Make the Shift (Take the Challenge)

Wherever-you-go-thereWhen you feel the need to make a shift in your life, you really have to start by making a shift in your thinking. And in order to change something, you have to be able to see it clearly. Sometimes a way of being or thinking, or moving through the world has become so ingrained, we take it for granted. We assume this is “how things are”, and this is , “the way we are”, and that how we perceive things is accurate. Creating some space between yourself and your thoughts, so you can take a good look at them, is really the beginning of any change.

Our experiences shape us. We can only know what we know, after all. And sometimes what we know is based on lies. If you grew up in an unsafe environment, then what you “know” is that people can’t be trusted, and how you feel is irrelevant, and the best you can hope for is just to survive. If you’ve been betrayed, disappointed, neglected, abused, or made to feel that you have to earn love in order to be worthy of it, you have some serious unlearning to do. But if these beliefs are so much a part of you that you don’t even question them, it’s impossible to unstick yourself. You’re trying to work within a false paradigm that’s been built around the idea that you are not good enough, not strong enough, not lovable enough to have life look or feel any other way. So the first step toward liberation is simply to recognize that you have a perspective, and that your perspective may be really bent.

Also, for many people, the ideas that,” you are not your thoughts, and you are not your body”, are totally new. You do not have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. You do not have to identify with, or act upon every feeling you have. Like anything living, feelings arise, peak and subside. They don’t go on and on interminably. But many people are so reactive, they feel something, and act out. There’s no space between the event of the feeling, and the response to it. There’s no room to be curious, to observe, to reflect, to consider, and then to act. Or to not act.

Creating space between your thoughts, and between your feelings and your responses to them, is a life-changer. Knowing yourself is at the heart of any spiritual practice, and it’s also the key to living your best life. How do we know people? We spend some quality time with them, yes? We observe them, we listen to them with an open heart and an open mind and a desire to examine what’s real for them, what’s true for them. We ask questions when we’re confused. We trust, we nurture, we embrace. This is how we get close to people. You are a person. If you want to know and understand yourself, you need to spend some quality time with you.

It’s good to think about looking at things in a different way, or to consider whether your thoughts are weakening you or strengthening you. But if you really feel the need to make a change, if you’re deeply unhappy, feeling stuck, frustrated, or paralyzed by fear or a lack of confidence or self-esteem, of course you’re going to have to get to work. You have to deal with your particular mind, your specific way of being, your personal way of moving through the world and interacting with other people. Your own history, belief systems, struggles with intimacy, or difficulty acting on your own behalf. If you feel cut off from your own intuition, if you’ve lost the thread, you have to find tools that work for you so you can start again. Until you exhale for the final time, it’s never too late to do that.

Your Homework

Above is a link to a class. Let’s say doing this class is your homework. There’s a three-minute talk about making a shift, a five-minute seated meditation, and a short yoga practice. It would be great if you had some paper and a pen handy. The meditation is designed to help you take a look at the current state of your mind, and the quality of the relationship you’re having with yourself. You’re not trying to change anything at this point, you’re just looking for a baseline. You want to observe your “default setting”. Doing this once won’t get you there. It’s meant to be done every day for a week, so you can see how things are with you in general, not just on one random day. The practice is designed to get you breathing, and beyond that, to breathe in a conscious way, so you engage your mind with something that’s happening in the now. You train your mind on the present moment. If you observe during your meditation that your mind is loud, redundant and obsessive, you use the breath, and the physical practice to quiet the storm. If you find that your inner dialogue is harsh and unforgiving, you use your practice to feed a loving voice. If you struggle with a pose, that’s wonderful. You get to see if you can face the challenge calmly, and with compassion for yourself. If you can’t, that’s what you work on all week. If you fall out of a pose, you see if you can practice falling calmly (Type A personalities and perfectionists, take note).

You have to work with your own inner dialogue, your own personality, your own tendencies. At a certain point, it can’t be conceptual anymore, you need the visceral, raw, personal experience. Meet me back here in a week for another class that will build on this one. If enough of you participate, we’ll turn this into a 30-day challenge to make a shift. There’s no winner, or rather, everyone wins. You can email me (ally@yogisanonymous.com) all week and let me know how you’re doing, and what challenges you’re facing. Please be patient, I will answer everyone. If you’re serious about healing, I really want to help. Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton #timetogetbusy #toolsforhealing #dothework #noexcuses #letsstarttheparty #lifeisgood


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Timing

Love-makes-your-soulYears ago, way before I had my kids, and before I moved to Los Angeles, I let my best friend’s mother set me up on Valentine’s Day. It’s already bad, right? Just right off the bat, it’s a bad idea, but she said he was funny and really smart and nice looking and she thought we’d hit it off. So I met my best friend and her then-husband for dinner, and after, we headed to this club where said guy was going to meet up with us.

So we’re dancing and having a good time when the dude shows up. I take my hat off to him (not that I’m wearing one), because that’s no easy gig, showing up on Valentine’s night to meet a girl for the first time, who’s flanked by her best friend, and her best friend’s then-husband. It’s loud, but we try to talk, or at least I’m trying to talk, but it’s kind of useless, so we hit the dance-floor. It’s like dancing with an octopus, his hands are everywhere, and he’s grinning at me, and I’m like, dude, back off. It’s not at the point where I want to knee him in the huevos rancheros, but it’s not cool, and he’s saying something to me, but I can’t hear it over the music, and he, apparently, can’t hear me telling him to “calm down”, while I remove his eight arms from my person. He’s determined to say this thing to me, whatever it is, so I lean in closer, and he yells in my ear, “You look hot! It must be hot in there! I think we should go somewhere so you can take off your dress!!!” At which point I told him to get lost in no uncertain terms.

I share this with you in case you’re depressed about Valentine’s Day, even though I hope you aren’t. Someday, maybe I’ll share my New Year’s Eve story with you, which is even worse. But my point is, you really can’t force these things. You fall in love when you’re good and ready, when the timing works out, when you cross paths with someone else who’s also ready. It could happen on a blind date on Valentine’s Day, but it could also happen on any random Tuesday for no reason. That’s probably more likely, because when we pressure ourselves to feel something we don’t, to force a situation to be “right” because we think we “should” be at a certain milestone by now, it doesn’t work.

I get emails from people who think they “should” be married by thirty because all their friends are doing it, and that’s a nice round number, right? I get emails from people who are in their fifties and sixties, still trying to find that thing that lights them up, and feeling like they’ve failed because they haven’t. It’s never too late; if you’re breathing, you still have a chance. It’s not easy to be patient, to allow yourself to open, to allow the future to unfold. We want what we want, and usually, we want it now. The yearning for connection, for someone to see us and understand us and cherish us can be so strong, and the lack of those things can be so disheartening, especially if you’ve been waiting and wanting for a long time. I’m not just talking about romantic love, I’m talking about real connection, of any nature, but everything can change in an instant. That’s really the truth, and in the meantime, you get to be you, figuring it out.

That’s a huge thing, getting to be you. Nobody else gets to do that. Maybe you want love, but you have healing to do, work to do. That’s something you can start right now; that’s something that doesn’t require waiting. You can start nurturing yourself today. You could sit and meditate for a few minutes. If you did that every day for awhile, I guarantee you’d start to feel love and peace and connection. That might sound incredible and improbable, and in that case I’d challenge you to give it a try. You could buy yourself some flowers and a little dark chocolate, and go home and watch, “Moonstruck” tonight, since it’s a full moon and a movie that has the guts to look at how complicated human beings and love can be. It’s not always pretty, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.

Personally, if you are in a relationship, I hope every day is Valentine’s Day, every day is a day to celebrate the person you’re with, but whatever your situation, the key relationship in your life is the one you’re having with yourself. That’s a relationship that deserves your time, energy and attention, because if you aren’t being kind to yourself, I’d really start there. You have this gorgeous heart. Chances are, it’s been broken by now, at least once, and badly. Maybe you’ve been disappointed, betrayed, neglected, abandoned. Whatever it is, when your heart breaks you have a choice. You can allow that to harden you, or to soften you. I’ve tried both. I’ve never been good at being hard, but when I tried that, I can tell you it felt terrible–cold, lonely, depressing. In order to be hard, you have to close yourself off, you have to defend yourself against your own natural, inherent vulnerability. You might block out the chances of anyone breaking down your walls, but you also block the chances for joy, love, beauty, and all the other gifts this life has to offer. Softening feels so much better. It is what it is. It has been what it has been, but there’s no telling how it could be. Life has a way of surprising us again and again. Just when we give up and think, “I guess that’s it, then”, something happens to throw everything off course. Don’t lose faith in life’s ability to confound you, and maybe in incredible ways. Wishing you love and hugs and joy and laughter today and every day. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet people. I love you. And by the way, I still love my best friend’s mother šŸ˜‰

Ally Hamilton

Struggling

Few things in life are as uncomfortable as having to face your own fears, limiting beliefs about yourself or others, deepest desires if you aren’t living them already, and places where you feel trapped or paralyzed. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations of our own making, and we realize the only way out is through the raw and rough terrain of our darkest places. This is generally a very good thing, shedding light on whatever we’ve pushed down that his risen back up to bite us in the a$$, but I don’t know anyone who enjoys it or finds it comfortable. No one heads there willingly, you go because you realize you must if you want to start co-creating your life. A Jim Morrison quote comes to mind, “We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” Many people run, deny, or numb out when they come up against it. Sometimes this takes the form of extreme busyness, or all-consuming relationships, shopping, eating or not eating, drinking or drugging or sleeping all day. Holding back the truth or denying reality is exhausting. It’s painful and it’s also pointless. Eventually, if you want to be at peace, you’re going to have to turn and face yourself.

I get emails from people who are struggling all the time and most of them compound the pain by beating themselves up for it. “I know I need to stop doing this, but I can’t seem to help myself.” You stop when you’re ready to stop and not a moment sooner. If you aren’t ready, you’re going to keep hitting that brick wall for awhile. It gets worse before it gets better, because most people hit the wall through unconscious action for quite some time. When you start to realize what you’re doing but haven’t yet found the strength to stop yourself, it’s even more painful because you hit that wall without the blinders on. You watch it coming closer and closer until you get bashed in the face, and you wonder, “Why don’t I care about myself enough to jump off this horrible ride?” But you may need to play it out consciously a number of times before you find the power to make a different choice. “Stopping” isn’t some easy thing; it isn’t likely to happen right away just because you’re making an effort. If you’re trying to stop making habitual choices that end up hurting you, that means you’re trying to rewire your system and change like that doesn’t happen without great effort, determination, persistence, support, guidance, time, and a willingness to smash your face along the way without giving up.

Despair and frustration are not fabulous traveling companions when you’re working to create something beautiful. An inner voice that tells you you suck and you blew it again is not going to inspire you or strengthen you or motivate you to give it another go. That voice is more likely to make you want to pull a blanket over your head and call it a day. You’re looking for the death of one thing, and the birth of another. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes, but it’s never too late. If your way of being isn’t working, please don’t hate yourself for it. I mean, truly, welcome to the human race. Lots of people get stuck in the rage, blame, shame cycle, and it gets old and tired because living a life where you feel powerless really doesn’t seem like a great way to go. So you change things up, but by all means, get back-up, get yourself some help. That might be your yoga practice, it was for me. Also seated meditation, and therapy, and reading and writing and hiking and not feeding that inner voice of meanness that may have taken up residence in your head. What you need to strengthen yourself is personal, but that inner voice is the thing. If it’s nasty, starve it until it’s nothing more than a whisper, nothing more than vapors and feed a voice you want to hang out with. Little by little, the kind voice in your head will start coming out of your mouth, and informing your actions and your choices. Eventually, it will lovingly insist that you no longer bash your face into brick walls. In the meantime, go a little easier on yourself. This business of being human isn’t easy.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Soul-Purging Truth

soulpurgingtruthLast time I was in New York, I had lunch with a couple of girlfriends I’ve known for years. They spend a lot of time together. I only see them when I’m in town, but we talk on the phone, over email and on Facebook. One of them, I’ll call her Sue, had recently started seeing a guy she met on a dating site. It seemed like they had a lot in common and we were happy for her. The last guy she dated stole money from her for months and took off one day without a word. She has a history of dating men who end up hurting her one way or another, so we were hopeful this was going to be different. After we’d been catching up for awhile, she confessed that there was this “one thing” that was troubling her.

“Oh boy, here we go,” said our other friend, whom I’ll call Bertie. I pinched Bertie’s arm because she needs behavioral therapy sometimes. “No, it’s no big deal,” said Sue, “he’s just really close to his mom.” When we asked what she meant by “really close” she explained that his mom called him every night at 10pm at which point he’d go in his room, close the door and not come out for at least an hour, usually two. Sue was not supposed to interrupt, come into the room, or make any loud noises. Bertie’s mouth fell open and she hit my arm with the back of her hand before throwing her hands in the air, and then putting her head in them, elbows on the table. Sue’s eyes got wide.

“That’s kind of unfortunate timing,” I said, “And what’s with all the secrecy? Does he not want his mom to know he’s dating someone for some reason?” Sue said she didn’t know. “And you’re just supposed to wait until he comes back out of the bedroom? For two hours? Maybe this has just been their pattern all the years he’s been single, talking at night. Have you talked to him about it?” I was trying to get a fuller picture, but before Sue could answer, Bertie said, “I KNEW something was off about this guy!! That’s disgusting, okay, Sue?! He should talk to his mother during the day, not at night when the two of you should have some intimate time together. That’s just not normal. Something’s really off about this. And how many times do you have to get this lesson?? You have horrendous judgment when it comes to men!!!” Sue started crying. Bertie got angrier, said she was not, “up for another round of this,” threw a couple of twenties on the table and left in a huff.

Bertie loves Sue like a sister. I totally understood that’s what was motivating her outburst. Total frustration that someone she loves was probably heading for another brick wall (Sue is no longer dating the guy; she got out quickly and is relatively unscathed, and she and Bertie have made up). We’ve all been there. A person we care about deeply seems likely to get hurt and we’re powerless to stop it. It happens with family members, too. A couple of years after I graduated from college a close friend of the family said to me, “What are you doing with your life? You’ve graduated from Columbia University. When are you going to get it together?” And even though I knew she loved me, it stung and it sunk me a little further into that darkness. When a person is struggling, cutting them down is not going to help.

It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but we never know what another person’s journey is supposed to look like. Each of us has our lessons to learn and sometimes we need the lesson over and over again to really get it – to be done with a certain way of being or thinking or treating ourselves. It’s hard to love someone who’s struggling without stepping in and trying to manage their path. Picking them up and saying, “Go that way, COME ON!!! It’s so obvious!!!” But it’s inside work. You can offer help if someone you love is in pain, but ultimately, we each have to do our own work to heal.

If you love someone who’s struggling, patience is the lesson. Compassion. Understanding. We all struggle, we all have pain. If you love someone who’s bent on self-destruction, that’s a heartbreak. Sometimes it means you have to love the person from afar. But you can’t control anyone else’s journey any more than you can control your own. You can work on the way you respond to the people in your life, and the circumstances that present themselves. You won’t always show up the way you want to, you won’t always make the healthy choice, and neither will anyone else. You may knowingly head for a brick wall, because maybe you need one last ride to be done with that chapter. If you have something to communicate to someone in pain, do your very best to be kind and clear. It’s not easy, this business of being human. Honest communication is always good, but screaming your viewpoint in frustration, not so much. Words are very powerful, and they can go right to the center of a person’s heart. A person’s heart is precious. Just like yours.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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