I found myself curled up crying in the dirt last night in the rose bushes. This was a positive thing despite what you may think. I was reclaiming myself after a recent bout of hopefulness.
I felt I had been punched in the chest when I first came across the idea that, “Without hope you have everything.” It knocked the wind out of me. The very idea of it felt offensive to my values.
I had always been told hope was a good thing. Ever the good girl, I was fueling my life based on hope.
Hope that I would find a partner to share my life with.
Hope that I would find a way to make a living by sharing my unique gifts.
Hope that the people I love would not suffer tragedy.
You name it, big or small, I had a hope for it.
I was both intrigued and disturbed by the idea that without hope, you have everything.
And so, the gradual unraveling of my attachment to hope began. I brought a suspicious eye to hope’s source, tone and influence in my life. What I came to notice is how every hope of mine is the direct expression of a fear. Hoping the big leap in my work would pay off is the exact same thing as thinking I’m terrified that I will fail. It just sounds more palatable. I also came to see that hope is comprised of wishful thinking and expectations about my mind’s interpretation of what will make me happy.
Time after time, I would be attracted to a man and immediately begin filling in the picture of who he was and how our lives would beautifully weave together. This, as you might imagine, precluded me from seeing the reality of the situation. The hope that we could be together undoubtedly and repeatedly led to a knotted up mess of a relationship. But it wasn’t until I let myself become wholly present with the feeling of hope in my own body, that I came to understand just how misleading even the word hopeful really is.
The implication that hope will fulfill us is false.
I can feel the thinness of hope like a veneer on top of a big block of fear. The tightness is like a boa constrictor around my torso. And rather than feeling liberating, like our culture would have me believe, my most intense hopes feel as if I’m pressing myself against the bars of a prison cell. I am desperately grasping at something or someone just out of my reach.
I still find myself wanting to cling to hope even though I’ve uncovered its underbelly. I want to believe it will make my life less scary and more comfortable. The good news is that now I recognize hope for what it really is. Hope is not the opposite of fear or the antidote to despair. Hope is simply the biggest, most pernicious obstacle to my own presence.
Last night, tired of hope’s choke-hold, I made a break for it. I walked out my front door into the night to get some fresh air. Within a few blocks, I found myself face down in a pile of the softest white rose petals I’ve ever felt. I was finally willing to fall to my knees and feel fear.
I lifted my hope’s heavy safety blanket.
I could breathe into my belly again. I felt optimistic again even though the external circumstances of my life had not changed. I felt the type of optimism that feels like a swell of positivity from deep within rather than a heady, anxious, expectation-crusted kind of optimism. The type of optimism you can only feel when you’re standing in the softness of your own presence. I am firmly rooted in what is true.
As I walked home, I reminded myself that without hope, I have me—even if that’s tear-stained and covered in dirt. Without hope, I have what’s real, which, though potentially daunting, is also empowering. Life and all the opportunities, things and people that could potentially spark my happiness are sourced in what is real, not in what I would like to be.
Being grounded in what is real and feeling my own presence is the greatest comfort and deepest joy I know. There is such a sense of sweetness to it and a sense of wholeness.
A sense of everything.
Jay Fields is a yoga teacher and writer. She credits occasional rock hurling in remote natural places and daily down dogs for her sanity and groundedness. Jay offers public yoga classes in Ojai, CA, leads workshops for teachers and students internationally and nationally and mentors yoga teachers in how not to be a poser. Visit her at www.graceandgrityoga.com.
Editor: Carrie Stiles