Recently someone mentioned that after all the disappoints they’ve suffered the last several years that they’d given up hope. Done with it. I’ve encountered this often in coaching and friendships and its worth addressing. Hope in my book is not on the high pedestal many place it.
Giving up on hope is I think, actually a good thing. I teach my students not to give in to hope as it is passive, almost always out of the realm of our own efforts, and essentially just wishing. Kind of sets one up for disappointment and is really a kind of psychological lottery. INSTEAD I encourage them to focus on what they can do, and in time foster a active vision, to simply attend to things one day at a time, even if its only their breath, washing the dishes, and cultivating mindfulness. People waste too much of their lives on hoping and trying. There is a better way.
The ultimate end of koans might be seen in the following story, a bit of modern zen humor regarding a disciple who sent his master faithful accounts of his spiritual progress. In the first month, the student wrote, “I feel an expansion of consciousness and experienced oneness with the universe.” The master glanced at the note and threw it away. The following month, this is what the student had to say: “I finally discovered that the Divine is present in all things.” The master seemed disappointed.
In his third letter the disciple enthusiastically explained, “The mystery of One and the many has been revealed to my wondering gaze.” The master yawned. The next letter said, “No one is born, no one lives, and no one dies, for the self is not.” The master threw up his hands in despair.
After that, 6 months passed by, then two, then five, then a whole year. The master thought it was time to remind his disciple of his duty to keep him informed of his spiritual progress. The disciple wrote back, “I am simply living my life. And as for spiritual practice, who cares?” When the master read that he cried, “Thank God. He’s got it at last.”
– Beyond Satori – After the Ecstasy the Laundry. Jack Kornfield
(A bow to student Scott Adams for re-mind-in me of this story)