by Damon Gautama
Hope is such a strong concept in our world, and is used as a sort of blandly positive offering. We hope the hungry get food; we hope those we love find their way. We have all sorts of hopes for ourselves, a partner, a better job, a healthier body, and more. But what is hope really?
The core experience underlying the idea of hope is lack. There is something off about the world as it is, about the now, so we project out a ‘better’ world into the future to relate to. Even if one experiences now as perfect and hopes it continues, that expresses a lack of confidence in the future. And that lack of confidence happens in the now.
You can actually feel this in your body, especially in the heart chakra. Sit in meditation for a bit, or do whatever practice helps you open and be aware of your energy. Then think of someone close to you that you have a hope for.Visualize the thing you hope will happen for them, and notice your energy. Then, as much as you can, let go of all hope and fear, all the ideas you have about them. Just feel their energy present with you there. Shift back and forth from the projected hope and the experience of their presence to really feel the difference in your body.
Experiencing someone in the projection of hope, a split experience of lack and remedy, has a quality of lifelessness to it. We are filtering our perception of them to make the experience more containable. Just experiencing someone directly can be scary, there really are no boundaries there, but there is an unmistakable living quality to it.
So, from the basic message of hope, that things now are off but future improvements are possible, it is clearly not a terribly satisfying landing place. It can be a helpful stepping stone, though. If one is in a state of despair, seeing the present and future as dark, hope can be that first crack of light to open up experience.
Where to go from hope? If you spent some time with the meditation experiment above, you will have noticed something about the experience. Even if the person you were holding in your mind is currently in a lot of pain, even if they are dying, there is an okayness when there are no intervening concepts. As simple as this is, it is the key to engaging the human experience in a living, joyful way.
As you move through your life, take time each day to let go of everything for a while and just directly experience what is happening. The most important things to let go of are judgments, since they are the strongest energetic obstacles we create to our experience. As much as you can, hold the view “I exactly as I am is okay, everyone here exactly as they are is okay, what is happening is just what is happening.” Then just notice. Things will happen, energies will flow through. There might be pleasure, there might be pain, there might be a combination of both. What you will notice over time is that there is a basic goodness present in every situation that has nothing to do with whether things are going how you would prefer or not.
If this sort of work is new for you, it may take some time to unwind all the stories your mind creates to color experience, but there is no need for frustration. This engages our own basic intelligence, and the way unfolds in its perfect timing for each of us.
A commonly expressed fear about letting go of negative perspectives is that it will lead to inactivity. The idea is that love is like water and needs an emptiness to flow into. This letting go will tone down the manic busyness that is so a part of our culture these days, but it will increase (by a great deal) what you offer the people in your life. The activities that are helpful will arise from inspiration rather than a sense of duty, and you will discover how powerful it is to just be present with people.
I invite you to move beyond hope, to discover the basic radiance of you and your life. It is all there now, there is no need to wait (or hope) for anything.
You can read more of Damon’s work at Becoming Fully Human.