What if we forget hope? Does that seem cynical? It’s not. Allow me to explain.
Often, we react to life’s difficulties or disappointments by throwing up our arms and exclaiming, “I give up!” But, when I suggest that we “forget hope”, giving up is not what I mean.
Our physical brain is hard-wired to continuously seek a state of comfort and safety. Our brain, or more specifically, the primordial or reptilian centre of our brain is ultimately geared for survival. We react to whatever is happening in our life – past, present and perceived future; our reaction is, often, one of fight, freeze or flight. Our egoic self, that is, our perception of who we are makes it possible for us to assess, evaluate and create a perspective of life that supports the comfort-safety paradigm that shapes our daily life: our expectations, fears, desires and, yes, our hopes.
Simultaneously, our cognitive faculties are also working to create scenario’s that will support our well-being. These translate into the perceived results we believe and hope will occur. This happens both internally for our personal sense-of-self (and self-worth) and our perception of the world and how we relate to and navigate in it.
Given the chaotic circumstances in our world, it is not surprising that there is so much discussion focused on hope. In our personal lives, we often, even sub-consciously, focus on wishing and working for a different or better existence, one that is safer, better, and happier for us personally, and for our family, our community, and for society more broadly. How many times have you heard yourself say things like “well, here’s hoping” or “I sure hope things turn out ok”. It’s part of our vocabulary. “Hoping you have a wonderful day”, “hope you have a bright future” and, “here’s hoping” are phrases that roll off the tongue naturally and rarely with a second thought. We are culturally conditioned to believe in hope.
Creating circumstances that support our happiness is based on hopes and expectations. However, our unfulfilled hopes can leave us disappointed, confused and unhappy. So, why is that? Well, it’s a bit of a paradox: the more we hope for something, the less likely we will realize it. Good intentions and arduous work can pay off (sometimes), but our sense-of-self and our self-worth become attached to an outcome – whether or not the outcome is realized as we envisioned it. And, when it doesn’t work out the way we hope, we are often left with feelings of emptiness, loss, confusion, and hopelessness.
When we attach our hopes on a specific expected end-point, we become totally focused on that outcome. We become invested in and attached to our perception of what we believe should occur. Ironically, life rarely works out the way we think and hope it should and, as a result, we leave the realm of present-moment awareness – of living in the ‘now’ – and, instead, live in a fantasized ‘future’ existence: a future that may or may not turn out the way we hope it will. And, when it is not the future we hoped for, we are left with feelings ranging from disappointment to devastation.
The same dynamic is true regarding our fears. Our fears, and the anxieties that arise, as a result, occur when we are focused on what we cannot control, focused on a perceived future event or circumstance and becoming attached to the ‘what if’s’ circular thinking process that is trying to mitigate its impact on us.
Forget hope. When we hope, we focus on or wish for an outcome that might or might not happen.
Instead, have faith that the present-moment is enough, remaining centred in gratitude and compassion.
So, how do we navigate the ups and downs, the joys and disappointments, the successes and failures of life without hope? Is that even realistic? From my experience, the answer is unequivocally YES! If I’ve learned anything from my own life’s journey, and particularly from my experience of living more mindfully on a day-to-day basis, it’s that hope is a false promise: hope is focusing on and wishing for an outcome that may or may not happen. Instead, living in the present-moment, with conscious awareness of what ‘is’, without judgement or wishing things to be different, allows me to have faith that the present-moment is enough. Faith is trust; trust is what we know to be true based on our own lived present-moment experiences. As such, we can have faith that the present-moment is enough, at least in this present moment.
Life only happens in the present-moment, so living in the past or future is counter-intuitive. Why? Because life changes constantly. Everything in life is impermanent which is why we can (and should) put our trust in what we know to be true from our personal experiences of present-moment existence. When we do, it is always true that the present-moment is enough. In the present-moment, peace, joy and a sense of deep stillness is always already present. In the present-moment, with an open heart that is centred in gratitude for all that is, we can ride out any storm, face any challenge, and we can be as the calmness that always exists below a stormy surface.
And with an open heart, we can always approach all that is present (the good, the bad, and the indifferent) with compassion for ourselves, acknowledging our strengths and our weaknesses as human beings; we can always approach all that is present with compassion for others, recognizing ourselves in them… our common humanity.
So, what if we just forget hope? What if, instead, we trust that the present-moment and all that is here, right now, is enough, without wishing any of it to be different? What if, instead, we surrender our hopes and fears and we fearlessly trust in the ‘now’? What if we allow our hearts to open to the present moment and accept all that ‘is’ with a spirit of gratitude and compassion?
How would that change how we see life, and how we live it? How would that change how we respond to life and all that it offers, moment-to-moment?
Breathing in, I trust the present moment.
Breathing out, I release my hopes, expectations and fears.
Breathing in, I open my heart with gratitude for all that is in my life.
Breathing out, I allow compassion to direct each unfolding moment.
Edited by Jeff Potts,
Author Bio -A devoted meditator, Paul believes in the integration of mind, body and spirit as necessary for healing and bringing about physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness. Through meditation, he believes anyone can develop the ability to be heart-centred and live in gratitude, joy and peace, despite past or current trauma and life struggles. You can read more articles by Paul here.