Weathering the Storms

Between-stimulus-andSometimes life feels like a huge storm that sweeps in and throws us off center, carrying us up and spinning us around until we can’t tell north from south. This can happen when someone with whom we’re close is in pain, and we feel helpless to stop their suffering, and end up suffering ourselves. It can happen when we lose someone we love and are faced with that gaping hole where a whole world used to be. It can happen when unexpected events turn our plans upside down, and it can happen when we, ourselves feel pulled to make changes.

The reality is, we are in control of so very little. The only thing you can really control is the way you respond to what life puts in your path, and even that takes enormous effort. We can make a practice out of choosing the thoughts that strengthen us, rather than the ones that weaken us. We can make a daily, hourly effort to see all the gifts around us, whether they exist in the fact that our heart is beating for us, or in the sunlight streaming through the window, or the rain pattering on the roof. Maybe there’s a gift in the eyes of a stranger, or someone who knows you and sees you for who you are. We can think about what we say before we say it. We can try to align ourselves with the truth in our hearts, and move from that space. We can share our gifts, we can give away our love, because we’ll never run out. When we love people, we can tell them, and not as a throw-away thing, but in a way that makes them understand we see them, really. These are all things we can do.

We’ll never control what other people do or say or want or need, nor should we try. Everyone has to do his and her own journey. Most people just want to be happy. A lot of people attach their happiness to external events, markers, or milestones. It’s not surprising, it’s what we’re taught culturally. Sometimes people feel frustrated or enraged or in despair because they just can’t seem to grab that brass ring. They can’t get that great job, or meet the right person, or look the way they want to, or get life to bend to their will, and so they lash out, or shut down or numb out or run away, thinking maybe a different direction or path or person or house or job or car or diet will finally solve it. But it’s an inside thing, and you don’t need to pick up and go anywhere. You really just need to sit down and get quiet. Mostly, we have the answers. We know what we need, but we are not always ready to accept what we know.

One of the greatest and best things we can all work on, is non-reactivity. There will always be storms, after all. Things will happen that we don’t expect or want. People will always surprise us, sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in ways that rip our hearts out. If you work on inner steadiness, no one can take that from you. This, to me, is one of the most powerful and amazing gifts of a consistent yoga and seated meditation practice. The ability to connect with your breathing, slow it down, and feel it happening, is both simple and profound. It’s a way of reminding yourself that you are here, right now. You have that, and because you’re present, you can see how things are with you. You can scan your body for tension, and when you exhale, maybe you can soften a little. Maybe you can relieve yourself of the illusion that you’re in control and have life by the reins. When you do that, you grant yourself the greatest power you’ll ever have. Fighting reality is exhausting. Creating constructs where you’re in the center of the world, and everything is happening to you and around you is not going to bring you any peace or strength. Recognizing that you’re part of something so much greater, that you’re connected to everyone and everything around you, is a much more expansive and accurate way to perceive reality.

Most people are not trying to hurt you, or me. Most people are trying to piece together some happiness for themselves. Having a breathing practice gives you the power to pause when things or people around you get intense. When you’re on your yoga mat, and you hold a lunge pose for eight, ten, twelve long deep breaths, you train your nervous system and your mind to breathe through intense sensation. Rage creates intense sensation in the body. Loneliness does as well. So, too, do fear, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, envy, joy, excitement, and gratitude. All of these feelings create chemical reactions in the body. Most people have an easy time holding the emotions and sensations that feel good (although not everyone has an easy time receiving love, embracing joy, opening to contentment), and most people struggle with the emotions and sensations that hurt like hell, such as grief, despair, and hopelessness. The thing about feelings is that they don’t last forever. Storms come and go. People may also enter and exit our lives. It’s incredibly likely things will not go according to our plans. For so many people, an uncomfortable feeling arises and they want to flee, or to numb out, or deny its existence.

If you can’t sit with uncomfortable and painful feelings, there’s no way to know yourself. Knowing yourself is at the heart of every spiritual practice. Otherwise how can you know which way to turn? How can you discover what scares you, what’s holding you back, what frees you up? How can you recognize your unconscious drives if you numb out every painful feeling that fights its way to the surface? How can you feel good about the way you’re leading your life if you lash out whenever you feel threatened or angry or envious or unheard? You don’t want to be a storm yourself, but that’s what it’s like when we can’t stop and breathe and lean into our painful feelings. We’re just an unpredictable storm barreling through life, leaving pain in our paths. Not intentionally, but just because we don’t trust ourselves. We think if we do that, if we stop and give our rage a chance to catch up with us, it will overwhelm us, but it’s the running away or pushing it down that does that. Creating some space between your feelings and what you decide to do with them is brilliant. It’s powerful. That’s a skill you can put to good use so you can direct your energy toward ideas, people, and pursuits that will uplift you, and not the stuff that tears you down. As always, you’re welcome to try a little yoga online with me if you’d like. You can sign up for a 15-day free trial, here: You have nothing to lose but your feelings of being powerless in the face of life’s storms. Life does not have to be that way.

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

Your Most Important Relationship

jimrohnIt might sound strange to some, but you are currently, and have always been, in a relationship with your own body. Like any relationship, you may have healthy and unhealthy patterns, but thinking in these terms is a very good way to get clear on whether your relationship could use some work.

Your body is full of information and wisdom. If things are going well between your body and your mind, then you’re in a fairly constant conversation, and you’re honoring each other, but for so many people, that’s not what’s happening. We aren’t taught to listen and respond to what we’re feeling. Sadness creates sensations in the body. So do fear and rage. Many of us grew up hearing things like, “Don’t be sad”, “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t be scared”…as if we could just turn the feelings off, make the sensations go away through sheer willpower, and we’re taught the same as far as feeding ourselves, too.

If you bought into the idea that you could just shut a feeling down, chances are you lost touch with your intuition long ago. Why should a child not be sad sometimes? Because it’s making the adults around him or her feel uncomfortable or inadequate? Sadness is a normal human emotion we will all experience. When we’re taught to edit out our emotions, we become lost to ourselves. Where a feeling ought to be, instead we find shame, self-loathing and confusion. Thus the desire to numb out.

The more you relax, the more your body opens. I say this in the context of a yoga class, but also in the context of your life. If you’re gripping and clinging and “white-knuckling” your way through life, it’s going to be hard to breathe. You’re probably going to observe tension in your body, because it takes effort to hold on so tightly. The more you release the idea that you’re in control, the more your body releases tension. This doesn’t mean we don’t work and try and put our effort in, it just means that we watch the quality we’re bringing to the effort we’re making. There’s a difference between working hard and killing yourself.

If your body is tired, are you listening and responding? For the sake of this exercise, think of your body and your personality as the two players involved. Is your body saying no, while your personality is saying, “hell, yes!”? Are you forcing your way through life? Discipline and determination are good; if you want to get things done, they’re essential, but so is compassion for yourself.

How are you feeding yourself? Are you eating stuff with seventeen syllables and wondering why you’re exhausted all the time? Your body talks to you when it’s hungry, but it never asks for aspartame or red dye #40. If you want your body to feel good, you have to treat it nicely, and give it fuel it can use. Try an organic fuji apple, they taste great. Or an avocado. Or a million other things that aren’t processed or bagged or shot full of chemicals. Give it a month and see how you feel. You’ll be amazed if this is new to you.

What kind of listener are you? When your body talks, do you take in the information, or think you have all the answers? Do you treat your body like it’s an object you own? Do you think it should bend to your will? Would you treat another person the way you treat your own body? Are you disgusted with it? Do you lament the way it looks and feel disappointed that this is the body you have? What if you expressed those feelings to another person? What if you told someone you hated the way they looked and that they were an enormous embarrassment to you? What if you called someone else names, or told them to stay up when they desperately needed to sleep? What if you told them they didn’t know anything and you had all the answers, and they should just be quiet? Wouldn’t that be a horrendous way to treat someone? If your body was your partner, would she or he want to break up with you? How are you treating yourself?

Your body is your home, it’s where you’re going to live for your whole life. You don’t want to terrorize it or abuse it. Like any relationship, the kinder you are the more trust there will be. The more you listen and respond, the more your body will pull through for you when you ask, but if you want to open and release, you can’t force that. You know that’s true if you’ve ever had anyone scream at you to relax. We respond to love and compassion. That’s the stuff that opens and strengthens us. When we feel safe, we blossom. If you don’t know how to be kind to yourself, or you’ve lost the ability to be in conversation with your body, your yoga mat is a great place to work this stuff out.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Don’t Worry

doctorowAs much as possible, try not to “future-trip.” It’s so easy to get caught up in worries about things that may never come to pass, to start envisioning worst-case scenarios, to formulate conversations in your head, or come up with plans you might not ever need. While you’re busy boiling yourself this way, your nervous system is tensing up and sending cortisol through your body, as if these events are actually occurring. In other words, you can make yourself sick with worry. You can raise your blood pressure with your thoughts.

When are we most likely to do this to ourselves? When we’re feeling vulnerable, tested, or threatened, and maybe it’s part of our inclination toward negativity bias, too. We survived as a species by being alert to possible danger, but there aren’t too many sabertooth tigers waiting to chase us down to eat us for lunch these days. We aren’t built for longterm stress, we’re built for short bursts. If we’ve been hurt before, we try to set things up so we won’t be hurt again, and that’s understandable, but you don’t want to live defensively. You know the saying, right? “Hurt me once, shame on you…hurt me twice, shame on me.” But the thing is, living in fear isn’t really living, it’s gripping. When we start to spin out, and imagine all the things that could go wrong, we’re losing the potential for peace in the current moment. We’re feeding fear instead of love. If you’re dealing with survival, keeping a roof over your head, and caring for your loved ones, that’s real stress, but worrying won’t help, action will. Any small thing you can do to try to right the ship or get some momentum happening is going to make you feel more energized and hopeful, and optimism in the face of difficulty is often the difference between turning things around, or staying stuck.

The same is true when we travel back in time, with regret, despair, or longing. Whatever has happened, it’s behind us. Of course we all have treasured memories, and there’s nothing wrong with visiting old friends and cherished loved ones we can’t hug anymore, in our minds and in our hearts. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about traveling backward as if we could redo or undo something. There’s no potential left in the past. We can learn from it, we can be softened by it, but we can’t rewrite it.

For so many people, the mind catapults from one to the other. Longing and sadness over things behind them, fear and anxiety over things out ahead of them, and the poor nervous system goes along for the ride. The most powerful way I know to land yourself fully in the now, is to become aware of your breath. That’s the greatest gift of yoga, and seated meditation—they both center around your breath. Those inhales and exhales are always happening in the present moment, and if you can feel your breath, you know you’re here; awake, aware, engaged with life, which isn’t happening behind you, or out in front of you. It’s happening right now.

Worry doesn’t change the outcome of a thing. Believe me, if worrying about something could prevent it from happening, we’d know about that by now. We’ve all had the experience of making ourselves ill over something that never came to pass, right? It’s especially hard when we love people and we’re concerned for their well-being. Maybe someone you love beyond words is putting herself in harm’s way. How do you not worry about that? First of all, when we love people, we make ourselves vulnerable, so you may as well accept that. And, you can’t save anyone but yourself, and you may as well accept that, too. There are certain answers we’ll never have until we exhale for the final time, and perhaps, not even then and that also makes us vulnerable.

Anyway, my point is, we can’t control the outcome of anything except how we face what we’re given, and even that takes tremendous effort. We can love people with everything we’ve got. We can offer an ear, our shoulder, a hand up if we’re in a good position. We can listen, we can grieve with people, or make them a meal, or try to find help for them if we aren’t sure how to help them ourselves, but our worry doesn’t help anyone. If someone is afraid for themselves, you really don’t help by reflecting that fear back to them. If someone is suffering, you don’t serve them by getting down in the mud and wailing with them.

I believe you can help a lot simply by being present with someone, being able to hold a space for someone’s grief or anger or loneliness or confusion or shame. That’s a huge thing you can do, but you can only do that if you show up with open ears, an open heart and an open mind. You won’t find those things behind you or in front of you. They’re within you. When you can show up that way for yourself, and for all the people in your life, then I believe you’re really living. Life is short and precious, or it’s a long and painful; I believe those are the options. Try not to miss too many moments. Life brings enough heartbreaks of its own, we don’t have to make this stuff up. It also offers a million gifts a day if we’re paying attention. It’s easy to take it for granted that we all woke up today, right? But that is a gift. If you have your health, it’s a gift. If you have people in your life whom you love with your whole heart, that’s a gift, even if they’re causing you some pain right now. Loving people so deeply that we hurt when they hurt, is a gift. Try not to miss too many gifts if you can help it.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton


If the posts are helpful to you, you might check out my books here <3

You Have to Choose It

failurepickfordWe all have our stuff; ways we’ve been hurt or disappointed, longing that’s gone unmet, grieving we’ve had to do. We also have our histories, our patterns, those dynamics we grew up with that shape (but needn’t define), who we are. The more work we do to know ourselves, the easier life becomes. Otherwise we’re being pulled by unconscious drives, and are along for a bumpy, painful and confusing ride.

Having said that, consciousness is not the final destination. You might know yourself well. You might recognize your tendencies and know exactly what’s driving you. You might understand and embrace in your heart what’s true for you, what scares you, what excites you and inspires you. That’s all amazing, and what we work toward, because that way we can be accountable to ourselves and to everyone else. But in large part, happiness is a choice, and it can take enormous willpower to choose it.

Don’t get me wrong, here, because there are heartbreaking, stressful, lonely times in life when it would be unrealistic to think or expect that you could simply choose to be happy. When we lose people we love, for example, it’s appropriate and healthy to grieve. When we’re under enormous pressure to keep a roof over our heads, it lacks compassion for someone to suggest to us that we should just choose to be happy. I’m not talking about those times.

I’m talking about the day-to-day rhythm when we can easily allow the mind to get snagged on what isn’t going well, on what we don’t have that others seem to, on everything that hasn’t happened yet. You can look up “negativity bias” if you like, because we’re naturally inclined to be on the alert for any potential dangers. This is a life skill we don’t need the way we used to, but old habits die hard. Since we don’t have to worry about saber tooth tigers chasing us down for dinner, we might dwell on paying the mortgage, or our inability to feel like life is flowing the way we wish it would, and lose sight of all we do have, like our health, the ability to put our hands over our hearts and breathe in deeply and breathe out fully, which feels great (try it if you don’t believe me), the sun shining in a particular way, or the laugh of someone we love so much, the way their nose crinkles when they smile.

The other thing is, just knowing we have unhealthy tendencies in some areas is not always enough to stop us from playing them out, even though we know they lead to a head-on collision with a brick wall. This, once again, is where willpower and vigilance come in. If, for example, you have a history of dating people who are unavailable in some way, and you’ve come to understand that pursuing people like that leads to your own heartbreak, you may still feel pulled to head in that direction should the opportunity present itself, even if you’ve worked on bringing this pattern to the surface, even if you’re extremely self-aware. This little (or big) pull may always be there; it’s what you do, or don’t do about it that matters. Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen, and this goes for your habits, too. Don’t feed your pathology. If you meet someone at work and you start having a coffee here and there, and you find out along the way that they live with someone, but you’ve already developed a little crush, I would say get the f&ck out of Dodge, and do it now, no more coffees, no more flirting, just shut the thing down. If you meet someone and they’re in all kinds of pain, and you can tell they just really need to be loved, and you feel like you’re the one who can love them the way no one else has ever been able to love them before, if you tell yourself you’re the missing link, and your love can heal them and save them, even though you’ve done this in the past and you know it’s futile, I would say, get the f&ck out of Dodge, and do it now.

It’s not okay to be reckless with your heart. If you are, you’ll find your heart will harden eventually, and out of your mouth will come words like, “You can’t trust anyone”, or “People suck”, and neither of those things are true. Also, you’ll prevent yourself from diving in all the way when things are good, because some part of you will still be pulled toward those things that bring you pain. As I’m writing this, it’s 12:45am, and a woman is walking by my house on her cellphone, crying loudly between bursts of words. I don’t know who’s on the other end of the phone, but it’s clear she doesn’t feel heard because she’s raising her voice, and she’s sobbing about why it always has to be this way, why this person has to keep hurting her. The real question is why she’s choosing to participate. Because I really think life is too short to spend the wee hours of a morning that way. People can’t “keep hurting us” unless we give them the power to do that (I’m not talking about things that may have happened when you were a child. Children are powerless in abusive situations, and some adults feel that way, as well. If you fall into that category, you need to reach out for help).

Feeling pulled in an unhealthy direction is fine. Acknowledging that it’s happening is good, especially when we do that with people we can trust. Bringing our darkness into the light takes the power away from it. But feelings aren’t facts, and we don’t have to act on every feeling we have. In fact, there are a lot of feelings we’d do best to observe, because all feelings have one thing in common: they arise, they peak, and they subside. No feeling lasts forever. Once again, I’ll suggest to you that yoga is an excellent way of training yourself to sit with uncomfortable feelings, calmly. Holding Warrior II when your quad is burring, and sweat is dripping down your face, teaches your mind and your nervous system to breathe through sensation. That’s all a feeling is—it’s a sensation. If you need help with this, or want to try practicing with me online, you can sign up for a free trial here. Sending you love, and reminding you to starve your pathology. Your heart will thank you for it.

Ally Hamilton

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

Make the Shift, Session 3

Yoga-is-99-practice-1We expect to encounter resistance when we’re being forced to do something we don’t want to do, but it’s a curious thing when we experience blocks in those areas where we’re looking for movement; where we want to shift or change or grow. The thing is, all change, no matter how positive, has an element of loss attached to it. In order to open to something new, we usually have to be willing to let go of something old, especially when we’re talking about our ideas or opinions or ways of doing things.

Change is not easy for most people. And yet, there’s no escaping it. Everything is shifting all the time. You are not the you you were five years ago, and neither is anyone else. You can’t predict the future any more than you can rewrite the past. All you can do is open to things as they are, and as they unfold, and develop a strong center. That’s internal work, there’s no way around it.

It’s completely understandable that we’d like to be able to count on some things. That we’d like to create some order inside all of this chaos. Some people long for that more than others. Controlling people are usually people who’ve been hurt, abandoned, traumatized or disappointed in some essential way. Of course they want to pin things down, and sometimes they want to pin people down, too. But we’re on a spinning planet, we have our bodies with their unknown expiration dates, we have our loved ones in the same situation, and there’s just no telling what’s coming down the path. At a certain point, you have to open to the ride, and let go of the things you can’t control. You can work on knowing and accepting yourself. You can figure out what lights you up, and what it is you have to offer, and you can get busy offering it. You can work on how you respond to what you’re given.

There’s enormous power in that. When we become accountable for the energy we’re spreading, when we take ownership of our lives and decide we’re going to move in a direction that feels right and good, we wouldn’t expect to come up against resistance. But if those ideas are new to you, I can almost guarantee that will happen. When you get to the point when you have to start doing things differently because the “old way” hasn’t been working out too well, it’s likely your system will revolt. Resistance isn’t always obvious; it can feel like boredom, anger, frustration, lethargy, a desire to numb out, an inability to focus, or a need to distract yourself. If you aren’t used to putting your feelings into the mix, if you haven’t been following your own intuition, a mere decision that you’d like to start doing those things isn’t going to be enough.

Rewiring our systems so we can start to live in alignment with what’s true for us, and in a way that feels good, takes determination, discipline, and a deep desire. It’s also nice to have some support, at least one person who’s rooting for you, when you can’t find the energy to root for yourself. It’s very painful to come up against all the ways you’ve been sabotaging yourself, and to uncover the reasons why. It’s inevitable you’re going to discover, or finally acknowledge some deep wounds that you’ve been carrying with you, if you haven’t been able to show up on your own behalf all these years. Before you can get to that strong center, you really have to lean into your pain, and integrate all parts of yourself. Anything you reject creates a chasm within you. A wall of shame or guilt or doubt. You really have to access your whole being. No one else is you. That’s such an incredible thing, isn’t it? Seven billion of us, and only one you. Of course you’re worth fighting for; if you don’t show up as your whole self, with all the gifts you have to offer, the world loses a gift only you can bring.

Anyway, my point is, resistance is perfectly natural, but you don’t have to let it stop you. You can lean into that, too. You can notice your lethargy, and drag yourself off the couch in spite of it. You can head out the door and walk around your block one time, with the intent of noticing just one thing that inspires you or surprises you or makes you feel happy to be alive. You can sit and meditate, and observe whatever arises calmly, with the understanding that it, too, will change. You can do your yoga practice, and feed a loving voice. You can commit to yourself, to your healing and your ability to nurture yourself and your dreams, and the people in your life. You can stay the path, even when the sleet is hitting you in the face, hard, and some voice inside your head tells you it would be easier to turn back and numb out. And you can tell that voice kindly, but with conviction, to screw off, because you know in your heart this is the way to go if you want to feel the sun shining on your face anytime soon.

Make the Shift, Session 3

This week, our third week, we deal with resistance. We face it head-on, and we move right through it. Grab your journal, your pen, and your yoga mat, and head into session 3, yogis. Rooting for you, and sending you love,

Make the Shift, Part 2

The-greatest-weaponWhen you’re looking to make a significant life shift, awareness is the beginning. If things haven’t been going well, you need to figure out where you are now, and what it is that’s been driving your choices and actions. If you aren’t happy, if you aren’t at peace, if you aren’t living a life that feels good to you, my feeling is you haven’t been listening to your heart. Maybe you can hear it, but you haven’t been heeding it. Maybe you’ve been reckless with yourself. Maybe you’re feeling so badly about who you are, or you doubt that you’re lovable at your very core, and you’ve been flailing around, either trying to prove that you’re right, or prove that you’re wrong.

There are all kinds of reasons we cut ourselves off from our own intuition. It could be that you grew up in an unsafe environment, and learned to push down your feelings. Maybe you were taught that how you felt had no impact on the people or the world around you. Sometimes we’re given the responsibility of caring for other people at an age when we really need nurturing ourselves. It’s totally plausible that you could reach adulthood with no idea at all of what you want, what lights you up, what excites you and scares you, what it is that gives you a feeling of purpose, meaning and gratitude. That happens all the time.

Maybe you grew up and were taught that everything you did was magical. If your parents fought your battles for you, or stepped in to solve things every time you struggled, you might not have the tools to see things through when they aren’t coming easily. Dreams rarely do. You might look around at someone else’s life and think they’ve had all the breaks and that’s how they’ve gotten where they are. But for most people, blood, sweat and tears are involved. Persistence and perseverance, and the willingness to fail and not let that deter you, over and over again. Sometimes we don’t believe in ourselves and our ability to bring our dreams to fruition.

It could be that you’re living your life to please other people, or to fit in, or toe the line. Maybe that’s what you were taught, and you have a loud inner voice asking who you think you are to consider doing something great. You might compare and contrast yourself to everyone around you; that’s what we’re taught to do culturally. If you’re having a crisis of confidence, or your self-esteem has taken one too many hits, it’s really hard to pick yourself up and get moving. And it’s impossible if you don’t realize that’s what’s happening. Sometimes we just feel stuck and lost and hopeless, and we don’t know why.

So there are a lot of reasons a person might drown out their own intuition. Make themselves so busy there’s no time to hear it, or numb it out with drugs, alcohol, relationships, or shopping. Run from it or reject it, because to listen to it would be to acknowledge that things have to change. Fear might be stopping you in your tracks, or it might have you on the run.

Whatever it is that’s been motivating you, it’s time to sit down and get quiet so you can take a good look at it. It sounds so simple, and it is. It’s just not easy. When I started meditating, I can tell you it was anything but easy. I would sit, and close my eyes, and notice my breath, and start to scan my body. And every time I’d get to my heart, there was a physical pain. It was as if my heart was encased in steel, or some kind of vice grip. And tears would stream down my face, and I didn’t even have a name for them. I couldn’t have told you what the tears were about, or what the grip was about, I just understood if I wanted it to loosen, I was going to have to sit there and allow all those feelings to arise, and I was going to have to lean into them. This went on for months. I’d sit, and sometimes rage or frustration would come to the surface. All these months, all this sitting, and still? But at the same time, I began to develop the awareness that I was not my thoughts. I began to witness my experience, to simply hold this space for myself to release, to let go, to have some compassion for myself. And after awhile, and what seemed like an ocean of tears, the grip loosened. The feeling of steel around my heart went away. I started to breathe in a way I hadn’t before.

The combination of the physical yoga practice and seated meditation is powerful. If unconscious forces and tendencies are driving your life, you’re probably in a lot of pain. Meditation is a way to stop hiding from yourself. To bring everything into the light so you can look at it with a little distance and decide what you want to feed. Your physical practice is a place where you can do that feeding, that nurturing. You can learn to choose one thought over another when you learn to focus your mind–that’s what the focal points in your practice are about. The ability to direct your energy is key, because where your awareness goes, your energy flows. If you keep dwelling on what went wrong, you’re feeding it. If you shift your attention to what’s going well, what you do have, you start to feed that. A foundation of gratitude is a platform from which any of your dreams might flourish. A foundation of despair sucks everything down with it.


Make The Shift – Session 2 (meditation / vinyasa flow) **

In week 2 of our Make the Shift Challenge, (the class is above), you take what you now know about where you are, and you start to make choices. Do you want to feed those feelings and ideas that are weakening you, or do you want to focus on those thoughts and ideas that strengthen you? You use your breath to stay connected to the present moment, to stay engaged with what’s happening right now. But you do this with your awareness of your tendencies and habits, especially the ones that are bringing you down. And you kindly kick those to the curb as you feed a loving voice.

In addition to the class, your homework is to watch what you’re feeding yourself in all areas. To become more conscious about what you’re eating, reading, watching, listening to…it’s all food for your mind and your heart. And to feed yourself well. Sending you love. Ally Hamilton

** New subscribers: get the first 10 days of your monthly subscription free ($15 billed monthly after trial) when you use coupon code MAKETHESHIFT. Subscribe here.

Want to Have a Happy New Year?

What-the-New-Year-bringsThere are four main tools I think you need in order to be happy. You can cultivate all of them on your yoga mat. Just four, not so bad, right?

The first is a kind and compassionate internal dialogue. I really can’t emphasize what a life-changer this is, especially if you’ve been sharing your inner world with a harsh critic. Sometimes people tell me they believe they need that nasty voice in order to get things done. Without a relentless battering, they feel they’d just be sitting on the couch, letting life pass them by. But I respectfully and passionately disagree with that view. I used to have an incredibly unforgiving inner voice. If I screwed up, even in a small way, I’d berate myself for hours, days, sometimes longer. That, to me, is the definition of prison. It’s so debilitating and painful, it’s a wonder anyone can do anything that way. Full of bitter disappointment with themselves, disgust, frustration, contempt. You really want to feed and nurture a kind and compassionate inner voice. One that roots you on, not one that tears you down. None of us is perfect. We will all blow it sometimes– say or do something we wish we hadn’t, betray ourselves to avoid hurting someone else, lie to avoid confrontation, run, deny, or numb out so we don’t have to look our pain in the face. This is called being human. The idea is to learn and grow and develop tools to make the best choices you can, so you can show up the way you want to for yourself, and for everyone in your life. You’re not going to get it right every minute. Let go of perfectionism, starve a shaming inner voice, and grow a loving one.

The second tool is related to the first. Choose one thought over another. There’s so much power in this. Much of our suffering in this life comes from our own thoughts. Not all of it, and I think that’s really important to acknowledge. There are truly some things that will never fall into the category of, “thank you for this experience.” But short of those devastating losses, we can go a long way toward inner peace by choosing thoughts that strengthen us over the ones that weaken us. There’s no benefit to letting yourself spiral and agonize over something behind you that can’t be changed. And nothing fruitful is gained by obsessing over what could go wrong in the future. Training yourself to pick up your mind and bring it back to right now is like a superpower too few people are using. You don’t have to lose a day, an afternoon, an hour making yourself sick over something you can’t undo or control. In yoga, we use the breath as an anchor point. It’s always occurring in the now. You could pause, close your eyes, and become aware of your inhale and your exhale. Just like that, you’d be present. Awake. Engaged with the moment.

The third is the ability to sit with intense sensation, calmly. What are intense sensations, and what do I mean by “sitting with them”? Loneliness, rage, grief, jealousy, insecurity, shame, doubt, fear, feelings around being betrayed, abused, neglected, abandoned, rejected, or ignored. Those are all intense sensations. On your mat, you can practice breathing through intense physical sensation. Your quad may be on fire from holding Warrior II for twelve breaths, but if you train your mind and your nervous system to stay with it, you’ll find you can face those other emotional intense sensations off of your mat. I’m really talking about non-reactivity. So many people go through life feeling like victims of circumstance, happy when things are going according to their plans, and suffering when they are not. There’s no power in that. You can’t control what life will put on your path. You can’t make someone be something they aren’t, or want something they do not want. But you can work on the way you respond to what you’re given. On the ability to stay centered no matter what is coming at you.

The fourth tool is facing reality as it is. It’s not always going to be the way we want it to be. Sometimes we’ll be lost, heartbroken, confused. A lot of people run when they feel those feelings. Of course we all want the good stuff. We want to feel happy, in love, joyful, inspired, understood. We crave those feelings, and want to avoid the painful stuff. Life is full of both. You’re going to get all of it. You cannot outrun that reality, or deny it, or numb it out, but you can die trying. People tend to think facing those feelings will kill them. It’s the not facing them that does it. Yoga by its very nature is confrontational. Sometimes you’ll show up on your mat full of energy and feeling open and strong. Other days you’ll feel tight and tired. There will be certain poses you love, that feel great in your body, and certain poses you don’t like. The ones you don’t like are usually the ones you need. They’re reflecting back a place where you might be holding tension, physical or emotional. Practicing how we face confrontation is good, since life is full of them. Learning to listen, to respond with honesty, awareness, patience, breath, kindness–these are tools that will serve you well. If you learn to listen to your body that way, if you can give yourself the gifts of respect, understanding, nurturing and acceptance, you’ll be able to do that for other people, too.

Four tools. If you want a happiness guide from me, there you have it. Wishing you the healthiest, most loving, joyful, inspired, HAPPY New Year, yet. If you want to cultivate these tools with me online, just shoot me a comment below and I’ll give you a coupon code. Lots and lots of love, Ally