Take Off the Armor


glassmanThere comes a time when you really have to put down the blame and the sad stories and take ownership of your life, and your own happiness. You can’t point fingers and expect to feel good, because you’re making yourself powerless, and that feels terrible. You can’t feed your despair and also wonder why you aren’t happy. We are all here for a blink of time. It’s not how long we have, although I hope we all have long and healthy lives, it’s what we do with the time we’re gifted. Stoking the flames of your rage and bitterness would be an awful way to go.

There are so many people living in fear. Maybe it’s the vulnerability of being human that terrifies them, but it seems they’ve decided a shield of anger is better than an open heart. Usually when you’re dealing with that kind of armor, it’s because the heart it’s protecting was so badly broken. The thing is, those breaks can harden us or soften us. Softening feels a lot better. I know people personally who seem determined to die angry, though. It’s almost like they want their tombstone to read, “My life was hard, and it wasn’t my fault,” with a list of people at fault underneath.

You can’t cuddle up with the “last word”. If you choose being right over being at peace, it’s going to be a long and lonely road. Sometimes people are afraid to put down the sad story, because who are they without it? I once met a woman with blazing eyes who told me she could not forgive her father because then he wouldn’t pay for what he’d done, but she hadn’t spoken to him in years. So who’s paying? I mean, some things are unforgivable. Sometimes you have to choose not to have someone in your life, but you can do that with rage or acceptance.

Pain makes us grow. The butterfly needs the struggle out of the cocoon to strengthen its wings. If you cut open the cocoon, it will never fly. We need the travel down the birth canal to squeeze the fluid out of our lungs so we can breathe easily. If you’ve never suffered, you can’t help people who are in pain, because pain creates empathy. Sometimes people have blinders on and they actually think their story is unique, but you know what? I hear stories from people every single day and they’re the same. Something happens when we’re young. Maybe we aren’t received with love. Maybe we learn the world is unsafe and our best bet is to be invisible or indispensable, or both, depending on the minute or the day. Maybe those experiences create doubt within us. Doubt about our own worth. That’s a very common story. That, and fear of abandonment. Also, people suffering over betrayal, abuse, cruelty. Almost every time I post someone says, “This was exactly what I needed to hear today.” Or, “Are you psychic?” I’m not psychic. We’re all so much more the same than we are different.

Your memories are yours. Your ideas, your experiences, your frame of reference, the way you’ve come to perceive the people and the world around you, all of these are unique to you, but if you start talking to people you will also find the themes are uncannily similar. The pain and struggles and fears and doubts and failures we face are universal. How we respond to them defines us.

Life is not easy. It’s incredible and wildly interesting. It’s full of moments that are so gorgeous they suck the air out of your lungs and make your heart expand simultaneously. There are events that will undoubtedly put you on the ground with your mouth full of dirt and your head full of why. In the world right now, there are bombs going off, shots being fired. Children are dying, or they’re watching their parents die. These things are happening and it’s hard to bear witness and there are no easy answers. Sometimes people are ripped from us when we aren’t done loving them. We aren’t done. It’s not a level playing field. Some people will suffer in ways that make your own heart ache. Don’t think you’re the only one. You’re not alone in this.

The thing is, you have a spark that is yours alone, and you can feed that spark until it becomes a roaring fire in your heart, and lights you up from the inside. You can give that fire that’s yours, you can give that away every day. Whether it’s a fire of rage or a fire of love is up to you, but I think we have enough rage in the world. Healing is a lot easier than being bitter and angry and isolated for eighty, ninety or one hundred years. When I say healing, that’s personal. What you’ll need to heal is something only you can determine, but I’d get on that, because life is ticking away right now, this minute. I don’t say that without compassion. It takes a lot of bravery to release an old story.

I tried life the angry way. I pointed fingers and made my unhappiness and frustration and disappointment the fault of other people, but it wasn’t. Things happen and they shape you, but none of us is in a time warp unless we choose to be. The earth keeps spinning, and it will continue to do so long after we’re gone. Take hold of the one thing you can—how you’re going to show up, what you’re going to offer. May all beings be free from suffering.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton


If you need some help, you can do this with me right now: https://yogisanonymous.com/courses/from-pain-to-peace-using-your-practice-to-change-your-life

Rest in Your True Nature

Allyekarajkaparm-1Yoga is a process of coming home to yourself. It’s a science, an art, a philosophy of stripping away anything that isn’t part of your authentic self. So much of the time, we’ve gotten confused along the way. We’ve taken on other people’s beliefs or ideas or philosophies and accepted them as our own, without question. Hatred can be taught this way, so can compassion. If you were lucky, your first influences taught you that you were of value. That you had an impact on the world around you. That it mattered how you felt. If you were fortunate, you were also taught that being kind and thinking about how your actions affect other people and the world around you would help you to connect and thrive.

Sometimes we have a lot of unlearning to do, though. Maybe we were not so lucky, and we learned that only certain feelings were okay, and that we had to repress anything that made the people around us feel uncomfortable or inadequate, like our sadness or our anger or our loneliness. There are so many people who reach adulthood and have no clue how they really feel, because they cut themselves off from their own intuition years ago.

If you come out of an abusive background you can count on having to unlearn quite a lot. Growing up in an environment where you make yourself invisible or invaluable depending on the moment requires a total suppression of anything that has to do with what you really need or want in your heart.

So many people are on the run, owned by their painful feelings. Repressed rage turns into depression. It takes a Herculean effort to push down an active volcano. So much energy, in fact, there isn’t much left to do anything else. Thus the lethargy and hopelessness.

For some people, it’s easy to say yes when yes is in their hearts, and it’s not difficult to say no when the situation warrants, but other people have to work to figure out what a yes feels like. Those same people might have to learn to give themselves permission to say no. Feeling that your worth is determined by other people’s perceptions of you sets you up for a lifetime of powerlessness.

Anyway, my point is, there are so many differing ways people might need to come home to themselves, and all of the ways that work require determination and dedication. You have to find the discipline to show up for yourself, and to lean in when you’d rather take off. If you find that what you’ve been doing isn’t working, and by that I mean, if life is not feeling good to you, it’s time to try something new, because time waits for none of us.

There are eight “limbs” in yoga practice. The physical part, the “asana” is just one limb. It’s a very useful entry point for many of us in the west, because we value doing over being, and it takes time to undo that programming. When you connect to your breath (pranayama), you also connect to something that is happening right now, in this moment. You are present and aware. When you start to organize your body into a pose, when you focus on lengthening your spine, or relaxing your shoulders, you’re also giving the mind a focal point that’s happening in the now. So you use your body to quiet your mind. If you’re paying attention to your breath, or you feel your feet on the floor, you aren’t spinning anymore. You aren’t fretting over your past or freaking out about your future, you are present, and that’s beautiful because life isn’t happening in your past or future. When you create space between your thoughts, you also create space to connect to that most authentic part of yourself. You get to breathe in that space.

Your body is full of wisdom about who you are and what you need to be at peace. It knows where you’re holding on, resisting, or contracting from your experience. if you give it the chance and you set up a compassionate and kind inner environment, your body will give these things over, it will help you to let go of those ideas or beliefs that are weighing you down, and then you can fly. Wishing that for you, and sending you love.

Ally Hamilton

P.S. You can practice with me right now, here.

Untie the Knot in Your Heart

We-all-have-an-old-knotThe holidays can be a beautiful time of year filled with family, friends, laughter, and a little more time to relax and enjoy, but they can also be a time of loneliness and longing, of regret and despair, and of too much time on our hands to dwell on the “what if’s” and “if only’s”. You can make yourself sick with that stuff.

A lot of people suffer from the holiday blues. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, they’re particularly painful. The grief is compounded by the intense longing to share more time with the person we wish we could hug, when it seems everyone else gets to be with family and friends. Basically, the holidays magnify everything. If you’re happy right now, that happiness is multiplied in the sharing of the experience. If you’re in pain, the pain feels even larger, and more defeating and overwhelming.

Sometimes we’re derailed by our expectations and “shoulds”. We have ideas about how things should be, how life should be, how people should be, and how we should feel. And sometimes our expectations are not realistic. Remind yourself that no feeling is forever, and that you don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. And also, short of grieving the loss of someone due to death, or heartbreak of any kind, try to be disciplined. Again, this does not apply to people who are grieving, because I’m a firm believer that you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings and lean into reality as it is. But short of those knifing losses, be disciplined with your mind. Don’t allow yourself to spiral down, or feed a sad story, or contract against your experience. Open to it, acknowledge your pain or envy or longing, but don’t feed it or wallow in it, because it will become hard to breathe.

If you notice that you’re doing a number on yourself, pick your mind up and choose some thoughts that will strengthen you. Maybe this holiday season will be tough, but who knows what 2015 has in store? I’ve certainly lived through some challenging and lonely holidays. It’s not easy, but then they’re over and life moves forward, and the truth is, you really never know what’s around the bend. Your world could be turned upside down in good ways or difficult ones, on any given day, and with no warning. That’s how life is.

Maybe today is challenging, but tomorrow, anything could happen. You might have an idea that lights you up and inspires you and sends you down a road you’d never have imagined taking. Maybe you’ll meet someone, and you won’t even recognize the way your life looks six months from now. I’m not necessarily talking about romance. I’m just saying, leave room to heal. Leave space to be surprised and amazed. If this holiday season is rough, and you have it in you, find a way to uplift someone else. That will definitely lift your spirits. And do take some time to focus on what you do have, right now. When we feed gratitude, we remember the gifts in our life, and how many things are going right, and that sets us up to come from a place of abundance, rather than fear or neediness. We really can take so much for granted. It’s a gift to wake up, even if you’re in the midst of despair. Just having this experience of being human is a gift. Having a healthy body, a place to call home, food in your fridge, people you love beyond words, who also love you and see you and cherish you. These are the most important gifts in life. Just the potential for connection is huge.

Hang in there if you’re having a tough time. You’re not alone. Sending you love, and extra hugs, Ally Hamilton

The Weight of Regret

disciplineregretHere’s the thing: it feels awful when we aren’t treating ourselves well, or we’re allowing ourselves to be treated badly by someone else, and it also feels terrible when we’re treating other people poorly. The number one thing you need in order to be at peace, is the feeling that you’re a good, kind person who’s doing your best. If you know that about yourself, it sets you up to be forgiving when you make mistakes, and it also creates a foundation for you to be forgiving of others. It’s hard for love to exist without the safety of knowing perfection is not expected. It’s not easy to make ourselves vulnerable, or to be completely honest if we fear that the result might be the withdrawal of love.

There are some things that are really not okay, and I’ll spell out a few of them. If you know someone is in love with you, and you don’t feel the same, it’s not okay to accept their gifts, and when I say gifts, I mean literal, physical or material gifts, including jewelry, expensive dinners, new hiking boots you really want, or any number of other goods and services, but I also mean it’s not okay to accept the gifts of their time and energy and tender heart if you don’t feel in your gut that this is the person for you. Sometimes we care about people, we enjoy their company, we have a good time when we hang out, we’re attracted, but there’s just that certain something that is not there. If you allow that to go on for too long, you are literally stealing time away from a person who may not be strong enough to leave you. Time they could be spending getting over you and moving on, and possibly finding someone who could and would love them all the way. Everyone deserves to be loved like that. Everyone deserves to be cherished. It’s so hard to walk away from people when we’re in love, or we’re “hooked in”. If you’re the stronger party, putting an end to it and sticking with that is a gift you can give, even though it won’t be readily or happily accepted, but the other party’s well-being and your own integrity hang in the balance.

It’s hard to gift someone their freedom when it means you lose your comfort, because of course it feels great when someone is in love with us. Being adored and cared for and thought of is wonderful, but it kind of stinks if you’re accepting that without feeling it in kind. Further, if you know that’s what you’re doing, you’re not going to feel good about yourself. Shame, self-loathing and regret weigh us down. Most of us have had times when we weren’t feeling good about ourselves, and we let someone treat us poorly because we were desperate for love, or a happy ending. Often, that’s really what we’re doing when we’re stuck in a painful cycle with someone; we’re trying to rewrite ancient history, which cannot be done.

It takes discipline to do the right thing, and to stick with it, for yourself, or someone else. It takes a commitment to feeling good about yourself, whether you’re the person taking advantage of someone’s love, or you’re the person giving when you know in your gut you should be walking out the door. Kidding yourself is a terrible business. The number one relationship in your life is always the one you’re having with yourself. That’s the foundation for all the other relationships. I would protect that relationship fiercely. Allowing yourself to participate in situations that make you doubt your integrity, your kindness and your compassion is a sure way to damage your ability to feel good when you look in the mirror at the end of the day, or lay your head down to sleep at night. Don’t let too much time go by like that.

Sending you love out there,

Ally Hamilton

The Power of the Real Apology

Never-ruin-an-apologyWhen my son was almost six, he fell off the play structure at school one morning, and broke his elbow. He went to the nurse’s office, bawling, and she made him bend and straighten his arm a few times. She then treated the scrape he’d also gotten, and sent him back to class. At some point during the morning, he told his teacher his arm was really hurting, but since he’d been cleared by the nurse, she told him to do the best he could. Three and a half hours after he’d broken his elbow, he went to gym class, where he was asked to run laps. He made it about halfway through the first lap when he collapsed, and when his coach saw his elbow, he told him it was definitely broken, and sent him back to the nurse.

It was at this point that I got a phone call. I was at the school in under five minutes, my daughter, a toddler at the time, hanging from my hip as I raced across the school grounds to get to the office. Once inside, I saw my son, laid out in the nurse’s office, the principal brightly chatting next to him. He was pale, his pupils were dilated, and when he saw me, fat tears moved down his face with no sound. I took one look at his elbow, which was four times bigger than it should have been, and knew it was broken. I put my daughter down and picked my son up, the principal still chatting away, phrases like, “sometimes these things don’t present as that bad at first”, and “he seemed fine”, as my mind raced about where to head. The pediatrician? The ER? Did I need to call my health insurance provider? All these thoughts were flooding through my brain as I carried him to my car, his knapsack over one shoulder, my daughter toddling along to keep up, the principal continuing with her very unhelpful sing-song chatter. I finally turned to her and said, “Listen, I’m not going to sue the school. If you want to help me, grab his knapsack, or carry my daughter, but please stop talking so I can think.”

It turned out that the right order was the pediatrician, and then the hospital for X-rays and a cast. It so happened that it was Halloween, but we didn’t do any trick-or-treating that year. At no time that evening or the following day, did anyone from the school call to check on my son. Not the nurse, not the principal. I knew at that point we were switching schools. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made. But when there’s no acknowledgement, no apology, and no understanding, there’s also no future.

I’m sure there was a concern about litigation. This happens with corporations and politicians a lot, and it can also happen at the scene of a car accident. “I’m sorry” can be construed as admission of guilt, wrong-doing and culpability, so people often turn to the “non-apology apology”, which is an actual thing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology

“I’m sorry you feel that way” is not the same as, “I’m sorry I blew it.” Mostly, that’s all people want when they’re feeling hurt, confused, or angry; they want to feel understood, seen, cared for and heard. They want to know that the other party realizes the legitimacy of their feelings, and wants to take responsibility for their part. That’s all most people need to forgive, to move closer, to move on. There was no part of me that wanted to sue anyone. Not for a millisecond. But without a heartfelt apology, or even a call, there was also no part of me that could stay. And that holds true for any relationship, whether we’re talking about the one you’re having with your children’s school, or the one you’re having with your partner, your mother, your child, or your best friend.

Fear is what stops us from saying we’re sorry. Maybe it’s fear of being sued in some cases, but when we’re talking about personal relationships, we’re talking about fear of being shunned or rejected or punished in some way. The fear that love will be withdrawn. The fear that we will no longer be seen as trustworthy or lovable. There are all kinds of reasons a person might be afraid to own his or her mistakes. If you grew up in a house where you were punished excessively, that would do it, for example. I don’t know when we became so afraid of each other. So afraid of being honest, of being real, of being vulnerable. Maybe it’s because we’re sold this false bill of goods that we’re all competing against one another, and only the strongest survive and thrive. Perhaps we see admission of culpability as a weakness, but really, it takes strength to own it when we screw up, which we will. No one is perfect. No one operates from her highest self in every moment. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving one another are necessary gifts we have to grant if we want to get along with each other in this world. And we could really use that right now. We need more connection, more caring, more love, and less fear. We need to be able to reach across the divide and say, “If you’re suffering, I’m suffering, too, and I’m sorry. Let’s try to make it right together.”

We get so caught up in being right, sometimes we lose sight of what it means to be human, which is so much more gratifying. Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton

It Doesn’t Have to Own You

fearPatience and tolerance are two qualities well worth working on if we want to move through life in a peaceful way. Sometimes things unfold the way we want them to, and at other times, we may find ourselves at a complete loss to make sense of what’s happening, what we’re doing, or which way to head. So many of the things we’ll move through are not comfortable or desirable, but it’s how we face what we’re given that most determines how life will feel.

There are certain things you can control. You can do the work to heal, and that in itself is a personal project that might take years, and a willingness to explore the tools that will be the most useful to you. Maybe it’s yoga and seated meditation, maybe it’s therapy, journaling, reading, salsa dancing, hiking, the possibilities are endless. Generally, those pursuits that put you in a state of “flow” are going to help you loosen your grip on any stance or story about your life, or why you are the way you are, that might not be serving you. That might, in fact, be blocking you from opening to joy.

Sometimes people bristle, and say, “Wow, there’s so much emphasis placed on people turning inward, like it’s all about them.” The thing is, if you want to give everything you’ve got, your first order of business is to strip away anything that’s blocking you. Like self-doubt, low self-esteem, feelings that you might not be worthy of love, or have anything special to offer. Also, you might need to lean into your rage, or stop blaming other people for your unhappiness. You might need to reclaim your power, or discover it for the first time. You might need to unlearn things like, “Everybody leaves”, or “Everybody cheats”, or “You can’t trust anyone”. You might need to mourn, to grieve. It’s also possible that you’ll find yourself way off course, and totally out of touch with your intuition. It’s more common than you might think, because so many people learn to push things down, to repress their feelings, needs, wants, ideas, to take care of other people at their own expense. The healing process is personal, but the one commonality amongst us all is that it isn’t easy. I’d argue that it’s a responsibility to undertake that journey, though, because once you’re at peace with yourself, you can move through the world in a peaceful and loving way. It might be an inward journey at the start, but it leads toward connection and the ability to live and love with your heart wide open, and those are gifts you can then bring to the world around you.

Being patient and tolerant with yourself is huge. So many people are living with a loud, relentless, shaming inner critic. It’s like living with a roommate who loathes you, who’s full of contempt and disgust, who never misses an opportunity to let you know all the ways you aren’t measuring up. Who would ever want to live like that? You can’t evict your inner voice. You might have to starve it, and learn how to feed a loving voice. That way, the inner roommate is rooting you on, not tearing you down. That’s life-changing. Being at war with yourself is heartbreaking. When you feel like crap about yourself, you aren’t going to make loving choices. You’ll find yourself in relationships where you have to shrink, or accept so much less than what you really want. You may be inclined to drown out that inner tyrant with drugs or alcohol or shopping or food or sex, but none of that works. You really have to get in there and have a face-off. A voice-off. Eventually, you’re going to have to grab that nasty voice by the throat, push it up against the wall, and say, “Enough! Enough with your crappy attitude, you don’t get to pollute my house and kick me in the head anymore.” Believe me, that feels good. caring about yourself, your well-being, your tender heart, those things feel good, and you deserve to care about yourself. It’s a gift that you’re here. Your body is a gift. Your energy is a gift. Your time here is a gift. These are not gifts you want to squander.

Life is amazing and incredible and really, really interesting, but no one would argue that it’s easy. People will do things and say things and want things that break your heart. You will break other people’s hearts, too. Mostly, people don’t do this to each other intentionally. Most people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. They’re trying to figure it out just like you, like me, like all of us when we’re honest about it. Sometimes you’ll get the breaks, sometimes you won’t. You can’t control that, but you can work on the way you deal with it. I wouldn’t keep score in your head. I wouldn’t try to bargain with life. If you think you’re going to get a free pass from suffering because you’re a good person, it won’t take long for you to realize the error in your thinking.

The absolute best things I know are love and connection and shared experiences and giving everything you’ve got every day. Figuring out what you can do, today, that will uplift the people around you. What you can do, today, to nurture yourself, so you’re coming from a place of abundance, and not lack, or the feeling that you have to cling or grasp.

Opening to reality as it is, is the most powerful and brave way to walk through the world. No one can take that from you. If you’re able to lean into your feelings, to be with your longing, your grief, your shame, your confusion, your loneliness, your fear and anxiety, you’ll find these feelings don’t own you. They don’t overpower you. They don’t move in and plunk themselves down on your couch, or unpack their bags and take over your drawers, closets, shower. They come, you acknowledge them, you allow them, but you also keep the door open. After you’ve given them a little of your time and kind attention, you walk them to the door, and encourage them to move on. That way you can also be ready to receive joy, love, laughter, gratitude, hope. What you resist, persists, as the saying goes. Try not to resist too much, try not to worry too much. Work on your relationship with yourself, and feed the relationships in your life. Uncover your gifts and share them, freely. Don’t worry so much about your five-year plan or your ten-year plan, or what all your friends seem to be doing. Just follow your heart and do those things that set your soul on fire, and try to trust that the way will become clear. Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Happy Thanksgiving

As-we-express-ourI love this holiday. No gifts, just an excuse to gather with friends and family, contemplating all the reasons we have to feel grateful. Of course, the more we do this regularly, the happier we feel. But culturally, we’re so trained to focus on everything we don’t have, and all the ways we aren’t measuring up. The more we feed that beast of lack, the worse we feel. When we’re coming from that “never enough” place, it leads to hoarding-to feeling that we must grasp at what we’ve got, while striving to accrue more.

Left to its own devices, the mind tends to get snagged on the negative. To focus on the one person who isn’t getting us, the one insult in the sea of compliments, the one person walking away, the one family member who’s challenging, instead of all the people moving toward us. Some of this could be biological. Back in the day, we used to worry about being eaten by saber-toothed tigers. If we weren’t on the alert, if we weren’t planning ahead, and thinking about all the things that could go wrong, we might end up as lunch for some creature. Of course, we’ve certainly turned the tables at this point. There aren’t many of us who need to worry about tigers anymore, but that “negativity bias” can be hard to shake.

Some people are addicted to worry; they’re addicted to stress. The Dalai Lama has a great quote, “If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time.”

You can lose hours, days, weeks or years worrying about things that will never come to pass. You can literally make yourself sick with worry, because thoughts create chemical reactions in the body. We really aren’t made to withstand continuous stress. Short spurts when we’re on the run from that “tiger” can be pretty manageable, but a constant state of high blood pressure, anxiety and fear are depleting and debilitating.

One of the great gifts of a consistent yoga practice is that we get to hone our focus. We use “drishtis” to train the mind on one point. We use sensations in the body (the most important of which is that steady, deep breath) to stay rooted in the present, and in so doing, we create space between our thoughts. We use the breath to calm the nervous system, and to build a foundation of steadiness in a spinning world. Maybe eventually, we develop a seated meditation practice, and start to really understand that we are not our thoughts, and that we do not have to believe everything we think, as the saying goes. Sometimes we’re dwelling on thoughts that weaken us. Yoga practice helps us to pick the mind up, and place it on thoughts that are going to strengthen and nurture us.

A gratitude practice is a great form of health insurance. I’m not saying it cures everything, I’m just suggesting that when we start and end each day reminding ourselves of all the gifts in our lives, that has a huge impact on our outlook, and the way we’re moving through the day, and sleeping through the night. The more we remember how much we do have, and how many things are going well, the more we come from a place of abundance, or “Santosha” (contentment)which leads to our generosity. If we think we don’t have enough, and other people have more, and we’re never going to reach our potential, we come from a place of fear, and we are unlikely to give much when we’re afraid. When we come from a place of gratitude and love, we know we have enough to give, and the beauty there is that giving feels so good.

We could really use givers in the world right now. It would be remiss not to acknowledge the suffering, grief, confusion and division that exists when we look around. We can’t solve these problems by continuing to isolate ourselves or draw lines when we feel hopeless or heartbroken, we have to reach out. And we don’t reach out from fear, we reach out from love. If you’ve just lost someone, this holiday season will probably be painful, and my heart goes out to you. If life isn’t unfolding the way you wish it would, the holidays can magnify those feelings. It might look like everyone else has the family, the friends, the love. You never know what someone has from the outside. Maybe this is a lonely time in your life right now; I’ve certainly had lonely and painful holidays. Remember that feelings are not facts, and they are not forever, and how you feel now is not how you will always feel.

“The best things in life aren’t things,” as Art Buchwald famously said. Connection and shared experiences, the love and laughter of those we hold dearest, belief in ourselves and in the goodness of people, these are the things that allow us to relax and breathe and open. Our main job here is to uncover our particular gifts and share them, because when we do that we feel fulfilled, and we know we’re having a positive and meaningful impact on the world around us.

Wishing you the happiest Thanksgiving, and also hoping the other 364 days are filled with gratitude.

Sending you love, Ally Hamilton