I started the Fall series of Resilient Heart Yoga feeling a solid dose of hopelessness. I notice that I isolate, feel numb, easily give up and have difficulty directing my energy in any direction at all when hopelessness is around. I wanted to be able to both teach from this hopeless place because I believe it is important to honor all the aspects of myself as well as not get stuck there or assume students are coming from that same place. The question I held was how can I hold hopeless and hopeful at the same time? Joanna Macy‘s poem on Active Hope helped me to hold these two opposites:
Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued
by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.
I particularly like the last line about risk. Hopelessness can sometimes feel welcome because it gives me a break and shuts me down. There can be a risk in feeling hopeful because what I hope for many not come to fruition. How can I hold the possibility that what I want in the world may not happen in my lifetime? How can I maintain some connection to action without the need for a result, even where there is a desire for result? How I can be free from attachment to outcome even if I keep taking action against injustice while more acts of injustices continue in the world?
The Bhagavad Gita says, “You have a right to perform your duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.” When I get honest with myself hopeless comes from attachment and leads to inaction. I want a certain outcome, and when that outcome does not happen I can lose hope, and I go through a period of inaction. On the other hand when I am living in hope there is also attachment, and I still have hope that my actions will lead to the results I want. My dear friend, spiritual companion and business partner, Genevieve Hicks, talks about the concept of hopefree (from Stephen Jenkinson). I do not totally understand what hopefree means, but I wonder if it is doing actions that I believe are skillful in the world without being attached to the outcomes of those actions. And when the outcomes happen, whether I like them or not, I listen for next duty to perform. Hopeful and hopeless can come with a lot of struggle and clinging to what I believe should happen, but hopefree may be a way to do my duties in the world with holding a desire while not simultaneously holding a demand that life be on my terms.
When you hear the idea of hopefree what arises in you?