Ok, I admit, I intentionally used a controversial and misleading title to make you read this post. Maybe I’ve been reading too much MindBodyGreen. I’m not feeling hopeless, but in a sense I have begun to give up hope, or rather to leave hope behind for bigger and better things. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid using the word “hope.” Sometimes it is hard to figure out what to say instead. Phrases like, “I hope everything works out,” or “Hopefully you’ll get what you want,” are common and often seen as polite or even required in everyday conversations. But what are we really saying when we say “I hope?” How often do we follow up those statements with, “but . . .” or say them in a dubious tone that belies our words. I have come to realize that hope leaves room for doubt. The law of attraction teaches us that in order to manifest in our lives we must feel as if we already have that which we desire. The outcome, object, relationship, job, is already ours. We just have to get rid of whatever it is that is blocking that desire from becoming our reality. Just like ordering from a catalogue, once you place your order with the universe you sit back and wait for the intention to transpire. Affirmations are built on belief and faith. As they say in “The Secret,” you have to, “know like you know like you know,” that whatever you want to do, be, or have is coming to you. Next to that kind of unwavering faith, hope looks rather puny.
The more I study these deep truths of the universe, the more I see evidence of them all over the place. I feel like I often learn a lesson and then look back and think, “How did I miss that for so long?” Truth is a huge neon sign flashing in the sky and I’m busy peering at cracks in the sidewalk with a magnifying glass. For instance, let’s revisit the story of Pandora’s Box. In this classical Greek myth, Pandora is given a container (probably a jar but mistranslated as a box) by the gods and told not to open it. Her curiosity, also given by the gods, gets the better of her and she opens the container anyway. It turns out the box holds all of the evils of the worlds, which fly out and proceed to wreak havoc on humanity. The last thing in the box is the spirit of hope. In various versions she either manages to keep hope trapped inside or it is the last to escape. At face value it seems like hope is the only good thing in the container, and thank Zeus it was released so we could deal with all the other horrible things that escaped as well. In what seems to be the original version, and the one I remember, hope is sealed inside. This story always bothered me as a kid though, I couldn’t put my finger on it but it seemed off. If hope is a good thing, then why was hope crammed in with all the other bad stuff? Why was it being kept away from humanity with the other evil things? If hope is so great, then why was it the only thing she managed to keep inside, implying that humanity was saved from the worst of the evils? Perhaps the gods put hope in there to try to balance out the bad stuff, or maybe the ancient weavers of this tale knew something about hope that we ignore. Hope, especially false hope, can drag you down. Think of it this way: in order to make something happen, you must do something. Even manifesting requires something of you, be it that unwavering faith alone or faith combined with inspired action. After all, faith without works is dead, and hope without the intent to move past it is a dead end.
Hope does have its place. On the Emotional Guidance Scale created by Abraham Hicks, hopefulness comes in at number 6. It ranks well above fear, anger, worry, doubt, and even contentment. However there is still room for growth past hope. Moving up from there you reach optimism, then expectation, eagerness, passion, and finally the ultimate emotional freedom of joy and love. I struggled with anxiety and depression for many years. After my mother died it got really bad. As part of my journey to recovery, I stayed for two months at a mental health clinic in Houston. The name of the area of the hospital where I stayed was the Hope Unit. And at the time, hope was indeed far better than the state I was in when I arrived. I worked hard there and made significant progress. However my journey was far from over. The therapists and doctors there made it clear that the Hope Unit was just the beginning of our treatment. They typically recommended patients either go home and continue in a day program or move to a longer term facility that specialized in mental health. Even they knew that hope, although a good start, was not the end of the line. I decided to really invest in myself and went on to live for six months in a healing community located on a beautiful farm in North Carolina. It was here that I truly began to heal. I got back in touch with my yoga practice, which had become virtually non-existent, I worked daily with the farm animals, and I made some beautiful friendships, some of which I still maintain.
I have always loved the Emily Dickinson poem that begins:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
In the beginning of my recovery journey I clung to that hope like a life preserver, and in many ways it did save my life. But now that I have had the time and help I needed, I can move past just living. I can choose to grow and thrive. And I can let that bird out of its cage, free to fly to someone else in need.