course, there are people who simply want to do what they want to do, without the pain of challenging conversations and consequences, but this kind of behavior comes out of fear, weakness, a lack of integrity, a character flaw, or a state of total desperation. Most people do not set out to hurt anyone. They just lack the tools to live openly, honestly, and in alignment with what’s true in their hearts. It takes courage to do that, and we are not always courageous.

The worst consequence of betrayal for most people, is a feeling that they can no longer trust their judgment and intuition. The idea that something has happened “behind our backs” or “under our noses” is devastating. We feel we’ve been made the fool, but in reality, the other party or parties have just shown the level at which they’re operating at this point in time, which is subject to change. I don’t want to come across as lacking empathy or understanding; we can all look back at choices we’ve made that have hurt other people. Hopefully these things happened unintentionally, or as a result of our growing in a different direction, or being too young to handle things in a better way. Not everyone knows how to handle these situations well, and sometimes we learn by blowing it badly.

If you have hurt someone, a heartfelt apology is always the way to go (unless time has passed and you fear your need to apologize may wreak havoc on the other person’s healing process), with the understanding that you may not be forgiven, depending on what’s happened. If you’re the wronged party, I recommend forgiveness.  You don’t have to say anything at all, but within yourself, I’d unhook your journey from the event that’s hurt you. I’d let go of the rage or pain or grief (after you allow yourself to feel all these things deeply, of course), because nothing productive comes from holding on to our list of ways we’ve been disappointed. That’s not something you want to carry into your future.

I think these experiences are always worth examining, so we can know ourselves, and so we can learn and grow. In cases where it’s possible, compassion goes a long way. Sometimes we humans really make a mess of things. Maybe we’re in pain, blinded by a need to cling to something, anything that will be a source of comfort. That doesn’t make it okay, but maybe eventually you can factor that in. The main thing is not to allow these experiences to harden you. You don’t want to move through life defensively, with the outlook that people will hurt you or leave you or lie to your face. Some people might do that. Maybe you’ve picked a string of people who’ve done that, and in that case, you need to look at what’s motivating your choices, but whenever possible, after you’ve allowed yourself to mourn, to examine, to understand, and maybe to forgive, you really want to get on with the business of healing and letting go so you can move forward freely.

Life is too short and too precious to swim in a sea of despair and bitterness.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

How’s Your Side of the Street?

opdramaIf you have some idea that you can save people, or make another person feel happy or whole or healed, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, and maybe worse. Wanting to help people is beautiful; we could use more of that in the world. That impulse is the catalyst that leads someone to share, to listen, to offer support or encouragement, but thinking that you can swoop in and make things right for someone who’s in pain, just with the depth of your love and concern, is a recipe for disaster.

I say this whether we’re talking about your best friend, your new friend, your child, your parent, your partner, or your new romantic interest. Each of us must do our own work, and sometimes when we try to make things right for someone, we unintentionally rob them of an experience that might have helped them grow. It’s brutal to watch someone we love suffer. It’s natural to want to comfort and nurture, and if you can see a clear path toward happiness, of course you want to point the way. It’s fine to offer tools that have worked for you if they’re open to your ideas, but people do things as they’re ready. You can’t micro-manage someone else’s journey.

When we spend lots of time and energy focused on what someone else is, or is not doing, saying, or being, we conveniently stop paying attention to our own growth, our own needs, and our own healing. We all have work enough to do, just keeping our own side of the street clean. Life asks us to rise up every day, to show up and be present, to listen, to reflect, to respond, to engage. You have this one life, and what you do with it is up to you, but if you allow years to go by where you’re so caught up in someone else’s life that you forget to live your own, that’s time you’ll never have back.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you want a partner, or a project. If you grew up thinking that love was conditional, that it had to be earned, and that it could be taken away if you didn’t measure up, you probably have a lot of work to do in your current relationships, romantic or otherwise. When we don’t value ourselves, we gravitate toward people to whom we might become invaluable. “I’ll just be perfect for this person, I’ll give them everything they need, and then they won’t leave me or hurt me or betray me.” That isn’t love, that’s a project.

When our children are young, we have to lean over the plate and cut the pancakes, or halve the grapes, or put lids on the cups so everything doesn’t spill down the front of these people we love. If you find yourself metaphorically doing these things for grown adults, whether they’re your children or your friends, something is off.

Try to get very clear about what you want. If you want love and peace in your life, you won’t find those things by trying to control other people, or circumstances. Love can’t exist in a vise grip, because love needs room to move and expand.

Wishing you enough trust to allow for that expansion, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Consider the Source

praiseSometimes what you don’t say is incredibly powerful. I’m all for speaking the truth, but there are times when taking the high road speaks volumes. This is particularly difficult when you come face-to-face with someone who doesn’t wish you well, or with whom you have a long and challenging history. We can get so caught up in what people think of us, as if they have the final say on who we are, but you are not here to convince anyone of anything, especially of your value as a human being; life is too short for that. You’re here to be you, to figure out what that means, to uncover your gifts and to share them. Your actions speak for themselves. You don’t have to throw a lot of hours and words at a thing to reiterate reality.

We’re all human, and we will all make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow, and do it better the next time; no one is exempt from this. You truly want to grasp that there are a lot of people in pain walking around on this planet, and it’s understandable, it’s not like this is an easy gig. Life is a lesson in letting go and opening up. In learning to trust yourself, and in having faith that you’ll keep growing and evolving, and that if you listen to your heart, you’ll also keep moving in the right direction. It’s also a lesson in acceptance and impermanence. It’s beautiful in so many ways, but no one would argue that it’s easy.

Not everyone wants, or is able, to face the reality of who they are, what they want, or the inherent vulnerability that comes with being a human being on planet earth. People in pain spread pain. Mostly, it’s unintentional, it’s just that whatever we have on the inside, is what spills out of us. Most people are not setting out to hurt you, but if a person isn’t happy, if they haven’t healed, or figured out what lights them up, what inspires them, what gives their life meaning and purpose, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in their opinions about how you’re doing on your own path. Pointing fingers is easy. Pointing fingers at ourselves in a compassionate but honest way, taking ownership of our own lives and our own happiness, is not so easy.

When I was a kid, my dad taught me the phrase, “consider the source”. It’s one of the best gifts he ever gave me. I’ve encountered so many people over the years, (and have certainly fallen prey to the tendency myself), who get caught up in worrying about someone’s poor opinion of them. Especially if it’s an ex, or a family member, or someone with whom they were once close. Not many things feel worse than the idea that someone we care about thinks badly of us, but a lot of the time (not all of the time), people are blaming and shaming in an attempt to avoid their own work. I’m not saying you don’t have accountability. Only you know if you were careless or reckless with someone else’s heart, and if you know you were, I hope you own that and ask for forgiveness. When someone gives you their heart, that’s an act of trust, and not something you want to take lightly, but if you know you’ve done your best to be kind and compassionate and patient and honest, then I wouldn’t spend time or energy trying to sell anyone on how awesome you really are. Sometimes people need to make you the villain so they can get over a situation. They have to weave a story out of the ruins that they can live with, and maybe it’s a story where you’re the bad guy. So be it. It’s really not your job to get inside someone else’s head and try to rewrite their story.

If a person has terrible things or wonderful things to say about you, remember it’s really not your business. Isn’t that funny? If you do your best to be kind and compassionate, to use your time to spread as much love as you can for as long as you can, you’ll leave a wake of love behind you, and you’ll create a sea of it out in front of you. That’s your business.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Communication 101

peacealderWhen it comes to relationships of any kind, honest communication is everything. If you want other people to know you, you have to be willing to show yourself. It’s not realistic to expect others to read your mind, and as much as you might think you have someone pegged, the only way to truly know how anyone feels, is to ask. Sometimes we repress something we need to say out of fear of hurting someone else, and other times we don’t ask questions when we’re afraid of the answers, and what they might mean for our tender hearts.

We’re taught that certain emotions make people uncomfortable (“Don’t be scared”, “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t be sad”), and many of us started editing ourselves as children. If you have care-taking, codependent tendencies, you probably really need to work on your ability to honor your own feelings, and act on your own behalf when necessary, which is pretty much every day. Saying what you mean is a gift you give yourself, but it also extends to all the people in your life. It’s so nice to know where you stand with someone, and to relax, and trust that if something comes up (and it always does), they’ll talk to you. This is how we develop a bond with another person. Being able to say what’s true for you, calmly, and with compassion, is a strength worth working on, because it just simplifies everything.

Life is challenging and confusing enough without having to try to figure out where someone else is at, or how you should act in order to elicit the response you desire. Being unable to stand up for yourself feels terrible, and it’s debilitating. Playing games is fine if we’re talking about cards or chess, but if we’re talking about human emotions, that’s really not the way to go, not if you want true intimacy, anyway. If you want anyone to know you well and deeply, you have to be able to say how you feel, and ask the scary, uncomfortable questions when they arise.

Sometimes the games we’re playing have nothing to do with hurting anyone else, or being reckless with someone else’s heart. Sometimes we don’t want to admit our own vulnerability. We cover our real feelings with an air of indifference or toughness, so no one will know the depth of what we feel, or how much power they hold over us. That’s fear. That’s a fear of trusting that anyone else could hold a space to really see you, in all your beauty and occasional absurdity, with all your strengths and all your flaws, all your history and all your mistakes, and still. Still cherish you. And if you let that fear run the show, you’ll never know. You’ll never give anyone the chance to prove to you that they can do it. Not your best friend. Not your mother. Not your partner. No one.

Life does not have to be like that, but you have to be willing to stop hiding. Everyone likes to put his or her best foot forward, but we all screw up sometimes. We all have fears, some unfounded, some based on past experience, some flowing from a sea of self-doubt. If you don’t ever admit your humanness, chances are the people around you will be reluctant to own theirs, as well. But the truth is, we’re all more alike than we realize. We all cry ourselves to sleep sometimes, or despair, or have our existential crises. It’s really okay. Show yourself and free yourself, and the people strong enough to do the same will show up in your life, and those who can’t do it will fall away. But while you’re here, you might as well be you, don’t you think?

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Loosen Your Grip

Peace-cannot-be-achievedSometimes we’re convinced our way is the only way. Life presents big questions, and most of us will have to grapple with them at some time or another if we want to be at peace. Some people are born into families where beliefs are passed down, but even in those cases, most people approach near adulthood, and want to examine their own feelings and ideas about things.

None of us will have concrete answers about most of this stuff until we exhale for the final time, but the need to organize this world so that it makes sense, so that there’s some stability and some order, can be profound. So many people want a formula. If I’m a good person, only good things will happen to me. If someone does something hurtful, they’ll pay, but life doesn’t tend to unfold in this linear, logical way.

The thing is, when we grasp our ideas and opinions, we also close ourselves off to other ways of thinking about things, and we can draw proverbial lines in the sand between ourselves and other people. At the foundation of every religion, for example, there’s love. There’s a moral code of conduct. Don’t kill. Don’t Lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t gossip. Be responsible with your sexual energy. Know yourself. Most of us wouldn’t argue with any of that. Fighting happens when we cling and insist we know what the answers are, and anyone who disagrees with us, anyone who’s come up with different answers, is wrong. Fear is at the heart of “us versus them”. Fear motivates a need to be right, and many people experience someone else’s different idea as a rejection of their own.

For me, I accept help and love from any source. If it’s comforting and it makes sense to me, I could not care less about labels. Is it Jewish love? Christian love? Muslim love? Buddhist love? If it’s love, it’s good by me. We get so crazy with our labels. Labels cause friction, and friction leads to combustion. Is there female air and male air? Black air and white air? Maybe we could all just breathe together.

Sometimes hatred is taught, and that’s very very sad. Racism begins at home, as does compassion. Of course we can always un-learn and relearn if we were taught that all people were not created equal. You’re starting off with an advantage if you understand that beautiful people and damaged people come in all colors, shapes and sizes. The reality is, we’re one family on one planet. We’d get a lot further with love and respect than we do with insistence and violence.

Why do people feel threatened if someone makes a choice that’s different than their own? Maybe it creates doubt within them about what they’re doing, and what the point of it all is. Existential pain hits most of us at some time or another. What if we’re blowing it? What if we missed the memo about what we’re doing here? What if we die without having lived from our hearts? People can get pretty frightened when they perceive a different idea as an attack upon what they think. A person who’s worked hard to organize the world in a way that makes sense to her or himself might very well feel the need to cling to those answers.

The more we realize we’re with each other and not against each other, the more everything flows. If we understand we have these finite resources to share, we might be more mindful about our choices and habits. Peace is a choice. Walking a peaceful path takes guts and bravery. Loosening your grip on your own ideas can be scary, but if you have faith in yourself, there’s no need to grasp so tightly. if you have faith in the answers you’ve worked out, you can loosen your grip, and hear the hearts and minds of other people. This is how we open to each other, and it crosses every area of our lives.

When you have the choice between being right and being kind, always choose kindness. Think about your gravestone if it helps: “Here lies a person who was always right.” or, “Here lies a person who loved and listened and opened and learned. Who embraced and explored and examined.”

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

People Aren’t “Against” You

foragainstSometimes it’s really helpful to understand that most people are not intentionally trying to hurt you. For the most part, people are doing the best they can with the tools they have. It takes time to figure out what your gifts are, and how you want to spend the finite amount of time you’ve got. Most people flail around in the process of getting to know themselves. We all have our pain, and our healing to do, it’s not easy. Timing has so much to do with all of this. The moment you arrived in your mom’s and dad’s world, for example, has so much to do with the parenting you received. If they were ready, if they knew themselves, if they were able to accept you as the miracle you were and are, if they were in a place to understand your needs had to come first, if they were prepared to make sacrifices when necessary, if they could embrace you and cherish you, nurture you, support you, and love you in all your amazingness, or not so much.

The same holds true for any relationship, whether we’re talking about family members, friends, colleagues, romantic interests, or people you encounter in passing on any given day. It’s funny that we can feel so separate from one another, when we’re really so much the same. At some point, we all have to grapple with life’s big questions, and work them out in a way that feels right to us. Unless you want to bury your head in the sand, or numb yourself into oblivion, there comes a time when you have to acknowledge and embrace the vulnerability of being human. I think we tend to make things harder than they are. You have seventy to one hundred years if you’re lucky. You have people in your life. You have the potential to figure out what lights you up, what sets your soul on fire, and you have the ability to choose how you’re going to spend your time.

Of course there are the practicalities of life; the keeping a roof over your head and food in your fridge kind of stuff, but you can always find beauty in each day, if you make a point to look for it. The laughter of someone you love. The opportunity to say something kind. The chance to offer a hug, or your shoulder, or a hand up if someone needs it. A moment to feel the sun on your face, or the breeze on your cheek, or an honest moment with the person handing you your cup of tea. It doesn’t take much to connect if you let yourself.

Sometimes we make a mess of things as we search to find meaning and purpose. Sometimes we reject essential parts of who we are because we aren’t ready to accept what we want or need. Maybe we feel ashamed or different or we loathe ourselves for not wanting what other people seem to want. There’s no formula. You are you, and there’s only one of you, and only you can figure out what your gifts are and how you’re going to share them. If you do that, life will feel pretty good. You’ll also need to figure out what you want in your personal life. Maybe you love being in a relationship, and maybe you don’t.  Maybe you find it easy to express yourself, and maybe you struggle to say anything at all about how you feel. We all have our stuff to work through.

If you cross paths with someone, and you get burned, you really want to consider that maybe this person is just struggling. That perhaps it has less to do with you, or anything lacking within you, and more to do with where they are on their journey — compassion for yourself, and compassion for other people, belief that you have something beautiful and unique to offer. The trust that if a thing is right, it’s going to flow, and if it isn’t, it’s probably for the best. These are all good things to consider and examine if you feel stung.

And by the way, people can be for themselves and also for other people. I think that’s really the idea. Honor yourself so you can honor the people in your life, and the people you meet as you move through your days. Take the time you’ve got, and light it up. Send love whenever possible, because this is no easy gig, and you don’t have to take someone else’s struggles personally. If you get hurt during an interaction with someone else, it’s personal inasmuch as you’ll now have healing to do, but everyone has to do her own journey. You can’t walk it for anyone else, and we never know what other people need to learn and grow. As Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Let’s enjoy the walk as much as possible, shall we?

Sending you love.

Ally Hamilton

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

Underneath the Words

In the heat of conflict, so much can get lost in translation. When we feel attacked, wronged or misunderstood, it’s so hard to pause, breathe and listen, but if you think back to your angriest moments, underneath the rage there was pain. When people yell it’s because they don’t feel heard, seen or understood. Some part of them is crying out for recognition, for help.

Sometimes we’re like a bunch of talking heads. We get so caught up in the story we forget to see the person; to look into their eyes and maybe put a hand on their arm. Sometimes we all need a tether, a way back to the moment. We need to know we’re being seen and felt, but too often people spend time together and there’s no real connection, just a lot of words, a lot of editorializing. Have you ever walked away from lunch with a friend you love feeling lonely? Maybe you went with a story on your mind and you told your story and you guys talked about it, but your lunch never really gelled because you went with a plan, and didn’t allow for the possibility that maybe your story didn’t need to be told. Maybe you’d already told it too many times. Maybe something beautiful could have happened if you showed up and opened to the moment. Maybe you missed the fact that your friend had an energy about them. Maybe they needed you. Maybe there was a glimmer of mischief or pain or restlessness you missed and cannot have back.

People say things they don’t mean all the time, especially if they haven’t worked on healthy ways to express their feelings. Lots of people push things down until it’s too much and then they explode. Words can be very powerful; I’m not suggesting you don’t want to work on the way you communicate if what you’ve been doing so far isn’t working for you or the people in your life. Learning how to handle your anger in a way that doesn’t burn the place down, and everyone in it including you, is essential if you want to be happy, but no one operates from her highest self in every moment. I know people who write off relationships with family members because someone said something when they were drunk at a wedding eight years ago. Try to see underneath the words. Look for the pain because if you can see that in another person it will soften you and then at least you create the possibility that you can forgive them and release yourself from the burden of carrying all that anger around with you.

Last year a woman wrote in and asked how she could stay on the Facebook fan page, but not see the “inspirational posts” I was writing. She sent an email to me personally to ask. I told her the page was mostly the blog posts, and if she didn’t want to see them, she could just unlike the page. She wrote back and said she wanted to see the “other stuff” but not the posts. I was intrigued by the fact that she wanted to be sure that I knew that she didn’t like what I was writing so I went to her page and saw that she was a writer and a teacher, and I understood something about my posting and the community we have going here was difficult for her to see. I couldn’t say exactly what was going on with her, but there was pain there. So I just responded nicely because it’s terrible to feel frustrated, resentful or unseen, so much so that you want to lash out at a stranger.

A lot of the time we take things personally. It’s hard not to, especially when you feel criticized or rejected. The truth is, most of the time it has nothing to do with you, and once in awhile, someone will just not get you. I would say, always look for the feeling. Words can be misleading, but feelings are fairly clear. You don’t have to respond to someone’s pain with anger. You don’t have to take on their view as if it’s true. You don’t have to defend yourself over every slight. Most people have a lot of pain. Sometimes a hug, literal or figurative, goes a lot further than a thousand words.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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