You Can’t Run

shadowRecently I was traveling, and happened to sit next to a man on a long flight. As these things go, we struck up a conversation that was interrupted several times by one or the other of my children, but over the course of the flight, I pretty much heard his life story. When he found out I was a yoga teacher, he perked up, and began asking me questions about his legs. He’s a serious runner, swimmer and cyclist, and has been for his whole life. He does triathlons and marathons and 5k’s and he’s done Ironman several times, but over the last year, his legs started giving out. He’d be running a few miles, or swimming a short distance, or cycling around his neighborhood trails, and suddenly his legs would lose their steam, cramp up, refuse to go on.

He’s been to all kinds of doctors, he’s had MRIs, been to PT, you name it, and no one can find anything physically wrong. So I asked him if anything had happened in the last year, anything emotional. He looked at me like I was a little crazy, and then admitted he’d been through a painful divorce, and lost his mother, all in the same year. I asked him if running, cycling and swimming were coping mechanisms for him. Obviously, they’re healthy activities, but like anything else, when done to the extreme, they can be debilitating. He said without a doubt, these were the resources he used to “get through his childhood and teenage years”.

It turns out he comes from an abusive and alcoholic family, and he grew up feeling unsafe, unseen and unheard. He found relief by joining the swim team, the track team, and cycling to and from school when he got old enough. He said those were the times he could forget his life, the awful stuff that was happening at home, the rage he felt toward his dad, and the powerlessness he felt regarding his mom, whom he adored but couldn’t save. He said he’d been struggling with depression for most of his life, but it had taken a turn over the last year, and that he’d sought help from a therapist. He went on antidepressants for several months, but then stopped them cold turkey, thinking they might be the reason his legs were giving out. He said he’d never really wanted to be on meds in the first place, but also that they had helped.

Anyway, he’s been off his medication for months, and still the legs won’t do what he wants them to do. He said there have been moments when he’s so frustrated on a run, or a ride, that if he had a knife with him, he would have stabbed himself in the quads. That’s grief, rage and pain for you, and I’m sharing this with you, with his permission, because I don’t think it’s all that uncommon.

The body is with us through everything. We’re energetic creatures, and we both absorb and emit energy. If you grew up in a war zone, you’re probably familiar with cowering, crouching, covering your head and face with your arms, making yourself invisible or invaluable. Children who grow up this way don’t spend time discovering who they are or what makes them happy. They’re too focused on survival and how to maneuver or help or be “good enough” to stop the abuse, to consider things like what makes them happy, or what they’d like to be doing on any particular afternoon. When you worry for your own safety, or your mother’s, when you feel terrified and helpless, believe me, this stuff gets stored in your body. Maybe you grind your teeth or you have migraines, or you walk around with your shoulders up around your ears all the time, or you have ulcers, or you’re loathe to leave the safe space of your house (if you’ve managed to create a safe space for yourself). Trauma lives in the body, and unless you give it an outlet, unless you acknowledge its existence, you will carry it with you.

We all have our coping mechanisms, and some of them are healthy, and some of them are not. Even exercise, widely accepted as a healthy outlet, can become a source of addiction for people. In this particular case, we have a man running, swimming, and cycling away from a lifetime of pain. And you know, you just can’t outrun this stuff. At a certain point, if you don’t stop, and get still, and allow the pain to wash over you, it will own you for your entire life. I think his legs are giving out because his heart is in need of his kind attention, and I think he knows that, because he sought help from a therapist. It was still hard for him to accept that the source of his frustration with his legs could be emotional. Of course I can’t know this for sure, but there’s nothing physically wrong, and my guess is that once he allows himself to really examine and lean into all that grief and rage and guilt and shame (although he’s blameless), it will lose its grip on him. I think his body is giving out so that he has no option but to try things another way, because being on the run isn’t working anymore.

For most of us, this is what it takes. Most people will not wake up one day and decide to face their pain. Most people will have to be pushed to do that, pushed into acknowledging that what they’ve been doing simply isn’t working. Life has to become unmanageable and unlivable before the large majority of people will opt to work with their grief. I think this is because we fear the pain will overwhelm us, when the reality is, not facing it is what does that. Yes, he’ll probably be deeply uncomfortable, enraged or heartbroken for the short-term; he has a lot to process. The loss of his childhood, for one. The loss of his innocence. Some things are taken from us that we can never have back, and some mourning is in order for loss like that. The loss of his mother, the loss of his marriage, his house, many of his friends, his routine, his place in the world, but this is what’s in his path. You can’t cycle over that stuff. You can’t swim underneath it. You can’t run away from it. You have to turn around, sit down, and open to it. Then you can release the heat of it, the rage of it, the burning grief of it, and then, my guess is, you can get back on your feet and find your legs are working again, and that they’ll take you where you want to go, instead of where you need to go. That makes all the difference in the world, and that isn’t something that’s going to show up in an MRI. This stuff I’m talking about is the business of your heart, your mind, and your emotional body, and if you want to be at peace, you’re going to have to get acquainted with all three.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If you like the posts, you can find my books here.

You Are Free

letgoweightsSometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself the permission and the space to mourn those relationships that have ended, or the ones that never existed in the way you’d needed and wanted them to. If you arrived in your parents’ world at a time when one or both of them did not possess the tools to love you well and put you first, for example, I think you’ll have to grieve the childhood you never had, the loss of your innocence, or your ability to feel safe, nurtured or protected. The loss of your belief that your feelings mattered, or even registered anywhere. Once you’ve grieved, you can put it to rest and begin to build a life where you honor what you feel, and you do feel safe.

The thing is, life is full of beauty and pain, joy and heartbreak, love and fear. We all face losses, some people’s worse than others, and we have different levels of resiliency. What tears one person down in a household, may not affect their siblings in the same way. Sometimes we look at a person’s actions or inaction, and find the situation incomprehensible. How could someone do that, or say that, or feel that way? How could they reconcile a choice like that? How can they be okay when they face their reflection in the mirror, or put their heads on their pillows at night?

It isn’t your job or mine, to figure out what someone else is doing or not doing. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. Our job is to figure out how we’re going to respond to what we’re given. Our job is to keep our own side of the street clean, to work on how we show up for ourselves, and for the people in our lives, which is plenty of work for any of us. We really don’t get to know where someone else is coming from, unless they decide to tell us. You can’t force closure, you can’t look at a chaotic or self-destructive environment and think you can fix it or solve it with your love or your logic. You can’t save people from themselves (although I think you ought to try to help in any way you can without making yourself unsafe).

If someone is horrible to you, understand it’s a reflection of where they are on their own journey, and not a result of anything lacking in you. When people treat us with no respect, decency, kindness, consideration or compassion, it’s because they don’t have these feelings for themselves, on a very deep level. You can wrap your head around that and try to wish them well, or get them support if appropriate. You can do your best to communicate honestly and openly, but you can also decide this is not a person you wish to have in your life. Sometimes we compound a painful feeling by denying ourselves permission to feel what any reasonable person would feel. We get bogged down and pierced through by our “shoulds”, when really, we ought to keep our eyes trained on what is.

Whatever has happened, has happened. These things may have shaped you, and they may have left you with scars, but your past does not have to define your future. You are free to create a life that feels good to you. You are free to create boundaries. You are free to understand if a person is horrible to you, you can walk away, and you do not have to feel badly about that, or miss them or want to try to fix it. You could simply let it go so it doesn’t weigh you down. You are free.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Keep Your Side of the Street Clean, Then Let Go

reberSometimes we can get really caught up in someone else’s drama. There are all kinds of people in this world, and many of them are suffering in some way or another. You really have no idea about the interior world of another human being unless they choose to share it with you. There are people coming out of abuse, neglect and abandonment. People trying to overcome betrayal. People clinging and trying to control whatever and whomever they can so they don’t feel so afraid. People with personality disorders, people suffering from depression, people grasping onto their anger like a shield, people numbing out so they don’t have to feel anything at all. If you get too close, you’re going to get some spillover. It’s just the nature of things.

It’s possible that a person in pain has been that way for so long, it isn’t immediately obvious. Everyone has coping mechanisms, some are healthy, some are not. It takes a good long while to truly know another person. If we’re speaking romantically, it takes even longer, because you have to let the dust/lust clear before you can really see what’s there. Regardless, people will show you who they are, and/or where they are on their path if you give them enough time. Some people have walls up. Some people are angry and nasty because they’ve been hurt and disappointed so much, they can’t think of anything else to do but keep people out. You cannot negotiate with a caged animal.

When people are in fear or in anger, there’s no point trying to communicate. There’s also no need to take it personally, unless you did something hurtful intentionally, or not. If you have something to own, by all means own it. The art of the apology has gotten lost in recent years. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not a satisfying apology, nor is yelling, “I’m sorry!”, or justifying what you did because what they did was worse. Unless you’re five, “He made me do it” isn’t going to fly, but if you haven’t done anything except cross this person’s path at a time when they can’t or won’t do anything but rage at you or shut you out, move along.

We can only manage our own side of the street. Honest communication is always good. By all means, try to speak about how you feel, or what you want, or what your fears are. Try a few times if it’s very important to you. Try in person first. An email is never as good as a face-to-face conversation, because so much can get lost in translation. You cannot see the expression on someone’s face, or hear the tone in their voice over an email, but if a person won’t see you, or get on the phone with you, that’s your next best option. Texting is never the way to go when emotions are high. Do your best to say how you feel, and then leave it. Your apology will or will not be accepted. Your attempt at connection will or will not be received. Your desire to make things better will or will not be shared.

You have power over how much time and energy you give a thing. Sometimes we want closure, or we’re attached to a particular outcome so much, we obsess. We spend hours, days, weeks, ruminating over details, replaying conversations, writing new ones in our heads. Sometimes we look back with rose-colored glasses, or we idealize someone, or we confuse our desire to be seen and heard and understood with a need to have those things happen with someone who is not available to us for whatever reason. People can only be where they are, and they can only have the tools they have. Drama is for the stage. Life is too short and too precious for that.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Find the Gift

darknessoliverSometimes the gift is getting what you want, and sometimes the gift is not getting what you want. It’s fairly easy to celebrate when things go our way, but it usually takes a lot of effort to unearth the beauty in having some of our desires remain unfulfilled. I’m not an “everything happens for a reason” yogi, and I don’t believe everything is positive. I don’t go for platitudes like, “If you don’t get what you want, it’s because something better is planned for you”, but I do think there’s the potential for growth in every experience.

Heartbreak is a good example. Maybe you’ve suffered through a painful breakup, or you’ve lost someone you don’t know how to live without. Trying to find the gift when your heart is broken is no easy feat, and I don’t recommend that you rush to do that. If you’re grieving, grieve. Give yourself time to feel whatever you need to feel — deep sadness, despair, anger, longing, whatever it is. The best way to prolong a state of pain is to deny it, numb it out, or push it away. If you want to get through something and come out the other side as soon as possible, the fastest method is to lean right into your heartache. Then you can release the heat of your feelings, and you can start to let the worst of it burn off.

The gift comes in learning more about yourself. If you let these experiences soften you rather than harden you, you’ll find you become more empathetic, more insightful, and more able to extend compassion to other people who might be suffering. We learn the most about who we are, where we still have healing to do, where we’re strong and where we could use some strengthening, through times that challenge us. Chapters that feel good are wonderful, but as far as growth goes, we generally learn more through times that test us.

If someone let you down, the beauty comes through healing. Maybe the experience caused you to doubt your worth, and perhaps it took years to get through it. Maybe something very old was tapped, and you found yourself reeling, flailing, or running from your feelings, or maybe you opened yourself and you were hurt, and decided it was better to be hard. But human beings don’t come covered in shells. We’re vulnerable, that’s just an inescapable reality.

When you don’t get what you want, you might examine why you wanted it so much. What did this desired thing (person, event) represent to you? Did you think if only you achieved this outcome, then you’d be happy? Then you’d feel seen, heard, understood? Brass rings are wonderful, because they reflect back at us some insecurity. What are we striving for? Acknowledgement? Praise? Love? Acceptance? Power? Immortality? If you can figure out why you want what you want (aside from the ability to keep a roof over your head and the heads of those you treasure), whether you get it or not, you’ll know more about who you are and where you’re at, and if you have healing to do. Happiness comes from the inside of us. Yes, we can meet people, we can gravitate toward people who see us and understand us and cherish us, and why wouldn’t we? Connection is the best thing in life, but if you aren’t happy on the inside, no one and no thing can fix that.

If you get what you want, that can also be a gift. Especially if it doesn’t work quite the way you thought it would. Here I am, holding this brass ring with a huge grin on my face, but how long will it last? Why do I need it to feel validated? Why can’t I validate myself? I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy wonderful things when they happen. I’m just saying it’s enlightening to look at the gifts in getting and not getting, to examine our longing, to understand ourselves. That’s the only way to honor yourself, and to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading as you move through the world. The more you can bring unconscious drives to the surface, the more you’ll be at peace. Unless or until love is at your center, you probably won’t be at peace.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, please find my books here.

Make the Shift, Session 3

Yoga-is-99-practice-1We expect to encounter resistance when we’re being forced to do something we don’t want to do, but it’s a curious thing when we experience blocks in those areas where we’re looking for movement; where we want to shift or change or grow. The thing is, all change, no matter how positive, has an element of loss attached to it. In order to open to something new, we usually have to be willing to let go of something old, especially when we’re talking about our ideas or opinions or ways of doing things.

Change is not easy for most people. And yet, there’s no escaping it. Everything is shifting all the time. You are not the you you were five years ago, and neither is anyone else. You can’t predict the future any more than you can rewrite the past. All you can do is open to things as they are, and as they unfold, and develop a strong center. That’s internal work, there’s no way around it.

It’s completely understandable that we’d like to be able to count on some things. That we’d like to create some order inside all of this chaos. Some people long for that more than others. Controlling people are usually people who’ve been hurt, abandoned, traumatized or disappointed in some essential way. Of course they want to pin things down, and sometimes they want to pin people down, too. But we’re on a spinning planet, we have our bodies with their unknown expiration dates, we have our loved ones in the same situation, and there’s just no telling what’s coming down the path. At a certain point, you have to open to the ride, and let go of the things you can’t control. You can work on knowing and accepting yourself. You can figure out what lights you up, and what it is you have to offer, and you can get busy offering it. You can work on how you respond to what you’re given.

There’s enormous power in that. When we become accountable for the energy we’re spreading, when we take ownership of our lives and decide we’re going to move in a direction that feels right and good, we wouldn’t expect to come up against resistance. But if those ideas are new to you, I can almost guarantee that will happen. When you get to the point when you have to start doing things differently because the “old way” hasn’t been working out too well, it’s likely your system will revolt. Resistance isn’t always obvious; it can feel like boredom, anger, frustration, lethargy, a desire to numb out, an inability to focus, or a need to distract yourself. If you aren’t used to putting your feelings into the mix, if you haven’t been following your own intuition, a mere decision that you’d like to start doing those things isn’t going to be enough.

Rewiring our systems so we can start to live in alignment with what’s true for us, and in a way that feels good, takes determination, discipline, and a deep desire. It’s also nice to have some support, at least one person who’s rooting for you, when you can’t find the energy to root for yourself. It’s very painful to come up against all the ways you’ve been sabotaging yourself, and to uncover the reasons why. It’s inevitable you’re going to discover, or finally acknowledge some deep wounds that you’ve been carrying with you, if you haven’t been able to show up on your own behalf all these years. Before you can get to that strong center, you really have to lean into your pain, and integrate all parts of yourself. Anything you reject creates a chasm within you. A wall of shame or guilt or doubt. You really have to access your whole being. No one else is you. That’s such an incredible thing, isn’t it? Seven billion of us, and only one you. Of course you’re worth fighting for; if you don’t show up as your whole self, with all the gifts you have to offer, the world loses a gift only you can bring.

Anyway, my point is, resistance is perfectly natural, but you don’t have to let it stop you. You can lean into that, too. You can notice your lethargy, and drag yourself off the couch in spite of it. You can head out the door and walk around your block one time, with the intent of noticing just one thing that inspires you or surprises you or makes you feel happy to be alive. You can sit and meditate, and observe whatever arises calmly, with the understanding that it, too, will change. You can do your yoga practice, and feed a loving voice. You can commit to yourself, to your healing and your ability to nurture yourself and your dreams, and the people in your life. You can stay the path, even when the sleet is hitting you in the face, hard, and some voice inside your head tells you it would be easier to turn back and numb out. And you can tell that voice kindly, but with conviction, to screw off, because you know in your heart this is the way to go if you want to feel the sun shining on your face anytime soon.

Make the Shift, Session 3

This week, our third week, we deal with resistance. We face it head-on, and we move right through it. Grab your journal, your pen, and your yoga mat, and head into session 3, yogis. Rooting for you, and sending you love,

Make the Shift (Take the Challenge)

Wherever-you-go-thereWhen you feel the need to make a shift in your life, you really have to start by making a shift in your thinking. And in order to change something, you have to be able to see it clearly. Sometimes a way of being or thinking, or moving through the world has become so ingrained, we take it for granted. We assume this is “how things are”, and this is , “the way we are”, and that how we perceive things is accurate. Creating some space between yourself and your thoughts, so you can take a good look at them, is really the beginning of any change.

Our experiences shape us. We can only know what we know, after all. And sometimes what we know is based on lies. If you grew up in an unsafe environment, then what you “know” is that people can’t be trusted, and how you feel is irrelevant, and the best you can hope for is just to survive. If you’ve been betrayed, disappointed, neglected, abused, or made to feel that you have to earn love in order to be worthy of it, you have some serious unlearning to do. But if these beliefs are so much a part of you that you don’t even question them, it’s impossible to unstick yourself. You’re trying to work within a false paradigm that’s been built around the idea that you are not good enough, not strong enough, not lovable enough to have life look or feel any other way. So the first step toward liberation is simply to recognize that you have a perspective, and that your perspective may be really bent.

Also, for many people, the ideas that,” you are not your thoughts, and you are not your body”, are totally new. You do not have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. You do not have to identify with, or act upon every feeling you have. Like anything living, feelings arise, peak and subside. They don’t go on and on interminably. But many people are so reactive, they feel something, and act out. There’s no space between the event of the feeling, and the response to it. There’s no room to be curious, to observe, to reflect, to consider, and then to act. Or to not act.

Creating space between your thoughts, and between your feelings and your responses to them, is a life-changer. Knowing yourself is at the heart of any spiritual practice, and it’s also the key to living your best life. How do we know people? We spend some quality time with them, yes? We observe them, we listen to them with an open heart and an open mind and a desire to examine what’s real for them, what’s true for them. We ask questions when we’re confused. We trust, we nurture, we embrace. This is how we get close to people. You are a person. If you want to know and understand yourself, you need to spend some quality time with you.

It’s good to think about looking at things in a different way, or to consider whether your thoughts are weakening you or strengthening you. But if you really feel the need to make a change, if you’re deeply unhappy, feeling stuck, frustrated, or paralyzed by fear or a lack of confidence or self-esteem, of course you’re going to have to get to work. You have to deal with your particular mind, your specific way of being, your personal way of moving through the world and interacting with other people. Your own history, belief systems, struggles with intimacy, or difficulty acting on your own behalf. If you feel cut off from your own intuition, if you’ve lost the thread, you have to find tools that work for you so you can start again. Until you exhale for the final time, it’s never too late to do that.

Your Homework

Above is a link to a class. Let’s say doing this class is your homework. There’s a three-minute talk about making a shift, a five-minute seated meditation, and a short yoga practice. It would be great if you had some paper and a pen handy. The meditation is designed to help you take a look at the current state of your mind, and the quality of the relationship you’re having with yourself. You’re not trying to change anything at this point, you’re just looking for a baseline. You want to observe your “default setting”. Doing this once won’t get you there. It’s meant to be done every day for a week, so you can see how things are with you in general, not just on one random day. The practice is designed to get you breathing, and beyond that, to breathe in a conscious way, so you engage your mind with something that’s happening in the now. You train your mind on the present moment. If you observe during your meditation that your mind is loud, redundant and obsessive, you use the breath, and the physical practice to quiet the storm. If you find that your inner dialogue is harsh and unforgiving, you use your practice to feed a loving voice. If you struggle with a pose, that’s wonderful. You get to see if you can face the challenge calmly, and with compassion for yourself. If you can’t, that’s what you work on all week. If you fall out of a pose, you see if you can practice falling calmly (Type A personalities and perfectionists, take note).

You have to work with your own inner dialogue, your own personality, your own tendencies. At a certain point, it can’t be conceptual anymore, you need the visceral, raw, personal experience. Meet me back here in a week for another class that will build on this one. If enough of you participate, we’ll turn this into a 30-day challenge to make a shift. There’s no winner, or rather, everyone wins. You can email me ( all week and let me know how you’re doing, and what challenges you’re facing. Please be patient, I will answer everyone. If you’re serious about healing, I really want to help. Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton #timetogetbusy #toolsforhealing #dothework #noexcuses #letsstarttheparty #lifeisgood

** New subscribers: get the first 10 days of your monthly subscription free ($15 billed monthly after trial) when you use coupon code MAKETHESHIFT. Go to  and sign up for the monthly unlimited, and put in your code. Then you can get busy!!