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Hope in the New Year

As we move into 2024, many of us are feeling a loss of hope, of any expectation that things will get better, kinder, calmer, more sane. With our beautiful earth disintegrating with fires, floods, earthquakes, drought and other disasters – politics getting scarier and scarier and just the whole human and other-than-human situation on the precipice of disaster – it’s difficult to stay positive. We are living through a most profound moment in history.

How do we shift from this tangled world where we find ourselves to what we can imagine? How do we pass from despair to hope? Rebecca Solnit in her essay, “Difficult is Not the Same as Impossible,” says, “Hope is the courage to persevere when winning looks hard.” And “Hope is taking risks, being vulnerable to the effects of loss, and making the commitment to try to participate in shaping the future.” And “Having the certainty that something is worth doing.”

It’s not about hoping it snows or that my dinner isn’t burned, it’s more about the deeper, more profound hope that can affect the cosmos. Being mindful of the thoughts and feelings we’re putting out there in the collective consciousness. How to vision a beautiful world and life while dealing with things that are so immediate, so painful.

Former Czech President, Václav Havel says, “Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times.”

Terry Tempest Williams: “There is deep beauty in not averting our gaze. No matter how hard it is, no matter how heartbreaking it can be, it is about presence, it is about bearing witness.”

And Roshi Joan Halifax: “Sacredness appears in those moments when life overflows its banks – when we see the vast, variegated, and infinite networks of life and being we each are part of … the very marrow of our lives …”

These are the teachers for our times.

What we’re going through now can bring us terrible loss or magnificent transformation. The outcomes are not decided, we’re deciding them now. To carry hope is difficult these days, but it can bring us more compassion, wisdom, interconnectedness, and certainly greater humility.

We can start by practicing gratitude. Spending a few minutes each day recounting the positives in our lives – even small ones like noticing a moment of serenity in the sunshine, or the endorphins of a brisk walk around our neighborhoods – can have enormous impact. Next, we can begin to actively envision realistic ways that our circumstances may improve. Pain and discomfort often subside. Even deep sorrows can pass with time. In all these cases, the action to embrace is to choose to be mindful and deliberate about fostering positivity, even in the face of its absence.

As elders, we have lived through many different and difficult changes in our lives, both personally and in the more worldly realm. I’m trying to stay mindful, and maintain some hope and good energy along with the coming of more light each day. This is the time to be quiet, go more inward, and plant the seeds for what we vision and hope for next.

Hope with the children, that they will create a different and more peaceful future. Hope in nature, that our walks in beauty will lead to appreciation and care for our world. Hope in social movements that will heal the earth. Hope for resilience and strength for success at all odds.

Light a candle and watch the sun go down every afternoon. May 2024 bring us hope, imagination, and inspiration that’s so needed now.