In The End, Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.~Anne Lamott

Last month, I wrote about the desire I felt to be more fluid and to allow myself more space for transformative compassion and peace. Not through the guise of seeing myself as a project to improve upon, but by becoming slower, more conscious, and present for transformation to reveal itself during the daily acts of practice on and off the mat. For me, this transformation is revealing itself in many way, but perhaps most poignant has been in noticing the daily opportunities for gratitude that I’m presented with—the ones that so often I’ve missed simply by taking them for granted. It’s this gratitude that reminds me to steep myself in hope. And it’s this hope that prods me toward the knowledge that to give up, to stop being present for both the work and the acceptance of transformation, would be to miss the opportunity for the full, rich life that beckons me.

I subscribe to both the cultural and natural clocks, the cycles that draws me toward feeling December as an ending, an opportunity to reflect upon what has been and visualize what will be in the coming new year. In part, my yoga practices have allowed me to be more aware of what nature is doing and how, when I mimic nature, I feel most aligned physically, mentally, and spiritually. For example, if in December I begin to peel away layers of myself much like the earth has shed its abundant garnishing, and find a way to do less, pull inward, eat in a way that is most natural in winter, find as much quiet within me as there is darkness outside, I feel that I am living in tune with what is most natural for this time of year. By doing so, I feel healthier in all aspects of myself. In fact, I love the rituals of Advent and the symbolism that is revealed in seeing Advent as a time of expectant preparation; of pathway making within me. I think, like Jan Richardson writes, “this season beckons me to ask, what am I preparing for? What is the way that is being prepared within the wilderness of my life? What does it mean for my own life to become a path…?” I see this path, this preparation, as a way of opening to the hope of something bright and illumined within me and that from the darkness that ends the year, light will return. Because of the time I’ve spent cultivating a pathway within, I will be able to return to the world with a renewed sense of gratitude and awareness of all there is to place my hope upon.

As 2017 draws to a close, I can like so many of us, recall many periods of doubt and a sense of hopelessness from the months behind. There have been challenges, to be sure. This whole year past has felt a bit like a walk through the “wilderness.” Many writers use that term “wilderness” to cultivate a sense of the unknown and that which is at least a bit frightening. I have listened to much of the discord and have felt the darkness that has permeated so many of us watching and listening to events of the past year.

I am ready to let go of 2017. Yet to write this off as a terrible year, one I’m excited to say good riddance to, would be to miss the opportunity for gratitude for the wilderness. It’s in the wilderness that we are called to create new pathways. If I’m in the wilderness, without a known path, then I can either slip meekly back to the familiar that lies behind me–the same old thought patterns and habits, same old ways of conversation, same old positions of disconnect and discord–or I can stumble my way through to some new way of connecting to myself and the world. For me, seeing into the dark has meant seeing that creating wholeness in myself and contributing to cultivating that wholeness in others is of the utmost importance. This is where we begin to bear light into the wild dark places and become more connected to one another, better able to listen with compassion and full attention. I am hopeful for that.

“Hope begins in the dark,” says Anne Lamott. I am working hard at being comfortable with seeing the end of this year from a stubbornly hopeful perspective that keeps me alive to practicing presence in this world. I’ve written of working hard and of letting go–two primary tenets of dedication to the yoga practice–and how each serves the other. I believe in part the dedication, determination, and commitment I’ve cultivated with this work of yoga is serving me in keeping a spirit of hope alive. I may not understand fully or even prefer the results that come from my dedicated work, but so long as I remain faithful that the dedication will create more integrated wholeness and aliveness within me, I maintain the light of hope that is necessary to continue creating a pathway through the wilderness of my life. So as I draw inward to reflect upon this year that’s coming to an end, to the passage that has been revealed, it is with a stubborn hope that light is not only flickering in the dark, it is refusing to be extinguished.