Start with Compassion

When-an-idea-reachesIt’s very hard to make a life shift if you’re feeling awful about yourself, but if life isn’t feeling or looking the way you want it to, it’s challenging not to get down on yourself. What do I want? What am I doing here? When am I going to figure life out? We live in a great but crazy time when so much happens over social media. It can be wonderful to connect to old and new friends, to share thoughts and conversation, to reach out, and to find a community of people with similar ideals. All of that can be so uplifting, but it can also make you feel pretty terrible about yourself if you’re feeling vulnerable already. Not everything is glossy and shiny and wonderful, but people rarely post about their deepest fears, their shame, guilt or the choices they wish they had to make over again, differently, nor do they commonly post pictures of themselves on Instagram when they just roll out of bed, pre-shower. It’s no wonder people can get online and end up feeling worse than they did before they turned on their phone or opened their laptop.

If you feel pulled to make some big changes in your life, you’re going to need the energy and the focus to see them through. Also the inspiration. If you’re busy beating yourself up, it’s going to be hard to get motivated. Lots of people get stuck in the blame, rage, shame cycle, which leads nowhere. You really need to start with compassion for yourself, and a shift in perspective can also be a game-changer. It’s easy to get caught up in what we don’t have yet, what isn’t going right, all the breaks we aren’t getting, and every way we’ve been blowing it. A much better way to go is simply to focus on what is going well, what we do have, what is right about us. One train of thought weighs you down, the other lifts you up.

If you have a place to call home, that’s a gift. If you have just one person in your life who really knows you and sees you and celebrates you, that’s another gift (and you can definitely have one, because you can do those things for yourself). If you have a family, even a crazy one, even one you’ve chosen, another huge gift. Your health if you have it, what a blessing. The ability to breathe in and breathe out, to walk from point A to point B if you can. I bet you have a gorgeous smile. I’ll bet your eyes light up when you laugh, or something or someone wonderful surprises you. Maybe you’re a great friend, you certainly have the potential to be. You might be someone’s mom or dad or sister or brother or son or daughter or boyfriend or girlfriend or good friend. You might be the world to someone. The sun at the center of it all. You could impact the life of a total stranger today, just with your kindness. Connection in life is the greatest gift we get. Relationships are what matter. Shared laughter, tears, hugs, conversations. If you start to turn your attention to all the beauty in your life, your heart will fill with gratitude, which feels so good. When we’re feeling thankful, we’re realizing we do have so much, and there’s something very motivating about that.

Think of just three things for which you feel thankful. They can be anything, and then think of three great qualities you possess. Just start there, it’s enough. Write it down if you need to, but allow yourself to really sit with those feelings. You aren’t stuck. It’s never too late to move in a healthy direction, to follow the pull of your heart, to choose the thoughts that strengthen you, to pay attention to what you’re feeding yourself. You just have to give yourself permission, and the material to start–gratitude, and the willingness to take ownership of your own life.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

Live in Love

There’s not a single person you’ll encounter today who hasn’t had his or her heart broken, badly, except for young children (and sadly, not all children are exempt). No one would ask for pain. No one would wave it down and say, “Here, pick me! Cut me through to the core, go right for my jugular, so I can learn something, so I can understand despair, and open and soften and walk forward with more information about myself and other people.” And yet, that’s what pain does; it teaches us. Sometimes we would really give anything not to learn the lesson, but we don’t get to choose.

I’ve had all kinds of heartbreaks, some romantic, some not, and one that brought me to my knees. There are things any of us could look back on and say, “I’d give that one back if I could.” Time lessens the pain, but I’m with Rose Kennedy on this one, it doesn’t heal the wound. The wound becomes a scar, and the scar marks the searing place where you bled out any idea that you were in control, that your hopes or your prayers or your willing it to be so would make it so. I guess we all need to be humbled at some point, to grasp that the world is spinning and we are not controlling it. Sometimes I go sit by the ocean to feel reminded that I can no more control what’s coming than I can go out into the water and hold back the waves. You might as well just be awed by the whole thing. There’s beauty in recognizing your smallness, but also your vastness. You could curl up in a ball, or you could see that everyone is in this together. The stories may be different, but the feelings are universal. Your power in life lies in your response to what you’re given.

You have control over your outlook; that’s a tangible thing you can work on if you need to. I think the world is an incredible place, full of loving, beautiful people, and the kind of love, if you’re brave enough to pursue it, that will expand your heart so much you’ll wonder if it’s going to burst. I also know the world is a place where that same love I’m describing makes you vulnerable. It requires your participation, your willingness to go there, even though somewhere you understand that “there” could be ripped from you. Those are the choices, though. You live in love, or you live in fear of living in love. Funny, huh? But not the haha kind of funny.

When your heart is breaking, there’s no point trying to hold it together. You simply let it break. It won’t break and break and break into nothingness. It will break and open and the pain will be brutal and you may struggle with the simplest of things for awhile. Breathing in and breathing out. Finding the motivation to get out of bed, or eat, or shower. If you’re lucky, you’ll have at least one person who understands they can’t fix it for you or heal it, but they can make you a meal. They can sit with you, or read to you, or simply hold your hand. We need each other; we need to see each other and understand we could all use some kindness. You never know what someone is facing, whether they cried themselves to sleep last night, or just lost someone they loved. We can be so hard on ourselves, and so hard on each other. People seem so quick to lay on the horn or get up in arms about someone else’s mistakes. We all make them. We all face loss. We all know heartbreak and despair. If we didn’t know those things, we wouldn’t recognize joy, peace or the gratitude of those moments that make it all make sense. Move from love, and move toward love. Breathe in and breathe out. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Sending you a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

Pick Better Moments

Sometimes a memory will come flooding back to me, whole, detailed, out of nowhere. A fragrance on the breeze, or a song on the radio, or something my kids say as they look up at me, and wham, I’m transported back to a moment I haven’t thought about in years. Sometimes the feeling around the memory is sweet, and sometimes it’s painful, but either way I’m amazed by the experience. Where was I storing that, or has it been continuing on in some parallel universe this whole time? That me that stood on that corner that afternoon, walking one way when I could have walked another. Is part of me still on that corner? Is part of me still having that first kiss, with the sun flooding in through the window, and the shock of realizing that kissing means lips and tongues and a racing heart?

The mind is an amazing thing. What we remember is simply our version of events, the way we experienced the world or another person through our own filter. Did you ever leave a film with a friend feeling one way about it only to find your companion has a completely different opinion? We tell our “life story” to ourselves and sometimes to other people, but it’s just that, it’s just a story; it’s the way we’ve received what we’ve been through. I’m not disputing facts. You were born on a certain day, and this thing may have happened, or this other thing may have happened. People came or they went, they showed up for you or they let you down. Whatever happened, happened, but we choose the things that are the highlights. We grab onto those moments that stand out for us as significant, and we give them weight and life and energy. We weave them into the tale of this is who I am, and why I am the way I am. Sometimes the story weighs us down or closes us off or prevents us from discovering our potential for love or joy or freedom or happiness.

Sometimes people hold on to the wrong pieces. Sometimes a person decides the painful pieces are the ones to highlight. The wrongs are brought to the forefront and held up and fed and magnified until the person is feeling what they felt then. Until the past is fully present in the present, and is very likely to screw up the future, too. We are all human. There have been times I’ve met people and I thought they were more than human, only to find that no, everyone who looks like a human is human. So there’s that. People who look human and think they’re floating above the surface of the earth are the ones to watch out for because that’s a distorted perception. Everyone makes mistakes. No one operates from her highest self in every moment. You will hurt people unintentionally, simply because human beings are complex and always evolving, and how you feel at one time may not grow or expand; you may think you want one thing and realize you want something else. You will almost certainly say and do and think things you’ll wish you hadn’t at some point.

If you can accept that about yourself, then you’ll be able to accept it in other people. If you believe you never make mistakes, and if a person is upset with you it’s due to their own negativity and not attributable to anything you could have done, then you’ll probably be very unforgiving and also very lonely. If you expect perfection from yourself, you’ll expect it in others as well and you’ll be disappointed all the way around, or you’ll be deluded. I know people who believe they’re always right. It’s such a sad stance. It’s a sure way to avoid intimacy and true friendship. If you can’t own your humanness and figure out how to say the words, “I’m sorry, I blew it” and mean it, and look at what happened so you can do it differently next time, if you can’t embrace your vulnerability and your culpability and your capacity to screw things up, you’ll also never discover your capacity to love. The two go hand in hand.

I know too many people who waste too much time holding on to anger, to grudges, to ways they’ve been wronged. It’s a cancer to do that, it eats away at you and life is too short and too precious, and there’s so much love that could be happening. Family members stop speaking to one another over the craziest, most meaningless stuff. Money. Something someone said twelve years ago at a wedding, drunk and full of salmon. How much time do you think you have, and how much of it do you want to spend digging your heels in being “right”? Do you want to be right and alone? Right and missing moments you can’t ever have back again? There are no winners in a fight between friends or family. There’s just pain. Pick better moments to feed. If a person has been nothing but abusive, they can’t be in your life, so I’m not talking about that. But if you have a loved one, and their worst crime is that they’ve been human, let the anger go. Love feels a lot better.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Your Life Belongs to You

You cannot please everyone; if you must, go ahead and try, but when you’re done you’ll find you’ve gotten nothing for your troubles but exhaustion, despair, and resentment. People in your life may want all kinds of great stuff for you and from you, but no one else has to live your life. At the end of the day, when you’re looking in the mirror as you brush your teeth, you’re either staring at a friend or a stranger.

When we live our lives to please others, we lose all sense of self and the result is a deep feeling of disconnection. If you don’t know who you are or what you want, it’s not at all easy to chart a course and it’s very likely you’ll get caught up in someone else’s plan. If you know yourself and you’re in touch with what’s true for you, but are still unable to allow that pull to move you, it’s even worse because that’s a conscious betrayal of your true self.

All kinds of things create conditions where people are susceptible to self-sabotage — fear is a huge one, so is guilt. If I say how I feel, or do what I know in my heart I must, this person may be hurt or disappointed or angry. They may not approve of me anymore. There’s also the fear of making big changes, that stops a lot of people dead in their tracks. If I talk about the huge elephant in the room, I can’t then try to sweep it back under the rug. I’ll have to act, and I have no idea what that means for my life, or for the people in it. Sometimes it’s easier to blame other people than it is to take responsibility for the way life looks and feels. I’ll keep telling myself I can’t act because this other person would be devastated.  When in reality, you’d be better off just sharing the truth for their sake and yours. You can’t sabotage yourself and expect to be at peace.

When you decide your life is your own, and you are responsible for your feelings and your actions, things get a lot easier. Harder at first, if it’s new to you, because you’re leaving your coping mechanisms in a heap on the floor behind you, and having to sit with the discomfort of creating a life that feels good to you, but easier in the long run because your inner compass is lit up. You have to be true to yourself. If you spend a lifetime pushing down your own dreams, hopes and desires so that you can measure up to someone else’s idea of how you should be, or society’s idea of how you should be, that’s a lifetime you missed. You are not here to be a martyr. You’re here to uncover your gifts and share them. You’re here to shine, but in order to do that, you really have to drop the facade that your life belongs to anyone but you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Choose The Thoughts That Strengthen You

When we cling to the past, it’s because we have little faith that the future might be beautiful, that it might surprise us, or that we might surprise ourselves. Sometimes the present is so uncomfortable, we simply know of nothing else to do but try to travel backward in time. After all, what was back there is familiar, even if it was painful. The future is not something we can predict or control, so for many people the idea of opening to it is terrifying. There are many, many people who’d rather hold onto their rage, resentment or grief than to nothing at all.

The truth is, the only potential the past has to offer is the chance to learn and grow from it; you can’t rewrite it or undo it. Holding onto anger, bitterness or heartache won’t get you anywhere good, it really, truly won’t and it’s not about being right or wrong, either. You may be totally right. You may have been wronged eight ways from Sunday. Your story may be rock-solid and still it doesn’t matter because what does it get you? You get to be right, and miserable, alone with your rightness. Being angry doesn’t feel good. It’s an absolutely normal emotion, we’re all going to feel it at times, but it’s not a good baseline feeling. You don’t want anger to be the bed you sleep in every night.

Whatever has happened, has happened. Those experiences may well have shaped you, but there’s no reason they have to define you. You get to choose. I hear from a lot of people who’ve decided all women are crazy, or all men are liars, or the world is a cold and unfair place. I understand the pain underneath a stance like that. You really have to suffer to wear that kind of armor, to steel yourself against intimacy, against being known or seen or understood, against the world at large, against the possibility of love, against your own humanness which makes you undeniably vulnerable. Binding your own spirit is an incredibly sad way to move through life, though, and it also denies the world of those gifts you alone have to offer. If you’re crushed by bitterness, if you’ve hardened your heart and turned your mind into a tight fist that won’t open to the potential that something beautiful might spring out of all your pain and knock you off your feet and split your heart open so you can feel love again, then you’re wasting a lot of time, and your time is precious and finite.

The noise of the mind can be deafening. Thoughts can be habitual, obsessive, and very weakening. Blame is a lonely person’s game; if you’ve decided things are as they are because of past events, the actions or inaction of people you loved or wanted to love, then you strip yourself of power. Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen. You can choose to feed your past and keep it growing right into your present, and you can plant those seeds for your future, too, but you can also feed a loving voice. You can forgive those people and those events of your past, and I do not say that to you lightly. Some people get so incensed at the thought of forgiving a person who’s wronged them, but you don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to call and say, “Hey, you know that thing you did? It’s fine, now.” Forgiveness can be a totally internal process. You might simply start to open to the idea that most people don’t set out to hurt you, any more than you’ve intentionally hurt the people you’ve hurt. Everyone works with the tools they’ve got, and some people could really use a whole new toolbox. It’s not a reflection on you. People can only be where they are when you encounter them. Some people are damaged by life, or have true sickness of the soul or the mind, some people have been so neglected they don’t understand what love is. Some people have had the love beaten out of them, and haven’t figured out how to recover just yet. So maybe you could open to that and let go a little. Put it down because it’s heavy and it’s blocking you. It doesn’t mean you allow yourself to be abused or mistreated. If that’s happening in your present, you need to get out and get busy healing, but if it’s old stuff, liberate yourself.

Of course this stuff will show up from time to time when you’re depleted, when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, when something triggers you, and then you’ll have to work for some amount of time. Maybe an hour, maybe an afternoon or a few days, but if you keep feeding the love and opening to the possibility of something beautiful, you’ll have to spend a lot less time with thoughts and feelings that weigh you down.

Wishing you peace, freedom, and thoughts that strengthen you,

Ally Hamilton

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

Nothing Stays the Same

Nothing stays the same, not the house you grew up in, or your beloved dog, or your first crush. You aren’t the same you you were in high school, or even the same you you were last year and neither is anyone else. Do you have family or friends with kids you only see a couple of times a year? Aren’t you always astounded at how big they’ve gotten? We tend to try to keep things the way they are in our heads. This person exists this way in my mind. That guy I dated who broke my heart is a person who lacks compassion and doesn’t think about the effect of his actions on other people. Is that still true twenty years later? Maybe it is, and maybe there’s been incredible growth. My parents were this way or that way when I was growing up, and so now I’m like this. Are they still that way? Do you still need to be like this?

The earth is spinning around, and we are spinning around on it, and yet somehow we want to peg things down. I go to this grocery store and I buy these items and I eat at this time, and on these days I go to yoga and I get upset if someone else is in my spot. I know my partner, s/he is this way, and my best friend is like X, and you get the picture, right? Even your dog, who will love you consistently and unconditionally with every breath for his or her whole life, is changing, but we resist that reality, and are usually shocked and dismayed when loved ones die, even if they’re 97 years old and we knew it had to happen eventually. It’s almost like we think death happens to everyone but us. People almost always say that the loss of a loved one puts everything in perspective. Does it take death to wake us up? Do you really give a sh&t about ninety percent of the stuff you obsess over?

There are two times people seem to take action — when they’re desperate and when they’re inspired. Otherwise, you see most people simply trying to maintain the status quo. The status quo is changing, too. If it’s living, if it’s made up of energy, then it changes. When we resist the natural process of change, we strangle ourselves and others. We prevent our own growth, we limit our own potential, and we cling to things as they are, even as they’re slipping through our fingers as if we’re begging, “Please, I worked so hard to get here. Leave things alone, I’m all good.”

Things will keep shifting whether you want them to or not, so you might as well accept that; resisting it is futile and exhausting. If you’ve been participating in a situation that’s causing you deep pain and you’re feeling desperate for something to give, you need to examine your participation. The why of it is the key to your healing and the “good news” is that desperate people get things done, not that any of us would ask to get to that point. Chances are, if you haven’t been loving yourself well, that’s where you’re headed. Maybe it’s what you needed in order to start to move in a different direction. If you get to a point at work or at home where things are just intolerable, you’ll start to think of a way out. Your mind will begin with all its machinations to forge a new path and as soon as your mind begins to do that, to even consider a new way, you will figure out how to make it happen, even if you’ve been telling yourself for a long time that it’s impossible, that there is no way. There’s always a way.

If you can allow the idea that everything is in a constant state of flux to inspire you instead of terrify you, you’ll probably start to live with a little fire under your a$$, which is a good thing, I think. Too many people talk about wasting time or “killing time”, as if it’s limitless and it is. The world was spinning before we got here, and it will go on spinning after we’re gone. The real question is, what will you do with the time you’ve got? That’s finite. My feeling at this point in my life, is the more you invest your time and energy toward spreading love, the more you uncover your gifts and share them, the more you treasure those moments that are so easy to take for granted and recognize that just breathing deeply is a gift, the more you notice the beauty that’s all around you, the more your time here will have incredible meaning. Because it does. Your particular spark is not an accident. Shine it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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


Yesterday I received an email from a woman who told me she’s never been in a relationship for longer than three months, and it’s because, “all men lie and cheat, or they leave.” I asked her how she came to that conclusion, and she said, “Because it’s true.” It turns out her dad left her mom for another woman when she was six, and then had several girlfriends while he carried on this relationship with the woman who eventually became her stepmother. Her mom also remarried, and her stepfather had a roving eye as well. She remembers her mom putting her in the back of the car one night to follow her step-dad and see if he was really going to a card game and she remembers her mom bawling as they watched her step-dad enter a house when a woman opened the door and let him in with an embrace. She said she can still locate that sick feeling in her stomach, just like she had as she held her crying mother in that car all those years ago. (I could write a whole post about the damage done to children when they’re forced to be in the parental role.)

She said that every guy she’s ever dated has cheated on her or left. The same thing happened in college and continues to this day. She’ll meet someone she likes and everything will seem okay in the beginning. She doesn’t have a problem letting herself fall, but once that happens she starts to panic. She said it never lasts once the hormones wear off, because no guy wants to deal with all the constant scrutiny and need for reassurance. She’ll get a vibe early on, this one likes a woman at work, this guy still talks to his ex, this one goes out with his buddies a few times a week, and she’ll start looking for clues. Asking questions. Checking their cellphones when they leave the room. Grilling them about their comings and goings. She said it’s not unusual for her to go through a guy’s closets or drawers given the opportunity, to check recent searches on his computer, or to go through his email account if it isn’t protected with a password. She tries to make friends with his friends right away, not just in life, but on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else so she can “keep tabs” more easily. She has “tests” that she doesn’t talk about, but they’re there. Is he calling once a day? Asking her out for Saturday nights? Talking about the future? She said some guys are up front about their commitment issues, and others aren’t, but she assumes they’re there, either way.

There’s no way a relationship can grow in an environment like that. If there isn’t any trust, there’s no foundation and it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles. No one likes to feel like they’re being tested or spied on or paying the tab for someone else’s transgressions. Your current boyfriend doesn’t deserve anger that’s really about your dad, and you can easily flip the genders around here. People drag their past into their present all the time. That’s a great way to keep it alive, and keep yourself triggered, and end up creating the very circumstances you want to avoid. If you want someone to feel like they want to build something with you, violating their privacy is not the way to go. Trust. If you need support with that, reach out, but trust unless or until there’s a reason not to trust. The worst that happens is that you’re disappointed and your heart is broken. That’s okay, it won’t kill you; you’ll learn more about yourself, you’ll grow and you’ll strengthen. The best that happens is you create something beautiful with someone that helps you go deeper and also learn about yourself so you can open up even more to love. If you’re looking for a committed relationship, don’t pick people who tell you they can’t commit, or that they have a history of always being unfaithful. If someone shares that with you, believe them and move on. You’re not going to be the one to change them, because that’s something in them, it has nothing to do with you. Pick wisely, and then open up.

I told the woman who wrote in that all men do not lie and cheat, just the ones she’s picking. We only know what we know. We can only have the frame of reference we have. The first step is to recognize your frame may be severely bent. The glass across your frame may be distorted. You might need to trash that frame altogether, and start building yourself a new one. Believe me, this goes for men and women. I’ve had guys write in who’ve said all women are liars and users. Remember the guy I met last year with the tattoo on his hand, “Trust No B!tch”? If you walk into a situation in defense mode, don’t expect anyone to be able to get to know you. That is the point of trying to connect, is it not? To be seen and understood and cherished, with all your beauty and all your flaws? To be embraced, and held so you can relax? If you have the impetus to want to get close to people, that’s a natural, healthy feeling. Bringing distrust and fear into the equation right off the bat is like deciding you’re going to bake a cake, and blowing up the oven before you start.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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