Sit on Your Hands, Please!

Public-ServiceYears ago I had lunch with a guy who was fairly well known in the yoga community. He’d just come back from a month at an ashram, and I met up with him because he was passing through Los Angeles on his way back to Chicago where he lived with one of my closest girlfriends. She asked me to meet with him because she had a bad feeling and she wanted me to be the one to break the news to her if there was news to be broken. She said while he’d been gone their communication had been odd, and she sensed he may have met another woman. She hadn’t asked him directly, and I think part of her didn’t want to know, and was hoping it wasn’t true. So off I went to have a meal with this guy I’d never really vibed with, to have a conversation that could have been extremely awkward.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so much awkward as it was enlightening. He started telling me about his trip, and how transformational it had been and he alluded to a deep spiritual connection he’d developed with this woman while he was there. So I asked him if he meant he’d had sex with her, and he choked on his tea and laughed, and said he supposed so, if that was how I needed to put it. He said it was an elevated experience, and that the feelings were so strong and so deep, he’d had to “honor his truth.” He expected my friend would understand. I told him I thought he was mistaken, and that I believed my friend was going to be heartbroken because she was in love with him, and because they were in a committed, monogamous relationship. In fact, he’d been possessive of her, and threatened by any contact between her and her most recent ex, who happened to be the father of her little girl. They’d been living together for six months at this point, and had started looking at houses. My girlfriend had put a deposit down on a place he said he loved before he left for the ashram, and they were about to close on it.

I asked him how he could reconcile the concept of non-harming with his actions at the ashram, but he said because he was aligned with his truth, no harm could result. Then he said, “I guess I’m just an enigmatic and mysterious creature.” I told him as far as I knew, there was nothing elevated or spiritual about cheating on a person you claimed to love, and that you could dress it up in mala beads all day long, but it was still crappy behavior. I said I thought, “honoring his truth” would have involved observing his feelings without acting on them, or discussing it with my friend before he acted so that maybe they could regroup, or come to some kind of understanding together. Then maybe the experience could have brought them closer, but not this way. I also asked him who describes themselves as enigmatic and mysterious? Because really, there are few things in life that leave me speechless, but I think my brain froze for a good minute after he said that.

Here’s the thing. If you want to be at peace, you’re going to have to figure out how to get right with yourself. How to heal those places that are raw and in need of your kind attention. You’re going to have to learn to observe your thoughts without getting carried away by them. Feelings are not facts, and you don’t have to act on every feeling you have. Not all of them are worthy of your energy, time, attention, or action. The feelings aren’t bad, they don’t make you a bad person. We’re all human and we’re going to have all kinds of feelings and thoughts and ideas and fantasies. It’s how much energy you decide to feed that stuff. How much importance you grant to the thoughts you’re having.

Restraint is a tough one for most people. We all want to do what we want to do, but if you want to talk about being “on the path,” if you’re trying to “do the work,” then you’re going to have to find some discipline. Especially when other people are involved. If your path is causing you to become egregiously self-absorbed, it’s probably not a great path. If you’ve gotten to a place where you think you’re justified in doing whatever you want because you’re honoring your truth or following your calling, you’ve really gotten lost along the way. A huge part of this thing is kindness and compassion. Honesty and integrity. Keeping your word. Thinking about the impact of your choices on other people. I don’t expect everyone to want to work this way, but I cringe when people twist a beautiful and demanding practice to suit their own desires. Call it what it is, and I have no issue with it. Say, “I went to an ashram, and I was really attracted to this woman, and I cheated on your friend even though I knew it would hurt her and I have no regrets, but I do have a huge mess to clean up.” That’s truthful, but don’t call it elevated or spiritual because it isn’t either of those things. As it turned out, the other woman was also devastated, because she thought it was going to be a long-term thing. My friend broke it off, and then had to work to make sure her daughter was okay because she’d become attached to this guy as well. When you leave a wake of pain behind you and describe yourself as an enigma, you’ve taken a wrong turn on your path.

I think people get confused sometimes, because the initial movement when you’re healing is inward. If you want to know yourself well and deeply, you have to examine your pain, your resulting tendencies, your coping mechanisms, the way your nervous system responds to stress, stories you might tell yourself about your life or why you are the way you are, areas where you’re stuck in rage or blame or bitterness. You have to figure out what’s true for you. You do all this internal work so you can understand yourself, so you can be accountable for the energy you’re spreading as you move through the world, and for the way you’re treating yourself and everyone in your life. When you become well-acquainted with yourself, and you figure out what brings you peace and what lights you up, what particular gifts are yours to share, then you can take that information on the road. That’s where the joy happens, in the connection, in the sharing. You can bring it out into the world and shine. The ultimate purpose of all that internal work is to help you uncover your connection to everyone and everything. To recognize that while our stories may be different, in so many ways we’re the same. We’re connected. We’ve all suffered. We’ve all been selfish, and hurt people carelessly or unintentionally. We all have choices we’d love to make again, and differently. That’s all part of the process of growing up. So there’s no need to kick yourself if you were the guy or gal at the ashram. We’ve all hung out there. The thing is not to let yourself off the hook. Not to cloak it in sage and walk out the door and pretend to yourself or anyone else that you’re good to go. You’ll never feel great about yourself if you’re living a life that’s all about you and every desire you have. You’ll never satisfy that beast. You can feed it for awhile if you need to, but you’ll find the hunger never goes away. It will never be enough, you’ll always be ready for more. Mass-consumption has gotten us into all kinds of trouble, both personally and globally. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t feed your soul.

In my view, being, “on the path” means you’re trying to see yourself and others clearly. You’re aware of what’s true for you, and you’re able to express it calmly and with compassion. When “what’s true for you” may end up hurting someone else, you handle it with integrity, sensitivity and honesty. You’re thinking about what you’re saying and doing, and how it will affect those people around you. You’re thinking about the path, too. The literal path, the one you’re walking on. The planet, in other words. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it with as much consciousness as possible. And when you blow it and don’t show up the way you want to, which will happen, you examine it and figure out what went wrong so you can own it, and make a different choice the next time. It’s not perfection we’re after, it’s a practice. But it does require a discerning mind and a willingness to be honest with yourself.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

The Power to Pause

listentounderstandIt’s not easy to drop your feelings, opinions and ideas so you can really hear what another person has to say, where they may be coming from, or how they’re seeing and experiencing things. This is never more true than in the context of an argument. When we feel attacked, it’s perfectly natural to go into defense mode, but most of the time, no one is attacking us and deep listening can’t happen if you’re in “fight or flight” mode. People may see things differently, but if you’re in a close relationship with someone, it’s unlikely they want to go for your jugular (and if they do, you’re probably with someone who needs help figuring out how to manage their anger).

We all want to be known, seen and understood. It’s beautiful when you allow yourself to open to another person, but the more you do that, the more you have to be willing to be vulnerable and that requires trust. When you have the feeling that someone is really seeing you, and suddenly that same person seems to be misunderstanding you, it can feel like a betrayal. Sometimes we have embarrassment or unease because some of our flaws slipped out and now this person who had this image of us may be seeing something we don’t want them to see, or something we’d rather not see ourselves. There are all kinds of reasons a person gets defensive, or shuts down, or runs for the door. Often it feels safer to dig our heels in and defend our position, to “win” the fight. If you’re trying to get close to someone, though, and if you want to be seen, it’s not a fight and this isn’t your opponent. A person is either going to love and accept you with all your flaws and absurdity, or they aren’t. You can only be known if you allow yourself to be known. Most people are not going to be able to read your mind and if you’re only willing to show the shiny, status update, perfect picture version of yourself, that instagram glow, the 140-character gem that you thought of while walking your dog, then you’ll never really be seen because we’re all complex and we all make mistakes, and we all have choices we wish we could make over again and differently.

People dig their heels in when they’re attempting to hide or to hold on. Or the level of reactivity is high. That’s one of the main things a consistent yoga practice addresses and encourages — the ability to sit with intense sensation, calmly. A burning feeling in your quadriceps is not all that different than a burning feeling in your heart, like rage. It’s a temporary sensation, and if you can open to it and examine it, it will open you and strengthen you, and teach you something about yourself. If you fly off the handle every time you feel something intense, you deny yourself those opportunities to become more aware, more accountable, and more able to trust yourself.

Of course there are legitimate times when you’ll disagree with someone, or see things in a completely different way, but if you really want to know the people in your life, it’s so useful if you can learn to listen deeply. Open to it even if it’s something you don’t want to hear or accept. Maybe this person is attempting to show you something essential about who they are, or where they are on their path. Maybe you’re going to discover a new way of thinking about something. It’s possible you’re going to realize there’s some fundamental philosophical difference that you’re not going to be able to get past, but there’s no point in denying someone else’s reality, even if you disagree with it. You might as well open your heart and your mind to their point of view. Maybe you’ll go back to your own, and maybe something will shift for you, but real listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to speak and being right is not nearly as satisfying as being seen.

Wishing you love, and the power to pause, breathe, and listen,

Ally Hamilton

Put the Key in Your Own Pocket

keytoyourhappinessI got an email from a woman a couple of days ago asking if I thought it was wrong that she was longing for a partner. She said she’d done a lot of work on herself over the years, and that she feels like she has gone a long way toward healing and understanding the source of those tendencies that have derailed her relationships in the past — clinging, obsessing, sacrificing her own feelings and needs for the sake of her partner’s. She’s been on a dating detox as she’s done all this work, showing up on her mat six days a week, working with a great therapist, hanging out with friends and family, and getting to know herself well. Now she’s wondering if it’s a bad sign or an indication that maybe she hasn’t healed enough since she has started thinking about how nice it would be to find someone special.

I told her I think it’s the most natural thing in the world to want to connect. To have someone to laugh with and cuddle with, to talk to at the end of the day. Not everyone needs that or wants it, but there’s certainly nothing wrong if you do. It’s great to heal and work on yourself so that you can move through the world with an open heart and interact with people in a healthy, loving way. It’s fairly easy to remain stable when we’re on our own, doing our own thing, coming and going as we please. Eating what we want when we want. Reading if we feel like it, or going for a walk, or turning out the lights and going to bed really early or late, as the case may be. It’s in the context of intimate relationships that our “stuff” is most likely to come up. That’s when our buttons get pushed, and we really get to see how much we’ve healed, how accountable we can be for our own feelings, how able we are to express ourselves calmly. Relationships can be very enlightening and the springboard for a lot of growth.

I think the issue is not attaching your self-worth and reason for being to another person. That’s a heavy burden to ask anyone to carry, whether it’s your significant other, your child, or your sister. No one can validate you in any real way, except you. It’s wonderful for people to tell us they love us and appreciate us, it feels so good, but if you have doubt about whether you’re lovable, no one is going to be able to solve that for you but you. I know in our culture we’re taught that if we just find the right person to “complete us” we can sail into the sunset and have that happy ending. The story begins when the sailboat leaves the harbor. That’s not the end. The story is about you and your shipmates dumping water overboard when you need to, or sealing up holes, or weathering storms, or enjoying those gorgeous days when the water is calm and warm, and the sun is shining. Having two people in the boat who know how to hold their own is really helpful, otherwise one person is stuck doing the heavy lifting.

It’s no fun to be in a relationship if you’re feeling insecure all the time, if you’re bending over backwards, or chasing, or relentlessly wondering if everything is okay. If you’re being enough for them. Asking someone to carry that for you is not reasonable, it’s too much. That’s really your load to carry. Healing is what gives us the strength to carry our load. Otherwise we end up spilling it all over the people who come close to us and we look to them to solve our feelings of doubt and fear about ourselves. About our not being enough. Most people will need to put that load down eventually. They may run from the weight of it or just jump overboard one day. Feeling like you’re the only reason a person is happy or miserable is just too grave a responsibility. Put the key to your happiness in your own pocket and then share it with your partner or your family or your friends. That’s a gift you give to them, and to yourself.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Life Does Not Suck

Do you know people whose mantra is “life sucks” or “people suck” or “I suck”? Most of us have been that person at some time or another, even if only for a moment, but some people get stuck there. That perspective usually shows up after we’ve been knocked around by life for awhile — had our hearts broken romantically, in relation to a family member or friend, or in a professional situation. If all those things happen at once, it’s like a perfect storm of suckiness and that can really effect a person’s outlook.

Sometimes I think of life in terms of “birth cycles” and “death cycles.” Birth cycles are times of incredible growth, creation, productivity and expansion, and although they usually involve lots of transition and can be uncomfortable, there’s the underlying feeling of excitement. Death cycles are times when things are stagnant, we feel stuck or trapped, nothing seems to be moving or opening, it’s hard to breathe or see the light, and the path is not clear. These are usually times when we are refusing to acknowledge that something is coming to an end, be it a relationship, a job, or a way of being in the world. Or we realize, but struggle to accept. Death cycles mark the journey from the moment we know something is over in our hearts and in our gut, to the moment we accept it in our minds and start to map out a different route. Then we are on to another cycle of growth. Birth cycles feel better, but we are going to get both in this life and riding the waves is part of the gig. Also, the degree to which we allow ourselves to open to despair is the same degree we will be able to open to joy. They’re flip sides of a coin; you need one to appreciate and understand the other. Pain is often the catalyst for action. When we try to avoid the pain, we disempower ourselves.

This is not to say there isn’t overlap. There are certainly times when one facet of our life is going really well, and other parts, not so much. We have a great relationship, but professionally we feel stuck. Or we have our work life in order, we feel we’ve found our calling, life has meaning and we have purpose here, but romantically it’s a wash. I’m simply talking about those times for people when it all feels hopeless. It’s tough to maintain an optimistic attitude when nothing seems to be flowing, but allowing a perfect or sustained storm of suckiness to affect your overall outlook is dangerous business because it changes the way you walk through the world. A couple of years ago, I drove behind a car with the bumper sticker, “People Suck”, and I was so struck that someone wanted to drive around with that message. What happens in someone’s life that makes them want to buy that and stick it on their car? Disappointment, betrayal, abuse? Heartbreak? Being neglected, left, ignored? All these things can happen to any of us. Not everyone is able to love well; some people are in incredible pain and it spills over onto the people around them. Maybe your parents weren’t able to love you well, and it set you off on a cycle of repeating that pattern in all your relationships, and now you think no one can love and no one can give, but really, it’s just no one you’re choosing. There are beautiful, loving, amazing people in the world who don’t suck at all, not even a tiny little bit.

About a year ago I met a guy with a tattoo on the top of his hand that said, “Trust No Bitch”, and that also blew my mind. Can you imagine going on a first date with that guy? I mean, you’re done before you start, aren’t you? And if you aren’t, then I’d have to think there’s something going on with you, too. Maybe you think, this seems like a fun project! You’ll be the one to change him, right? Or you’re not looking for anything where you have to trust, either. At least he was “out there” with it, at least he was stating it loud and clear, “I don’t trust women and I’m angry.” A lot of times people have tattoos like that, but they’re on the heart, not the hand, so it takes a long time to see them. Nonetheless, they might as well be on the forehead because if you really feel that way, it’s going to affect the way you see the world and interact with everyone. If you think all guys cheat, and you walk into a relationship like that, it’s going to affect everything. How much you open. How willing you are to let yourself be seen, known and understood. How much you relax into it. If you think all women are liars and users, it’s going to permeate all your interactions with women, romantic or otherwise. If you think people suck, you’re going to take that with you to the grocery store, on the freeway, to the barista behind the counter. We’re energetic beings so even if a person might not be able to articulate your “tattoo”, they’re going to feel it and respond accordingly. If someone feels the energy from you of contempt, they’re probably not going to respond with love (unless they’re your yoga teacher ;)). And so wherever you go, you perpetuate the idea that people suck, or no one likes you, but that’s just your lens, that’s the way you’re seeing the world being reflected back to you. If you think life sucks, that’s so all-encompassing it’s going to be hard to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes you really need to get your lenses wiped.

You don’t suck, and people don’t suck, and life does not suck. You have pain, and other people have pain, and life can be full of pain sometimes, but if you’re breathing, there’s still time to turn it around. If you have pain and it’s overwhelming, you need to reach out and get yourself some help and some support. There’s not a thing in the world that’s wrong with that. If the people who were supposed to love you didn’t do a bang up job of it, then you learned some stuff you’re going to need to unlearn. It’s doable. If you’ve chosen to surround yourself with people who end up hurting you, once again, the answers are inside. Your pain is running the show, and you’re trying to solve it but you can’t do that until you identify it and sit with it. When you heal yourself and love yourself, you’re going to choose to surround yourself with people who are also able to love. When you’re coming from love and surrounded by love, there’s no way you’re going to think life sucks. The answers are always inside. Tattoo love on your heart. Everything else flows from there.

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.

Embrace the Mess

When it comes to life, the best you can do is try to keep your side of the street clean; that’s plenty of work for any of us. The first step in that process is just to know yourself, that’s a huge and necessary thing if you want to be at peace. When I say know yourself, I mean don’t be afraid to embrace and examine all aspects of who you are and what makes you tick. Don’t reject anything or look away because it’s too painful or you think some facet of yourself is ugly or unacceptable. Look at it all, hold it up to the light, take a deep breath, and understand we all have our pain. Anything you reject causes a war within you and gives power to that voice of “Not good enough. Not worthy of love.” You become the architect of your own heartache and your own suffering. Shame is a strangler.

You are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings. Your actions are the thing and even then, every single one of us has made mistakes. Maybe you’re in the process of making one right now, and you know it but you’re doing it anyway because you feel powerless to stop yourself. It’s okay, it’s called being human. Mistakes are there to help us learn and grow. Obviously you do your best not to hurt other people. You won’t always succeed with that because we are all changing all the time, and sometimes people grow apart or recognize they never really grew together. Or they come together for all the wrong reasons and at the wrong time because they’re both in pain. Knowing yourself is step one because without that, you’re working without a compass or a sense of where you need to watch your step, have extra compassion for yourself, or recognize when you’re about to repeat a pattern that causes you pain.

Feelings are not facts, and not every feeling deserves or demands our action. In fact, there are many feelings we’ll all have that we’d do best to sit with and breathe through. Sometimes someone will tell me they had to honor their truth in a particular moment. You don’t have to do anything. A lot of crappy behavior can be excused under that umbrella. Better to sit in the rain instead, because it won’t last forever, and if the feeling you’re having will cause pain to someone else you’re really better off letting it wash over you. You’ll be grateful you did. Those are the moments we build character, integrity and self-esteem. When you act instead, look at it and grow from it. Apologize when appropriate, and hope for forgiveness. Eventually, you have to forgive yourself. Guilt travels with shame, and if you host them for too long, you won’t get very far. Forgive other people their humanness, too when you can, and at a certain point you’ll look around and realize you have a group of amazing friends who really see you and truly love you.

You can do your best to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading. After doing the work to heal what needs to be healed so that your pain isn’t ruling your life (because it really doesn’t need to be that way), then you can speak and act in alignment with what’s in your heart. Keeping your word becomes easy because you won’t need to lie. You won’t be covering anything up, and you also won’t be willing to betray yourself. Once you get ahold of that one, trusting yourself, taking care of yourself, and being kind to other people is a lot easier.

Having said all of that, realize you can do all that work, heal yourself and create a loving world within you and life will still be messy because we are all complex and life brings its everything at every one of us, some more than others. Not everyone will be thinking about how to keep their side of the street clean and even if you think about it quite a lot, sometimes you’ll blow it. We will all create situations we’d never have dreamed of, because life keeps unfolding, and one choice leads to another, and suddenly you realize this is your life.

It’s full of every color and every feeling and every sorrow and joy and laughter and heartache and beauty and devastation and full moons and tornados and teenage boys who slipped through the cracks, and teenage boys who thought of something no one else ever saw and grew up to be Albert Einstein, or Jaques Cousteau and millipedes and rain forests and skyscrapers and the chair you’re sitting on. Your first love and your first broken heart and your first really bad scrape and the first time you felt ashamed and the first time you felt understood, and the last time you saw that person. Your mother, who gave birth to you, and that girl in the first grade who had a smile like the sun. Maybe she grew up and lost someone so close to her the world collapsed on that smile for a time, or maybe she’s somewhere, right now, saving the world in her own particular way like Marie Curie or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Life is full of everything. It’s incredibly gorgeous sometimes, and other times it will break your heart in ways you never thought possible. It’s amazing, but it is not clean and you can’t tie it up in a neat little box with a ribbon on top, and aren’t you really grateful for that? I am.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Put the Power in Your Heart

not2needapprovalAt a certain point you have to stop chasing down approval and start approving yourself. The easiest way to do that is to follow your heart and do your very best not to hurt other people. You won’t always succeed on either count. Sometimes fear, doubt and people-pleasing paralyze us, and even though the heart is crying out for action we simply aren’t able to follow through in that moment or during that time in our lives. Just because you know what you need to do doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it. You’re ready when you’re ready, and not a moment sooner. Recognizing the need for action is a start, it’s a beginning, so try not to kick yourself if you aren’t ready to start walking just yet. Sometimes we need help to get unstuck. We need someone to kindly hold up a mirror and remind us of our power. No one does his or her best in every moment. We can all be selfish, thoughtless, confused or in pain, and when we make decisions or act out in those states, it’s probably not going to go very well.

Forgive yourself for being human, and forgive others. We all blow it sometimes, but as much as possible, being accountable is the thing. Knowing yourself, and recognizing when you’re spiraling or clinging or running or denying is so essential. When you can see it and own it, you take the power away from the feeling and put it back in your own hands. Maybe you have to sit on your hands to avoid acting out on a passing feeling. It can be incredibly uncomfortable and draining to face down your dragons, but you know what’s worse? Letting them run your life. A feeling is not a fact, and not all feelings demand or deserve your action.

I say this to you because if you’re aware of yourself and determined to be responsible for the energy you’re spreading as much as you can, to be conscious of your actions and do your very best to ensure you aren’t being careless with someone else’s heart, or aren’t inadvertently spilling your pain all over someone else’s path, then you can accept that you won’t always please everyone.

Sometimes your choices cause another person to face their own, and that’s not always easy. It’s one thing if you’re ready to look at your stuff, and it’s another when it smacks you in the face when you aren’t expecting it. That stings and it’s not easy to deal with, and sometimes you’ll want to run or start rewriting history in your head, but you can’t undo the past. If you behaved in a way that caused someone else pain you were almost undoubtedly in a lot of pain yourself and maybe it’s very old pain that’s been chasing you down for years. Have compassion for yourself and for other people because it’s not easy to be on either side of the equation. It takes a lot of courage to follow your heart and to look at your stuff and to move slowly and steadily toward love. It’s brutal to have to face the consequences of your actions and to realize that even though you may be forgiven, ultimately you’re going to have to forgive yourself.

Pain will take you hostage if you let it. Someone else’s pain can do that as well, but you aren’t here to be imprisoned. You’re here to be free. You’re here to love. When your stuff comes up, and it will, trust that you have the strength to look at it and sit with it without letting it own you. Let love own you. I’m not talking about romantic love, although that’s a beautiful expression of the love I mean. I’m talking about opening your heart to that great love that you possess, that limitless well that’s within you, and allowing that to rule your life. Really. If you’re going to give yourself to anything, give yourself to love.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

Uncertainty 2.0

So many times in life we search for answers, look for ways to predict the future, understand the past, or ask for signs about which way to turn now. It’s perfectly natural to want some stability, to want to know there’s a point to all this, to want to feel that your past had a purpose and that your future has one, too.

You can absolutely find your purpose while you’re here, and your life can be filled with meaning. If you allow yourself to open to the ever-changing nature of things, and to the vulnerability that’s required if you’re going to embrace reality as it is, then you also grant yourself the possibility of incredible love. It requires open hands, an open heart and an open mind, and the ability to say, “Yes, I embrace this, too. Even if it breaks my heart and I don’t understand why and every fiber of my being feels it’s unfair or senseless or tragic, I still embrace it because fighting it is pointless and I am here to open. To learn. To grow. To continue to begin again, even if right in this moment, I have no idea how to do that. I’ll start by reminding myself to breathe in, and breathe out.” If you do that, your time here, however much you have, will be beautiful. You can count on the people in your life who know how to love, to give it and receive it, for as long as you have each other. You can trust that there will be beauty and experiences that stun you into gratitude. But if you want everything wrapped up in neat little packages, and you want to understand every single thing that’s happened in your past and try to exert a lot of control over what happens in your future, you’re going to have a very tough time.

There’s a difference between having an idea of how you’d like to share your gifts, and an attachment to the idea that everything is going to unfold according to your five-year plan. You can absolutely move with intention and focus, but if you don’t also factor in the possibility that your plan could easily be turned on its head on a sunny Tuesday morning without any notice at all, or on a rainy Saturday when you planned on being at the beach, you set yourself up to be knocked over sideways by life. We never know and not everything is going to make sense. Sometimes the best you can get to is acceptance.

This is true on so many levels. I get emails from people who are trying to understand why someone hurt them or left them or betrayed them or neglected them or abused them or discarded them or were taken from them without any warning or any chance to say one last goodbye. One last, I love you so much I don’t understand how to make sense of a world without you in it. There are many times I sit at my laptop with tears streaming down my face. There are plenty of times I sit at my laptop laughing, too. But there’s never a lack of the unexplained in life.

I have close friends who were ditched suddenly and without explanation, by a couple they’d known and loved for years. Their families vacationed together, their kids grew up like brothers and sisters, they had a standing dinner Sunday nights. They were at graduations and weddings together, and one day it all ended. That’s as rough as any breakup and when my friends tried to ask what had happened, what was wrong, why they were being shunned, there was no real response. Their friends were just suddenly busy all the time. The kids are left to pick up the pieces, and thankfully they’re old enough to make their own plans, but everyone is hurt and confused, and no one understands. There is no resolution or closure. There are only so many times you can go to a person and ask to talk. Eventually you have to shed your tears and shrug your shoulders and take your ball and go home and remember other people will want to play catch with you down the road. If someone won’t communicate there is no hope of working it out. There’s just painful mystery and acceptance and the rest of your journey.

There are also people who get stuck in the past, and feed it and stoke that flame, even if the past was brutal, because it’s a familiar misery. If you work at it enough, you can feed that flame until it scorches everything, even your present. Your past may not ever make sense. Maybe there are questions you have that can never be answered. We all have some. Rilke has a beautiful quote about this, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Embrace all of it. Even the mysteries and the tragedies and the lack of closure that happens sometimes. Let it open you so other travelers who are also seeking, and will also never find answers to all their questions will know yours is a safe hand to grab in the dark and a good one to hold onto when it gets sunny again. Wishing you love through all of life’s beauty and heartache and uncertainty, and through all of its joy as well.

May we all live the questions with our hearts open,

Ally Hamilton

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