The cure for hopelessness isn't hope

Have you ever consoled somebody with “don’t worry, everything will be alright” or “things will workout – don’t give up hope” and felt a sense of utter emptiness in your words, no matter how well intentioned they were? That you were trying to impose a fabricated, highy improbable fairy tale that nobody – not least the person in pain - was buying into?

We’ve all been there. Even looking back on our dark nights of the soul – was it really hope that kept us alive?

Hope is defined as ”the general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled; to intend with some possibility of fulfillment.”

Don’t get me wrong. In the battle between despair and hope, I will fight to death for the latter. They don’t call me an optimist for nothing.  Hope is beautiful, uplifting, inspiring and a mesmerising image of what could be.

However, inherent in the definition of hope is the notion of some nebulous, unpredictable future tense. And this is what makes is so fragile – prone to easily crumbling to the vagaries of our circumstances, thoughts, moods and emotions.

Trust in the present moment on the other hand, is unwavering, unshakable. It implies a complete confidence that no matter what is going on, we have all the patience, courage, wisdom and love to meet it fully.

In Buddhist practice, this is referred to as taking refuge in life as it is, moment by moment. Confidence in the present leads to confidence in your path – wherever it may take you. Suffering dissolves, when we remember who we are – a loving awareness, an already complete presence.

Consider this Zen gem:

If you want to know the Buddhist law

Drift East, drift West

Entrusting yourself to the waves

That’s all well and good, you might say, but what does it mean in practical terms?

Our lack of trust in ourselves stems from a “trance of unworthiness” that we are conditioned to believe is true. Constantly sensing that “something is missing” or “not enough”, we lean into the future for something more, taking false refuge in the illusion of “perfectionism.”

Embrace the grittiness of your life instead. Say yes to the mess! Take it all in.

Pick a short or long term goal you’re working on.

Make a shift from seeing it as a ”goal of aspiration” to a “goal of revelation.” In other words, as you meet the challenges it presents you with, view them as opportunities to tap into the unlimited inner wisdom you ALREADY have.