Hope. It is a very simple word yet it has had many different definitions according to who you talk to. One of the persons I talk to on a daily basis is a friend I have known for 28 years. She helps inspire hope in me. Every morning at 10:30am I pickup the phone and call Ann. She is 91 years old. We talk about 12-step recovery and mental health issues, we talk about current events and she loves to pick my brain about history and how they relate to the current events in the world. However, we also frequently come back to the topic of hope. It amazes me to hear how a woman near the end of her journey still finds things to hope for and reasons to get out of bed in the morning. Here is a definition of Hope that we could agree on:
Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
We also found some scriptures concerning Hope comforting.
For I know the plans I have for you. declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11
Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. — Hebrews 11:1
Here is a quote concerning Hope by the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
What does Thich Nhat Hanh, my friend Ann, and these scriptures teach me about hope?
It teaches me that Hope is just like any other mental state we human beings experience. It is transient and impermanent and therefore Hope needs to be nourished and encouraged and cultivated on a daily basis. For many people like myself and my friend Ann who struggle with depression and anxiety, Hope may not come naturally so it must be something that we plant each day within our mind and cultivate it the best we can. I have found the best way to do that is within the community of other fellow humans walking this same path as I am. I also find that gratitude can be a wonderful way to till the soil of one’s mind in which hope can be planted.
Let me leave you with some further jewels of wisdom by Thich Nhat Hanh that help nurture Hope within me.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a watersnake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used. In allow ourselves to walk mindfully, touching the earth, our wonderful mother, with each step. We don’t need to wish our friends, ‘Peace be with you.’ Peace is already with them. We only need to help them cultivate the habit of touching peace in each moment.