Get Hungry for the Truth

gloriaSometimes we know something but we don’t want to accept what we know. Maybe we’re attached to a certain picture in our heads of how things should or could be. Maybe we’re in love with someone’s potential and think if we just hold on and wait, eventually this painful situation will grow into something else, something beautiful. There are all kinds of reasons we might reject the truth of how things are. The thing is, it always leads to suffering.

We are energetic creatures, and we all have instincts. That’s one of our main modes of survival. What you feel in your gut can be trusted, but our hearts and our minds are also in the mix, and this is where things get complicated. When we’re attached to people, or ideas about how things could be, it makes it so hard to walk away. It’s brutal. When the mind gets involved with all its shoulds and coulds and questions and rationalizations, it gets even harder to act on what we know. We can stay and suffer for days, weeks, months, years, all the while allowing our light to be dimmed. It feels terrible to ignore, repress or deny what you know to be true. It’s like trying to lift the ocean; it’s futile, but sometimes we’re just not strong enough yet. We’re not ready to let go, to accept, to surrender, to swim.

Those are the times when it’s the least comfortable to be human. When we just suffer and feel a little sick and tired all the time. When we spend our energy developing constructs that support the version of reality we pretend to be living in. The truth is a relief. It hurts like hell sometimes, but it’s so much easier. All the white noise drops away. We can breathe again. Maybe we’re heartbroken, but we can breathe. There is no one way. There is no one person, except yourself. There is no one path. Life is not obligated to give you what you want, and neither is anyone else. Sometimes the healthiest and scariest thing you can do is trust that something else is coming. Something that looks totally different than the picture you’re grasping, or the person you’re grasping, or the identity you’re holding onto like a cat sliding off a roof.

Most people will tell you that their lives did not unfold the way they thought they would. We all have our ideas and our longings, but sometimes our attachment to them really blocks our ability to let life flow. If someone doesn’t want to be with you all the way, release them and release yourself. If someone doesn’t know how to love you the way you long to be loved, accept the way they can love you, or don’t, but love yourself in the ways that are missing. Just don’t lie to yourself. Don’t kid yourself. Don’t numb out so your reality feels less harsh. Let the harshness push you up against the wall until you can’t take it anymore and you have to try something else, because life is short and time is precious, and so are you. You don’t have time to be in denial. I mean, you can do that if you want to, but there are so many better uses of your time and energy. Being with what is, leaning into all the beauty and all the pain, is incredibly liberating.

I understand the desire to be happy. Everyone wants that, but get hungry for the truth instead. Not everything is happy. It’s not realistic to expect we’re going to be joyful in every moment. Sometimes I see quotes that say things like, “We can choose happiness in every moment.” No, we can’t. Tell that to a grieving mother. Sometimes we compound our pain by feeling guilty about not being happy. I think we set ourselves up to fail and we alienate people who are suffering huge losses when we say things like that. It’s okay to be heartbroken or enraged or in despair. It’s okay to grieve until you think you can’t possibly have any tears left. In fact, I’d recommend that a lot more than trying to force yourself to choose happiness when everything in you is looking for a way to keep breathing. Just be where you are. Lean into it, breathe into it. It will change and it will pass, and it will do those things a lot sooner if you accept where you are rather than deny it.

I know sometimes it’s painful. That’s part of the path. Pain opens us and strengthens us and teaches us about ourselves. It shows us where we still have healing to do. It softens us so we understand empathy and compassion. It gives us a sharp taste of the opposite of joy, so that when joy comes, we get to appreciate and experience that fully, as well. Spirituality is not about being positive and light in every moment, it’s about being your authentic self. It’s about honoring what’s true for you. That’s a gift you give to yourself, and also to everyone you encounter. Don’t deny yourself that gift.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

There Are No Postcards from Limbo

In order to open to something new, to completely throw yourself into it, generally you have to let go of something old. The something old might be an idea you’ve had about yourself, a relationship that’s ended but hasn’t ended completely, a way of being, a job you’ve had forever, or a role you’ve played for someone that just doesn’t feel right anymore. We human beings are complex, and sometimes we try to jump and hold on at the same time, and then we lament the fact that our arm really hurts, and wonder why we can’t fully land in the new adventure, but seem to be swinging in agony somewhere between what was and what is.

I get emails from people who have gone through a breakup, but are still sleeping with the ex, because no one new is on the horizon, and it feels familiar and comforting in a scary, uncertain world. I think many people can look back on relationships that just wouldn’t die. The break up and make up thing, the going back once more, just to see, and just once more after that. Or people who stay in jobs that don’t inspire them at all because the idea of looking for something else seems daunting and overwhelming. People who are tortured and depressed because they’ve told themselves they can’t or shouldn’t pursue their dreams, some of whom are convinced they aren’t worthy of love, or happiness, or a life that feels good to them. People who think their past trauma renders them broken.

The only thing that comes from trying to leap and cling at the same time is pain. You’re attempting to perform diametrically opposed actions at once. You leave yourself suspended, hurting, neither here nor there. Limbo isn’t a great place to hang out. Change can be scary and it can really hurt if it isn’t wanted, but as always, the only power we have is to face reality as it is, and try to be fearless. Fearlessly open, accepting, heartbroken, afraid. Fearlessly afraid, that’s a concept, huh? But what I’m talking about is the ability to embrace and examine your feelings, and to accept what is true for you, and also what is true for other people.

When you know yourself and you know how you feel, you can speak about it calmly and with compassion. That’s really all you can do. You can’t control circumstances or other people. You can’t make anyone happy, you can’t force someone to love you or open to you, or decide to go for it with you. You can’t expect to forge a new path for yourself if you’re clinging to the old one. At a certain point, you have to let go and leap. It isn’t easy; few things in life that are worthwhile are also easy. Love isn’t easy, it requires bravery and a willingness to be vulnerable. Sustained gratitude isn’t easy, it demands that you pick your mind up and bring it back to all the things that are going well, that you do have, again and again. The birthing process isn’t easy, whether we’re talking about birthing a person into this world, or a new way of being, or a work of art. All these things require your willingness to go through the pain of opening, but you know what’s worse? Hanging out in the birth canal where you can’t breathe deeply and you can’t see the light. Where you feel like your head might explode, and where, if you screamed, no one would hear you. That’s not living, not in a way that’s sustainable.

If the journey is the thing, and I believe it is, hanging out endlessly at the forks in the road isn’t likely to fulfill you. There are all these amazing views and experiences and new languages and tastes and roads to be traveled. I understand it may break your heart to leap off the road you’re on, but you never know what’s around the bend, and clinging will never lead you to happiness. Trust that if you let go, you’ll land on your feet.

Sending you 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

Nothing Stays the Same

If you’re looking for stability, learn to count on yourself and your ability to face reality as it is. The “as it is” part is challenging, because it won’t always be the way we think it ought to be or the way we’ve envisioned it in our minds, and the “as it is” part is also not easy to wrap your head or your heart around, because it’s always in flux. It should really be about facing reality as it is in this moment. This is great to remember if you’re suffering right now — if you’re feeling hopeless or desperate or bitter or totally apathetic. Feelings aren’t permanent. There are certain heartbreaks you’ll carry with you for your entire life, but the intense searing pain of them will subside; the scar will form where that burning may be now, and that scar can be the symbol of your further opening, or your closing and hardening. To me those scars are like thorns on a rose. They happen on the way up, during the growth, but they lead to the most amazing blossoming. The deepest color of you.

We like to “fix” things, to feel like they’ll be where we left them, exactly as we remember them. It gives us a sense of security in this world where we are forced to realize that we don’t know what is going on, what we’re doing here, what happens after this. Just because these things are unknowable until they aren’t, you really have to grapple with them if you want to be at peace. You have to struggle and investigate and come up with answers that make sense to you, but as you do that, or as you try not to do that, you will probably want some sense of stability in this world, on this spinning globe. And so you will want your keys to be where you left them and you might need to have everything “in its place” before you walk out the door. You might put your mat in the same spot whenever you go to class, because you like to count on that. That one thing. You may try to do it with people, too. This person is mine. This person belongs to me. The truth is, we all belong to each other, we’re all connected, but you can never own another person. People are not possessions. Your children are not mere extensions of you, birthed into this world to make you look good. We all have to find our own way. There is a GPS for people. It’s called intuition, and if you’ve been following yours, you’re probably doing pretty well, but we aren’t trained to tune into it.

We’re taught that happiness and peace lie in externals. If you look right and go to a good school and get a good job and drive a nice car and get yourself a house and find someone to complete you, you’ll be good to go. As if there’s a formula, a game-plan you can work, a bunch of circumstances you can control, and some happiness equation that can only be solved when you meet someone else. But if you’ve tried going down that linear, orderly path, you know it doesn’t lead to your happiness because people aren’t robots, and life isn’t a game we’re playing, and if you want to be happy, that is your sole responsibility. Each person is a miraculous combination of 37 trillion or so cells and a lifetime of memories and heartaches and deep fears and moments of incredible shame, guilt, doubt, joy, ecstasy and imagination. You can’t set up “markers” for this stuff. The more you try to control life, and the people who are in your life, the more despair you’ll create for yourself. You’ll never be able to control or predict what life will set in your path or what other people will do, say, want or need. Not your partner. Not your children. Not your best friends. Not even yourself much of the time, unless you work on it quite a lot.

As much as you can, open to the adventure, to the ever-changing nature of things. It may not be comfortable, but at least life is always interesting. Recognize that love means you give people the freedom to be fully themselves, and sometimes that means they will leave you. Love doesn’t block the door. Not just because it’s unselfish, but also because love knows that’s not good for your tender heart. Love loves in the midst of change. In the midst of chaos or longing or grief or fear. Love just loves. It embraces everything. Don’t waste too much energy trying to control things or people, accept that it can’t be done. Live intentionally, and follow your own heart, your own inner yes. Try not to “peg” people, because how they once were is not always how they’ll be. Show yourself the same consideration and compassion. Do your best not to cling to ideas too tightly, or opinions, because they’ll cloud your ability to open to anything else. If you’re going to be riding this roller coaster with its twists and turns and tunnels without light and steep uphill climbs and exhilarating falls and scary ones, too, those rotations where you’re suddenly upside down, and those times when you think you might just throw up, only to be followed by gleeful screaming and laughter from the very heart of you, then you might as well do it with your arms in the air, your head thrown back, and your mouth full of yes. Hoping you can simply open to the ride and find your center through it all. That’s your stability, that beautiful heart of yours.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Be A Leaf, Why Don’t You?

In-the-depth-of-winter-IIf you were a leaf, everyone would want to look at you and celebrate you in the Fall, when your color was the most vibrant, and you were expressing the fullness of all your experiences. But we cling to the green. People spend a ton of time and energy trying to look green, and we romanticize the idea of wiping the slate clean and being innocent again, having everything ahead of us again.

The truth is, you can retain your innocence if you walk into each experience with curiosity. Nature is teaching us all the time that everything is always changing. Nothing living is exactly the same twice, so you can always walk into a situation with open eyes and an open mind and an open heart. And you can wipe the slate clean at any time. You don’t have to keep your past alive by feeding it too much energy. You can continually, “start again”, allowing yourself to open and grow and embrace your experience as it’s happening. Surprise yourself. You don’t have to put yourself in a box. You don’t have to decide you are “THIS” kind of person, or you would never do “THAT”. Allow other people and experiences to surprise you, too. Examine sweeping generalizations carefully.

When we are “green” we are working it out…our time of greenness usually involves some confusion and loneliness and flailing about. The wind can really whip us around as we try to figure out our purpose, and what it is that’s going to allow our Fall to be full of color. Why cling to that? And as hard as we cling to the green, we also resist our Winter, the time when everything hardens, and gets brittle and cold. We forget to acknowledge and honor and celebrate the wisdom that usually comes when someone is granted a long and healthy life, and that frequently, although the body may harden, the heart can be at its’ softest and most open state.

There’s nothing to cling to, and nothing to resist, it is happening. And if you consider areas in your life where you may be suffering, underneath that pain there is almost certainly a craving for something, or an aversion to something; craving and aversion are at the root of all suffering. At our core, if we keep craving the green and feeling aversion about the inevitable Winter, we will certainly suffer. If you can live your life celebrating all its seasons, rejoicing in your own growth, your expanding potential to spread love, and living in a way that recognizes your experience is fleeting, then you will truly want to be alive and present and open to each moment, you won’t want to miss or minimize or resist anything. You will want to embrace each breath, each conversation, each smile, each tear, each hug, each breeze, each rain, each sunrise, each heartbreak, each joy. Of course it’s human to fear the unknown, but if a leaf eventually falls to the forest floor, and is gently blown into the river, and that water ends up feeding the very tree the leaf grew upon, I think it’s pretty likely we all keep feeding the whole, feeding the LOVE.

Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton