Live Out of Your Imagination

A few months ago I received an email from a guy who was ending a relationship with the woman he’d been hoping to meet his entire life. They had a great thing going, looked at the world in a similar way, had no shortage of laughter, great times, passion, real conversations and the ability to relax with each other. They’d taken trips and met each other’s families (he met her entire family, she met his mom and sister, but he doesn’t speak to his dad), and everyone felt they were a great match.

However, this man had grown up watching his dad abuse his mom verbally, emotionally and physically, and he couldn’t get past the fear that eventually this great thing he had would turn into that painful thing he knew; that one day he’d find himself throwing a pan at the head of this woman he adored as their kid stood there watching, or saying things to her that he wouldn’t be able to live with, or doing things that would make him feel terrible about himself. He remembered feeling helpless and enraged as a child, and throwing himself between his mom and his dad as he got bigger. He said he did have a temper, and had managed to keep it in check for the two years he’d been with his girlfriend, but he didn’t think he’d be able to do that for 60 years. So he was going to say goodbye to her to save her from a life of pain. (I could say a lot about how we get ourselves into trouble when we try to manage other people’s paths, but that can wait for now).

The other day someone asked me to address the difference between sitting with your pain (non-reactivity), and processing it (liberation). I think this is a huge and important distinction. Sitting with your pain means you don’t run or numb out  when uncomfortable and intense feelings arise, such as rage, grief, fear, shame, loneliness or despair. You don’t race out the door, pop a pill, have a drink, play a video game, go shopping, take a hit, open the refrigerator, pick up the phone in anger, or shoot off a fiery email. You just allow the feelings to arise and you observe them. You notice sensations in your body, like maybe shallow breathing, or that your shoulders are up around your ears, or there’s tension between your eyebrows, or a literal ache around your heart or deep in your belly. You let the feelings wash over you without acting, and with the understanding that they aren’t permanent and they aren’t facts. They won’t kill you, and you don’t have to act on them. They’re just feelings, and they will arise, peak and subside. By sitting with them you open to the possibility of learning something essential about yourself — the why of your rage, fear or shame — and by facing those feelings you own them, they don’t own you; they don’t run your show, you run it. You choose how you respond, you don’t allow yourself to lash out in a state of reactivity and end up with a mess you have to clean up. Working on becoming less reactive and more responsive is huge, it’s a life-changer.

If you want to process your feelings — if, for example, you find rage is coming up for you all the time, then I would recommend that you find yourself a great therapist or coach, someone you trust and feel safe with, so you can dive into the source of what’s causing you so much pain. That’s as subjective an undertaking as finding a great yoga teacher, someone who resonates with you, and with whom you feel comfortable. I know so many people who say they tried therapy once (or yoga) and it “wasn’t for them.” You may have to call a number of people to figure out the right person to work with. Having someone who can kindly hold up a mirror for you so you can see your pain clearly, but also your light, also your power, can be so helpful. Combining that with a consistent yoga practice so you can work on feeding a loving voice while you’re on your mat is really powerful. The other thing I’d highly recommend is seated meditation. When you sit, and there’s nothing coming in, and nothing going out, you start processing what’s inside you. It’s kind of like emotional fasting, not that there’s an absence of emotion, just that the emotion is arising from deep within you. Eventually, if you stick with a seated meditation practice, you become more interested in the fact that you’re thinking, and not in the thoughts themselves. Eventually you find some peace in the space between your thoughts, which will increase if you stick with it. I’ve been practicing Vipassana (insight) meditation for almost two decades, you can check it out at if you’re interested.

The thing is, there’s no easy way around this stuff. Whatever your pain, you’ll have to go through it, but there are so many tools and healing modalities that help. You just have to explore and figure out what’s going to be helpful to you on your path toward healing. For me, yoga, seated meditation and therapy are a great mix, along with reading and writing. For you, it may something else, but there’s no reason your particular frame of reference has to rule your life. You can only know what you know, right? Whatever you’ve been through makes up your frame — the lens through which you look at the world and process data. Sometimes that lens is bent, or cracked, or covered over with a thick layer of despair. You work with your lens so you can see clearly. That’s the liberation I mentioned above. It’s not the that pain goes away, it’s simply that you recognize it when it comes up, and the force of it has been so diminished by your work, it doesn’t rule your life anymore. You don’t assume that what you’ve known is all there is. You have the freedom to imagine something else for yourself, to create something that maybe you’ve never known or seen, but you know in your heart is possible. You have the power to forge a different path.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love, as always,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here, and my yoga classes and courses here. If you’d like to sign up for one-on-one online coaching with me, please email me at for more information.

Does This Society Make My A$$ Look Fat?

Does-this-society-makeYour body is your home, it’s where you’re going to live for your entire life. If you hate your body (and I hear some variation of this from people all the time), there’s a war raging within your home.

There are all kinds of things we could say about the culture that’s breeding this kind of self-hatred. If you want to sell products, you have to make a person feel that they need what you’re selling and a lot of what’s being sold doesn’t even exist. Most of the time what people buy is the promise of how things could be if only (you’d lose ten pounds or live in a bigger house or drink this beer and have these kind of friends and always do and say the cool thing), but there’s no diet that’s going to make you happy. There’s no house, car, or hairspray that’s going to satisfy the beast of your despair if you’re in pain. You cannot buy your way to happiness. You can’t starve your way there, either. And you can do as many reps as you want to, but big biceps aren’t the key to your inner peace.

We are all inundated with images of photo-shopped people on covers of “health” magazines, and as far as I can tell, beauty magazines are designed to make women feel ugly. Like they’re not nearly enough. Men aren’t let off the hook, either. There are pills and creams for baldness and erectile dysfunction, and if the side effects happen to be death, at least you’ll look good in the coffin, although the casket might have to be closed if that blue pill works too well. I don’t buy those magazines, and I don’t watch television, but I drive around and see billboards all over the place. It’s like a constant mantra of “You suck!” and unless you do a lot of work on it, it’s very likely you’re going to internalize those messages. Did you know that Brown University conducted a study and found that 74.4% of normal-weight women said they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently”? And 46% of normal-weight men reported the same. When I give the cue in yoga class, “Your hands are shoulders-distance apart,” I notice almost all the men in my classes have their hands too close together because we’ve got all the men convinced they’re smaller than they are and when I say, “Separate your feet hip-distance apart,” almost all the women take their feet close to the edges of their mats. We’ve got all the women convinced they’re bigger than they are. What is more disempowering to people than the feeling that we all just can’t get it right? Can’t measure up? What drives the desire to distract people so they’re focused on how they look instead of what’s happening in the world?

The language we commonly use when talking about our bodies is aggressive, as in “battle of the bulge,” and “no pain, no gain.” I see people on their mats forcing themselves into poses their bodies aren’t ready to do because it’s so second-nature to think of the body as something we own that needs to bend to our will. I get it, because I struggled for years with body-image issues. I grew up taking ballet and learned early, the thinner the better. In fact, why eat at all? I think I started restricting calories when I was thirteen. I stopped dancing when I was sixteen, but my relationship with my body didn’t get any better. I’d over-exercise and under-eat, and still never be happy, never feel satisfied. Of course there are personality traits that lend themselves to this kind of thinking as well. If I can’t control what’s happening in my life, at least I can control what I put in my body. And so it goes.

The amount of time and energy I spent worrying about my appearance blows my mind when I think about it now. What a waste, and think of all the places that energy could have gone. It truly didn’t change until I started doing yoga. It wasn’t instantaneous, but after I’d been practicing consistently for awhile, I started to tune into my body in a different way. I’d grown up drinking diet soda and eating processed food, with no real awareness that your body doesn’t function well if you feed it a steady diet of chemicals. If something has seventeen syllables, your body really doesn’t know what to do with it. Yoga woke me up and stopped me in my tracks and made me think about things I’d never considered before, like what made me happy. What lit me up. It made me wonder what I was doing here, and what I was offering up to the world around me. Because honestly, when I started doing yoga I had blinders on. I lived in the small world of what’s happening for me? What’s not happening for me? Why isn’t it happening, and what can I do to make it happen faster? And if I wasn’t in that frame of mind, I was depressed and not getting much of anything done at all except dating older men and feeling any sense of myself moving further and further away from me.

Yoga brought me back to myself, in a way I hadn’t been since…I don’t know. I started to have a visceral experience of feeling good in my own skin, of listening and responding with the intent to heal. Of breathing in and breathing out. Little by little I started to know myself. In some ways it was amazing and in others, it was incredibly painful because not everything was pretty and light. When you’ve been hating your body for years, or exerting control over it like it’s something separate from you that needs to be feared lest it betray you, you’re also living in a house of shame.

Your body is an incredible gift. Your beating heart and your legs that get you from point A to point B (if you’re lucky to have two working legs). Your arms that can reach for people and hug them. Your smile, the light in your eyes. It’s all pretty amazing, but you rarely hear anyone say, “I love my body. My body is such a gift.” As I continued practicing, I discovered that when I fed my body well, it performed better and I felt clear in my thinking and full of energy. This was like a revelation to me. I started to educate myself about organic food. Eventually I went the vegan route. I’m not trying to convince you of a thing. What you put in your body is one of the most personal things in the world, and it’s up to you to figure out what feels right, but there’s no way to separate the way you feel about your body from the way you’re feeding it and treating it, or the way you feel about the planet. It’s all connected.

Sometimes people tell me they love food too much to make big changes. I love food. I have a completely different relationship to my body than I did twenty years ago when I started practicing. I’ve also grown two people in my body since then, and if that doesn’t make you realize your body is miraculous, nothing will. If you start to feed a loving voice, if you start to care about yourself, you’re going to want to take care of yourself in a different way, and I can tell you it feels very good. Throw out your scale and get off your diet if you need to. Unroll a yoga mat and get to know your body. Think before you eat. Close your eyes and see if you can really tune into what your body wants. It isn’t diet soda, I can promise you that. This culture of less-than will rob you of the chance to be at peace with yourself if you let it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Sit on Your Hands, Please!

Public-ServiceYears ago I had lunch with a guy who was fairly well known in the yoga community. He’d just come back from a month at an ashram, and I met up with him because he was passing through Los Angeles on his way back to Chicago where he lived with one of my closest girlfriends. She asked me to meet with him because she had a bad feeling and she wanted me to be the one to break the news to her if there was news to be broken. She said while he’d been gone their communication had been odd, and she sensed he may have met another woman. She hadn’t asked him directly, and I think part of her didn’t want to know, and was hoping it wasn’t true. So off I went to have a meal with this guy I’d never really vibed with, to have a conversation that could have been extremely awkward.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so much awkward as it was enlightening. He started telling me about his trip, and how transformational it had been and he alluded to a deep spiritual connection he’d developed with this woman while he was there. So I asked him if he meant he’d had sex with her, and he choked on his tea and laughed, and said he supposed so, if that was how I needed to put it. He said it was an elevated experience, and that the feelings were so strong and so deep, he’d had to “honor his truth.” He expected my friend would understand. I told him I thought he was mistaken, and that I believed my friend was going to be heartbroken because she was in love with him, and because they were in a committed, monogamous relationship. In fact, he’d been possessive of her, and threatened by any contact between her and her most recent ex, who happened to be the father of her little girl. They’d been living together for six months at this point, and had started looking at houses. My girlfriend had put a deposit down on a place he said he loved before he left for the ashram, and they were about to close on it.

I asked him how he could reconcile the concept of non-harming with his actions at the ashram, but he said because he was aligned with his truth, no harm could result. Then he said, “I guess I’m just an enigmatic and mysterious creature.” I told him as far as I knew, there was nothing elevated or spiritual about cheating on a person you claimed to love, and that you could dress it up in mala beads all day long, but it was still crappy behavior. I said I thought, “honoring his truth” would have involved observing his feelings without acting on them, or discussing it with my friend before he acted so that maybe they could regroup, or come to some kind of understanding together. Then maybe the experience could have brought them closer, but not this way. I also asked him who describes themselves as enigmatic and mysterious? Because really, there are few things in life that leave me speechless, but I think my brain froze for a good minute after he said that.

Here’s the thing. If you want to be at peace, you’re going to have to figure out how to get right with yourself. How to heal those places that are raw and in need of your kind attention. You’re going to have to learn to observe your thoughts without getting carried away by them. Feelings are not facts, and you don’t have to act on every feeling you have. Not all of them are worthy of your energy, time, attention, or action. The feelings aren’t bad, they don’t make you a bad person. We’re all human and we’re going to have all kinds of feelings and thoughts and ideas and fantasies. It’s how much energy you decide to feed that stuff. How much importance you grant to the thoughts you’re having.

Restraint is a tough one for most people. We all want to do what we want to do, but if you want to talk about being “on the path,” if you’re trying to “do the work,” then you’re going to have to find some discipline. Especially when other people are involved. If your path is causing you to become egregiously self-absorbed, it’s probably not a great path. If you’ve gotten to a place where you think you’re justified in doing whatever you want because you’re honoring your truth or following your calling, you’ve really gotten lost along the way. A huge part of this thing is kindness and compassion. Honesty and integrity. Keeping your word. Thinking about the impact of your choices on other people. I don’t expect everyone to want to work this way, but I cringe when people twist a beautiful and demanding practice to suit their own desires. Call it what it is, and I have no issue with it. Say, “I went to an ashram, and I was really attracted to this woman, and I cheated on your friend even though I knew it would hurt her and I have no regrets, but I do have a huge mess to clean up.” That’s truthful, but don’t call it elevated or spiritual because it isn’t either of those things. As it turned out, the other woman was also devastated, because she thought it was going to be a long-term thing. My friend broke it off, and then had to work to make sure her daughter was okay because she’d become attached to this guy as well. When you leave a wake of pain behind you and describe yourself as an enigma, you’ve taken a wrong turn on your path.

I think people get confused sometimes, because the initial movement when you’re healing is inward. If you want to know yourself well and deeply, you have to examine your pain, your resulting tendencies, your coping mechanisms, the way your nervous system responds to stress, stories you might tell yourself about your life or why you are the way you are, areas where you’re stuck in rage or blame or bitterness. You have to figure out what’s true for you. You do all this internal work so you can understand yourself, so you can be accountable for the energy you’re spreading as you move through the world, and for the way you’re treating yourself and everyone in your life. When you become well-acquainted with yourself, and you figure out what brings you peace and what lights you up, what particular gifts are yours to share, then you can take that information on the road. That’s where the joy happens, in the connection, in the sharing. You can bring it out into the world and shine. The ultimate purpose of all that internal work is to help you uncover your connection to everyone and everything. To recognize that while our stories may be different, in so many ways we’re the same. We’re connected. We’ve all suffered. We’ve all been selfish, and hurt people carelessly or unintentionally. We all have choices we’d love to make again, and differently. That’s all part of the process of growing up. So there’s no need to kick yourself if you were the guy or gal at the ashram. We’ve all hung out there. The thing is not to let yourself off the hook. Not to cloak it in sage and walk out the door and pretend to yourself or anyone else that you’re good to go. You’ll never feel great about yourself if you’re living a life that’s all about you and every desire you have. You’ll never satisfy that beast. You can feed it for awhile if you need to, but you’ll find the hunger never goes away. It will never be enough, you’ll always be ready for more. Mass-consumption has gotten us into all kinds of trouble, both personally and globally. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t feed your soul.

In my view, being, “on the path” means you’re trying to see yourself and others clearly. You’re aware of what’s true for you, and you’re able to express it calmly and with compassion. When “what’s true for you” may end up hurting someone else, you handle it with integrity, sensitivity and honesty. You’re thinking about what you’re saying and doing, and how it will affect those people around you. You’re thinking about the path, too. The literal path, the one you’re walking on. The planet, in other words. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it with as much consciousness as possible. And when you blow it and don’t show up the way you want to, which will happen, you examine it and figure out what went wrong so you can own it, and make a different choice the next time. It’s not perfection we’re after, it’s a practice. But it does require a discerning mind and a willingness to be honest with yourself.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

The Power to Pause

listentounderstandIt’s not easy to drop your feelings, opinions and ideas so you can really hear what another person has to say, where they may be coming from, or how they’re seeing and experiencing things. This is never more true than in the context of an argument. When we feel attacked, it’s perfectly natural to go into defense mode, but most of the time, no one is attacking us and deep listening can’t happen if you’re in “fight or flight” mode. People may see things differently, but if you’re in a close relationship with someone, it’s unlikely they want to go for your jugular (and if they do, you’re probably with someone who needs help figuring out how to manage their anger).

We all want to be known, seen and understood. It’s beautiful when you allow yourself to open to another person, but the more you do that, the more you have to be willing to be vulnerable and that requires trust. When you have the feeling that someone is really seeing you, and suddenly that same person seems to be misunderstanding you, it can feel like a betrayal. Sometimes we have embarrassment or unease because some of our flaws slipped out and now this person who had this image of us may be seeing something we don’t want them to see, or something we’d rather not see ourselves. There are all kinds of reasons a person gets defensive, or shuts down, or runs for the door. Often it feels safer to dig our heels in and defend our position, to “win” the fight. If you’re trying to get close to someone, though, and if you want to be seen, it’s not a fight and this isn’t your opponent. A person is either going to love and accept you with all your flaws and absurdity, or they aren’t. You can only be known if you allow yourself to be known. Most people are not going to be able to read your mind and if you’re only willing to show the shiny, status update, perfect picture version of yourself, that instagram glow, the 140-character gem that you thought of while walking your dog, then you’ll never really be seen because we’re all complex and we all make mistakes, and we all have choices we wish we could make over again and differently.

People dig their heels in when they’re attempting to hide or to hold on. Or the level of reactivity is high. That’s one of the main things a consistent yoga practice addresses and encourages — the ability to sit with intense sensation, calmly. A burning feeling in your quadriceps is not all that different than a burning feeling in your heart, like rage. It’s a temporary sensation, and if you can open to it and examine it, it will open you and strengthen you, and teach you something about yourself. If you fly off the handle every time you feel something intense, you deny yourself those opportunities to become more aware, more accountable, and more able to trust yourself.

Of course there are legitimate times when you’ll disagree with someone, or see things in a completely different way, but if you really want to know the people in your life, it’s so useful if you can learn to listen deeply. Open to it even if it’s something you don’t want to hear or accept. Maybe this person is attempting to show you something essential about who they are, or where they are on their path. Maybe you’re going to discover a new way of thinking about something. It’s possible you’re going to realize there’s some fundamental philosophical difference that you’re not going to be able to get past, but there’s no point in denying someone else’s reality, even if you disagree with it. You might as well open your heart and your mind to their point of view. Maybe you’ll go back to your own, and maybe something will shift for you, but real listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to speak and being right is not nearly as satisfying as being seen.

Wishing you love, and the power to pause, breathe, and listen,

Ally Hamilton

Love Does Not Degrade You

Recentlysomeoneworthyofurlove I received a message from a woman who’s suffering over the loss of a relationship. She hooked up with this guy a couple of years after her divorce, and at first everything seemed wonderful. He was kind and attentive, and she felt that heat she hadn’t experienced in years. She fell hard. Little by little, things started to deteriorate. He began comparing her to the three hundred women who came before. He’s 62, so I guess he put the time in. He measured her breasts (take a minute with that if you need one — I did), and he told her she needed to get her boobs done to satisfy him and stack up to his prior girlfriends. Then he began to complain that she took too long to orgasm, and that he never had to scramble anyone else’s eggs for such a long time before (insert all the non-yogic things I’d like to say, here). He timed her. With. A. Stopwatch. Nothing like a clock going to relax you!! He let her know he would be going out to flirt with other women and chat them up, and he might even exchange numbers and hang out, because that’s what he needed to feel good as a man. Eventually she discovered he’d made plans with an ex-girlfriend to take a trip behind her back, even though she’d asked if they might take a weekend away somewhere for her birthday, and he said he couldn’t afford to travel. She ended it, even though she says she still loves him and wants him back. Because, I mean, who wouldn’t want a prince like that?! And it seems she went and had that breast augmentation. To make matters worse, he told all their mutual friends that he ended it because she’s jealous and crazy and needs to be medicated, and they believed him because he’s charismatic and the life of the party, and she’s more soft-spoken. I guess he posts things about his current girlfriend and her private parts on his Twitter account, so you’d think maybe his friends would realize he might not be such a fabulous guy to date. Anyway, our friend was emotionally abused and lost all her friends, and moved to the other side of the country to get away from all the pain, but of course, “wherever you go, there you are” as Jon Kabat-Zinn so eloquently puts it.

We could all focus on the guy (and go ahead if you’d like to, because there’s plenty to say there). He’s clearly got some rage toward women, and a deep insecurity underneath all that bravado, some self-loathing, and a lot of pain. But the more interesting thing to look at for her, is why she participated in a relationship like that, and why she thinks she still loves him and wants him back. This is a smart, very attractive woman and she’s convinced she’d go back to him given the chance. Love does not cut you down, okay? It does not ask you to prove your worthiness. It does not bring measuring tape and stopwatches to bed and it does not make you feel, “less than”. If you’re attracted to relationships like that, you have some deep pain. Some seriously unhealed wounds that tell you you aren’t worthy of love or consideration or respect. You don’t love the person who’s making you suffer, you’re addicted to the interaction. Some part of you believes you aren’t worthy, and you’re thinking if you can only attain the love and approval of this person who’s seeing the “truth” (LIE) about you, then you’d be healed, but you won’t heal that way. You’ll just increase your pain.

When you’re stuck in a web like this, you really need to get yourself some support. Someone to help you untangle yourself before your heart is so strangled the light starts to go out around you. This woman who wrote in feels suicidal. How could you not when you’ve participated in your own destruction, and feel compelled to continue? That’s a very dark place to be, and you may need some good people to help you find your way back to yourself. A great therapist would be a very good call. Any healing modality that helps you find your power again, whether it’s yoga, seated meditation, long hikes, journaling, or reading a book that helps you shed some light on your situation. Going back for more is asking for more pain and more darkness. Life is too short for that. Love will never degrade you.

Sending you a hug and some love right now,

Ally Hamilton

Do You Need a New Rx?

Everything you perceive is being processed through your particular lenses. There’s no other way for you to receive data from outside yourself, except to filter it through your own eyes, ears, heart and mind. Sometimes our receptors have gotten really clogged. Emotionally, our ability to discern what’s real is determined by how much we’ve been hurt, and to what degree we’ve been able to work with our pain, process it, integrate it and move forward with the ability to trust again and open to joy. Your pain and your willingness to examine and understand it are your tickets to an empowered and authentic life, which to me includes an ability to face reality as it is.

Sometimes you have a history with someone, and there’s so much pain or disappointment around what’s happened, it clouds your ability to see the person clearly, even years later. We are all in process all the time, it never ends. The way you were three years ago is not the way you are today. There’s been growth, change and movement. And so it is with everyone else. People make mistakes, and no one is operating from her or his highest self in every moment. We’ve all made choices we’d love to go back and redo. Sometimes people have so much frustration and resentment between them, even something small has the potential to create a huge reaction, as if every single affront from the beginning of time is also in the mix. And maybe they just forgot to pick up their socks, but suddenly an apocalypse is happening in the living room.

Sometimes the inability to see a person clearly happens at the beginning. People write to me with their lists of qualities they’d like in a partner. I think it’s good to know what you’re looking for as far as your “non-negotiables” which might include things like loyalty or a good sense of humor, but I’m talking about lists that include eye color and hair color and six-pack abs and an interest in croquet and also salsa dancing. Then they meet a person with the “right” color eyes, and start projecting the entire list onto the unsuspecting person who maybe doesn’t like croquet. And they miss the chance to get to know someone as they are and then see if it’s a good fit. This can come out of a deep desire for intimacy and connection, which is totally understandable, but can create a tendency to sweep things under the rug. Hormones can also fog your lenses right up.

It’s not just romantically, either. Familial relationships are a classic context for this stuff. You may be a full-grown adult who functions well in the world, but find when you go back to your parents’ place it’s as if you regress to the you you were when you were fifteen. Or that your parents still treat you like that kid who should get a smaller portion at dinner. Siblings often interact the way they did growing up, either supporting each other, or blasting each other, or some combination of both.

If you’re feeling incredibly lonely, that can also gum up your receptors. Maybe you think every person who says hi to you might really want to sleep with you. Or you think everyone hates you. There are all kinds of ways we mis-perceive reality, and it’s important to recognize that, or at least factor it into your mix. To ask yourself when you’re feeling heated over something, or defeated, or confused or angry or rejected or mistreated, if there’s any possibility you’re not seeing things clearly. If maybe you have some part in what’s happening, because you do. It can’t be any other way. You have your experiences and your outlook, and it’s essential to understand how those things are part of the equation as you filter the data that’s coming at you, or not. If you think you suck or people suck, your lens is distorted. If you think another person is only ever going to be the way they were with you at some given point in time, your lens is also in need of a wiping. You also might want to throw into the equation your dynamic with someone. Sometimes two people bring out the worst in each other, or push buttons or bring up past pain unintentionally. Just because your relationship didn’t work doesn’t mean other relationships will face the same destiny for you, or for them. You can’t “peg’ people. I know we love to do that, but people are in flux just like everything else is in flux and it feels awful to be pegged, right? To be unforgiven, to have every mistake you’ve ever made reflected back at you every time you talk to someone with whom you were once so close.

There are many ways to wipe your lenses clean or get a new Rx if you need one. If you practice all eight limbs of yoga (the physical part is only one eighth of the equation), you’ll be well on your way. Finding the tools that work for you for your own healing and your own willingness to examine and work with your pain are also ways you upgrade your prescription. You really do want to get on that if you find yourself living in the past, or still enraged about things that happened years ago. If that’s happening for you, then you are actively feeding your rage and dragging your past into your present. You’ll make yourself sick, you’ll miss opportunities for joy and something new, and you will alienate everyone around you. Life is too short for that.

I won’t lie to you. The world is full of pain sometimes, but it’s also full of the kind of beauty that can take your breath away if you let it. That can knock you over with gratitude and joy. I used to think the thing we all wanted was to be happy, but really, I think the thing is to be awake. To be hungry for the truth, whatever it may be, and even if it’s painful. When I say “the truth”, I’m not suggesting there’s one truth. I’m saying your truth, what’s true for you personally. Being able to discern what you need to be at peace. What’s yours and what belongs to someone else when interactions go awry. What’s real for other people. Just being able to see clearly, and accept reality as it is. It’s not easy. Sometimes we want to fight it because things aren’t unfolding the way we want them to, but it’s not up to us. We don’t get to choose everything that comes at us. We don’t get to manage what other people do or want or say or need. We just get to manage ourselves, as best we can, and hopefully with a lot of love and compassion. There’s a lot of power and a lot of peace in that. Wishing you love, and sending you a little glass cleaner if you need it. We all need it sometimes.

Ally Hamilton

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

Worry Too Much?

Do you ever “boil yourself”? Obsess over a conversation that’s behind you that didn’t go the way you wanted it to? Or worry endlessly about situations that might or might not come to pass in the future? When we look back at a set of circumstances around which we feel unsettled, sad or disappointed, it’s so tempting to try to rewrite history in our minds. If only I’d said this instead of that. If only this person had wanted X and not Y. If only I’d stayed home instead of going out. Thoughts create a chemical reaction in the body. There’s not a lot of difference in the way the nervous system responds to events we’re concocting in our minds, versus those challenging interactions or circumstances that are actually happening.

I think we get fixated when we’re feeling vulnerable or depleted in some way. When we’re tired, or overwhelmed, or feeling hurt. Those seem to be the times the mind latches onto something painful or unsettling, whether it’s real or imagined. So there we are folding the laundry, except we’re not. We’re in some imaginary conversation about something that hasn’t happened and might not ever happen. We’ve conjured our worst-case scenario, and we let our minds run wild. So we’re folding that t-shirt, but our shoulders are up around our ears and our breath is shallow and our brow is furrowed and maybe our jaw is clenching. If you work hard enough at it, you might even raise your blood pressure or get an adrenaline rush. Meanwhile, you’ve missed the chance to practice a little Zen and the Art of Folding Laundry. Maybe you missed hearing your kids laughing in the other room. Or you didn’t see how the sun was setting right outside your door.

Left unchecked, the mind tends to head into the past or the future, but it’s sad because there’s no potential left in the past. I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for examining and understanding in what ways your past might be affecting your present. I’m simply saying there’s not much point in using up too much of today looking backward and trying to do it differently. It already unfolded the way it did. When we race into the future, we often do that with anxiety. Playing out our worst fears, thinking about what we’ll say or do, making ourselves literally sick with worry. There is no predicting the future and most people spend way too much time upsetting themselves over things that never come to pass, anyway.

There’s a real power in being able to pick up the mind and bring it back to this moment. Back to this t-shirt or sunset or laughter in the other room. Your breath is a great tool for that. Your inhales and exhales happen in the now. You can use them to arrive in the moment and open to it. Life is full of pain sometimes. You don’t have to create it in your mind. It’s also full of joy. But you can miss it if you’re somewhere else. Sending you love, and the hope that you’ll experience a little zen and the art of breathing.

Ally Hamilton

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