Nobody wants to feel hopeless. There are some who attach themselves to it because they know nothing else. They are the Eyores of life, behaving like the fabled donkey in the Winnie the Pooh series.
Even people who are suicidal don't want death as much as they want the pain to stop. Their pain is that of hopelessness, for they see no way to choose life. We all have times when we need to hear, "Lift up your eyes and look outward from this place." (Book of Genesis, Chp. 13, V.14)
Being hopeful is a natural state. Our body, mind, spirit and emotions will always seek ways to reclaim it. Healing from hopelessness is the gift of getting our futures back. We can learn how to adjust our present perspective and, in so doing, we gift others as well.
There are three basic beliefs that exude hope. They tell us that we are lovable, good, and sufficient. We begin learning them in our earliest experiences, and they direct our behavior throughout our lives. They are the cornerstones of choosing life.
Humans need love. It is in the giving and receiving of love that we choose life. Participating in this fundamental exchange lies in our ability to trust others. This is where hope enters.
Too often, we limit our trust because of past betrayal. Hope is a special quality that lifts us from this pit of despair. Hope doesn't depend on the past. In fact, it requires that we disregard all previous experience, good and bad. When we hope for that which we do not have, we anticipate that something good will happen. It allows us to wait patiently and confidently. While we wait, we can open our hearts to give and receive the love that we need.
Hope-filled people know that they are good most of the time. They direct their intention toward being good citizens, good children, good parents, and good in any other roles they adopt.
What does it mean to be good? Goodness includes patience, tolerance, accountability, integrity, kindness, and honesty. It looks beyond the self to the greatest good of all. It is able to set aside gratification in the present in order to strive toward something better. It is grounded in the confidence that good prevails.
To know that you are enough, blemishes and all, fills you with hope.
You have special gifts, and if you don't know what they are, you need to discover them. Each one of us is an expert in something. It may be swatting flies or climbing mountains. Refrain from comparing your expertise to that of another.
Accept that you are sufficient right now. It is from a point of acceptance that you can choose to be more. Say to yourself, "I am good. I am lovable. I am sufficient, and from this day onward I can be even more if I so choose. I am a gift to the world."
If you bend forward in a crouched position with your head near the floor, and say, "I feel hopeful," chances are, you won't sound hopeful at all. If you sit up straight, push your shoulders back, open your chest, look up and say, "I'm hopeless," nobody will believe it. Our words may say one thing while our body says another. We can use our body to help us restore hopeful feelings.
Posture is just one way the body helps us shift our attitude. When we expand the chest, we expand our lungs. By taking a full cleansing breath, in through the nose, and out through the mouth, we automatically release tension. If the chest muscles are contracted, we have too little oxygen coming into the lungs and too little carbon dioxide going out.
Shallow breathing and holding the breath are unconscious acts. They are a response to hopelessness. It is as if we fear opening up to anything, even the positive. As a result, we collapse into ourselves, becoming victims of our posture. Conscious awareness allows us to reshape our bodies through stretching and breathing deeply.
Vigorous physical exercise of a pleasing nature helps to restore hopefulness. The body's natural hormones go into production when we run, walk, dance, bounce on a trampoline, or ride a bicycle. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise, done six days a week, provides enough good-feeling hormones for most of us. The body does want to help. When we listen to its responses, it guides us.
A healthy amount of physical exercise is as good as a tune up. In some ways, people's bodies are like cars. If they sit in the driveway they get stiff and rusty. If you drive them only in high gear they wear out. When we care for them and use them well, they last for a very long time.
We are not designed for continuous work. Humans are cyclical creatures. In each twenty-four hours there needs to be a rhythm of activity and rest. Sedentary jobs must be balanced with physical action. Work must be balanced with play, and activity with rest. It is the balance that allows us to sleep secure in the knowing that this day, we have chosen life. Tomorrow forecasts hope.
Our thoughts are powerful messengers. We can program our minds to tell us hope-filled words. Saying them aloud makes them even more believable.
Hope-filled thoughts should be positive, personal, and spoken in the present tense. Hope begins now, not later. "I am confident that the person I will marry is coming toward me now."
Hope is lively, not fearful and guarded. It grants us freedom from the shackles of doubt. Hope-filled thoughts should reflect excitement, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude. "I am delighted by the notion that the love of my life is preparing to meet me now. I can feel it and I am confident that all my preparation is being rewarded."
When there seems to be a traffic jam inside of our minds, we can use relaxation and centering techniques to achieve quiet presence and restore hope. The cleansing breath is one such practice, a good stretch is another. Taking a full body shake is wonderful (dogs do it all the time), and so is letting out a loud sigh. Go ahead. Try one of these now.
There are many forms of meditation. If you are a physically active person, choose a moving meditation such as Hatha Yoga, or T'ai Chi. Seated meditation is suited to people who enjoy physical stillness. Self-distraction can be achieved with anything that rests the intellect such as a good book, a crossword puzzle, creative writing or a computer game.
The mind readily opens to suggestions once you teach it to be still. It doesn't need to be empty, just uncluttered.
When feelings and emotions are undermining hopefulness, we have to pay attention to them. Sometimes we just need to give them an opportunity to vent. If you are feeling sad but unable to have a good cry, rent a sad movie. If you are angry, take a big breath and open your mouth as wide as you can. Then, bend forward and let out a low growl. You will be amazed by the sound of rage releasing from your body.
Emotions can also release through outlets of creative expression. If you play a musical instrument, choose a selection that matches your mood and play it as passionately as you can. Then change to something lighter and more hopeful.
Working with art materials heals emotional conflict. You don't have to be good at any of it. Just splash powdered tempera paint all over a large piece of newspaper. Dip a brush in water and swirl it around. You might try ready-to-use finger-paints. Smear them on waxed paper till your heart is content. Squeezing and releasing two blobs of clay works wonders.
If you like to cut and paste, gather up last month's magazines and make a collage. You will be surprised at how your choices tell a story. Any time you take time to play artist, you will heap a bounty of emotional healing on your soul. Try it. This is really choosing life.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Ashar Press, www.asharpress.com. ©2000.
Choose Life! Living Consciously in an Unconscious World
by Beverly M. Breakey.
Choose Life is filled with universal truths that transcend age, gender, culture, walk of life and religious belief. It teaches anyone with intention the insights, ideas and techniques to wake up to their fullest potential. The reader will discover that by using innate talents, gifts and power they can live a life of joy and fulfillment. Choose Life bridges the fields of medicine, religion and psychology. It is filled with example after example that draws the reader into its storytelling wisdom. A must-read for adults at any age.
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Beverly Breakey has been involved in the field of Holistic Health for over twenty years. She is a Registered Nurse, educated in Canada with a specialty in pediatrics and she holds a Masters degree in Clinical Holistic Health. She has a California license as a Marriage and Family Therapist and is the clinical director of the InterGenerational Health Center in San Jose, where she also has a holistic counseling practice. She is also adjunct faculty for the John F Kennedy University's Department of Holistic Studies.