Saddle Up!

Fear is a perfectly natural feeling none of us will escape. There’s that fear that makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you know you’re in danger. Then there are the very human fears we all face to some degree or another. Fear of losing those we love. Fear of saying or doing something we’ll regret because it makes us look stupid or feel ashamed. Fear of being hurt, betrayed or left. Fear of rejection. Fear that you’ll take a chance with all your heart and fail. Fear of being alone. Fear of committing. Fear of success. Fear that our past can’t be overcome, and our future will be more of the same. Fear of screwing it all up. Fear of never being seen, known or loved. Fear of death. Fear of really living. Not everyone will experience all those fears, but most people will face at least some of them.

Fear isn’t a problem, but repressing it is. “Don’t be scared” is a common mantra we’re taught in childhood, but you can’t be other than what you are, ever. You feel how you feel and denying your experience is the issue. Thinking that a feeling we’re having is wrong or that it’s socially unacceptable is where we get into trouble. It would be better if we were taught, “Feel scared, but do it anyway.” There’s an elation that comes when we head into the center of our fear, flip it the bird, and dive in. A confidence in ourselves that can’t be gained any other way. There are few things as disappointing in life as when we let apprehension, the loud voice of “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” stop us from doing something our hearts are crying out to do. When we feel paralyzed that way, our hearts get crushed because it’s a missed opportunity to grow, learn and strengthen. To know ourselves more deeply, and to be able to move in the direction of that inner yes.

People write in with all kinds of fears. This guy is afraid to ask this woman out. This girl likes this guy but doesn’t want to tell him because maybe he just wants to be friends. This woman has a dream, but it isn’t realistic and everyone would think she was nuts for pursuing it. This mother lost her first baby and is terrified it will happen again with her second, so she isn’t loving her baby the way she could. This man wants to reach out to his dad, but they haven’t spoken for thirty years, and what if he doesn’t want to talk? What if he’s dead? This woman lost her husband and her children and is afraid to move forward because who wants to risk that kind of loss again? This guy doesn’t go to parties, ever, because he’s convinced he’s so utterly unattractive no one would want to speak with him. This man is in a marriage without any love, but is afraid to tell his wife how he feels because what then?

There are some situations in life that are so complex, you really do have to move slowly and think clearly before you head off and make decisions that will affect other people in your life, but living in fear feels terrible. It shuts us down and makes us feel there isn’t any hope, there aren’t any options, there isn’t a path that could lead us to something different. I do not believe anyone can flourish from a foundation of fear, and if you’re withering, you really can’t nurture anyone else, including yourself. If you feel stuck in fear, reach out. Get yourself some help and some support if you need it, so you can start to face it down, which is totally different than pushing it down. The very funny thing about fear is that when you have your back to it, it feels like this raging, huge, fiery dragon that could take you down with one big exhaled flame. But if you’d turn around, you’d see it’s just a huge pile of blocks you’ve erected in your mind. The kind you used to play with when you were a kid. The blocks are mostly made of pain, and the tower is teetering. You could, if you found the courage, reach out and knock the whole thing down. Then you could look at the pieces, and start to build something new. Maybe a bridge. I’m not saying the fear isn’t real. I’m just saying it’s not going to kill you.

Sending you love, and the hope that you’ll saddle up if you need to,

Ally Hamilton

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


leapoffaithI moved to Los Angeles in 2001 with my boyfriend at the time, who was also a yoga teacher. We’d only been dating about six months and of course moving 3000 miles across the country together sounds romantic and fun at that point, albeit a little nuts. I don’t regret it, he’s still a friend, but because of a piece of cheese and some other issues it fell apart six months after we moved here. He went back to New York and in order for me to pay my rent, make the car payment and feed myself and my dog, I took over all his classes. Which, combined with my own, totaled twenty-seven classes a week.

I taught from West Hollywood to Redondo and was on the freeway all day long, stopping back at my place in Miracle Mile for some seated meditation, then racing my dog up to Runyon Canyon for a quick hike. Up at the crack of dawn for my own Ashtanga practice, and getting home from teaching between 9 and 11pm every night. I did that the first three years I was out here. It was a crazy pace, but I look back on that time with some nostalgia. It was lonely in a funny way, because I was surrounded by people in my classes all day long, having this very social, communicative experience before and after class, and going home to my dog. I was on a self-imposed dating hiatus, and was just starting to find my true friends out here. There were times I’d fight rush hour traffic to go teach at the place in Redondo that was paying me $30, and by the time I drove there and back it was a wash, but I loved that class. It was just an especially sweet and dedicated group of people, a little community unto itself. I felt the same way about my WeHo group, and Westwood. There were moments I wondered if all these people from all these places would drive an hour to see me, but those were fleeting thoughts during traffic jams.

Eventually, I was offered a chance to teach at the new location of a donation-based studio I adored, full-time. No more freeway, no more need for 27 classes a week, more time with my dog, and the possibility of some down time by the beach. But in order to do it, I’d have to wipe out my checking account, because it basically meant leasing the space from the studio, first and last month’s rent, administrative fees, and some other odds and ends. I’d managed to save a few thousand dollars by working my butt off and not spending more than I absolutely needed to get by. No one knew for sure this new studio would work, and of course, the only way you make money in the donation system is if your class is pretty full. I called a few trusted friends. Most said I’d be crazy to do it, but in my gut, there was a YES. So I wrote a check and left myself with $19 in my account. No savings, no back-up plan, no way to pay rent at the end of the month if it all went badly, nothing. Another studio called right at that moment and offered me 10 classes a week if I walked away from the donation place because it was in the same neighborhood. Because, y’know, having $19 to my name wasn’t enough of a test. I passed on that offer. I had enough dog food to last a month, and I kid you not, I ate peanut butter for three days. I quit every single place I’d been teaching, and gave everyone schedules for the new studio. For many of the people who’d been taking class with me the last three years, it meant an hour’s drive in traffic each way. So now my question would be answered. The first night I taught, 45 people showed up. Fifteen of them were my crew from Redondo. West Hollywood showed up. Miracle Mile. Century City. I don’t mind telling you I went in the back and let myself cry some tears of relief. And incredible gratitude.

Almost anytime in my life I’ve been scared sh&tless to do something, it’s a sign to me it needs to be done. I’m not talking about being reckless, mind you. I just don’t want to be owned by fear. I don’t want fear to be a reason I don’t move in the direction of that yes. That yes is all you’ve got. Without it, I think we’re all lost here. When I was thirteen I had a huge crush on my English teacher, Michael Trano. (Yes, that’s his real name, and Mr. Trano, if you’re out there, I think of you often and am so grateful for all your enthusiasm about my writing and all your insight about life. And also, I used to write “Ally Trano” all over all my notebooks.) Every year, we had to give a speech, and compete for the “Doris Post Speech Award.” The first year I went through this particular hell, it was in Mr. Trano’s class. I was the kid who shook when called on to read. Hands shaking, voice shaking. I can’t tell you why, I just didn’t enjoy that kind of attention. I guess fear of speaking in public is fairly common. When the day of the speech came, I could not do it. I got up in front of Mr. Trano and all my classmates, and I shook so hard I couldn’t read my notecards and eventually I simply couldn’t speak. I ended up in tears, ashamed and unable to pull it together. He let me give him that speech one-on-one after school.

Every year after that, through middle and high school I dreaded that f&cking Doris Post speech contest. Straight-A student, plenty of friends, done in by this simple task. I always picked boring topics, and I always shook, but managed to barely get through it, until the last year, which was my Junior year. I was in an advanced placement English class, and most of the other students were Senior boys. I loved my teacher, Jayne Connell (Ms. Connell, if you’re out there, I thank you, too. For all the support and all the love and all those laughs, and for the amazing works of literature you put in front of me). I gave a speech about why it’s funny when a bunch of guys hang out and one of them farts, but a group of girls do not high-five each other for the same feat. I WON the freaking Doris Post speech contest, the last year I was in High School, before I took off for college the following year. I had to give that speech to the entire school, scared out of my mind. Every teacher I’d ever had. Every friend. I’ll tell you the truth. I still have a huge fear of speaking in public. Not when I’m teaching yoga, I can talk all day long if people are busy in down dog, and it doesn’t matter how many people there are. But if those same people sit down and stare at me in folding chairs, we’re in different territory again.

A little over a year ago I was asked to give a TEDx talk. I felt that same horrendous fear come up, same thirteen year old kid. But I did that too, simply because I was scared to do it. Screw your fear. A couple of months ago I went on a date with someone I went out with once last year. One of the best dates of my life as far as true connection. I couldn’t fathom why he didn’t call me after, but a year later I got an email from him asking to go out again. Out we went, same amazing flow. So at the end of the night, I said, “I really think you’re awesome and would love to get to know you better. Annual dating isn’t really my thing.” We laughed, talked about further plans, and zilch. But it’s okay. I was scared to be honest like that, but I don’t regret it. Fear is a lousy reason to squish your yes. Facing your fear won’t always lead to a happy ending. But kicking your fear in the nuts and living with your heart wide open feels pretty awesome. Give it a shot if you haven’t, and let me know how it goes 😉

Ally Hamilton

Your 3-Point Shot, from Downtown!!!

Ive-missed-more-thanIf you have a song in your heart (and you do), you have to sing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s off-key, if the melody needs work, or the lyrics are clunky. Whatever it is within you that sets your soul on fire is your purpose. It’s the key to finding a meaningful, fulfilling life. It might take a lot of time to figure out how best to express from within you what’s aching to come out; the thing is not to give up, and not to worry when your song isn’t received as the gift that it is. Sometimes you’re going to get thrown out of the game and have to sit on the bench and figure out what happened. And if you haven’t discovered what lights you up from the inside, don’t give up on that, either. Frequently we have to unlearn what we’ve learned. It’s totally possible you’ve been pursuing a path that doesn’t really suit you, because you feel like you should. We get inundated with so many messages about what we’re supposed to do, and how we should look and feel, it’s a wonder any of us knows anything about what we really want. But it’s in there, I guarantee it. Don’t give up on yourself, and don’t give up on life. And don’t blame the ref and get stuck in resentment and anger, you know? It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as they say.

Here’s a question for you: Do you know how many mistakes you’re going to make in your life? How many times you’re going to do something or say something you wish you hadn’t before you exhale for the last time? I don’t know either, but I bet it’s a lot. I gave up trying to be perfect a long time ago. I tried for years and finally decided I’d rather commit to being happy. I let go of the idea of perfection, because I was in a pretty constant state of disappointment. Perfection is too heavy a burden to carry. It’s such a relief to embrace the idea of being perfectly imperfect. All too human. However you want to think of it, it’s a total liberation. The thing is to find your joy, your passion, your yes, and put everything behind it. And that’s easy to do when you realize that your gifts, whatever they may be, are yours to share. There’s nothing better I know of in this life, than the feeling that comes when you realize you’ve uplifted someone else. I think that’s because it’s what we’re here to do, to spread as much love as possible with the time we’re given.

This business of being human is not easy. It’s messy and complicated, and sometimes it breaks your heart wide open, without warning, on a mild Tuesday night, or a rainy Saturday morning. The absolute best thing you can do is get right with yourself. Know yourself deeply, heal what needs to be healed, uncover those gifts, and share them with abandon and delight. If you get back to love, (and it might be buried under some rage or fear or doubt or shame or guilt), you can try and fail left and right, and it will still be okay, as long as you don’t give up.

There’s a Maori proverb, “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” If you’re coming from love and doing everything you can to make the world within you and the world around you a more peaceful and loving place to be, your missed shots are meaningless. If love is at your center, you’ll never be careless with another person. You’ll never turn a blind eye when someone is suffering. You won’t hit below the belt, that just won’t be in your wheelhouse. You’ll consider the impact of your choices and your words and the way you’re moving through the world. And it will never be perfect, and there will always be circumstances that blindside you from time to time, moments when you don’t show up the way you’d like to, efforts and creative endeavors that sink, times when it feels like you’re not adding to the happiness quotient as much as you’d like. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” And achievement to me means living a life that brings you, and everyone around you, joy. Over-prepare, practice hard, pick yourself up again and again, and then go with the flow. Quitting isn’t an option, and sitting on the bench sucks!! Grab your jersey and get in the game! Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

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

Live Out Loud

The-tragedy-of-life-isI think possibly the saddest thing in life is never to live; to allow years to pass without pursuing those things that feed your soul and light you up from the inside until you’re shining and blazing like the sun. There’s really no time to waste. If you put off living until tomorrow, or next week, or wait for that magical time “when things calm down” you run the risk of never getting it done, because tomorrow is not promised. And, in all likelihood, things are not going to calm down. You may have times that are more peaceful than others, but life comes in waves. Every day is an opportunity to move toward healing if you need to, or to spread some love and some light wherever you go. It’s a chance to sing your song, loudly and with abandon, even if you are way off-key. To take a chance on yourself, or someone else, to go for it, all the way, without leaving a single ounce in the tank.

Your life may look nothing like what you expected or planned for, but embrace it and own it, and shake off or face down anything that is blocking your access to that insanely limitless well of love within you. Be honest with yourself, and with everyone in your life. It’s so much simpler that way. Accept and embrace what is true for you so you can be free. When you look back on your life, I hope you’ve lived it in such a way that you smile when you think about it. That you chuckle, and shake your head, and your eyes twinkle. That you’ve spent yourself, and every gift you’ve been given, that you’ve sucked the joy out of every moment, that you’ve taken in as many sunrises and sunsets as possible. That you’ve hugged a lot. That you’ve conquered your fears and lived out loud, all the way, from your gorgeous heart. I hope you’ve said, “I love you” and, “Thank you” a million times.

The 37 trillion or so cells that are you have never and will never come together in exactly the same way again. You’re precious and miraculous and important. You are not an accident. Don’t dim your light or smother your gifts or doubt your worth. Prick up the ears of your soul every time the voice or voices inside your head say you can’t or you shouldn’t. The voice to listen for is the quiet but always truthful voice of your heart. Your inner GPS. Follow that and you will love your life. You will start to see miracles all around you, every day, in the beautiful, shimmering greens you’ll see when the sun hits the leaves of a tree whose branches are swaying in the wind. When you hear the unguarded laugh of a child. When a stranger smiles at you and you can see their heart through the light in their eyes. Don’t miss a second. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Stand Up Eight

Fall-down-seven-timesThe key thing in life is not to give up. If finding inner peace was easy, the world would be full of happy, loving people, and we’d have a much different set of global circumstances, too. How it is outside is a reflection of how it is inside, and we simply have too many people at war within themselves at this moment in time.

In our culture, we’re taught to be against ourselves, we’re trained to have an adversarial relationship with our own bodies. In other words, we are taught to go to war at home. You’re going to live in your body for your whole life, so in a very real sense, it IS your home, and you’re going to keep the company of your internal dialogue. How sad that we’re taught that almost nothing about us is okay, and how obvious it is that we’d need some healing. This business of being human is not easy, and you may feel lost, alone and in darkness for quite some time. Yesterday in one of the threads, someone said she wished she had a set of tools for healing. The best tool for getting unstuck is knowing yourself. Figuring out what makes you tick, what lights you up, what feeds your soul. And then finding the courage to make choices that are in alignment with your big, resounding inner YES. Acknowledging and embracing your pain so it doesn’t rule your life. Accepting all parts of yourself not with shame or fear, but with grace, with compassion. Understanding that your work is not to be perfect, but to be real, to be perfectly you, perfectly human.

How do you know yourself? There are so many tools. I teach yoga because that’s the set of tools that worked, and continues to work for me, six days a week, and more than twenty years (and counting) later. Talking to at least one someone you trust is also essential. Someone who will mourn with you, but will also kindly hold up a mirror for you when you are not showing up as your highest self, or when you are acting in a way that is harmful to your own well-being. A great therapist will do those things for you. Treating yourself well, feeding yourself well, and examining relationships with people that may not be healthy. Getting out in nature, feeling the sun on your skin, the breeze on your face. Reading books that open you, that shed a little light into your darkness (anything by Pema Chodron, Sylvia Boorstein’s, “Happiness is an Inside Job”,”The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell, “Devotion” by Dani Shapiro, and “Being Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh are all favorites of mine, along with the poems of Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Rumi, Rainer Maria Rilke…I could go on and on, but that’s a good start if you need some inspiration), and a seated meditation practice (check out if you’re interested). These are the tools in my particular shed, but knowing yourself means figuring out what you need in yours.

Falling down and staying down is a commitment to misery and darkness and rage and bitterness. It’s going to be a long, unhappy life like that. Yesterday someone else said they’d given up, but I don’t believe that, because then, what are you doing on this page? You know I’m gonna come out swinging every day about the beauty in life and the beauty in you, and that I’m going to keep talking about healing yourself and doing the work and being accountable and taking a hold of this one, amazing, gorgeous, painful, unpredictable life, and riding it all the way. Please don’t give up on yourself, or on life. That would be such a shame. Because no one else can be you. You are the only you we’ve got, and you have your own particular gifts to uncover and share. Robbing yourself of that opportunity is also robbing yourself of the joy of life, the sweetness of your purpose, the great, true laughter of your heart. It’s also robbing the world of gifts only you can offer. You may have grown up, you may shave your face every morning, or your legs, but there is still a little kid inside you who is hoping beyond hope that you will do it. That you will face the dragons and slay the sh&t out of them. That you will charge the fence with everything you’ve got and break yourself out of the illusion that you are not good enough, or that the world isn’t beautiful even with all its pain. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. Don’t let yourself down, don’t let yourself get counted out. I hope you stand up right now. Sending you love, and a very hot cattle-prod if you need one, Ally Hamilton

Make Your Art

Dont-think-about-makingThis is pretty much how I feel about life. Every day we are granted is a chance to make art. The art of living life with your heart open. The art of moving from, and with love. The art of healing yourself, of listening deeply, of giving whatever you’ve got to spread some light, some joy, some laughter. The art of a great hug. The art of creating a space where healing is likely to occur, for yourself, and for as many other people as you can. Some of the most beautiful art I know, is the art of being present. Of giving someone your time, your attention, access to your soul. Everyone deserves that. To be truly seen, heard, experienced.

You won’t always succeed, but treating your life and the way you’re living it as your canvas, and painting it with every gorgeous color in your soul is the only way I know to make the art you’re here to share. Worrying about how you’ll be received or perceived is all too human, but it’s also a complete waste of your resources. Trying to please everyone is exhausting and impossible, and it’s also a surefire way to cut yourself off from your inspiration, your yes, your divine spark. If you make your art from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong. You may not please everyone, but as long as you aren’t intentionally hurting anyone (I’m not talking about those times when we will all inevitably hurt people because we’ve grown in a different direction. I’m talking about indifference to someone else’s well-being, feelings, situation, heart), you have to shine your light. You have to dip your brush in the well of what is true for you, and splash the stuff that lights you up from within, all over your canvas. It is not your job to convince anyone that your art is worthwhile or important or good. It’s not your job to wipe someone else’s lenses and sell them on how awesome you are. You are supposed to be awesome. You’re no different than the sun, or the ocean, or the bella luna. You’re part of all of that, with some stardust splashed in, too. There is nothing to prove. There are just many incredible and obvious things to be: Curious, loving, open, attentive, laughing, grateful, awake, amazed.

That’s your light, and you’re meant to shine it. You’re meant to uncover it and share it and spread it everywhere you go. We need to feel that connection to what is true for us, and the joy in life comes from the sharing of it. Of course it is extra special to be received with love. But you are love, so you can do that for yourself, too. Some people will come and share some of their art on your canvas in this life if you let them. And you will sometimes paint on someone else’s also. If you have children one day, you will want them to finger paint all over your stuff until they find their own canvas. Sometimes in life someone’s art complements our own so well, we decide to share a space to shine, and sometimes the art moves in two different directions. If at all possible, celebrate the process of making it, and try not to worry too much about whether it’s turning out the way you envisioned. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Maybe some color will come out of you that you never knew existed. Be bold. Be willing to get messy. Try not to be disturbed when every color coming out of you is dark. If you looked back on the canvases of the most happy people you know, I guarantee you somewhere you’d find the midnight blue of despair. The dark grey of loneliness. The muddy brown of confusion. The blackness of fear. And splashes of those shadow colors throughout the entire piece. How else would you see the extraordinary light if not for the darker hues? Because this work of being human is messy and complicated. Sometimes it will break your heart, and sometimes your broken heart will open in ways that create the most piercingly beautiful colors. It is all gorgeous and necessary and worthwhile. It is all your art. And it is stunning, just like you.

And just so you know, you can come paint on my canvas anytime. Sending you so much love, and flicking a little paint at you, too, Ally Hamilton