Finding Hope in Hopeless Times
~Thich Nhat Hahn
When I was living in NYC, I met a homeless man in a shelter, who shared his story about being homeless. What I remembered most about his story is that he never gave up hope, even in his darkest days on the streets with no food, shelter or love. He said that he always held onto hope for a better day because he believed in God, who, he knew, would help him find a permanent home with compassionate people who cared about the poor. Sure enough, his hope turned into reality when a loving stranger found him a permanent a shelter where he called home.
I believe that we give up on life when we give up on hope. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “we can bear tomorrow because we can hope today.” Hope gives us a reason to live another day. While we are equipped to handle many obstacles that come our way, sometimes tragedy hits us like a merciless hurricane destroying everything in our path, and all of our hopes vanishes in a flash. In such times, how do we hold onto hope?
When life crushes us like a ton of bricks, it’s hard to see any glimmer of hope. The only way out of this darkness into light is through our spiritual awareness. Hope can never be bought by money, which is why hopelessness strikes both the rich and poor. We often hear in the news about the rich and famous dying of drug or alcohol overdose, which is a dysfunctional way to deal with their lack of hope. Obviously, if hope was something the rich could have bought for themselves, they would certainly not succumb to such feelings of hopelessness. Hope comes from our spiritual — not material — wealth. Love is what makes us spiritually wealthy, so when we feel it in our deepest core, no matter what dark clouds hover over us, hope will always re-emerge once the clouds pass through. So hope can be a small flame that never burns out.
My mother, who survived 2 horrific wars and poverty, always said that she had so much hope for a better future because of the love she received from her family. Having seen such brutality first-hand, especially during the Korean war, she admitted that without love she probably would not have been so optimistic about the future. Love gives meaning, and meaning gives hope. So love is the well that nourishes our water of hope. While family and friends are wonderful sources of love, human love, which is temporal, eventually disappears because no one lives forever. The love that can continue to fuel our hope comes from a higher place, so it is in our spiritual awakening that we can feel love and hope all the time.
In order to sustain hope, it is important to reinforce love within ourselves on a daily basis. It helps to visualize and verbalize that God loves us unconditionally because we are all equal in his eyes. I place heart objects in front of me to visualize love, as well as write and verbalize self-love phrases to reinforce this message in my mind and heart. This technique is so simple yet highly effective because it heightens our love energy. Like anything we want to perfect, we have to constantly practice it, so by visualizing and verbalizing it, we can exercise and practice our love muscle, so when we need to access hope, it already exists. Hopelessness really comes from a lack of love, so the more we are able to nurture love within ourselves, the more we can tap into hope, especially during life’s bleakest moments. Without hope, there is no meaning to life, which is when we give up on ourselves and our lives. So it is imperative to have hope in our darkest hours so we have the desire — even the smallest drop of it — to live another day.
If a homeless man can have hope, which he found through God’s love, there is no excuse for any of us to give up on it. While he appears to have nothing, the homeless man actually has everything because his spiritual wealth, which gives him hope, is priceless. So be spiritually rich and your flame of hope will burn forever!
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living