There is a lot of cynicism and fear mongering nowadays. And to be honest, sometimes I feel like I just want to cover my ears to turn myself into heartbeats. Because sometimes it’s hard to hear anything else. This is not to deny “realities” but rather to connect deeper and remember.
The stories we tell ourselves and those told to us by others, whether true or false, are always real as far our bodies and minds are concerned. And we act out of this realness and we react to this realness. These assumptions that people make, whether gossip, negativity or malicious comments, often reveal more about the assumers than the ones assumed about.
We need to question what values and beliefs of others we’ve justified as true and as our own.
We need to learn to stop believing things that harm us.
It is so easy to fall into hopelessness, cynicism and fear. We begin to feel that our efforts don’t matter, and if our efforts don’t matter then we don’t matter. And if we don’t matter then it is all useless and we are unneeded. And then our minds, which are just recycled selective memories multiplied by infinite imagination, become monsters. Welcome, monster monkey brain. In such moments, it is necessary to restore our hope.
Hope demands full engagement. It doesn’t deny the harsh realities of the world. It means facing them and embracing them, remembering what else is there and always has been. It’s a movement, not passivity, as it shifts our perception and consciousness. Hope is not thinking that all was or will be well forever. It’s a possibility. It’s a new beginning growing from the soil of our soul, tempted by water, tempted by air, like how snowdrops grow in shade.
Hope is the space between our human bodies and the abyss. It is like looking and falling into the black pupil of God’s eye. It is standing at the doorway or rather threshold, of transition. Hope locates itself in this liminal space of uncertainty and embraces it. There in the liminal, things are always unclear and unknown but like all thresholds this space is temporary, and it is of a coming closer just not seen yet. But just because we can’t see where we are going or what’s happening, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening or that our efforts don’t matter. It is the little steps we take, and knowing that we are enough even when these steps are very tiny – that is what matters.
These hopeful ideas and feelings may seem outrageous or even ridiculous, but how this transition occurred from the soil is rarely remembered. Change is not straightforward. It is complex like chaos and slow like evolution. Though it may seem like suddenly the snowdrops are out, it took time to grow from the deeper darker roots in the soil. It takes time.
You see, often in my teachings I refer back to folklore and tales because they carry all the wisdoms passed on to us by our ancestors. One of my favourite tales of all time is “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a tale of love, of the power of a pure heart, of trust and of belief. It is a story about how the warmth of Gerda’s tears touched Kai’s chest and melt away the ice from his heart. And it’s a story about the power of hope.
In its beautiful manner, the narrative portrays how we all go through the different seasons of life and through the many things that separate us from ourselves and from others such as coldness, disconnection and aloofness; of how we harden our hearts, we lose tenderness, we lose touch, we lose belief, hope, trust and love.
The Snow Queen herself is not an evil character. She is just nature; she is winter, ice and snow. And in her essence she is needed because (for example) polar bears, reindeers and penguins cannot survive without her. And neither can we as humans. On the other hand, some freeze to death. And in Kai’s case, his heart froze, he forgot who he was and was basically “kidnapped”. For Gerda this was heartbreaking and made her feel hopeless as Kai was her only friend. The only truly evil character in the tale is the devil himself who broke the enchanted mirror. And as each piece fell into someone’s eyes and into their hearts; it distorted their view of the world. This story shows us, very accurately, that “evil” and those that shade our views, are not always punished and that they very often get away with it. What the story also shows us is that this is not what we should focus on – and that we can always find a way to move forward.
Spring came and hope returned for Gerda. Unknowing whether Kai was dead or alive, she decided to put on her brand new red shoes that her grandmother had given her and walked outside to search for Kai. She went through the seasons and along the way lost hope sometimes. But then a bird would speak. Or she’d make an unexpected friend. Through connection, openness, trust and kindness, hope would slowly find its way whispering into her ear believe, believe. And she’d look up towards her north star; her love for Kai. And she’d take another step. She never could have known, that day she put on her red shoes, of how far she’d go and who she’d meet to help her along the way.
In the liminal space where hope roots, we need to feel comfortable in the company of mystery; to be willing to go into the shadows and take a walk in the dark, in the unknown. And that’s going to be scary. But in this dark, our senses will heighten and our instincts will sharpen. And we’ll feel more alive because we are more alert. In these unknown landscapes that life itself walks, roads are never straight or direct. Unlike our manmade built streets and highways, life’s paths are full of twists and turns, of bumping into things and people, knocking over our own two feet (and against a few hard objects in the dark that’d leave scars for a long time). But then we’ll emerge from the dark woods and sit by the fire. Wherever we are, in light or in dark, the world will offer itself to us in its own ways and shapes, and we will always be in the family of things.
Our greatest adversary to re-claiming ourselves and building a deeper connection is forgetfulness; forgetting our inner truth, love and our purity of heart. No matter what has happened in our lives, we all have, at least once, been touched by love, tenderness, compassion, belief and hope. It is love, and only love, that is the common denominator of everything in life. That’s the greatest magic of all, the greatest healer of all, the greatest peacemaker of all.
Let’s think of children.
It is no easy task being a child. Real childhood, as opposed to our fantasies because of forgetfulness, is full of adversaries, worries, unknowns and some intense moments, for many even traumatic. In every step of the way, they are faced with the harsh realities of their larger than life dreams as they come crashing down. And they face the mysterious “No” which would remain mysterious for reasons they are incapable of understanding yet. Do you remember how you felt the world through your childhood eyes? No matter how much we shield or protect our children as parents, childhood always has its own intensities. And so do we, as adults; children of some more mature consciousness or eagle’s eye view.
Here is where the wisdom of the tales comes, which we too have forgotten. Hope is often the through-line of the narrative but the teaching isn’t that it’s easy and gets us out of trouble like fairy dust or Aladdin’s genie from the lamp.
Hope is a struggle.
Hope is dangerous.
Hope is challenging.
And hope is absolutely needed.
Hope doesn’t shield us from hardships, pains and evils but it gives us the courage to descend into these uncomfortable honesties tenderly; to embrace them and allow ourselves to be changed; to rest and then stand up to take a step, no matter how tiny. We’ll still be hurt. We’ll still have scars. And we’ll be changed. But we’ll be whole and still have ourselves.
Hope is not a thing we know. It is not an object we find. It is not fragile. It is not frail. It is not a butterfly without wings. Hope is not a solution. Yet, hope is not passive. It is a new beginning growing from the soil with temptation of water, with temptation of air. Like how snowdrops grow in shade.
There is nothing weak nor boring about hope. Hope is a virtue.
Hope tangles, wrangles, weaves and lives in our every day.
It is found in our every day but we just don’t notice it because only in despair we turn to hope to look into its eyes. Is it not hope that makes us cook a meal, hoping our loved ones will love it? It is not hope that wrangles with us when we submit our creative piece to yet another journal, knowing it’d probably be rejected but we do it anyway? Is it not hope that makes us smile even when we feel like crying because we saw the bright eyes of someone we love? Is it not hope that humbles us when we look into the eyes of love?
Hope isn’t about denying that life can be and should be better. Hope encourages us to believe and embrace our paths with optimism, joy and grace.
To engage in the struggle of hope is no small task – it is Hard. It is much easier to be skeptical and to rest in the underworld. This world sucks sometimes. And we all know that. And bad things happen to good people. And just like in the tale, the bad aren’t punished – but it is not about that. And we are bombarded by voices and stories about how our ugly, weaknesses and failures shape us – they don’t. Remove yourself from those who feed you such negativity and find comfort and solace with those who truly love you, respect you and support you.
We cannot and should not deny that there are many things in this world which should have never happened, never heard, never seen and never done. But they have. Having the humility and the strength to accept reality as is, yet have the audacity to imagine it as how it can be – is a superpower; is how real impactful change happens.
Just like Gerda, we don’t always know where we are going. There is too much unknown but we decide to walk anyway. Our feet will get tired and we’ll feel lost and discouraged. There are too many questions our mind will ask and we will not have the answers. But that’s okay. We will figure it out along the way. Trust in the timing of the unfolding of your life.
We must pay attention. We must cherish. We must believe. We must look up and reach towards our northern star, whatever she may be for us – we all have one.
And we must put on our red shoes and go outside; to meet the world with our indestructible superpower, Hope.
Ways to restore hope
1. Limit exposure. We need to discern the mediums through which we receive information. Energy is the currency of the universe and everything we focus on is something we’ve bought to experience. Everything carries its own vibration including the music we listen to. Have you noticed how certain songs make you feel good? When we consume too much of the internet, TV and social media, our minds get overflowed and turn off to recharge. We should be very careful and mindful of what we watch, read and listen to every day – because it is all consumed and becomes a part of our beliefs and unconscious thought patterns. Do not underestimate the impact of the negativity that propagates numbness and meaninglessness of this world and that we are “not good enough”. Know what makes you feel happy and inspired. Know what makes you feel worse or anxious. Remove yourself or distance yourself (at least temporarily) from things, situations and people who make you feel drained or hopeless. We all need time to heal during challenging times and are allowed to have that time. When we are feeling hopeless, we have used up all of our emotional resources and don’t feel appreciated – so we need to limit exposure to anything that perpetuates these states of mind.
2. Surround with love and support. Be mindful of the people you surround yourself with and interract with. Unfortunately, many people nowadays will replay their wounds through you. Be mindful of: how do they talk to you, what do they say about your dreams and inspirations, what are their values, how do they live their life, how much faith do they have in you? Are they doubters – because if they are, that means they’ll doubt you too. Are they gossipers – because if they are, be sure they will gossip about you too. Move away from negativity, entitlement, jealousy, envy, criticism, judgment, doubt and fear – set your boundaries and distance yourself. You need to surround yourself with people who support you, accept you and hold space for you with kindness, understanding and compassion. We become our surroundings and to cultivate hope, we need to have the needed environment to support this. Hope needs hope to feed itself.
3. Nourish the body. Allow yourself to rest. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with the words you tell yourself and think of yourself. Give yourself a break. We are not robots, we are not perfect and we were never meant to know it all or have it all together anyway. Call in the waters and stay in your tenderness. Drink lots of water and take plenty of showers. You can take spiritual baths as well. Let the tea kettle settle you into peace. Cry and let the tears fall; waters wear and carve the stones into smoothness. Eat salads and clean food. When we take in information, remember that this is not just emotionally or intellectuall – it is energetically. So we need to cleanse our energy. We need to recharge by filling up our wells again. Movement is also important – so after the rest, move the body whether by dance, walks or whatever else feels good for you.
4. Orient yourself. We need to remember that our efforts matter; that we matter and feel needed again. Often times I find that we begin to lose hope when there is a lack of equivalent energetic exchange. So find something, no matter how small that would make you feel appreciated. Go volunteer. Smile at a stranger. Feed the birds or squirrels. Spend time in nature and see how the world unfolds; see how everything is connected and how the wild offers itself to you as you are too in the family of things connected to every thing and everyone around you. Say hi to the person in the elevator. Cook a new meal. And find your north star. What is something or someone that holds a lot of meaning in your life; that whenever you think of it or do it, you smile or just feel a tiny bit happier? Whatever it is, commit to it daily, as many times as you need. Maybe it is talking to someone you love, maybe it is tending to your garden, maybe it is taking a shower or cooking. Your north star is the fixed star that roots you and calls you back to the surface of yourself.
5. Stand in beauty. Fill up your well with beauty. Beautiful music, art, clean space and soft bedsheets, and all kinds of wonderful curiosities that can expand your vision and feelings. What inspires you? What stimulates your imagination? What makes you optimistic and hopeful? You need to fill yourself with wonder; of wildlife, nature and childlike eyes. Treat yourself to buy a new dress, or something for the house. Remember that giving yourself beauties does not mean you are abandoning what sadness has happened in your life and the sadness that was a part of you and maybe held you for a long time – so don’t feel guilty about that. By standing in beauty and beginning to have hope again, you are ackowledging that it happened but it is a part of the story, not the whole story; you are embracing yourself and you are celebrating every part of you back into wholeness. You are a beautiful snowdrop.
So put on your brand new red shoes, dear miracle, and take a step no matter how tiny. Pray with your feet for the blessing that you already are, and always were and always will be. This land will always bear your feet and remembers how far you’ve come through mud and thorns. The wind will always carry your dreams and the animals speak of your kindness. Wherever you are, the world will offer itself to you. There is an invisible kingdom guiding you along the way; so trust in the process. You are appreciated for the many little things you do each day. They are known and seen, even when you don’t know it yet. You are more loved and more needed than you know. This, I promise you. This, I know.
With Love & Peace
Cover Art by Martin Stranka
In-text Art “The Snow Queen” Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Christian Birmingham