We’re a nation hung up on hope. We hope for the best, hope our emails find people well, hope for the future, there was even a whole political campaign based on it.
Hope can be a great motivating force and it can keep us thinking positive thoughts. It can create space for the belief that even in the worst of times, things may get better.
Hope can also keep us attached to past behaviors and keep us living for the future, rather than in the present moment. When I first read this alternative view of hope in Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart, it made me really upset. I have long identified myself as an optimist, as someone who always has hope that things will always be getting better. I hoped for everything and everyone. How can this be a bad thing?
Chödrön says that
“As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot … Hope and fear from from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.”
Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist nun is writing from a very distinct perspective but I think she’s on to something. “Abandon hope” can be a very powerful statement to learn to rest in the present moment. In her book, she advocates for the Buddhist idea of giving up hope and in that renunciation, finding peace and ease and understanding of the groundlessness of life.
I’m not so sure that giving up all hope is the only way to come to term with the perpetual changing nature of life. There must be some way to exist in the present moment and yet also have a forward view of what you can do to start to shape the future you want. This starts to teeter on the edge of manifestation, which is a post for another day, but I’m curious … can hope operate from a place of conscious abundance? Or is hope a smoke screen thrown up by our deep-rooted insecurities? Can we find a hopeful balance?