Today is the Winter Solstice. It is a beautiful day in the calendar of the natural world, if we choose to embrace its gift. The day in the year which we are told is equal in its hours of daylight and darkness, heralds a beginning of the return to light. The days begin to slowly get longer…we see a minute or two of additional light each day.
For me it is a day that inspires hope. This year, hope has become something that has become even more important as each day, week and month has unfolded. I thought I knew what hope was, or at least I thought I understood what it meant to me. Perhaps in my naiveté, I came to believe that hope was a feeling. I either had it or I did not. This year has caused me to dig a little deeper into a variety of aspects of a life, including what hope is.
One of the books which has become a reference for me from time to time is Brene Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. If you don’t have it in your library, I highly recommend it. The beauty of books like this one is what happens when you return to it and find something that you read quite a while ago, only to see something again…for the first time. This happened to me yesterday, as I was reading the chapter – GuidePost #3; Cultivating A Resilient Spirit; Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness. The third page has a subtitle – Hope and Powerlessness. My eyes were opened…one…more…time.
Citing the work of C.K. Snyder (former researcher at the University of Kansas, Lawrence), Dr. Brown unfolded a new way of perceiving hope. This is so empowering and seems to be a game changer. Rather than interpret for you, here is the paragraph from this section of her book.
“I was shocked to discover that hope is not an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process. Emotions play a supporting role, but hope is really a thought process made up of what Snyder calls a trilogy of goals, pathways and agency. In very simple terms hope happens when:
We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go).
We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerated disappointment and try again).
We believe in ourselves (I can do this!)
So, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.
And, it that’s not news enough, here’s something else: Hope is learned!”
The times we are living in present challenges that we are capable of rising to meet – in our own way. After all, we have each chosen to be here at this time. In fact each of us has something different to offer to the collective at this time. For some of us, participating in organized activities on behalf of what we believe is right for the collective is what we choose to be and do. For some of us, writing to our representatives, or making donations to just causes to support their efforts is what we offer. Provided that we are caring for ourselves; doing our healing work on ourselves and offering loving-kindness to others – both directly and in our thoughts – we are making positive contributions to the wholeness (holiness) of life.
Believing the possibility that hope is learned and is a thought process, I also hold space for the supporting positive emotions which I believe will lift and move us forward together.
As I was looking for a specific quote that I wanted to share, I found one that was even better! Interestingly enough it apparently comes from the movie, Justice League and is attributed to the character of Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams.
“The truest darkness is not absence of light but that light will never return… But the light always returns… Hope is real. You can see it. All you have to do is look up into the sky.”
As we honor, celebrate or simply observe the return of the light that the Winter Solstice offers, may we also remember hope.
Happy Solstice, everyone.