Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Guest Posts

Hold It All.

June 13, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Ally Hamilton.

When I was 12 years old a guy grabbed me on my way to ballet class. I was walking in the same door I’d walked in for years on West 83rd Street, with my hair in a bun, and my tights and leotard under my jeans, and this young guy walked in ahead of me. The door opened right onto a narrow, steep staircase. At the top of the stairs to the right was the ballet studio. I could hear the piano. I can tell you, even at 12, or maybe especially because I was still so young, I had a vibe. An intuition. I remember the feeling of something being off, and I probably did exactly what he’d hoped I would do. I passed him on the right and started racing up the stairs. But he grabbed me from behind and put one hand over my mouth and another between my legs and told me not to move and that he wasn’t going to hurt me. For a minute I froze. Panicked with the taste of tin in my mouth. Fear undiluted. His hand over my mouth as he started fumbling with his jeans, and all I heard, like an explosion inside my head was, “NO”. Not that I understood exactly what he was trying to do, just that animal part of me, of you, of all of us, that part knew. And then I bit his hand and screamed and threw my elbow into his ribs as hard as I could. He let me go immediately. I don’t believe he expected a fight. I faced him, still screaming, tears and adrenaline and a racing heart, and backed up the stairs, right hand, right foot, left hand, left foot, fast. I remember his face, and I remember being shocked that he looked as terrified as I felt. Eyes wide so I could see more white than anything. He took off down the stairs and when I saw he was out the door, I turned and raced/crawled up the remainder of the staircase as fast as I could. I busted into the office, hysterical, unable to speak, but the guys there, the dancers, they knew. I just pointed and they took off, and three girls who were in the company ran to me and held me until I could speak. Not that I could fully make sense of what had happened. They weren’t able to catch up to the guy, and I don’t know what happened to him.

I share this with you because it exists in this world, and because it happened. Clearly, it could have been a lot worse. I hope it was never worse for someone else who didn’t scream, or couldn’t fight. And I hope he found the help he desperately needed. I believe if someone had photographed my face and his as we stared at each other, they would have looked incredibly similar. I believe he was as shocked and sorry about what he’d done as I was. He looked like an animal with his leg caught in a trap. There are people who are deeply troubled, who need help but don’t get it. Because they fall through the cracks. Or are able to hide their pain from the people closest to them. Or maybe those people are in denial. I don’t know what his story was, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t a good one.

The reality is this world can be incredibly violent, but it can also be achingly beautiful. If you want to be awake, you have to hold it all. I’m not a fan of this amazing pressure to be positive every waking minute of the day. Not everything is positive and light. Some things will rip your heart right out of your body with no warning and no logic. People who demand that you be light every minute are running from their own shadow, and it’s only a matter of time before it bites them in the a$$. My thoughts did not create that experience, it was completely outside my frame of reference. There are people who would point to karma, or God’s plan, or everything happening for a reason. I don’t know about any of that for sure, and neither does anyone else. What I do know is that sometimes horrendous things happen to beautiful people. Maybe someday it will all make sense and maybe not. Until then, the truth is we live in a world with darkness, and incredible light. To deny one is to forsake the other. It’s not about being positive, it’s about being authentic. Open. Real, raw, vulnerable. It’s about understanding sometimes you will be so scared out of your mind you’ll crawl up a staircase backwards, not even fully knowing what you’re racing from. And sometimes you will be blinded and amazed by all the beauty, all the gifts you’ve been given, the taste of gratitude like sugarcane in your mouth, and the feeling of sunlight like it was poured directly into your heart. Don’t worry about being positive. Just be awake. Hold it all.

Sending you love, for real. Ally

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher and writer whose work reaches hundreds of thousands of yogis around the world via her online yoga videos and social media following. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, a premier source for online yoga videos, which has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Magazine, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, CNN and more. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station and creator of The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. Up next is Vancouver (Jan 17) and London Feb 14. Click here. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Click to take any of Jen Pastiloff's online classes at Yogis Anonymous.

Click to take any of Jen Pastiloff’s online classes at Yogis Anonymous.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 7th. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 7th. Click the photo above.

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No Comments

  • Reply amiechadwick June 13, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Thanks for sharing! Great message! luv and blessings, amie

  • Reply Love, Life & Whatever June 13, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Rightly….it’s not being positive….being authentic and then positive May be….truly touching…..

  • Reply barbarapotter June 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

    So true Amy. Thanks for sharing. This reminds me of something that happened to me in Philadelphia Christmas Eve when the girls were very little. It was the last minute shopping and I was carrying large packages from Strawbridge & Clothier to my car. I was parked in their underground parking structure my car against a wall. I opened the back door passenger side and was leaning in to put the packages in the back seat. All of a sudden as I stood up I was grabbed hard. It was two boys/men teenage or early 20’s much bigger than me and very strong. I had my car keys in my hand. No alarms or fobs etc back in 1981. They said give me the keys and get in. I was so scared but I knew if I got in the car and let go of the keys that no one would ever see me again. I held the keys tightly in my hand and said no with a power that I could not believe. I knew horror was in front of me. I looked in their eyes and kept saying no fiercely.
    One of them took out a knife and held it to my stomach and said give me the keys. I hollered at the top of my lungs with determination “no”. I am not sure how many minutes this went on for but I knew my life hung in the balance. There was no one around at all. All of a sudden I saw them look at each other and I knew that in that instance they made a decision to run as with me hollering “no” and I am sure they figured someone would hear and come along and their chance had passed. In that instance they ran. It was that split second between life and death for me. As soon as they left all the adrenaline left me and I just about collapsed. I was crying and could not breathe. I ran over to the edge where an officer or guard was on the 1st level below me and he ran up. He wanted to take me to the police station but I only wanted to go home. I was so weak I don’t know how I drove. I made it down 8th street a few blocks away where one of my husbands and my best friends was still working in his jewelry store for Christmas and collapsed in his arms crying and crying. I could not get out of bed for days after. I know that fighting back saved me and I don’t to this day know where that came from…. I only know that I had no choice.

    • Reply Ally Hamilton June 13, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      So scary, Barbara. I’m so glad you found that “No”, not that it always matters. But sometimes no is all you have. Love to you. XOX

  • Reply Lin Bateman June 13, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Ally, this may be one of the most beautifully written pieces I’ve read in such a long time. Every single word resonated in my heart. I never thought of holding it all. I tried to survive the pain, and then felt bad if it “showed” (because you don’t want to bring people down, right?… especially women). The way you described not only your terror, but deep and compassionate insights into what might have been HIS pain was exceptionally moving. I now have a new way to look at something, and that is the definition of a true writer. I always enjoy your posts, but if you ever write a book, I will be first in line to buy it. Thank you so much, and may the sunshine continue to pour into your life, always! Warmly, Lin <3

    • Reply Ally Hamilton June 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      Thank you so much, Lin. I think the best I’ve been able to work out, is that “being with what is” is the only way. Anything else takes you away from the truth. Sending you love and a giant hug. And I’m working on that book 😉

  • Reply jasmineshei June 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Really like this! The truth of life, of beauty and beast.

  • Reply blacksheepyoga June 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    This was really, really needed, and good. And seeing his humanity and your own, at once, good, complicated, real. Thank you for writing this.

    • Reply Ally Hamilton June 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you for reading it. It was one of those moments that taught me a lot. A few months ago, I read an excruciating blog post written by a pedophile who’s never allowed himself to act on his feelings. It was a brutal read. But the look on the guy’s face in that stairwell was full of terror and shock and despair. It was unmistakable. It’s so easy to dehumanize people when we just can’t relate.

      • Reply blacksheepyoga June 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm

        Yes, I think it’s easy to dehumanize people who perform terrible actions like in this case sexual assault, which I think also makes it difficult to treat/help/solve problems of sexual assault and violence. People who commit sexual assault are often people who need help themselves. I won’t go off as I’m not an expert, but I do have a strong belief that dehumanizing people prevents open communication and prevents any sort of programs that may actually work.

        Thanks Ally,
        Renee

      • Reply Lisa Rotondi June 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm

        Ally, this post was so beautifully written, I am shocked. I don’t know why I’m shocked – you of course are such an eloquent woman, that of course you would write something like this. After being away from your class for so long and then connecting again last month in your Sunday morning class, made me remember your beauty and depth and truth from which you teach. Thank you for sharing your gifts. I am also fascinated to read the blog post of the man you reference above – the pedophile who’s never allowed himself to act on his feelings. For this man I have huge compassion. xx

  • Reply barbarapotter June 13, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I meant to tell you that our message really got to my heart and your words about being positive and authentic rang so true:)

  • Reply Lynn Myers June 14, 2014 at 2:28 am

    You write so beautifully and your words resonate deep inside me; they feel like my own. Thank you.

  • Reply indaynetsky June 16, 2014 at 12:11 am

    i love how the story was presented exquisitely written! it is high time to spread stories like this which will educate all the readers. we should be prepared for such demons in our society.

  • Reply Me June 17, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I find it a little disheartening that Ally is taking the stance she is about the violence that exists in this world. She knows that not everyone who screams gets away from their attackers –she acknowledged that. She recognizes that her situation could have been way worse –she acknowledged that too… but she still doesn’t hesitate to send sympathy the way of her attacker.

    Sexual assault is bad. What happened to Ally is horrendous and terrible and if that ever happened to anyone I know, my heart would break for them. I don’t really want to “rank” her experience with mine or anyone else’s. But she is talking about a really sensitive topic and she is talking about it from a perspective of someone who has not ever (if we go by this account) experienced the full extent of human violence.

    Lots of people have bad childhoods. I get it. Our society paves the way for criminality. But society does not create criminals. Criminals create themselves with the choices that they make. It’s the 90/10 principle: 10% is what happens to us and 90% is how we react to it. Lots of people have bad childhoods and lots of people grow up without becoming rapists or the types of guys who attack little girls in the ballet tights in stairwells.

    Men already get away with rape. Even if they go to prison after, they still accomplished what they wanted to. They still took what they wanted to take. It’s not something that can be given back. The victim can’t not have experienced what they did.

    Excusing their behaviour, especially when you’re talking about men and rape… this just what allows rape to continue to thrive in our society the way it does. It breeds and thrives because women blame themselves for their actions and for “getting raped” while negating any responsibility on the side of the man.

    It also thrives off women who get raped and don’t report it, allowing the psychos to freely do the same thing to someone else.

    I get that. And I’ll take a hit for that. I’ll accept responsibility. That’s fine.

    I wonder if (and I obviously don’t wish this on anyone, so please hear me out) the man who attacked her had NOT been scared off… if he had succeeded in what he set out to do… would Ally be so willing to send compassion his way? Perhaps she still would, but my guess is that this would be a very different piece if she experienced that… at that age… in those circumstances.

    But that’s just my opinion. The guys who raped me didn’t look terrified or surprised at any point. Not when I screamed or fought or bit them. They definitely expected that. They looked organized and acted totally sadistic. They weren’t petrified of what they were doing – they were doing it on purpose and enjoying it. Every. Last. Second. Of. It.

    I am obviously approaching this from a biased perspective, but so is Ally. I’m responding as someone who has experienced rape and she wrote as someone who did not.

    Again, I’m not setting out to “rank” attacks or be totally insensitive of her feelings or how that experience must have felt. I’m just expressing my opinion on what was said in the article. In reading it, she actually has a line that kind of puts a bunch of my feelings into words that I could never quite articulate, so I am glad I read it. I’m just annoyed too.

  • Reply Ally Hamilton June 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Dear “Me”,

    First of all, I’m very very sorry about what happened to you, and I’m glad you’re talking about it and writing about it and doing everything you can to heal. I can definitely understand why this piece was triggering for you. Please forgive my late reply. I was traveling, and just became aware of your comment and your feelings; this is not something I would have ignored, and I’m grateful you brought it to my attention.

    I think the first thing I’ll say is that I think you’re extrapolating. I have compassion for the particular person who was in that stairwell. I saw the look on his face, and I’m not confused about what I saw, even all these years later.

    Also, I don’t believe all criminals are criminals because of the choices they make. I think some people have serious personality disorders that render them unable to empathize or sympathize on any level. That does not make their violent actions okay. I think some people have been so badly abused they know no other way but to perpetuate what was done to them. I’m not saying I think that’s okay. Then, we have the third category, and it sounds like this is what you dealt with. People who know right from wrong, and do it anyway.

    To address your query as to what kind of violence I’ve known, I’ll simply say it’s never safe to assume you know what anyone else has experienced. I have also dealt with a person who knew right from wrong, but did it anyway. My screaming didn’t help, my fighting, my biting, my scratching, my tears. None of it mattered. I was sixteen. So I do understand how angry you are, and how it might really piss you off to feel that anyone might express sympathy or compassion for someone who could do something like that. What I feel for that person is very different from what I feel for the young man in the stairwell (and to be clear, I can have compassion for him, and still not in any way excuse what he did). What I feel for the second guy is nothing. It took me a long time to feel nothing. I’m not angry anymore. I don’t wish him well, nor do I wish him evil. I simply have no feelings whatsoever for him, because I unhooked my journey from his actions long ago. That’s what is in my power. I can’t “make him pay”, nor could I then. As you said, what’s taken away in that case cannot be given back.

    It took me years to get through all the feelings of rage and shame and confusion and sadness I had around that experience. I got help, and I’m grateful that I did. And today, I rarely think about it at all. That’s the truth, and maybe that’s helpful to you. This awful thing that happened does not have to screw up the rest of your life. You will not always be afraid. You will not always recoil from people you don’t know. You’ll come back to yourself. Those men took something from you, but you are not broken. They don’t get to have that.

    I’m really sorry if my post upset you. But I stand by my experience. That’s all we can do. Wishing you a lot of love.

    Ally

  • Reply really wondering August 5, 2014 at 2:37 am

    I’m sorry but anyone that can rape a 12 year old child needs the death penalty. I will never feel any empathy for what excuse they may give for doing this. And I am glad you got away, you could have been killed also. Who really knows what the outcome could have been. There is only one place for these so called poor damaged people and that is off the streets in jail.

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