Spiritual Practices From the Inside Out: New Fields of Hope

Hope is not a mere feeling or attitude. Hope, like gratitude or curiosity, is a way of life.

Developing our Hope Muscles

Hope is not being unrealistic. It is deeper than knowing “things will work out well.” Our hope depends not on being disconnected from real life, but on experiencing life as it really is.

Not all of us were born with the gift to be hopeful. Fortunately we can develop and strengthen our ability to hope. Hoping is a set of skills we can learn, a muscle we can strengthen by exercising it.

We practice being hopeful, or hopeless. For some of us, lack of hope has been reinforced for as long as we can remember. We may have been taught not to have hope, or that being too hopeful was tempting fate.

Like other forms of exercise, strengthening our hope needs to begin where we are. We need to honest with ourselves about how much hope we allow ourselves to experience. It is not possible for us to build up hope we feel discouraged about not having. We can only strengthen the hope we do have.

Starting Before the Beginning

Cultivating hope works the same was as growing any other crop. First, we choose and prepare the ground. It may be a plot of land on which hope has grown before, but has become arid or neglected. We want a field with nutrients which will feed our hope and access to water and sunlight.

We prepare our hearts and minds to be places conducive to producing hope.

Hope can be a challenging crop to grow. There are natural obstacles and predators to hope. It is more difficult to grow hope in stony soil and dark places. We may begin by breaking up the soil.

The ground freezes in the winter where I was raised. Each spring, farmers would plow and till the earth. Breaking up the soil allows us to plant what we want to grow, and water to get beneath the surface. It opens the ground to becoming more useable, more likely to produce a good crop. We add what will make our soil a better growing environment.

In the same way, we prepare ourselves for the planting of hope. We want to become receptive to hope, better growing environments.

We make ourselves ready for hope to be planted in us.

What Hope Do We Want to Produce?

Farmers choose the precise crops they want to grow and the exact type of seed for each crop. They want a crop which will yield a good return and a hardy strain which will deal well with adversity.

We decide what type of hope we want to produce and which seeds will yield it in us. Some hope does not produce much of a return on investment. There is hope which cannot survive spring storms or long dry summers.

What kinds of hope would we like to produce?

Where is there a good spot to produce hope in us?

Tending Hope Takes Hard Work

Hope will grow in us if we work to protect it and make it strong.

Like farmers in the fields, we need to feed and water our hope. We need to protect our hope from weeds which would steal its strength. It is our responsibility to do what we can to keep hope safe from predators and adverse conditions.

Like athletes developing muscles, we stretch and exercise to build strength every day. Practicing hope is part of our daily workout. We train, making our hope stronger, more durable, more flexible.

Each day is important, and every day is different. There will be times when our new hope will be threatened, when we will not feel like exercising. On other days, we will be tempted to test our hope beyond its limitations.

Healthy hope may need time to recover from stresses and challenges.

Hope as a Way of Life

Producing hope is more than the exercises we do, the things we practice to strengthen hope. As we exercise, as we practice, hope becomes part of us. We open ourselves each day to stronger hope, and hope is awakened in us.

Hope is not measured by the number of repetitions we do of each exercise. We cannot evaluate our hope based on its yield per acre.

Hope is not assessed on a scale of 1 to 10. It cannot be reduced to a number.

The hope we are growing takes root in our lives, our minds and hearts. We are not trying to increase the overall amount of hope in the world, but in ourselves. Our efforts are geared toward having more hope, becoming more hopeful.

The hope for which we have prepared ourselves sends shoots up, through the ground. Hope breaks through the darkness into the light. We continue tending and caring for hope in our lives as it continues to sprout and grow.

It is not that we act our way into having hope, or even think our way into it. Hope grows in us and becomes part of our lives. Hope becomes a stronger aspect of how we live and continues to grow.

We find new ways to be hopeful in our everyday lives. Our hope is stronger even in the face of discouragement and difficulty. Having hope does not mean we are never sad, never tired. Hope becomes part of who we are.

Becoming More Hopeful in the World

As hope grows and becomes stronger in us we become sources of hope in the world.

Paying attention to hope as we cultivate and strengthen it attunes us to its power. We are connected to new hope in our lives and share it with others.

We recognize and appreciate our hope in new ways. Our understand of why we hope grows deeper and stronger.

Hope that has been dormant comes to life.

Where is hope sending shoots out of the ground you have prepared for it?

How is hope growing stronger in you?

[Image by xlibber]