Your 3-Point Shot, from Downtown!!!

Ive-missed-more-thanIf you have a song in your heart (and you do), you have to sing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s off-key, if the melody needs work, or the lyrics are clunky. Whatever it is within you that sets your soul on fire is your purpose. It’s the key to finding a meaningful, fulfilling life. It might take a lot of time to figure out how best to express from within you what’s aching to come out; the thing is not to give up, and not to worry when your song isn’t received as the gift that it is. Sometimes you’re going to get thrown out of the game and have to sit on the bench and figure out what happened. And if you haven’t discovered what lights you up from the inside, don’t give up on that, either. Frequently we have to unlearn what we’ve learned. It’s totally possible you’ve been pursuing a path that doesn’t really suit you, because you feel like you should. We get inundated with so many messages about what we’re supposed to do, and how we should look and feel, it’s a wonder any of us knows anything about what we really want. But it’s in there, I guarantee it. Don’t give up on yourself, and don’t give up on life. And don’t blame the ref and get stuck in resentment and anger, you know? It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as they say.

Here’s a question for you: Do you know how many mistakes you’re going to make in your life? How many times you’re going to do something or say something you wish you hadn’t before you exhale for the last time? I don’t know either, but I bet it’s a lot. I gave up trying to be perfect a long time ago. I tried for years and finally decided I’d rather commit to being happy. I let go of the idea of perfection, because I was in a pretty constant state of disappointment. Perfection is too heavy a burden to carry. It’s such a relief to embrace the idea of being perfectly imperfect. All too human. However you want to think of it, it’s a total liberation. The thing is to find your joy, your passion, your yes, and put everything behind it. And that’s easy to do when you realize that your gifts, whatever they may be, are yours to share. There’s nothing better I know of in this life, than the feeling that comes when you realize you’ve uplifted someone else. I think that’s because it’s what we’re here to do, to spread as much love as possible with the time we’re given.

This business of being human is not easy. It’s messy and complicated, and sometimes it breaks your heart wide open, without warning, on a mild Tuesday night, or a rainy Saturday morning. The absolute best thing you can do is get right with yourself. Know yourself deeply, heal what needs to be healed, uncover those gifts, and share them with abandon and delight. If you get back to love, (and it might be buried under some rage or fear or doubt or shame or guilt), you can try and fail left and right, and it will still be okay, as long as you don’t give up.

There’s a Maori proverb, “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” If you’re coming from love and doing everything you can to make the world within you and the world around you a more peaceful and loving place to be, your missed shots are meaningless. If love is at your center, you’ll never be careless with another person. You’ll never turn a blind eye when someone is suffering. You won’t hit below the belt, that just won’t be in your wheelhouse. You’ll consider the impact of your choices and your words and the way you’re moving through the world. And it will never be perfect, and there will always be circumstances that blindside you from time to time, moments when you don’t show up the way you’d like to, efforts and creative endeavors that sink, times when it feels like you’re not adding to the happiness quotient as much as you’d like. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” And achievement to me means living a life that brings you, and everyone around you, joy. Over-prepare, practice hard, pick yourself up again and again, and then go with the flow. Quitting isn’t an option, and sitting on the bench sucks!! Grab your jersey and get in the game! Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

It’s a Traffic Circle!

We-must-walk-consciouslyMany people say they want change, but not everyone is willing or able to work toward it unless a crisis occurs. Sometimes it’s an external trauma that becomes the catalyst for a new way of thinking or being. The loss of a loved one, for example, sadly stops the world for a moment and puts everything in perspective. For some people that shock, that realization that the line between life and death is so fragile, becomes a springboard for a different way of thinking about life and how to live it. And sometimes it’s an internal pressure that causes the need for something new. If your way of being in the world hasn’t been working for you, then at a certain point it will become too painful to carry on blindly, stubbornly, or bitterly.

Sometimes we are forced to see that we’ve been living a lie in some essential way. That’s just no way to walk through life, and if that’s how a person has been traveling on his or her path, a fork in the road will come. One sign will read “Numb Out and Carry on Avenue” and the other, “Let’s Get it Together Trail.” Some people choose the avenue, but the trail is where it’s at; “it” being the beauty in life. The path to your truth and your peace, which may very well be full of ditches and blind alleys and caves full of sorrow, tunnels on fire and hail in your face. Tell me that doesn’t sound awesome?! No one would choose the trail unless the avenue had just become unbearable. But the the avenue is nothing more than a traffic circle.

Change is the only constant, but we resist it and flail about trying to avoid it or deny its existence. Sometimes we try to stop it in its tracks, as if we could stop the tides of the ocean. That’s no different than standing at the shore freezing and raw, screaming at the moon to stop pulling on everything so hard. The moon isn’t stopping, the earth doesn’t have a pause button, you have already changed since the time you started reading this post. Sometimes people grow in different directions and leave, and in any case, those we love dearly are on loan, as are we. What you wanted five years ago may not be what you want now. Maybe the way you treat the people you love most isn’t working for you. Maybe you’re treating yourself terribly; those things usually go together. You’ll know if you’re in crisis, there’s no mistaking it. And you’ll know if you need to make some changes.

Knowing doesn’t mean you’ll do it. You may decide to keep riding in circles for awhile because the trail looks scary from the comfort of a car we’ve been driving for years that might be on cruise control. Maybe the ride is not fulfilling, but at least it’s the gear we know, right? When your battery dies or you get rear-ended or you have a head-on collision, or you are just so freaking tired of sitting in traffic blaring your horn, you’re going to pull your car over, right onto the shoulder where there will be signs posted that you will be fined if you do that. You’ll do it anyway because you cannot take it another second. You will walk away from that car and head toward the trail and eventually you will look back and laugh. And shake your head. And wonder why you spent so much time driving in circles when you could have soaked yourself in the downpour of your own truth, could have felt the sunlight spill right into your heart, could have laughed the laugh you did when you were five. Maybe you’ll be someone who doesn’t need a crisis to do that. I wasn’t, but maybe you will be. I wish that for you. Sending you love, and letting you know the fines for driving in circles are a lot higher than anything you’ll pay if you pull your car over! Ally Hamilton

Check Your Table of Contents!

In-the-Book-of-Life-theI bet if I’d met you when we were four or five years old and we hung out together for the day, no one would have had to tell us what to do to have fun. By and large, children know what lights them up, feeds their souls, and brings them joy. I have a six year old and a three year old, and believe me, I do not need to tell them what feels like a yes for them, or what feels like a no.

We’re taught that happiness lies in external stuff, that if you have questions, doubts, fears, pain, you should seek comfort and answers from the world around you. But it’s the world within you that holds the key to your peace. You were born with that, it lives inside you.

A lot of the work on the path to healing has to do with simply remembering who you are and realizing what you already know. You may have covered that stuff over with ideas and opinions, judgments and “shoulds.” It’s possible life has hardened you rather than softened you. Layers of rage, resentment, grief and fear are painful to sort through and sit with, but that’s the path to your peace, and you can get there if you’re willing to dig for awhile. Your digging may include tears, sweat, loneliness and a lot of discomfort, but the effort is worth your while. Because once you find that connection to your yes, you’ll have both the inspiration and the hard-earned wisdom to follow it.

Sending you so much love, a huge hug, and a shovel if you need one. Tissues, too.

Ally Hamilton

Answer the Questions that are Going to Feed Your Soul

In-the-end-these-thingsCan you imagine if the questions were: How much money did you make? How much stuff did you accumulate? How many hours did you work? How many accolades did you receive? How much did you weigh? Would that not be INSANE??! And yet, that seems to be much of our focus. And people buy into this (literally), and live their entire lives as slaves to the wrong questions.

They’re the wrong questions if you want to be happy, anyway. I am absolutely positive life is not about accumulating money and stuff. Are there the basic necessities of keeping a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator and clothes on your back? Absolutely. But once those needs are met and you’re not scrambling to make ends meet, your happiness quotient is not going to expand in any kind of correlation to your bank account. If you’re not happy on the inside, nothing external will fix that. And if a person isn’t thankful for everything they already have, they’re not going to be satisfied with more. If you can’t take the time to eat a slice of pie and really savor it, a whole pie isn’t going to help you with that. Because it will never be enough. If you don’t fill the void with love, it’s a bottomless pit.

Loving well is an art. It takes constant practice and study and patience and a willingness to be totally vulnerable. You have to expose the soft underbelly of your heart and offer it up. It requires listening well. Seeing well. And it means figuring out how to do those things for yourself, too. Love doesn’t control or manipulate or cling. It accepts and it surrenders with grace, with understanding. Love celebrates truth, and sometimes love is required to let go. Love wants to lift us up, to say yes! Go, do that thing that’s burning within you, whether I get to come along or I’m left to watch you shine from afar. Love honors us and says, of course you can. Loving well means walking through the world with your hands, heart, mind and eyes wide open. And love is inside of everyone. Sometimes people have to dig deeply to uncover it, but I believe we’re all made of the stuff, and learning to love well simply involves realizing that.

Living fully is so much about listening to your heart, to your intuition, to that YES inside you that’s bursting to come out. About recognizing that every single day is a gift to be opened and relished, and hopefully, received as another chance to spread more love. To finding your purpose, your gifts, and sharing them everywhere you go, to the best of your ability. Living fully involves presence, awareness, engagement and a desire to take nothing for granted. No smile, no touch on the arm, no rushed goodbye on the way out the door.

And letting go is embracing the reality that everything, everything is in a constant state of change. Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain. That scares the sh&t out of most people and it’s so understandable. But we are not in control. We do not get to decide what will happen and what won’t happen. All we can do is move toward healing and love, over and over again. All we can do is love with our whole hearts and try with everything we’ve got to shine as brightly as we can for as long as we’ve got. To help each other. To lend a hand, a shoulder, whatever is needed. Each day we are given an opportunity to practice. Each day we have a chance to move from love. The more we’re able to do that, the happier the day will be. If you can string a whole bunch of those together, that’s a formula for a very happy life. Make sure you’re living answers to the questions that are going to feed your soul. And have a gorgeous day. Sending you so much love, as I always am, Ally Hamilton

On Gurus, Pedestals, and Dogs…

The-dream-begins-with-aThe work of becoming awake and aware is not easy for anyone, and it’s even harder without a community of people on the same path, and a teacher (or teachers) along the way. When you choose a teacher, hopefully it’s because you feel some energy flowing from them (probably love), and you have some feeling this person has grasped something you may not have, as yet. Otherwise, what can they offer you?

I have had many amazing and gifted teachers along the way, and I have incredible gratitude for each of them. When I first started practicing yoga, I put a few of my teachers on pedestals. I had stars in my eyes and was falling in love with the process of coming home to myself. Once or twice I did this because a couple of them gave me the impression that’s where they belonged. If you put your teachers on pedestals, you do them, and your own process a disservice,  although it’s very understandable.

There are a few definitions of guru, and they vary a little between Eastern and Western schools. In the east, a guru is someone who has attained “God-Union”, someone who is going to help to bring you back to God. In the west, a guru is usually thought of as a spiritual teacher, or a “remover of darkness.” We tend to over-use the word in my opinion. Someone can come into your life, and help you begin to lift your own darkness and explore its roots, and heal. I believe that’s the work of a great teacher, to create an environment where healing is likely to occur. These people have a serious and lasting effect on your life, you are forever changed, but if you put them on a pedestal, there’s only one way for them to go. And if they’ve asked you to put them up there, they themselves have gotten lost. It’s a huge red-flag for me when I see someone refer to themselves as a guru, a master, a visionary. That’s a person who has started to lose their grip, and it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to help you much, because they are attached to an image of themselves, and of external confirmation of their own greatness; they have become confused.

If a teacher disappoints you over time due to their actions, it is still possible, and I believe it’s right, to remain grateful for the help they were able to offer to you. Just like a failed relationship, it’s still good to be thankful for the experience, and celebrate the love you were able to explore, and the growth that happened as a result of that. Anything that brings you closer to your truth, closer to that well of love within your heart, more in line with your inner voice, more aware of the divinity that exists within you, is a great thing. Of course if your trust was abused, or your vulnerability was exploited, it’s very difficult to remain grateful. There are a couple of teachers in my past for whom I have mixed emotions. But I’m still grateful they appeared in my life when they did, and helped me along my way, even if they proved to be all too human later.

I’m sharing this with you because I think finding your teacher at any given time is important and not to be taken lightly. Listen to your intuition. If it feels like an act, it’s an act. If it feels like a sales pitch, run. If it feels like a schtick, be careful whose Kool-Aid you’re drinking. I believe the work toward healing yourself and getting back to love is sacred. I believe teaching is an honor, and anyone teaching is hopefully open and honest and aware, willing to share their struggles and imperfections with you, not pretending to be anything other than human. If you’ve been hurt by a trusted teacher, my heart goes out to you. I will say, the best teacher you’ll ever meet lives within your own heart. I’ll also share that the teachers who have never let me down once, and who have removed the most darkness from my path, have been the dog I was blessed to live with for a decade because that was a lesson in unconditional love, and my two children who teach me so much about true love every single day. I have been in the presence of the Dalai Lama a few times, and I believe he has the goods. Other than that, I have been blessed with some very amazing, very human teachers, and I bow to them all. Sending you love, light, peace, and the ability to follow your intuition as you make your way, Ally Hamilton