Hello and welcome to Friday, January 17, 2020! This is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
It’s been my experience that hope has two sides. One side helps us to overcome extreme hardship and the other may in fact create suffering.
Hope can be quite helpful in many situations. When I was very early in recovery, in a rehab facility, I didn’t have much more than a miniscule of hope. I had just enough of a belief that my life could get better which motivated me to continue to live and do what my counselors asked of me.
I recently watched the Shawshank Redemption and Hunger Games. Hope motivated Andy Dufresne to dig out of his cell with a rock hammer. In the Hunger Games, hope was the force that overcame the oppressive fear that President Snow used to control the people in all the different districts.
I’ve read about thousands of people whose lives are threatened by criminals in Central America. They abandon their homes and everything they know in hopes of finding refuge. I see malnourished children hoping that generosity will bring them a meal. Hope has been the driving force behind those who have had to endure the pain and suffering associated with concentration camps and being prisoners of war. Offering a prayer of hope to friend or loved one to recover from an illness is a welcomed expression of love and kindness.
There is, however, another side to hope. Hope can take us out of the present moment, rob us of gratitude and can create dissatisfaction.
If you have the capacity to read this Mindfulness Support letter you are likely doing pretty well. You have access to electricity, you have the ability to read, you probably have employment or a means to generate income, a bed to sleep in, food, I’m guessing that you have a home. If you’re hoping for something better, are you appreciating what you have?
For many of us who have so much already, we may be unknowingly creating suffering for ourselves. We tend to think that when “x” happens, then I will be happy. You may have said to yourself, “I hope I get this new job,” “I hope I don’t get sick,” “I hope that she/he will go out with me.” There is nothing inherently wrong with hoping for these things. Nevertheless, my experience is: if I focus my attention on all my hopes and dreams, I find myself unhappy and discontented in the present moment.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a new job, staying healthy or finding a meaningful relationship. But we must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking, “I’ll be happy when…” There is no when. If we can’t be happy and content with what we have in this moment, then nothing outside of us will make us happy and content. As we have talked about many times, happiness IS an inside job!
After practicing mindfulness for some time meow, it’s been my experience that when I find myself “hoping” for something better, I discover that I’m simply dissatisfied what is – I’m arguing with my reality at this moment. When I notice that I’m experiencing these feelings of dissatisfaction, I’ve learned to take an accurate assessment of my current situation and invariably find that I have all that I need. That for whatever reason, I was simply experiencing transient unhappiness and was looking for something outside of me to fix me. I find that most of the time, my hope for something better fades as quickly as it arose. Though it may sound like indifference and complacency, I assure you it isn’t.
I’m learning to be content with less.
I founded the Turning Leaf Foundation because I realized that the external environment is a reflection of the internal environment. If we look at what’s happening, we tend to see so many people who have so much who are wildly hoping for something better. We spend so much time searching for happiness outside of us that we are over-consuming our environment. What we are looking for is within us. Except for the tragic situations as stated above, hope can actually inhibit us from discovering this truth – happiness really is an inside job.
Hope can be tricky. I encourage you to deeply examine your hopes. Is your happiness dependent upon your hopes materializing? Is hope motivating you or is it creating suffering? What can you learn about yourself from your hopes?
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!
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