Plan for Change

Embracing the vulnerability of being human isn’t always easy. Most of us want to feel some sense of stability and order while we’re on this spinning planet, in these bodies with their unknown expiration dates, loving people who also have a finite amount of time, so we make our plans, and we have our routines and habits, and we try to envision the path ahead. We imagine that we are in control, at least to some degree.

Sometimes the desire to create stability is so intense, we start to push things down — feelings that challenge this plan we’re working, truths that would create the necessity for change. Just as the earth is spinning away, everything living is always in a state of flux. The desire to grasp and control is understandable, but it leads to suffering. If you do have feelings, pain, ideas that are dying to burst from deep within you, they really need and deserve your kind attention. Sometimes the plan needs to be scrapped so a new path can emerge. The birthing process is many things, but easy isn’t one of them, and any change, even the most positive, has some loss attached to it. In order to open to something new, we have to let go of something old.

If you want to be at peace, and you want to be able to offer everything you’ve got, every inspiration, every drop of love, every creative spark, then the ability to sit with your feelings, and not ON them, is really key. To be willing to look fearlessly at what is within you, and also what is within the people around you, without resistance, without argument, takes incredible courage, but it’s also so liberating. You don’t have to act on every feeling you have, and you don’t have to give weight to everything you think, but if you want to know yourself deeply, and you want to know those closest to you as well, you have to be able to open to it all, especially those feelings that might turn your plans upside down.

Human beings are complex. We all have our experiences, our pain, our hopes and fears. We all have a lens we look through that is sometimes clear and sometimes very foggy. As we grow and evolve, what we see and what we need may shift; life is always bringing its twists and turns. Fear of change and fear of death can be crippling, but clinging to a stagnant plan isn’t living and it isn’t loving. Working on the ability to sit with intense sensation calmly is so worthwhile. People run from the discomfort of confrontation and never know themselves or the people they love most, and life passes them by.

You can create a container for all your feelings so you can hold them without worrying they’ll overwhelm you. That’s a huge part of the yoga practice, the ability to be less reactive and more responsive. Wishing you the strength to face your deepest truths and to live your life in alignment with them, and to be able to honor the same in those you love. May we support ourselves, and each other. That’s the stability we have on this spinning planet, in these bodies with expiration dates.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Use Your Key

The best way to meet fear is to allow yourself to feel it. For many people, social situations are a nightmare. What to say? What to wear? What to do if you’re left in a corner and no one is talking to you? What to say or what not to say if someone is talking to you? Whether you’ll get that call, and how badly you’ll feel if you don’t. Public speaking, lots of people are terrified about that. There’s fear of intimacy, the risks required to tear down your carefully constructed walls. Fear you’ll never live a life that feels good to you, you’ll never reach your potential. Or the fear that you will, and then what? Fear of spiders, challenging conversations, hurting other people, rejection, dying alone. There are all kinds of things that might scare you.

Being scared isn’t a problem; running from the feeling is. If you’re panicked, there’s a reason, and you have an opportunity to know something about yourself, probably something very important. All the shadow emotions are markers. They’re like burning flags, waving in the wind patiently, waiting to be examined. They’re marking those places where you still have some healing to do, but so many people are so averse to feeling uncomfortable, they flee. They fling the feeling away, or numb it out, or deny that it exists. They run from that flag like their life depended on it, when in actuality, their life depends on their willingness to walk right at it. If you can’t sit with your sadness and allow the tears to spill, how can you relieve your pain? If a close friend called you in real need, do you think you’d help them by hanging up the phone? Or getting them drunk, or taking them shopping or getting them laid? Yes, I said that, because many people seek relief from their pain in those ways, and no, none of those things would help. Dr. Earl A. Grollman on this, “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

When I say the “shadow emotions”, I mean fear, rage, shame, guilt, doubt, insecurity, jealousy, bitterness. The feeling of having been betrayed, or judged or shunned — any of those feelings that have some heat to them. Culturally, we aren’t trained to sit with that stuff. We’re told, “Don’t be sad”, “Don’t be scared”, “Don’t be angry”, as if we could just snap our fingers and make the feelings vanish. We learn some feelings are not acceptable, some feelings make those around us uncomfortable, and so we should hide them. In our crazy framework, men aren’t supposed to show fear, and women aren’t supposed to be angry. You know what we call an angry woman. We have a word for it, and it isn’t nice, but this premise is so nuts. We will all feel everything, regardless of gender. We will all have moments when we wonder what we’re doing here, and what happens after this. We’ll all doubt our ability to have an impact on the world around us from time to time. We’ll all wish we could do certain things over again, and differently. This is called being human. We aren’t robots. We can’t edit out or shut off the parts that are unwanted.

I met an eighty-seven year old woman today. It’s not the first time I’ve met her, she’s the mother of a good friend, but it’s the first time we really talked. Her husband died this year, and her brother, and his wife. She told me she goes out every night. Goes to the theater, goes to her bridge club, volunteers. She said it doesn’t change anything, but it makes the people around her feel she’s okay. Can I tell you my heart broke a little? She was married for sixty-six years and her husband never wanted her to have lunch or tea or anything at all with any other man. She told me that while she laughed and shook her head. I told her he knew he had a good thing. My point is, this life makes you vulnerable. That’s what’s asked of you. To open your heart, even though you understand your time is finite. Feel your feelings. Feel all of it. The heartache, the despair, the uncertainty. Feel it so it doesn’t block you, because life is simply too precious for that. You don’t have years to waste being stuck. It might take you years to heal, but that’s different than time spent on the run. What you run from, owns you. That’s clear, right? Anything you won’t face controls you. You’re not meant to be controlled, that’s why it doesn’t feel good. You’re meant to be liberated, but you have to use your key. Hoping that you do, and sending so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Being Dragged Kind of Sucks

Sometimes we’re so attached to an idea, it blinds us. Maybe we’re in love with someone, and we so want them to be in love with us, we deny the nagging feeling that it doesn’t seem to be the case. We think if we chase, or hang in there, or show up exactly the way we think this person wants us to, then it will work out, then we’ll “have” them. We start to try to fit into some kind of mold. We obsess and doubt and worry about everything, and we lose ourselves.

Attachment (“raga”) is one of the five “kleshas”, or obstacles that prevent us from experiencing oneness, that deep sense of being in the flow that Patanjali lays out in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras. That, to me, is the real peace. The surrender, in the bravest sense, to what is, and the ability to open to it and join in it. Some of it is very painful, and not at all as we’d like it to be, and some of it is so piercingly beautiful, it takes your breath away. The work is to hold it all, embrace it all, even when you don’t understand, recognizing that you are not in control of circumstances, or other people, or the way the story will unfold. Letting go of your grip on things. That’s the good kind of “losing yourself.” What you get to work on is your response to what you’re given, your ability to return to love again and again, even if your heart is broken.

The other four obstacles are ignorance (“avidya”, a disconnection from what’s real, an inability to see things clearly), egoism (“asmita”, identification with our ideas about ourselves, our judgments and “shoulds”), aversion (“dvesha”, a rejection of, or desire to avoid those things that are unwanted, whether they be particular feelings, reality as it is unfolding, other people, a certain outcome, or a way of being), and fear of death (“abhinivesha”, the fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear that we will leave important things unsaid or undone).

The yoga practice is about stripping away those obstacles. When we’re attached to a particular outcome, we close off the possibility for anything else. We stand there with our eyes shut tightly, gripping onto our vision of how we want things to be, and anything that doesn’t fit into our picture must be rejected or denied. When you reject reality, you leave yourself in a world of darkness, you become the architect of your own suffering. If you want to know which way to go, you have to open your eyes, because there’s nothing to follow but the truth; the truth of each moment, the truth of your particular situation, the truth that’s in your heart. When you start following those truths, you pave the way to experience the bigger truth of your connection to everything, your part in the flow.

When I started practicing yoga, I was a person who was trying to chase happiness. If I just do this or that, then I’ll be happy. “This” might be meeting the right person. “That” might be losing just a little more weight, or nine million other things that all had to do with external stuff. I had this idea that happiness was somewhere out in front of me, and that it would present itself if I just worked hard and made it to certain milestones. When you live your life that way, you begin to understand that’s all a lie. You hit the milestone, and it’s still not enough. Happiness is never outside of you. It’s inside. It’s not something you need to create, it’s something that’s already there, just waiting to be uncovered.

The stripping away process can be painful. It can sear you a little, or a lot. You may have to burn away all kinds of beliefs about yourself and other people, about the world and your part in it. The gift of yoga, if you practice long enough, is that it makes you hungry for the truth, whatever it is. Even if it’s painful. Even if you have to face a reality you’d do anything to avoid. When you’re in love with someone and they aren’t in love with you, somewhere deep down you know that, you feel it. That’s what makes you feel sick and doubtful and hooked in that awful way. You’re blinding yourself to reality. You’re cutting yourself off from your own intuition. So you might go through some pain, but eventually there’s a real liberation when you just open your hands and your heart and your mind to the truth, whatever it may be. The truth burning away in your heart. The acceptance of someone else’s truth, even if it means you must let go of some vision you had.

It’s a liberation because it’s exhausting to push down what you know. It’s like trying to hold back the waves of the ocean; it simply cannot be done. When you accept that, you can relax and swim, you can be in and of the flow, and then you can devote your energy to living each day fully, to loving each person in your life fully, to sharing your gifts freely, with abandon, to leaving nothing unsaid or undone, so that if it were your last day (and I hope you have countless days ahead of you), you could end it with the sense of having done all you could today, to live with your heart wide open.

Wishing that for you, and sending so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Some Things Will Never Be Explained

When it comes to a mental tailspin, few things drive us there faster than the feelings of being misunderstood, rejected, excluded, judged, or absolutely invisible. Sometimes we feel this way at the hands of someone with whom we were once close–an ex, an old friend we thought we’d always know, a family member. Other times it can be someone we’ve just met– a new romantic interest, someone at work, or, occasionally, a complete stranger. Whatever the source, it never feels good, but the more we value the opinion of the person rejecting us in one way or another, the more we suffer.

Some things will never be explained. I feel like I should almost write that twice. There are relationships that will deteriorate suddenly and with no explanation, and the only closure you’ll get is your own acceptance of the situation. Things happen, and sometimes you’ll find you’re dealing with someone who simply cannot or will not communicate. I don’t think there are too many things worse than ignoring someone, but you cannot force a person to open up. They’ll show you the respect to do that, or they won’t, or maybe they truly can’t. There are people who just will not go there, and it could be because “there” seems a very scary and vulnerable place to head. If you’re dealing with a person attached to never rocking the boat, you may have to sail away and leave the mystery behind you.

This occurs in so many contexts. Close friends of mine used to see another couple every weekend. Their kids grew up together like brothers. There wasn’t even conversation about whether the families would see each other Saturdays, there was only talk of what the plan would be. They vacationed together, their kids went to school together, most afternoons the moms would rotate taking the kids home so the other could have some free time. One week it came to a halt. At first it seemed okay. The friends were just unusually busy that weekend, but then the afternoons weren’t working out, either, and another weekend came and went with vague excuses of tons of work, and the need to have some “family time.” My friends thought perhaps the other couple was having marital issues. They waited, confused, trying to be patient and sensitive, but weeks went by, with no straight answers, just lots of avoidance. Finally, they asked about what was happening directly, but were still met with nothing solid. So after months of wondering and worrying and questioning and obsessing, they gave up, even though the kids didn’t get it, and they were at a loss as to what to tell their son. Of course the mystery around it is the thing. It’s so hard to let go when you don’t understand.

Another friend received a letter letting him know his business partnership of almost a decade was ending, with no conversation and no kindness. When he went to talk to his partner, he was met with rage over something that had happened years ago, and his partner had held it in so long he exploded, said horrible things to all their mutual friends, and turned the whole thing over to lawyers, with gag orders and all kinds of moves that prevented honest, open communication. People leave room for forgiveness, or they do not, and it’s not like his partner lived in a glass house. We all make mistakes. People who lack compassion for others tend to have very little for themselves, and it’s sad, because righteousness doesn’t cuddle up very well at night.

People write to me about amazing first dates, when they’re absolutely certain they’ll be going out again, only to start to question themselves days later when there hasn’t been any contact. When you’re left in a vacuum and the other party won’t talk to you, it’s just natural to start to spin–to replay things in your mind, to wonder if you were misunderstood, to second-guess the things you said or did, or to start chasing, to see if you can fix your imagined mistakes.

Here’s what I want to say about all of it. Your opinion of yourself is the one that matters. You have to be you. You will find there are people who will see you and embrace you with all your flaws and all your beauty and all your pain. People who will not give up on you or throw you away, not ever. Stick with those people. Not everyone will be able to see you clearly, and not everyone will dig what they see, even if they are seeing clearly. It’s okay. It doesn’t feel good, but it really is okay. Try not to waste too much energy on people who won’t communicate with you, because there’s no potential there, and try not to give too much time to those people who won’t forgive you for being human and therefore fallible. There’s no potential there, either. People who misunderstand you or judge you or exclude you are also human and fallible. That’s how it is. Not everyone handles their pain well. A lot of it is not personal, although rejection surely feels personal. Keep your center. Remind yourself of who you are. If you screwed up and have owned it and apologized but have not received forgiveness, at a certain point you have to forgive yourself. You know who you are. You do the best you can with where you are and what you’ve got, and you put one foot in front of the other. As long as you’re doing your best to move from love, you won’t go too far astray, but don’t allow these unexplained mysteries to rob you of too much now. Now is precious, because it won’t come again. There’s so much love in the world, and it would be a shame to miss it because you’re boiling yourself. Shake yourself off and pick yourself up, and remind yourself, if you need to, that this business of being human is not easy. Send compassion to those around you, and send some to yourself, as well. Do your best to direct your energy forward. You never know what beauty is around the bend.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Choose The Thoughts That Strengthen You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ally Hamilton

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

Live Under the Roof of Your Hope

I think most people simply want to be happy, to live a life that feels good to them, to love and be loved, to find a purpose, to feel passionate about what they’re contributing, to feel that life has meaning. It took me a long time to understand that seeking happiness for myself was bound to make me miserable. Thinking of the world and of your life in particular with the mindset of, “How can I be happy? Why aren’t I happy? What do I need to do to get happy?” is like having blinders on. Seeking happiness for other people is a shortcut to all kinds of amazing stuff, like the feeling of being fulfilled, fired up, and full of gratitude. I think we all experience this to some degree. I’ve always been more excited to give someone a gift than I am to receive one. There’s something so awesome about creating or finding the perfect something to give someone and it’s even better if you get to be there when they open it. It’s a way of saying, “I see you. Your particular spark has not gone unnoticed. I know you. I know what will make you laugh or feel understood.” It’s beautiful to give that to someone. You could give a version of that to any stranger you encounter today just by being present. You could say hello, and how are you, and you could care, and you might just turn someone’s day around. Maybe more than that.

What I didn’t realize until I started teaching yoga, was that there’s no end to that. The more you focus your energy on uplifting other people with anything you’ve got, the better you feel, but that’s the reverse of what we’re taught and lots of people end up in despair, feeling hopeless because the “me formula” doesn’t work. Of course you have to take care of yourself, practice compassion for yourself, and learn to love yourself if you aren’t already, but it is absolutely the case that the more time and attention you place on how and what you might contribute, and the more you act on those feelings, the happier you’ll be. If you doubt that, make today about eliciting as many smiles as you can from other people. Extra points for strangers. I guarantee if you do that, by the end of the day you’re going to feel at least a glimmer of hope, if not an avalanche because people are good, they really are. And yes, this world can break your heart, and there are things we need to fix for the sake of our kids and their kids, the planet, and all the creatures who live on it, but directing your attention to how you might contribute to the well-being of others is definitely a huge step in that direction. Good for others, good for the planet, good for you — there’s no downside. Also, you’re wired for that. We have something called mirror neurons; compassion and empathy are natural to us. If you’ve hardened yourself against that, it’s time to allow your heart to break open to the world again. It won’t kill you, it will free you.

Today I don’t hope to be happy, because I am happy. Not everything in my life is perfect, but I have two beautiful, healthy children and tons of love in my life, and I get to spend time doing what I love. What I hope for is the strength to face reality as it is. To accept the truth. To see clearly, and by that I mean, to see myself clearly, to see others clearly, to see the world clearly. I’m hungry for the truth, not happiness. It’s not all going to be happy. Some of it is going to break your heart right down the middle. If you’re attached to being happy all the time, you’re going to suffer even more when those storms come because you’ll have the pain of the circumstances, but also the pain of your resistance to them. If you hope to open to things as they unfold, and if you hope for the grace to accept both the beautiful and the heart-wrenching, you’re probably going to do quite well.

Sending you love, and the hope that you recognize your potential to give and receive love. Pretty sure that’s why we’re here!

Ally Hamilton

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


It’s difficult to bear sometimes, but life may not unfold the way we envisioned or hoped. Sometimes we have an attachment to how we wanted things to look, feel or be, and sometimes we’re attached to how we want things to be for those we love, too. It’s particularly piercing as a parent to have to accept that you can’t save your children from pain; it’s part of life. Someone at school might say something or do something that crushes your little person and makes her feel small or ashamed. One day, someone will come along and break your daughter’s heart, someone else, your son’s. Life and circumstances will bring their own challenges, it’s the way of things. We all have our heartbreaks and confusion, those things we have to grapple with and accept. It isn’t possible to make it to adulthood without having some areas within us that require examination and healing. It probably wouldn’t be ideal if that happened, anyway because a big part of empathy comes from having been there.

Wanting to manage another person’s path is human and understandable, but it isn’t possible. You can love the people in your life. If you’re a parent, you can teach your children about compassion by having compassion for them, and for all the people you encounter. You can teach them the vulnerability of being human by acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake and apologizing for it, and by teaching them to appreciate each day by doing that yourself. You can show them what it looks like to be strong, and also what it is to have people in your life you can count on and lean on when times are tough. You can teach them how to show up for themselves and for other people. You can show them that they matter, that what they say or feel is important to you, and that they have an impact on the world around them. You can teach them how to listen by listening. You can give them the tools to face life with all its beauty and all its pain. You can show them what it means to love with your whole heart. But you cannot manage their paths or anyone else’s.

People try to do this all over the place, not just with their children, but with romantic partners, siblings, parents and friends. The truth is, we really don’t know what another person needs in order to learn and to grow. You can’t control what another person will do, want, say, feel or need, nor do you want to try. Accept people where they are and as they are, anything else is a set-up for pain. Everyone longs to be seen and understood, so if you claim to love someone, do that for them, see them clearly, and love them, even if they’re struggling, or flailing or walking down a path you don’t understand. I can tell you in some areas in my life, I had to ride the train into the brick wall over and over again, sometimes knowingly and without a helmet to finally understand and accept certain lessons. Do you have any friends in your life whom you look at and think, “How many times do you need to do this same thing you keep doing before the light goes on? Hello?!” Do you realize they probably have, or have had, the same thoughts about you? We learn the way we need to learn, and it isn’t always pretty, and it certainly isn’t always logical.

When things don’t unfold according to the picture in your head of how things should be, see if you can open to a new vision. Let the painting reveal itself to you. Maybe there are going to be colors you never would have imagined, adventures it wouldn’t have occurred to you to dream about. Twists and turns that take you deeper, and make you more vulnerable and compassionate than you ever could have been otherwise. Maybe you’ll discover a depth of love you didn’t know you possessed, an accepting love that opens to a new path that doesn’t look anything like the one you planned, but loves anyway. Because what else can you do, really? You can fight and cling, or you can let go and love. I really recommend the latter.

Sending you love, as always,

Ally Hamilton