Where are You Rooted?

Yesterday my six year old son asked me if I knew about the “walking palm trees of the rain-forest.” He told me that these trees were able to “move their roots” if they saw a spot that looked better to them. I told him that was incredibly cool, and that I did not know about these trees. Of course, I had to go Google it, because palm trees walking around the rain-forest seems like something I’d have heard about somewhere along the way. So it turns out the Socratea exorrhiza, or, “Walking Palm” is native to tropical Central and South America, and it has stilt roots that allow it to grow in swampy areas of forest. Some people think their roots exist as an adaptation to flooding, and others believe the roots allow the palm to “walk away” if another tree falls on the seedling and knocks it over. If this happens, the palm produces new vertical stilt roots and rights itself, the original roots rotting away.

I think life asks us to do this very thing again and again; to start over, to respond to the ever-changing nature of things, to move our roots when we need to and right ourselves. But a lot of the time we resist. We cling to the dying roots that don’t sustain us or nurture us anymore, that cannot support our growth any longer. Sometimes we do this out of desperation. We love someone, or many “someones” and can’t bear the thought of hurting them. Or we’re afraid of all that is required to pick up and move toward the unknown. In relationships, it’s incredibly painful. The roots grow down directly from our hearts. But if you aren’t growing, you’re dying, and if you’re dying you can’t nurture anyone else because all your energy is going toward your withering and quiet destruction. Without living, healthy roots, you just won’t have the strength to rise up and reach the light and so life becomes very dark indeed.

I know so many people who keep feeding those dying roots, though. It’s all swampy and murky and nothing new can grow there, but still, they try to shore the thing up, to feed it whatever they can. Sometimes it’s old stories that have become rooted. They’re poisoning the tree, the branches are hanging low, the leaves have mostly fallen off, but the roots of blame, anguish, fear or sadness, of bitterness, shame or guilt keep the person rooted in the Forest of What Was. I spent a good decade in that forest, so I can tell you the main thing that grows there are weeds. The kind that climb up your trunk and strangle your branches and steal all the light and all the nutrients, until you are just this Tree of Blame with sour fruit. “I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, and so now when you say you love me I don’t believe you because everybody leaves and everybody cheats and I’m just going to stay rooted here in the darkness.” Or something like that.

Fear will keep you paralyzed in that forest if you let it, but it’s such a shame because old stories are old. They don’t have to control your present or your future. They may have created some grooves in your trunk, but they don’t have to overtake your ability to produce the sweetest fruit you can imagine; the fruit of, “I Got the F&ck Out!!!” for example. That is some sweet fruit. You may feel stuck and powerless. You may even be rooted to those feelings; there may be some pay-off for you in staying stuck. Attachment to sympathy or attention, a reason not to do the brave and difficult thing so you can stick with what you know even if it doesn’t feel good, or an excuse to numb out are some possibilities. But I have to let you know, the pay-off of digging deep, to the very bottom of your soul, gathering up your courage and your stilt roots, and moving your a$$ to the Forest of Life is Freaking Amazing has a much greater pay-off. If a tree can do it, I have zero doubt you can do it, too.

Sending you a lot of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Choose Hope.

choosehopeI watched some raw video from the Boston Marathon yesterday, instead of just reading about it, which is what I’d intended to do, and so I heard the awful screaming of people in shock and dismay. The shaking voice of the man taking the video and the way his breath was shallow, and my own heart-rate went up listening to him. We all sound different in that state. I learned that the one and only time I watched the birth video a girlfriend took during my labor with my son, which was scary and violent and full of moments I wasn’t sure we were going to make it through. All you can hear after the birth is me sobbing and asking again and again, “Is he okay?” in a voice I do not recognize as my own. But it’s the exact same voice I heard yesterday in someone’s video footage and it went straight through my heart. Panic, fear, despair and shock take such a toll on us and we really are all the same in our humanness and vulnerability.

When things like this happen and we look around at the state of the world in general, it’s easy to say, “It’s just too much. Everything is broken and violent,” and to feel hopeless about it all. I went to a screening of a powerful film I’ve seen three times, “Children of War” by filmmaker Bryan Single. He spent the better part of three years in Northern Uganda, filming the work of Jane Ekayu (you can check out her website, childrenofpeaceuganda.com) and other counselors working with children who were abducted from their homes and forced to become soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army. They targeted children 5-15 years old because they’re the most tender and the easiest to control. I can’t tell you what these children have been through. Some were forced to kill their own family members. But human beings have an incredible capacity to forgive and heal and people like Jane who care and take action make all the difference in the world.

I realize when we see violence like this it’s natural to want to crawl into a hole or distract ourselves. I saw people yesterday getting angry at those expressing sympathy and bringing up other places in the world where violence is a way of life. One is no more or less distressing than the other. I experienced some of that myself in December, when I wrote about Sandy Hook Elementary and someone said there’s no reason to weep if it doesn’t affect you directly. It’s all direct. Sometimes people don’t feel the impact of how awful something is until it hits close to home; there’s no reason to have contempt for someone who suddenly realizes the heartbreak of violence and destruction. Realizing is the thing, whenever and wherever it happens. What’s happening in Iraq directly affects us all. And what’s happening in the Congo. Do you want to know the truth? It doesn’t matter where it’s happening. Borders are meaningless and something we’ve made up. Skin color is meaningless. We are one people on one planet, and we are all connected. The root of almost all of our problems is that we’ve separated ourselves from each other. If one of us is suffering, we are all suffering.

The thing is not to give up. Not to decide it’s broken and too much, and what can one person possibly do, anyway? You can’t fix everything, that’s for sure. But you can do something. I mean, anything, really. Any way you can extend some love and some hope and some care, matters. It can be the smallest thing. You can hold a door open for a stranger, that matters. You can let someone merge while you’re driving, that matters, too. You can treat everyone you encounter with kindness. If you feel really inspired, you can pick one organization and volunteer. Give your time and your energy and your heart. A secret thing you might not know is that spending your energy trying to uplift someone else will make you feel incredible. Like your life has some meaning and that won’t just be a feeling you have, that will be the reality. We can heal and we can care about each other, and we can impact the way the world around us looks and feels. But hatred won’t get us there. “Us vs. Them” won’t get us there. Demonizing people who are severely troubled or mentally ill won’t get us there, either. Focusing on what’s different won’t do it. But do you have any idea how much is the same? We all love our children. We all breathe the same air. We all have dreams and hopes and fears and nights we cry ourselves to sleep. We could all use a hand reaching out in the darkness sometimes. And we could surely use a lot of people who don’t give up and numb out. I think we have a whole bunch of them on this page.

Sending love to all of you, and to anyone, anywhere, who is suffering,

Ally Hamilton

The Heart Cries Out with Truth. Answer It.

When-someone-shows-youI get lots of emails from people dealing with relationship issues and they often go something like, “I love my partner, and things would be amazing if he or she could just change some essential, defining personality attribute.” I mean, they don’t say it that way, but that’s the heart of it. There are few things in life more painful than falling in love with someone, offering up the most tender parts of yourself only to find you’re being rejected slowly for who you are – what once was endearing is now disappointing – or that you’ve been misunderstood on some profound level. That if you’d just change yourself, your partner would love you again. I see people bend over backwards, or squish themselves into the tiniest amount of space possible to endure. I’ve done that myself in past years, but I’d never do that today.  Love doesn’t require you to crush yourself and betray your spirit. That’s not loving someone and that’s not the experience of being loved, either.

This takes so many forms. People fall in love with someone they want to save (change). I’m going to love this person so much, they’ll heal and all these painful places within them that also cause me to suffer will go away. Or, this person has clearly told me they have trouble committing, but that’s just because they haven’t loved me before. Oh, yeah? I’d go get your crash pads out now. Sometimes a person gives to get– I’ll love this person so well, they’ll never leave me or hurt me. I’ll accept all kinds of poor treatment and keep showing up with love and eventually they’ll appreciate me and then I’ll have them. People are not possessions. Love is not controlling or manipulative. It’s not conditional or punishing. Love is accepting and when it’s happening well, it will open you and lead to the greater expansion of your heart and your partner’s.

I think a big part of the problem for people has to do with this desire to project. I have people write in about how they’ve made lists of all the attributes they’d like in a person and then they meet someone they’re attracted to and BAM! Miraculously, this person has all these qualities, down to their eye color and political leanings. Sometimes we want love so much, we simply see what we want to see. The best gift you can give someone is your curiosity and your full, kind attention, whether you’ve known them a few weeks or many years. Most people will tell you who they are if you give them the space to do that.

You really don’t want to be pushing important things under the rug, receiving the information that’s comfortable and editing out the stuff that’s confrontational, worrisome, or confusing. I think the key is to listen deeply and open to it all. You either love and accept people for all parts of themselves, the way you have to love yourself if you want to heal and be at peace, or you don’t, in which case you find the courage to gently release them. This is not to say we don’t all have our “stuff” and our places where we can grow. A great partnership is a foundation to move through those areas in a safe and loving space, to go deeper and become more vulnerable and still be accepted and cherished. That’s when you see a person blossom in the context of a relationship (If you haven’t blossomed before the relationship, it’s highly likely you’re going to go through some serious growing pains along the way, and you’ll either grow together or apart). But too many people fall in love with someone’s potential and that’s painful for both sides of the equation.

There are other areas this shows up as well. Parents who struggle to accept their children as they are, who have such a strong vision for their son’s life or daughter’s life, it’s hard to accept their path may look completely different. The heart cries out with truth. Part of loving means answering that call, and being in support of other people as they answer it.

You can’t change other people, and you can’t save them, either, but you can love them with your whole heart. Everyone deserves to be loved like that.

Wishing that for you, and for everyone,

Ally Hamilton

What’s Up, Monkey?

Sometimes life can be brutally painful. We lose someone we love beyond our ability to put it in words, way too soon. Loss like that is violent and shocking, even if it happens slowly. Or we have our hearts broken in a relationship, sometimes over and over again by the same person. If betrayal is in the mix, it’s even more painful. Or we lose a job we really loved or wanted. Or we simply can’t seem to get any traction going in any direction in life, with relationships or work, or even with how to be in this world. Maybe there’s an abusive background. A family of origin with addiction issues. A history of broken promises, emotional or physical violence. You get the picture.

Whatever you’re coming out of, you have a choice. You have the choice to ask for help if you need it. Healing is often confrontational and painful and lonely and confusing, and having someone there to hold your hand or offer an ear or a shoulder can really make all the difference. Someone who will kindly hold up a mirror for you, and make sure you’re examining your inner landscape clearly and thoroughly, because you can’t let go of those things that are blocking your ability to give and receive love without understanding them first and without allowing yourself to mourn and to grieve for what was, or what could have been. Your understanding is your path to liberation, your willingness to open to all of those emotions we’re taught to push down is the key. You actually want to pry the lid off and invite them all to come flooding in so you can swim in that stuff for awhile, and scream your heart out if you need to, and shed your tears, and exhaust yourself until there’s no denial and no fighting of reality left in you. There’s just facing it, as it is, and as it was, so you can open to how it could be. Your awareness and acceptance and compassion for yourself clear the path toward a new way of being.

Starting over is also lonely work. The old way doesn’t work, and the new way hasn’t become clear yet. Some of your closest family members and oldest friends may not like your new adventure. They may feel threatened and angry, like you’re rejecting them in an effort to take care of yourself, which really has to come first if you plan on being happy in this life. Socrates has a beautiful quote, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Even if you’ve been hurt and disappointed, neglected or abused, abandoned or ignored, you have the choice to live in fear, hardened and bitter and full of rage and blame, or to do the brave thing. To let go of the old handlebar you’ve been hanging off for far too long. The one that burns your hands with its heat and its pain and its why and its unfairness, and to reach out for love. To make yourself vulnerable in that space between the one and the other. To use all the strength and hope and courage you’ve got to propel yourself forward and reach out with your open hand and your open heart for that bar in front of you that’s full of promise and something new. Something different. To open to the possibility that you might do all that and slip right off the bar and land on your face and have to get back up again and start over. But that if you keep reaching and you keep trying, eventually the way will become clear. And then my dear monkey, the bars become rather fun.

Wishing you the courage to let go and reach out, and sending love, as always,

Ally Hamilton

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

If It’s Making You Miserable, That’s a “No”

relationshipstatusYesterday I got a phone call from one of my close girlfriends in New York. She’s divorced with a young daughter and recently re-entered the dating scene. It’s been six years since she’s dated and times have changed. I’ve experienced some of this myself over the last year, as those of you who follow the blog may recall. There’s all this online dating, okcupid and match and let’s hook up (I may have made that last one up), and texting and tweeting and instagram and seriously, isn’t dating complicated enough without having to distill your thoughts into 140 characters or update your relationship status so everyone knows you’re getting some? Or you were and now you’re not? Or you may be but aren’t sure?

Anyway, she called me because she went on a date with this guy and as far as she could tell it was a home run. They went out to eat and talked for hours, walked through SoHo holding hands and ended the night with a hot make-out session on her couch. He talked about how she’d have to meet different friends of his, and things they’d do together this summer. She felt totally confident they’d be going out again. He texted her when he got home and said he hoped she had sweet dreams and knew he would be. Said he’d call her the next day to make a plan, and that he couldn’t wait to see her again. And then, crickets. It’s been almost two weeks since their date and no contact from the dude. Of course it’s especially crushing because it was her first foray out of the gate, and because she sent him an email a week later “checking in” and heard nothing back. So she wanted to replay the whole night with me to see if she was missing anything because she feels rejected and her feelings are hurt. I got the whole play-by-play in such minute detail, it was as though I was there on the date. She wondered if he’d seen the picture of her ex that she hadn’t put away yet. If it scared the guy off that her ex still works for her dad. If maybe he thought she was conflicted and that she might reunite with her daughter’s father. If she had talked too much about the demise of her marriage even though he expressly asked, and had shared the story of his own divorce. If she had moved too fast by making out with him for so long, or not fast enough because she sent him home without letting him scramble her eggs. You get the drift.

I listened to all of this and when she was done I said I thought it had nothing to do with her. I know her. She’s funny and smart and kind and a total head-turner. She’s confident and sexy, and there’s just no way she’s not hearing from this guy because there’s anything lacking in her. I said all of that, of course, but also just listened because it doesn’t matter if I know all that, it only really matters if she does. I don’t know what’s going on with the guy. Maybe there’s someone else in the picture. Maybe he’s great at first dates. Maybe he got scared. Maybe he likes head games. Who knows? But she’s suffering and watching him update his statuses with pithy remarks and tweet about basketball games and post pictures with friends out to lunch. Of course I told her I thought she should stop “following” him everywhere and get back to the business of being awesome.

It’s incredibly hard to walk away from situations we don’t understand. Especially when it seems that a real connection happened, but we’re not always going to get answers. Some things will be left undone, unsaid, unknown. It won’t all be wrapped up in neat little packages of digestible information. Some people are in incredible pain, in lonely desperation with no idea how to move forward. Some people make a mess of things because that’s where they happen to be when you cross paths with them. Try not to expend too much energy in an effort to figure it all out. Just trust that it won’t be a mystery when it’s right. You won’t be wondering and suffering and having crazy conversations with your friends dissecting every sentence you uttered, searching for the mistake. The hole inside you you must have exposed. The dumb thing you said, or the fact that you snorted when you laughed. You won’t second-guess yourself. When it’s right, you’ll just be happy. (Assuming you were happy already.) Tired, but happy.

Wishing that for you, and so much more,

Ally Hamilton

The Person You Decide to Be

I’ve had two weddings, but only one marriage. My first wedding was to a man who kept the antique mirror I (painstakingly) had restored when I was nineteen years old, the one that belonged to my grandma whom I adored and lost long before I met him, and who also kept the vintage diamond necklace that belonged to my great-aunt, which I’ll never be able to pass along to my daughter. I call him Mirror Guy. I didn’t love him and I can’t tell you what I was doing with him because it feels like another lifetime and because I was in a fog fueled by outrageously painful migraines, percocet and a stubborn desire to cling to stories that didn’t serve me, to blame my parents and my childhood for my brokenness, and a general sense that I had no clue what I was doing here. I was coming off of some of the darkest times of my life and I was very young and totally lost. I’d been in that damaging victim mentality for too many years, blaming other people for my poor choices and behavior, numbing out, denying, running. I wasn’t an awful person or anything, I’ve always been kind, I was just a bit of a mess.

You know the syndrome, right? I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, so when you leave the room, I think you’re leaving for good and that’s why I’m freaking out. As if that makes sense. This thing that should have happened did not, so I have fear that no one will love me and nothing good will happen, so I’m just going to sleepwalk, okay? Because I don’t know how to do the ‘awake, I’m-going-to-take-responsibility-for-the-way-my-life-unfolds-thing yet, so if you want to marry me, sure. Sounds good.’ Or something like that.

Of course I thought I loved him or I wouldn’t have worn the Cinderella tulle dress and gotten myself to the beach club on time. But you can’t love if you’re sleeping. You can stick your arms out in the darkness and hope you run into something good, but you probably won’t. If you’re in darkness, you’re most likely going to fall in a ditch and break something, like your heart or your ability to keep sleeping. Something will give, that’s for sure. Nor can you see that the person you’re about to marry is incapable of telling the truth in any form about anything or of being honorable or kind, or of loving you in any capacity at all. I should have known because he told me he was separated when we started dating, but actually he wasn’t and it took two years to sort it out. Somehow I became fixated on that and never realized I didn’t love him and it would have been just fine if he’d stayed married to that other woman, thanks very much. I should have known because my therapist at the time asked me what we did together that was fun, or what it was that I liked about being with him and I literally could not think of a single thing. I should have known because too many of the things he said to me did not make sense and often came back to bite him in the arse later. It’s not like there weren’t signs. I begged for signs. Do you realize if you’re asking for signs that’s a sign? I didn’t.

I have to share about the signs because it’s comical. I’m going to the store to try on wedding dresses with my mom weeks before the wedding and she has to wait in the car because I’m throwing up. I’m throwing up. Nauseated at the thought of buying a dress to marry the man who turned out to be Mirror Guy. I can’t get the song, “You Don’t Know Me” out of my head for weeks. The morning of the wedding it is sunny and gorgeous and I think, “At least that’s good,” because we are getting married on a deck overlooking the water in front of 250 people, most of whom I’ve never met. At 4pm the sky turns black. I’m not exaggerating. Black, and then the sky opens and there’s rain like I have never experienced in my life, not before, not since, not anywhere, even in the jungle of Costa Rica. Torrential rain so thick it sounded like someone was an inch over the roof of the minivan with a thousand power-hoses. Giant frogs dropping from the sky would not have surprised me. Oh, did you catch the part about a minivan? My wedding party left in the limo I was supposed to be in because the makeup artist wanted to do me last so my makeup was fresh, but she ran so late they had to take off, so I went to the beach club in a minivan with my parents and my little brother and his best friend.

More signs: Because there was a weather alert with a red stripe across the bottom of every television telling everyone to get home and stay indoors, the traffic on the highway from the hotel to the beach club was nuts. Like a parking lot, people racing out of the city to make it to their homes. This is in New York, mind you, where this kind of weather simply does not happen. So my step-dad drove on the shoulder of the highway for six miles. So pretty much, on my way to getting married to the very wrongest person, hundreds of people gave me the finger. How many signs do you need before you turn the minivan around? That’s like a punchline, isn’t it?

When I got to the beach club my mom and I raced to the bridal room, and my best friend and bridesmaids shoved me into my dress and someone handed me a glass of champagne because I said I thought I might pass out, and of course champagne is the answer when you feel faint and are about to make one of the worst decisions of your life. So I went down the aisle like a wind-up doll, done up like a princess, vacant eyes. Worse than that. Deer-in-the-headlight eyes. As if I hadn’t said yes to all of it. As if it were just happening to me. When the justice of the peace announced we were man and wife, there was a crack of thunder and lightning so loud you can hear it on the wedding video and everyone laughed nervously and I thought,  “Well. You can’t ask for more signs than that.”

I say he didn’t love me and I know I didn’t love him, even though I believed I did and I believed he did in my sleepwalking state. But he didn’t want a wife, he wanted a mother. Someone to make dinner and read his screenplays and rewrite all the dialogue because people don’t speak like that. Who speaks like that?

More signs:

Him: Hey, why don’t you leave your dog at the kennel this weekend, because actually, I don’t like dogs.

Him: I need to go shoot this commercial, so drop everything and come, okay? Even though it’s in Canada and you’d rather stay home since I’ll be shooting all day and sitting around a set isn’t all that fun, and I don’t want you off exploring by yourself because you’re too young to be off on your own like that in a foreign country.

Me: Um. Canada? I think I can get around because I speak English.

More signs: It was never consummated. I’m not saying we hadn’t had sex before the wedding. I’m saying there wasn’t any after, and there wasn’t much before because he preferred porn to an actual human. But I didn’t know that then, so I was busy thinking there must be something wrong with me and feeling rejected all the time. Anyway, I had the thing annulled. I should say, I woke up several weeks after this wedding and had it annulled. And Mirror Guy is actually the perfect name, because that’s what happened. I looked in the mirror and thought, How? How did I land myself in this mess? How did I not stop, at any of those burning red flags and turn myself around?

Maybe it was compounded by the fact that the much older guy I dated had come before Mirror Guy and by this point I was just wrecked, but I got the message. I got it hard and ugly and in the face. There was no one to blame but myself, because my mom didn’t like Mirror Guy and said as much, and my dad and step-dad didn’t think much of him, either. All my fingers pointed back at myself and I thought, I’d really better turn this sh&t around, now, or my life is going to be bleak and dark and very painful. No light. I’d been doing yoga for a couple of years at this point and that’s the light I used to find my way out of a nightmare of my own making, without the mirror or necklace, but you know what? Such a small price to pay. Because in the years after that I started planting the seeds that sprouted into the life I have today. I look at my life now and I’m blown away. Two amazing, healthy, happy kids. A man who is everything I ever could have hoped for and so, so much more. Friends who know how to show up, a few of whom have been there through everything with me. A community of yogis locally and around the globe because the internet is pretty amazing. And all of you.

You get to decide who you’re going to be, you really do. I’m not saying everyone has equal opportunities or that the playing field is level. I’m saying you have the power to decide how you’re going to do your life, and what you decide makes all the difference in the world. You get to decide what to dwell on, what to emphasize, what to cling to. You get to decide whether to forgive other people and forgive yourself and move forward. You get to decide whether the past is going to determine your future, or be something you grow from. You get to decide whether you’re going to blame and moan or get busy working. I hope you decide to be your best self. To own your story. To refuse to let your past dictate your future. To get your hands filthy with your pain so it doesn’t control your life, because there’s no need for that. Your life can be so beautiful. Even with heartache and tragedy, there’s still so much beauty to be found if you open to it. Wishing that for you, if it hasn’t happened already.

Sending a ton of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Grab Your Inner Tube

onlyinastormSometimes life brings a huge storm our way. We lose someone we cannot imagine living without. We’re fired from a job. Our spouse walks out or has an affair. Our child is in pain. Other times we choose the storm, we walk into it head-on knowing there’s a need to leave the familiar shore and head into unchartered waters.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, I really didn’t know anyone out here. I moved with a guy who also taught yoga and liked cheese a little too much and when it all fell apart I ended up three thousand miles away from home with a few people I called friends, whom I was really just getting to know. And, of course, I had my dog. The ex had a serious road rage problem so for the six months we’d been out here, I’d tried to figure out some kind of reasonable solution. We had one car and would often leave for our own Ashtanga practice at 6am and head together to all the classes we were teaching the rest of the day. If I drove, he screamed at me to go faster, to take a different route, to cut this or that person off. If I took a right instead of a left he went ballistic. He became this insane person in the car, instead of the hilarious and kind-hearted person I knew, and it was jolting, because it would happen right after our yoga practice, or after a peaceful hike, or really, anytime we went anywhere.

When he drove it was generally a 90-miles per hour blur, involving the “traffic fingers” of many other drivers, blaring horns and screeching stops. Neither scenario was appealing or safe, but I truly feared we’d have an accident if I drove while he raged, so he drove and I would hope we’d get wherever we were going without a problem. Of course I spoke with him about it and he always promised to calm down, but never managed to pull it off. Then he was gone and I had no idea where I lived. I had to start from the beginning and remind myself, that way leads to the mountains, and that way to the beach. I went on a dating detox because I was alarmed I’d missed the cheese problem and some other stuff. I’ll explain the cheese thing in another post, lest you think I actually broke up with someone who liked Gouda too much. I say that as a friend of said ex. He still calls me every Thanksgiving because of a funny and crazy holiday we shared that involved his sister, my dog, and a pair of pajamas with bunnies on them. We check in from time to time. Grab a bite when I’m in New York. But when it ended, I just felt bereft and confused, like the rug had been pulled out from under me by my own hand because I’d ignored my intuition. I felt pulled to retreat and regroup, and thus began what we call in yoga my “Dark Night of the Soul”.

It’s a storm you choose because your way of being in the world hasn’t been working out too well. Friendships, relationships and jobs that don’t feel authentic are left behind, but it happens in an emotional hailstorm. When you start to change your inner wiring, the system is going to revolt. The tendencies, patterns and coping mechanisms that have been keeping all that raw emotion at bay are going to rise up. They’re going to beckon. If you have the strength and determination not to repeat a pattern you recognize gets you nowhere, not to numb out or run or deny, you’ll likely find yourself in a state of depression, which is generally confusing when you know you’re moving in a healthy direction. ‘”Shouldn’t I be feeling better?” you’ll think in despair, “I’m doing everything right.”

That’s the storm, and if you want to come back to yourself, that’s where you have to head. In many ways it would have been easier for me to move back to NYC where my family and friends were, or to throw myself into another relationship. Instead I meditated and practiced yoga and taught my classes and hiked with my dog and wept a lot. I felt lonely and allowed myself to open to that. I felt scared and heartbroken and sometimes I wondered why I didn’t just make it easier for myself, but somewhere I knew I needed the pain. I needed to finally lean into it and swim through it so it wouldn’t own me anymore. So I could come back to myself. It is a storm. Sometimes you get pulled under and are thrashed into the rocks and you can’t see the surface, but if you want to really know yourself, you have to embrace everything. You have to accept and integrate all parts of yourself. It’s not easy work, but when the sun emerges and you take a deep breath and know you’re home, the kind of home that’s with you wherever you may go, it’s so worth it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton