Friday, October 16, 2009

Finding Hope in Hard Times

Finding Hope in Hard Times

Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi

Hope is in the acceptance of the fact that things change. Hope is in the acceptance of the monsoon after the scorching heat of summer; the accepting of autumn before the winter’s serene snow covers the ground in white velvet; hope is in the dormant stages of the green grass ready to come up in the spring; and the flower encased in a bud ready to blossom at the right time, not hastened by the expectations of the observer. Hope is like the sun that shines in the sky, at times covered with layers of clouds, but one knows that it is there at all times. Hope is in letting go of things that have withered away and in embracing the new. It is not a matter of “finding” hope but a simple gentle act of reminding oneself that it is always there—just beneath your feet, within your heart, and on the horizon.

Buddhists do not dismiss or overlook the hard times but simply accept them as part of the unfolding cosmic drama, a drama that we all take part in. However, we do have a tendency to harden our heart during hard times by giving in to our “primal” sense of fear, insecurity, jealousy, anger, and low self-esteem. In some ways this hardened attitude just magnifies our experience of difficult times and reinforces our negative destructive emotions, thereby weakening our emotional and physical immune system as we face into challenges that lie ahead. Imagine walking on a dark rainy night and trembling with fear as you see what appears to be a coiled snake in your path. Lightning strikes and you see that it was just a coiled piece of rope and with a deep out-breath your fear vanishes. This flash of lightning is hope.

Hope is not just a matter of faith for the blind but requires us to cultivate courage and strength. There are several unknown factors in one’s life. The very fact that we go to sleep every night hoping to wake up the next day is an act of faith. Hope is just a natural way of being human—it is the foundation for “eternal” optimism of the religious or the realistic sanguinity of the secular. There is no other way to look at another moment or another day but with this sense of emerging hope. It is possible with every fresh breath to gain a new sense of hope and of confidence within oneself to do just the right thing with the time and energy one has-- right here, right now.

Be in gratitude; develop a sense of humor; smile often; be kind to others, and compassionate to oneself—all of these cultivate hope and give this life of ours a wonderful sense of meaning.