Let the Breaking Open You

So much of what we’re going to feel as human beings is uncomfortable. Longing, loneliness, rage, bitterness, resentment, insecurity, doubt, fear, shame, guilt, jealousy…none of these are comfortable, and we aren’t taught how to sit with these feelings, how to lean into them and breathe. For so many people, the impulse is to do something, to fix it, to push it down, to make it go away, but these are just natural sensations. That’s all loneliness is, it’s an uncomfortable sensation in your heart. It hurts, it aches, but it’s temporary and if you open to it you might also open to the understanding that you’re longing for connection. Maybe some part of you feels invisible or unworthy of love, and what you want more than anything is for someone to see you and know you and embrace you; that’s beautiful and understandable. Maybe there’s some healing that needs to happen within you before you can truly allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone else, but if you run out the door, or open that bottle of wine, or pick up the phone, or try to shop the feeling away you miss an opportunity to know yourself and not knowing yourself is the loneliest thing there is.

If you’re enraged and you allow yourself to feel that feeling, if you loosen your grip on the story around why you’re angry, you might start to feel something underneath that rage. People get angry when they feel misunderstood, wronged or discarded. Those are some of the most painful feelings we have. Avoiding them doesn’t diminish them, it strengthens them. Alienating yourself from other people won’t lessen those feelings, either, it will increase them. What we resist, persists as the saying goes. Intense sensations are markers for places where we have healing to do, places where we really ought to sit down and dig our hands in the dirt. A lot of people get so freaked out by the discomfort, they run like hell and wonder why the pain never goes away for long. Life is not something to “get through”, it’s something to experience fully.

It’s human to crave the things that feel good and to try to avoid the things that don’t, but that is also the root of all suffering and it’s wildly unrealistic. No one has a life full of only good things and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to distinguish them from anything else. There’s gradation, it’s not a level playing field. Some people will suffer the “normal” amount, and some will suffer so much it makes your head spin and your heart hurt. In the end we are all going to die. That’s about the only thing we know for sure and even that is shrouded in uncertainty. The body will die, but what about the energy that is you? What about your spirit, or your essence or your soul, or whatever you want to call it? I don’t believe that dies, I think it lives on in the people we’ve loved and the places where we’ve given our hearts. You might think that’s wrong, and you might be right. No one will know for sure until they exhale for the final time, so I don’t see any use in arguing about it. This life is full of unanswered questions, suffering, confusion, heartache, longing and things that just make you wonder why, but it’s  also full of beauty and love and the kind of joy that makes your heart expand if you let it, of laughter and connection and moments of absolute bliss. There’s piercing beauty in suffering, too, if you examine it carefully enough. Even if you’ve lost someone and you have no idea how you’ll go on, there’s beauty in having loved like that and there’s enormous power in opening to things as they are.

There’s a funny thing about opening to your pain as well as all the obvious beauty in life. Your heart may break, but you can let the breaking soften you. You can also let it harden you, but you’ve probably noticed human beings are not born with shells. We are not born with armor. We don’t thrive when we hide or develop a thick skin. We are born with the strength of being able to love and feel and express, to recognize it when we love, to see when we’ve been given a gift, and to open it slowly, and with gratitude. It’s very easy to lose the thread.

Opening to love does not mean you embrace everything. Some things cannot be embraced. Some things will break you, but just as human beings aren’t born with shells, we aren’t made of glass, either. Rumi on this, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” You can glue the broken pieces together with love and kindness and time, with patience and compassion, and with the ability to hold even more light. When life breaks you, let it open you.

Wishing you the strength to face reality as it is, and sending so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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

One Small Step

If you’re like most people, you’ll have times in your life when you’re feeling really low; perhaps you’re having one of those times right now. There’s pain in this thing, whether your careful plans unfold the way you’d hoped, or they don’t. Sometimes we create a real mess with the choices we’ve made and other times life puts obstacles in our paths that feel insurmountable. It’s important to remember the temporary nature of all things, including your feelings. How you feel now is not how you’ll always feel. How things are now is not how they’ll always be.

There’s no greater paralyzing force than hopelessness. Without hope, simply getting out of bed is hard. If you’re really devastated, just breathing in and breathing out is an effort, finding a reason to take a shower, eat anything, or do anything other than allow the tears to slip from the corners of your eyes seems like too much. If your pain is coming from an external source — the loss of someone you love beyond words, for example — then time will carry you to a place where you can begin to put the pieces of your life back together. Not the way they were, though, in a new way that leaves space for your loss, that allows some room for your grief. It may be something you carry with you from now on, but as you find your way, you’ll realize there’s also some space for joy, that not all is lost.

If you’re in the midst of it, be kind to yourself. I get emails from people sometimes who are really going through it, and they compound their pain by feeling guilty about how it’s affecting them. “I stayed in my pajamas all day watching old movies,” wrote a woman whose sister died suddenly a few weeks ago. “I know she wouldn’t want me to spend my days like this, but I can’t move. I can’t leave the house, I haven’t done the dishes or laundry in a week…” Now she has the pain of her loss, and the pain of feeling she isn’t handling it well. But to me, these seem like perfectly natural reactions. She’s in shock. She’s dealing with trauma. The last thing she needs is to feel badly about it.

There are less extreme examples every day. People berating themselves for not measuring up in one way or another. I got an email from a man who lost his job and is now scrambling to figure out how to take care of his family, and feeling like a “loser.” Countless people going through break-ups and feeling like they failed, are stuck, or aren’t sure if they should be moving backward or forward. Sometimes the thing is not to move at all. Not to force yourself to have the answers when you’re in a state of despair. The more you beat yourself up, the more you loathe yourself, the less likely it is you’ll find the strength to pull yourself out of the hole. Sometimes it’s easier to feel compassion for other people, but there’s a disconnect when it comes to ourselves. You’re a human being on a spinning planet. You have your own, personal pain that has to do with your own journey, and then you have the collective pain of not knowing exactly what we’re doing here, or what happens after this. So go a little easier on yourself and just start where you are. There’s a Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.” If you need to, try that on for size. One small step is usually doable even in the worst of circumstances.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Don’t Sleep Through the Dream

Human beings are social creatures, and we all want to feel a sense of connection. We come into this world needing someone to hold us, to feed us, to wrap us in something warm, to talk to us, nurture us and let us know we are not alone. (Not everyone gets those things, but we all arrive needing them.) The other night as I was tucking my six-year old into bed he said, “Is this a dream?” And I said, “Is what a dream, buddy?” He said, “This life, this whole thing, is it a dream?” And I thought about it for a second, because, really, what a question and I said, “If it is, it’s a great dream, because I get to be your mom,” and he laughed.

Sometimes we’re so hungry for connection, we accept just about anything. A warm body, someone to share some space with. This is especially true for people who were not received with love when they came into this world. Years ago I used to volunteer at a hospital where they needed people to come in and hold babies who were born to mothers addicted to crack and other narcotics. Most of them were very tiny, and extremely uncomfortable. They’d just writhe and cry, and it was enough to break your heart if you let it, but every so often they’d settle and sigh, and fall asleep for a bit and I’d always whisper stories of all the things they were going to do, all the beautiful places they’d see one day, all the adventures they’d have because we all need hope. Without hope, I think life gets pretty dark.

If you were born to people who didn’t know how to love you well, or couldn’t for whatever reason, if you grew up in an abusive household, or were told you were unwanted, if you somehow received the message that you didn’t matter and no one cared if you were here or you weren’t, you have your work cut out for you because you’re going to have to unlearn those lies, and eventually you’re going to have to understand that it had, and has, nothing to do with you. Not everyone understands how to love well. Some people have very little frame of reference for that. It doesn’t reflect on you, but it will affect you, and you will have to seek out the tools to heal yourself.

The world is not a cold place. There are so many people who care and who do know how to love, but if you believe you’re worthless, you’re probably not going to seek those people out until you get right with yourself. It’s much more likely you’ll go after more people who can’t love you well, or won’t love you, so you can set up the dynamic that’s familiar to you, and try to wrangle yourself a different outcome. You are better off alone, taking stock of where you are, and where you want to be, learning how to feed a loving voice and choose one thought over another, than you are giving yourself to people who will continue to make you feel you are somehow easy to reject or discard. And by the way, if you enter a relationship trying to get something (your happy ending, validation from the other person, loyalty, love, stability), you set yourself up and you set them up, too. If you’re coming from a place of neediness, you’re likely to sell yourself, to bend over backwards showing the person how awesome you are, how much they need you. That’s not the same as giving with a free heart.

It’s a cycle and it’s a dangerous one because if you repeat it enough it will start to drain you of hope. Hurt people hurt people as the saying goes. Your parents may not have been able to love you, and the people you’ve been picking to get close to might not, either. Some people are terrified of real intimacy. They may have grown up with the lie that if you get close to people they’ll hurt you. They may be playing out their own past as well. It’s a big mess when two people come together who have no idea what’s motivating them, what they want, what they need, what lights them up, or what they need to do to heal individually. Everybody’s dragons come out to play, and everyone gets burned.

Solitude and the deep work of healing are where you want to head if you have lies to unlearn. Remember that what you know, and what you’ve known, is not all there is. I learned that the first time I went scuba diving. I was astonished to discover there was a whole, unbelievably gorgeous world right underneath the world I’d been living in. Our emotional life is like that, too. There are whole worlds that can open up to you and blow you away. It may, indeed, be lonely for awhile, but if you want connection in this world, you have to be willing to move through the fire of your pain to get there. If it’s all a dream, it isn’t the kind you want to sleep through.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

Don’t Grip the Pen

Living this life well, in a way that feels good in your skin, is, indeed, an art form. You can grip the pen and sweat blood to try to get the story of “How Things Should Look” out of your head and into your reality, but you’ll only create pain that way; pain and sorrow, for yourself and those close to you. You aren’t writing this whole story. You get to manage your inner world, that’s where your masterpiece can happen. You can create a garden inside yourself, or an ocean, or canyons or waterfalls or an entire underwater world full of colors you’d never see above ground and even that is hard, by the way. Even managing yourself is enough work to keep you busy– deciding which thoughts deserve your attention, where to direct your energy. Bringing yourself into a deeper state of awareness, aligning yourself with what you know to be true for you, making your world a loving, peaceful, compassionate place to be.

The world around you is not yours to control, however. Other people are not yours to control, either. Not your family members or your own children or your friends. You own no one but yourself, and even that’s debatable; regardless, you are here for a blink of time in a body that won’t last forever.

The thing is, most of us think small. I have this body and it defines me, it’s who I am, and it needs to be controlled so it will look the way I want it to, or the way society wants it to, or the way I’ve been convinced it ought to look, which takes up a lot of my time and energy, and usually makes me feel badly about myself. I have this life, and this job, and I live in this house in this city, and I grew up here, and went to this school. Somewhere along the way, this thing happened to me, and then this other thing happened, and these things define who I am, and so this is how I look and where I live and what I do and where I’m from, and now that I’ve told you all of those things, why don’t I feel seen and understood? As if the details are the essence of you. As if you could be defined by a list of things. You are a human being on planet earth, which is a miraculous thing in itself. You are so much more than the sum of the details of your life, and upon which details do you place the importance? What are you feeding? What are you doing here? Have you figured it out yet?

Here’s what you can hold onto (and give away): your integrity, your truth, your good heart, your trust in your own journey, your ability to give love freely, your understanding that everything is in a state of flux, even you. Here are things we can all work on: our outlook, the way we’re thinking about the world and other people, our level of acceptance, and when we can’t get there, our level of tolerance, patience, compassion and understanding; discovering our particular gifts, and the best ways we can share them, figuring out how to be of service, and having faith that somehow or another we are going to keep growing and learning and becoming better and stronger. Things to let go of: attachment to what other people will think or want or need or do; attachment to the way the story will unfold, and the way we think things ought to be. Life is going to bring all kinds of circumstances. Some of them will be beautiful and some of them will take your breath away with their cruelty and devastation. We get it all in this life.

Do your thoughts create your reality? In this context, I pose the question because some people believe if they think a thing hard enough, they can bring it into existence and sometimes the thing they’re thinking has to do with what another person will do or say or want. So to that I say no, you can’t “manifest” another person’s journey and you’d be walking down a confused path if you tried. You can hope for everyone’s greatest good. You can wish people well, and hope they heal and offer you support and love, but you can’t control other people with your mind. Part of becoming spiritually and emotionally mature is learning how to face reality as it is, which is not always as we’d like it to be.

Living intentionally is powerful, and putting your action behind your intention is where it’s at. Your thoughts don’t create your reality, but they affect your reality quite a lot. If you believe the world is cold and unfair and people suck, that’s going to affect the way you move through the world and interact with other humans. If you’re coming from that dark place, the world will rise up and meet you there. People don’t respond with warmth and compassion to a person who walks around grunting and barely making eye contact, so if you walk out the door in that frame of mind, yes, it will affect your reality, because you will create the circumstances to confirm your hypothesis that the world is cold and people suck. Once in awhile, some kind-hearted person may mess with your experiment, but you’ll just peg them as nuts, or flowery, or one of those hippies, and get back to the business of despising your life.

On the other hand, if you believe the world is full of both intense pain and unbelievable joy, that people are good and kind and capable of limitless love and the potential for growth and change, that’s also going to affect the way you move through the world and interact with the people you encounter. Because you’re coming from a loving place, you’ll be spreading love, and you’ll find the world will rise up and meet you there, too. So if we take the time and make the effort to heal the worlds within ourselves, we can contribute to the world around us in a very positive way, but that does not mean that horrendous things won’t happen to good people and it isn’t because these good people called this stuff into their lives, or believed it’s what they deserved spiritually. We could talk about Karma and karmic debt, but those are ideas and beliefs and they won’t comfort everyone, and you know, that’s really what I want to do with my time here. Division is not going to get the job done. If we could pare it down to simply this: we are all human beings on planet earth, and we are all equally miraculous, and not a single one of us knows for sure what happens after this, then we’re getting somewhere. Then we can look each other in the eyes and say, “Isn’t this something? Isn’t this an insanely vulnerable state we’re in? And as such, couldn’t we love each other a bit more and let go of our need to condemn, justify, control or judge?”

We’ve lost the plot. I’m pretty sure the story is, “How Much Can You Love?”, and maybe we need to define the terms, too. Love is not controlling or manipulative or conditional — love is going to love. Whether the story unfolds like we wrote it in our heads, or pinned it on our vision boards, or were told it would from the time we could think. Love is going to love regardless. If the person you adore is walking out the door, and everything in you is breaking, love is going to love. You already know that because you’ve been through it. When you called that person names and told every single person in your life the story of how you’d been wronged, you did that because you were still loving. When you couldn’t eat or couldn’t sleep or couldn’t figure out how you were going to get out of bed and take that shower and make that breakfast and put one foot in front of the other until you were out the door and in the car and on your way into a day you could hardly face, you felt that way because you were still loving. Love makes you vulnerable. Life makes you vulnerable. You can hold onto that. Devote yourself to loving with your whole heart. If someone exits your story, let them go with love. Stay on point. If you are met with the kind of grief that makes it hard to breathe, love gives you a free pass. You do whatever you need to do to get through it. But eventually, come back to love, so you don’t die, too. Life without love is death in a walking body. That’s no way to live. Be a bold artist and paint with your love. That’s the part of the plot you get to control.

Sending you some love right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Nothing Stays the Same

If you’re looking for stability, learn to count on yourself and your ability to face reality as it is. The “as it is” part is challenging, because it won’t always be the way we think it ought to be or the way we’ve envisioned it in our minds, and the “as it is” part is also not easy to wrap your head or your heart around, because it’s always in flux. It should really be about facing reality as it is in this moment. This is great to remember if you’re suffering right now — if you’re feeling hopeless or desperate or bitter or totally apathetic. Feelings aren’t permanent. There are certain heartbreaks you’ll carry with you for your entire life, but the intense searing pain of them will subside; the scar will form where that burning may be now, and that scar can be the symbol of your further opening, or your closing and hardening. To me those scars are like thorns on a rose. They happen on the way up, during the growth, but they lead to the most amazing blossoming. The deepest color of you.

We like to “fix” things, to feel like they’ll be where we left them, exactly as we remember them. It gives us a sense of security in this world where we are forced to realize that we don’t know what is going on, what we’re doing here, what happens after this. Just because these things are unknowable until they aren’t, you really have to grapple with them if you want to be at peace. You have to struggle and investigate and come up with answers that make sense to you, but as you do that, or as you try not to do that, you will probably want some sense of stability in this world, on this spinning globe. And so you will want your keys to be where you left them and you might need to have everything “in its place” before you walk out the door. You might put your mat in the same spot whenever you go to class, because you like to count on that. That one thing. You may try to do it with people, too. This person is mine. This person belongs to me. The truth is, we all belong to each other, we’re all connected, but you can never own another person. People are not possessions. Your children are not mere extensions of you, birthed into this world to make you look good. We all have to find our own way. There is a GPS for people. It’s called intuition, and if you’ve been following yours, you’re probably doing pretty well, but we aren’t trained to tune into it.

We’re taught that happiness and peace lie in externals. If you look right and go to a good school and get a good job and drive a nice car and get yourself a house and find someone to complete you, you’ll be good to go. As if there’s a formula, a game-plan you can work, a bunch of circumstances you can control, and some happiness equation that can only be solved when you meet someone else. But if you’ve tried going down that linear, orderly path, you know it doesn’t lead to your happiness because people aren’t robots, and life isn’t a game we’re playing, and if you want to be happy, that is your sole responsibility. Each person is a miraculous combination of 37 trillion or so cells and a lifetime of memories and heartaches and deep fears and moments of incredible shame, guilt, doubt, joy, ecstasy and imagination. You can’t set up “markers” for this stuff. The more you try to control life, and the people who are in your life, the more despair you’ll create for yourself. You’ll never be able to control or predict what life will set in your path or what other people will do, say, want or need. Not your partner. Not your children. Not your best friends. Not even yourself much of the time, unless you work on it quite a lot.

As much as you can, open to the adventure, to the ever-changing nature of things. It may not be comfortable, but at least life is always interesting. Recognize that love means you give people the freedom to be fully themselves, and sometimes that means they will leave you. Love doesn’t block the door. Not just because it’s unselfish, but also because love knows that’s not good for your tender heart. Love loves in the midst of change. In the midst of chaos or longing or grief or fear. Love just loves. It embraces everything. Don’t waste too much energy trying to control things or people, accept that it can’t be done. Live intentionally, and follow your own heart, your own inner yes. Try not to “peg” people, because how they once were is not always how they’ll be. Show yourself the same consideration and compassion. Do your best not to cling to ideas too tightly, or opinions, because they’ll cloud your ability to open to anything else. If you’re going to be riding this roller coaster with its twists and turns and tunnels without light and steep uphill climbs and exhilarating falls and scary ones, too, those rotations where you’re suddenly upside down, and those times when you think you might just throw up, only to be followed by gleeful screaming and laughter from the very heart of you, then you might as well do it with your arms in the air, your head thrown back, and your mouth full of yes. Hoping you can simply open to the ride and find your center through it all. That’s your stability, that beautiful heart of yours.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Does This Society Make My A$$ Look Fat?

Does-this-society-makeYour body is your home, it’s where you’re going to live for your entire life. If you hate your body (and I hear some variation of this from people all the time), there’s a war raging within your home.

There are all kinds of things we could say about the culture that’s breeding this kind of self-hatred. If you want to sell products, you have to make a person feel that they need what you’re selling and a lot of what’s being sold doesn’t even exist. Most of the time what people buy is the promise of how things could be if only (you’d lose ten pounds or live in a bigger house or drink this beer and have these kind of friends and always do and say the cool thing), but there’s no diet that’s going to make you happy. There’s no house, car, or hairspray that’s going to satisfy the beast of your despair if you’re in pain. You cannot buy your way to happiness. You can’t starve your way there, either. And you can do as many reps as you want to, but big biceps aren’t the key to your inner peace.

We are all inundated with images of photo-shopped people on covers of “health” magazines, and as far as I can tell, beauty magazines are designed to make women feel ugly. Like they’re not nearly enough. Men aren’t let off the hook, either. There are pills and creams for baldness and erectile dysfunction, and if the side effects happen to be death, at least you’ll look good in the coffin, although the casket might have to be closed if that blue pill works too well. I don’t buy those magazines, and I don’t watch television, but I drive around and see billboards all over the place. It’s like a constant mantra of “You suck!” and unless you do a lot of work on it, it’s very likely you’re going to internalize those messages. Did you know that Brown University conducted a study and found that 74.4% of normal-weight women said they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently”? And 46% of normal-weight men reported the same. When I give the cue in yoga class, “Your hands are shoulders-distance apart,” I notice almost all the men in my classes have their hands too close together because we’ve got all the men convinced they’re smaller than they are and when I say, “Separate your feet hip-distance apart,” almost all the women take their feet close to the edges of their mats. We’ve got all the women convinced they’re bigger than they are. What is more disempowering to people than the feeling that we all just can’t get it right? Can’t measure up? What drives the desire to distract people so they’re focused on how they look instead of what’s happening in the world?

The language we commonly use when talking about our bodies is aggressive, as in “battle of the bulge,” and “no pain, no gain.” I see people on their mats forcing themselves into poses their bodies aren’t ready to do because it’s so second-nature to think of the body as something we own that needs to bend to our will. I get it, because I struggled for years with body-image issues. I grew up taking ballet and learned early, the thinner the better. In fact, why eat at all? I think I started restricting calories when I was thirteen. I stopped dancing when I was sixteen, but my relationship with my body didn’t get any better. I’d over-exercise and under-eat, and still never be happy, never feel satisfied. Of course there are personality traits that lend themselves to this kind of thinking as well. If I can’t control what’s happening in my life, at least I can control what I put in my body. And so it goes.

The amount of time and energy I spent worrying about my appearance blows my mind when I think about it now. What a waste, and think of all the places that energy could have gone. It truly didn’t change until I started doing yoga. It wasn’t instantaneous, but after I’d been practicing consistently for awhile, I started to tune into my body in a different way. I’d grown up drinking diet soda and eating processed food, with no real awareness that your body doesn’t function well if you feed it a steady diet of chemicals. If something has seventeen syllables, your body really doesn’t know what to do with it. Yoga woke me up and stopped me in my tracks and made me think about things I’d never considered before, like what made me happy. What lit me up. It made me wonder what I was doing here, and what I was offering up to the world around me. Because honestly, when I started doing yoga I had blinders on. I lived in the small world of what’s happening for me? What’s not happening for me? Why isn’t it happening, and what can I do to make it happen faster? And if I wasn’t in that frame of mind, I was depressed and not getting much of anything done at all except dating older men and feeling any sense of myself moving further and further away from me.

Yoga brought me back to myself, in a way I hadn’t been since…I don’t know. I started to have a visceral experience of feeling good in my own skin, of listening and responding with the intent to heal. Of breathing in and breathing out. Little by little I started to know myself. In some ways it was amazing and in others, it was incredibly painful because not everything was pretty and light. When you’ve been hating your body for years, or exerting control over it like it’s something separate from you that needs to be feared lest it betray you, you’re also living in a house of shame.

Your body is an incredible gift. Your beating heart and your legs that get you from point A to point B (if you’re lucky to have two working legs). Your arms that can reach for people and hug them. Your smile, the light in your eyes. It’s all pretty amazing, but you rarely hear anyone say, “I love my body. My body is such a gift.” As I continued practicing, I discovered that when I fed my body well, it performed better and I felt clear in my thinking and full of energy. This was like a revelation to me. I started to educate myself about organic food. Eventually I went the vegan route. I’m not trying to convince you of a thing. What you put in your body is one of the most personal things in the world, and it’s up to you to figure out what feels right, but there’s no way to separate the way you feel about your body from the way you’re feeding it and treating it, or the way you feel about the planet. It’s all connected.

Sometimes people tell me they love food too much to make big changes. I love food. I have a completely different relationship to my body than I did twenty years ago when I started practicing. I’ve also grown two people in my body since then, and if that doesn’t make you realize your body is miraculous, nothing will. If you start to feed a loving voice, if you start to care about yourself, you’re going to want to take care of yourself in a different way, and I can tell you it feels very good. Throw out your scale and get off your diet if you need to. Unroll a yoga mat and get to know your body. Think before you eat. Close your eyes and see if you can really tune into what your body wants. It isn’t diet soda, I can promise you that. This culture of less-than will rob you of the chance to be at peace with yourself if you let it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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