Did you know there is nothing magical about hope? I didn't.
A strong religious influence imparted ideals about hope that unknowingly became a part of my belief system and sabotaged my capacity to hope. I thought hope rushes in when nothing else is left. I thought that hope was linked to God. For some people, hope can be linked to God. God is, of course, a rescuer and I believed so too was hope. Hope and God are not the same thing. Atheists have plenty of hope, and so hope exists outside of a theistic framework. I somehow believed hope was the shot that made at the half-court line, a second before the buzzer sounds. You think you won't make it, but you do and hope caused the swoosh. Christians often conceptualize hope as something that removed from agency. We hope for something. We have hope of something and we have hope in something, but the religious language of hope leads us to believe that hope is something we await.
So when mindfulness practices led me to learn how to cultivate hope, I was a bit behind the curve. I kept waiting for hope as it if was a separate entity. The thing was, though, hope IS the action. Hope, as it turns out, is a series of actions that you take. Hope doesn't just happen to you. If we are looking for hope, we have to manufacture it. Not to say that hope is fake; hope is a very real and powerful experience, but it is an experience that we create.
What Hope Is
Hope can be learned. Hope is the difference between those who heal and those who do not. Those who heal understand that they cannot wait around for anything to happen. Hopeful people manage themselves instead of allowing others to. People who cultivate hope have a self-directed posture about them. Hope is not about fantasy, but rather about embracing whatever reality you have and then creating a trajectory for a better space. Hope is about pointing your heart and mind in the same direction to move forward. Hope is the business of transcending our limitations, without distraction. Hope is also sometimes just doing the best you can, in the moment.
Hope is not the blind acceptance of circumstances. Hope is not naive optimism. Hope is a kind of openness and flexibility.
Are you waiting for hope, like I was? Maybe it is time to stop waiting and start acting. Hope, like love, is a series of actions that lead you to a deeper relationship with yourself and others.
You have permission to hope.