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

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.

Keep Going

hellchurchillIt’s brutal when someone we once loved beyond words can no longer see us for who we are. Breakups are often agonizing for people on so many levels. There’s the loss and the grieving, even if you’re mourning something that didn’t exist. Sometimes we look back on a thing with rose-colored glasses, or we rewrite history, or we dwell on those times when things were good, and edit out the pain, neglect, abuse, betrayal, or disappointment. We cling to some idea we had, or still have, of how things could be, or might have been, if only. Sometimes our “if only’s” are insane. If only the other person were completely different at the core of their being, for example. We torture ourselves over the idea that this person stopped seeing us clearly, or has rewritten history in some way that reflects badly on us, as if their version holds weight, and maybe it does, or maybe it doesn’t. You know how you showed up. You know what you did or did not do, and hopefully, you know no one is perfect. If you’ve owned your end, if you’ve apologized for those times when you disappointed yourself, or the other party, if you know in your heart you did the best you could, at a certain point, you have to let that be enough. If their version doesn’t resemble any reality you recognize, why continue to feed it power by fighting it?

Sometimes my four-year-old comes to me and tells me her brother called her “poopy-pants”, or some other undesirable name, and I ask her if it’s true, “Are you a poopy-pants?” Most of the time she’ll start laughing, and I’ll say, “There you go. If it isn’t true, why let it upset you?” I know that’s easier than shrugging it off if someone you still have feelings for calls you a “manipulative b%tch”, as happened to one of our readers this weekend, but if a thing is not true, there’s no reason you have to receive the insult. Anyone who communicates by calling names is still in the sandbox, anyway.

It’s normal to want closure. One would hope that two people who once cared deeply for one another could honor the relationship that once existed by parting lovingly and respectfully, but sometimes things have eroded to such a degree, the ending is bitter and nasty and heartbreaking. People only have the tools they have; not everyone knows how to communicate, or to truly listen. So many people just want to be right, as if that’s going to be comforting at the end of it all. “Here lies someone who was right.”

Endings are hard for most people; change rarely comes easily. Sometimes what we want diverges so sharply from what someone else wants, there’s bound to be pain. Some people shut down, some people feel guilty and use anger as a defense mechanism. Sometimes people start other relationships thinking they’ll avoid the pain of the last ending, not understanding there is no avoiding it. It just waits, and bites them in the a$$ months later, when the heat of their new relationship dies down, and they realize they’re going to face challenges and work with any partner. Intimacy isn’t easy. Neither is loneliness. You kind of have to figure out which work you want to do.

Try not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, or trying to convince anyone that you really are wonderful. People will remember who you are eventually. They’ll look back just like you do, and if you were good to them, believe me, they’ll see that at some point. That’s not your job, or your work. Your job is to show up as your best self as much of the time as you possibly can. That means you have to nurture yourself, and it’s hard to nurture yourself and torture yourself at the same time, as you might have noticed. Take yourself off the block. If you can look yourself in the eye and know you’re doing your best, keep going. If you blew things badly, stop and get some help so you can figure out what drove your choices, and make different ones the next time. That is all.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Head for the Eye of the Storm

Many of the feelings we’re going to experience in this life are not comfortable — rage, grief, shame, fear, doubt, jealously, envy, loneliness, bitterness, feelings around being betrayed, abandoned or neglected — none of these are easy feelings. Sometimes we’re in so much avoidance around this stuff, we flee. We keep ourselves insanely busy, or we numb out all the time, or we cling to a false reality and insist those who are close to us do the same. None of that works, assuming you want to be happy and at peace.

The desire to feel good can be so strong, we excuse and explain behavior of others that we really shouldn’t tolerate. Forgiveness feels better than rage. Gratitude feels better than the feeling of lack or bitterness. Being in love feels better than acknowledging something at the core is just not right. What we know is more comfortable than what we don’t, even if what we know doesn’t feel good, but forced joy is not the same as true joy. Should you be happy because it’s the holiday season? Should you get married because you’re thirty and all your friends are doing it? Should you be careful around the word “should”? You feel how you feel, and your best bet is to deal with it.

If you’re enraged because your spouse had an extramarital affair, you can’t race to forgiveness; you have to be with all the other messy feelings that come up first, and see if you can work your way toward forgiveness later. If your grown child is determined to head down a painful path, you do a disservice to everyone if you deny that reality and insist everything is okay. Clinging to positivity is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s not all positive and light, some of it hurts like hell. Some of it makes your blood boil. Being spiritual does not mean you shun those feelings or push them down or feel shame around them, either. The greatest gift of a spiritual practice, whether it’s yoga or seated meditation, hiking or salsa dancing or cooking or whatever speaks to you (and yes, anything that you do consistently that helps you quiet your mind and tune into your own intuition, that helps you become a part of the flow, and lose your sense of separateness, can be defined as a spiritual practice), is the ability to face reality as it is. It’s not about being positive and thinking positively every second and clutching at the light like it’s going to save you. Being able to be with the darkness can save you. Sitting with what is real for you and owning it and allowing painful feelings to arise so you can understand yourself is incredibly liberating. If you don’t do that, you’ll be driven by unconscious forces, and wonder why it is you keep making choices that send you headfirst into brick walls.

The pressure to be happy is enormous. It’s all around you. Watch what you feed yourself, and I don’t just mean food. Everything you take in through your eyes and your ears is food for your mind. If you feed yourself a constant diet of “everyone else is happy and I suck”, you’re probably going to feel pretty badly. Not everyone is happy, many people are suffering in silent agony because they don’t know how to get from here (despair) to there (peace), and very few people talk about the shadow stuff. I think it’s the responsibility of people in the spiritual community to get their hands dirty and shine a light on the stuff that hurts. Knowing yourself can be a deeply painful, lonely process. You may have made a series of choices based on what you thought you should want, or what other people wanted you to want, and you may have a lot of unraveling to do to get back to what’s true for you. That hurts. You may have old wounds that are unhealed that need your kind attention, and that hurts, too. You may find that certain relationships need to be examined from the roots up, and that they may not survive the move to new soil. Birthing anything into existence is uncomfortable at best, whether it’s a new way of being, or a new life that feels more authentic to you.

Too many people are hopeless and numb, internalizing their own rage, walking around feeling depressed, and wondering how all these shiny people on Instagram are doing it. No one posts the pictures of days they shuffle around in their pajamas, feeling lame and alone. You don’t see many status updates that say, “I feel scared because my life is going by and I don’t know what I’m doing”, but everyone has pain, fear and questions. That’s the stuff you run toward, although that might not be intuitive. If you want to be at peace, you have to be willing to walk through the storms, too. They don’t kill you, they don’t wash you away. Avoiding them does.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

It’s Not About You

Some-changes-lookOnce in awhile, I re-tell the story of the scorpion and the frog. If you don’t know it, it goes something like this: Once there was a scorpion on the side of a river bank, and it called out to a passing frog, “Excuse me, could you please give me a lift across the river? I can’t swim, and I’m meeting a friend in 20 minutes.” The frog looked at the scorpion like it was crazy and replied, “I’m not giving you a ride! Do you take me for an idiot?! You’re a scorpion, you’ll sting me.” And the scorpion said, “If I sting you, you’ll drown, and we’ll both die. Please, I’m going to be late.” So the frog thought this logic made sense, and he didn’t like the idea of making the scorpion late, so he said, “Okay, climb on.” Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. With his dying breath, the frog said, “Why? Why have you done this to us?!” And the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion.”

This tale has always helped me when I’ve felt stung and confused by another person’s actions. When I’ve felt hurt or betrayed or discarded or rejected. None of these things feels good, and it’s very challenging not to take it personally if we’re hurting at the hands of someone we care about. If you’re feeling rejected, it’s natural to think it must be because you didn’t measure up in some way. Depending on your history and your personality, you might really internalize the experience. If you have doubt about your self-worth, if you think there could be something at your very core that is just not lovable, having someone leave you or abuse you or ignore you might look like a confirmation of your own doubts and fears.

Most of the time, it has very little to do with you. Sometimes you’ve simply gotten involved with a scorpion. People can only be where they are; a person has the tools he has. That doesn’t mean he might not pick up some new tools as he heads down the river; a scorpion has the potential to turn into a frog if he works at it, but if you happen to cross paths with someone when they’re in darkness, you’re probably going to get stung. It’s personal only in the sense that you’ll now have healing to do, but it’s not a reflection of your lovableness. You are love. You’re made of love, I truly believe that.

If you’ve been stung, there’s only one thing for it — you’re going to have to bleed out the poison. The fastest way to do that is to lean into the searing pain of what you’re feeling. Instead of running or denying or repressing, you simply say, “This is how it is right now, and it will not always be like this, and it will not kill me,” and you breathe. You hang out with other frogs who love you, and who will take you to the river and help you see your reflection clearly so you can remember how special you are.

I know sometimes it can feel like you’ll never get over someone. I don’t just mean this in terms of romantic relationships. This happens in families, and it happens with the closest of friends, too. Sometimes the only way you can take care of yourself, the only way you can love yourself, is if you create distance between you and the people in your life who just don’t know how to love. Maybe at some point they will know. You don’t have to be hopeless about it, but until that time, your job is to keep your heart open, and you simply can’t do that if you keep allowing people to sting you. Your heart can only take so much before it starts to close in on itself and that’s just too sad. Your heart is so gorgeous. You are the only one of you that exists, the only one of you the world gets. You’re a gift, and if you allow yourself to drown in the river of sorrow, you rob the world of a gift only you can bring. Hop up on your lily pad and feel the sun on your little froggy face. Wish the scorpions well if you have it in you, but don’t carry them across the river anymore, and don’t mistake the intensity of your feelings of pain as a reflection of the depth of your love. It’s much more likely that scorpion reminded you of another scorpion you knew a long time ago, when you were just a tadpole. Heal that sting, and the other scorpions won’t look so appealing.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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


If-youre-reading-thisNothing stops you from pursuing your dreams like the weight of hopelessness. It’s so heavy, it makes it hard to get out of bed, or meet your friend for a tea, or even pick up the phone. Sometimes people write to me and they feel desperately alone and sad. They’ve given up on themselves, on other people, on life itself. Most of them include the same question, “What’s the point of it all?” When you’re feeling off-center, life can really take you for a spin.

So many experiences befall us as humans that are hard to bear, or even to understand. There’s no shortage of things that can happen to bring a person to this point; most of us will feel this to some degree at one time or another. After all, there are times things seem so absurd. Can there really be 108 million people in our country helping the weight-loss industry make $20 billion dollars a year, when a billion people on the planet are undernourished? Is it any wonder when we feed ourselves a steady diet of, “you’re not good enough”? Do you ever stop and think about the messages we’re bombarded with all day every day, even if you do your best to watch what you feed yourself? I’m not talking about just food. Even if you don’t watch television, standing on line at the checkout counter at your supermarket can be a depressing experience. Catching just one awful headline about someone screwing up their life can be enough to lower your own vibration, or catching a glimpse of someone’s glossy, “perfect” life can also make you feel badly about yourself if you’re feeling vulnerable. Social media can be amazing if you’re selective about what you like and what you read, but it can also make you feel like crap if you aren’t careful. There are all kinds of ways you might allow yourself to be pummeled by the idea that you suck, and that could suck the hope out of anyone. A deluge of that stuff, day after day, year after year takes its toll, especially if you’re going through challenging times.

Your personal history comes into play here as well. We all have pain, but some people have more than others. We all have healing to do, but if you’re coming out of abuse or neglect, it’s very likely you’ll have to do some work to unlearn the lies you may have come to believe, such as, you aren’t worthy of love, or you’re a mistake, or no one could ever love you. You might think people suck, or everyone cheats, or everyone leaves, or you can’t trust anyone. You might believe the idea that the trauma you’ve been through has rendered you broken and unlovable. Those are all lies. You might need some help to look at things in a different way if that’s what you’re grappling with; sometimes we’ve been in defense mode so long, we don’t know how to open anymore. Maybe something has happened that’s turned your world on its head — maybe you’ve lost your job, or you’ve been betrayed, or you’ve lost someone you don’t know how to live without. Any of these things can make a person feel hopeless, and doubt not just their ability to face reality as it is, but also to ever enjoy life again.

The tendency when we feel hopeless is to deny the experience, to numb out or run away, or push it down or sleep it off, or to throw ourselves into work or relationships with a kind of desperation. Please let someone or something save me from these awful feelings that make my heart hurt and my head explode. No one can save you, nor can you save anyone. Everyone has to save themselves, and that means everyone has to figure out how to open to the truth of their own experience. If you can’t sit with your deepest pain and lean into it, it will own you, and you’ll never know yourself, which is the loneliest feeling in the world. That’s a hope-killer, being a stranger to yourself. If you aren’t able to examine your feelings as they arise, you’ll never release the heat of them, you’ll never find the freedom to open to love, and that is also a hope-killer. Without hope and without love, life is dark and something to endure. When you take that route, it’s guaranteed suffering and isolation. Running from yourself is like running from your shadow. You’ll never get away, and you’ll never be able to stop and rest.

If you want to find your hope again, you’ll have to sit through the knifing pain, first, or the discomfort, rage, shame, guilt, fear, doubt, or grief of your current reality, or your long-ago past. Things that help: people in your life who love you, real moments with people you know, or absolute strangers, taking the time to breathe in and breathe out consciously, reading, writing, hiking, weeping, anything that brings you into your body, whether it’s yoga, or salsa dancing or swimming. Being kind to yourself, and remembering to turn your attention to anything good that is happening, that you do have, no matter how simple or small. The ability to watch the sunrise or sunset. Food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a place to call home, at least one person who knows you and accepts you as you are, who really gets you. (You can be that person for yourself). We all have work to do. Feed any tiny bit of gratitude you can, because hope lives there. Give it even the tiniest bit of foundation, and it will start to grow for you. Hope brings energy. When you have energy and just a sliver of hope, you’ll probably get out of bed, and maybe you’ll even make it to the shower. Perhaps you can look out the window and let in the light. Eventually, you’ll find you want to take that call, you want to meet for tea, you want to believe that people are good, and you are good, and life is good. Which is nice, because those are not lies. As long as you’re breathing, there’s still the hope of turning things around, and finding your way back to love; that’s your center.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

When Your Heart Breaks, It Opens, Too.

Some things in this life will just break your heart. The beautiful and extraordinary thing about the heart, though, is that when it breaks, it opens more if you let it; it expands. There are things that can bring us to our knees. Losing a loved one too soon, that’s at the top of the list. Going through a divorce, a breakup, any kind of rejection from a person who was once a lover and/or a friend. Being fired from a job. Being abandoned, neglected, discarded or betrayed. Dealing with someone who won’t or can’t communicate so you’re left to grope for the answers yourself, and have to learn the painful lesson that some things will never be explained, that the only closure you’ll get is acceptance.

For so many of us when we’re hurt like this, when we’re grieving and there’s nothing but tears and despair, there can be such a desire to shield the heart; to build up walls so we can’t ever be hurt this way again, to decide we won’t be putting ourselves out there anymore, we won’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable. There’s no way to be a human being in this world without being vulnerable, though, it comes with the territory. We all have a finite amount of time, and we have no idea how much time we have. The thought of that can shut you down or open you up. When you’ve learned firsthand that those you love beyond words can be ripped from you with no warning and no chance to say goodbye, you know the truth of this all too well. If you board up your heart, you serve no one. No one who loved you would ever want you to do that, because it’s a half-life. It’s not even that; it’s an existence. If someone was taken from you, live for them. Honor them by celebrating every moment you have here, and by celebrating the fact that you loved so deeply. No one is ever gone from you. You can close your eyes and be with anyone you’ve ever been close to right now if you try. I realize it isn’t the same as being able to hold the people we long to hold. It isn’t the same as being able to hug them or hear their voices, or see their eyes light up, but they aren’t gone from you, they live in your heart.

If someone has left you of their own volition, allow yourself to feel all the pain around that. Rejection makes us feel like we aren’t worthy of love. It makes us doubt ourselves at the deepest level, but if someone couldn’t see you, or treasure you or understand you, if someone couldn’t receive the incredible gift you are, allow yourself to be released. Everyone deserves to be cherished. Every single one of us is a miracle. You aren’t likely to feel that way if you’ve just been left or betrayed, but you are, truly. Seven billion people, one you. Only one.

If you’ve been fired, that can reek havoc on your self esteem, especially if you identify strongly with the kind of work you do. It can make you feel like you’ve been cut off at the knees. It’s hard to imagine it when we’re in the midst of turmoil and stress, when we’re trying to keep a roof over our heads and food in the refrigerator, but sometimes it’s a gift when our plan gets turned on its head. Maybe eventually you’ll see that this was a catalyst for something beautiful and unexpected to emerge, but in the meantime, lick your wounds.

Whatever you’re going through, keeping your heart open is so key. Shut yourself down for awhile if you need to; if you’re going through the kind of loss that’s so knifing you’re struggling to breathe in and breathe out, then just surviving this period is enough. Just crack the door open so you can receive love and support, because you’ll need it. Some things will never be okay, but accepting that is often the thing that enables you to open your heart again. Life without love is cold and dark; it’s not natural to us, we thrive on connection and closeness. Everyone is in this thing together. Some people face pain that’s hard to endure, and others face the “normal” amount of suffering, but no one gets out with zero suffering, and no one lives forever. With the time that you’ve got, live all the way. Embrace it all and try to trust in your experience here, even if you don’t understand it all the time. Just being a human being is such a gift. Just getting to have this journey is something extraordinary. Even when you feel completely alone, you aren’t. Keep your heart open and you’ll feel that reality.

Sending you so much love (and a little yoga to support your healing process.)

Ally Hamilton

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