“Living on a pendulum between hope and doubt, excitement and boredom, desire and weariness, it’s easy to fritter away our lives, bit by bit, without even noticing, running all over the place and getting nowhere. Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things.”
~ Matthieu Ricard
The secret to a happy life: Wise hope.
Unwise hope is the opposite of doubt and fear. Unwise hope is not totally based in reality. Hoping for a resolution, one way or the other, is getting us nowhere.
Hoping that the future will be better can take the form of working for the weekend, counting down the number of “sleeps” until a vacation or believing in a utopian heaven where we will go after this life.
Always looking forward, always looking up.
It’s important to realize that it’s the attachment to hope that causes suffering, not hope itself. Attachment is what causes suffering. (Aversion is a form of attachment.)
It’s not about winning or losing. It’s not about possessing. It’s about being. Wise hope is always paired with wise letting go.
So then, what is wise hope?
Wise hope is the awareness of our desire for a positive outcome, coupled with the realization that we actually have no control over our lives or the universe. Okay, to a certain extent we make choices and take actions but the truth is that anything can happen at anytime—we can never truly know.
We need to have, and voice (through writing or speaking) our hopes and fears, expectations and doubts. We need to make our plans and set our goals and intentions. And then we need to let them go. In When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron writes:
“You could even put ‘Abandon hope’ on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations…”
In Chapter 7, on “Hopelessness and Death,” she reminds us:
“Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.”
Giving up hope does not mean becoming “hopeless” or full of despair. Giving up unwise hope is a way of surrendering to the natural flow of life. It is a letting go of rigid expectations and desires to be anywhere but where we are, anyone but who we are.
We can abandon hope and still be an optimist.
A Meditation: Watchin’ the Wheels
Sit still and notice your breath. Our minds produce thoughts. From where do those thoughts come? Where do they go? How quickly they come and go! (Emotions, too.)
Developing concentration, watching the mind and observing when hopes and fears arise is the first step. Meditation does not stop the thoughts from coming. Mindfulness does not mean you are always happy-go-lucky and living 100% in the present moment.
Meditation is pure awareness. Mindfulness is present moment awareness, and the present sometimes (often) includes memories of the past and plans for the future.
Notice all the story lines, dramas and expectations constantly being played out in your mind. Notice what you are hoping will happen. Notice what you are hoping will not happen.
Keep sitting still and noticing your breath and your mind. Imagine you are sitting at a train station, watching the trains pass by. The trains are your thoughts; watch them come and go without getting on any one particular train. Try practicing this technique for five to10 minutes.
Cultivating Wise Hope Takes Practice.
Make your plans.
Let them go.
Have your expectations, wishes, dreams and ideals.
Let them go. See them for what they are.
Take Pema’s advice.
Put it on your refrigerator.
Author: Michelle Fajkus
Editor: Emma Ruffin