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Hope springs eternal even in the darkest of days

Winter can drag on, cold days, wet or frozen, windy, long nights, seemingly endless. It’s the time of year that people can feel really depressed, devoid of optimism and hope. We can get caught up in a cycle of depressed, moody days, and it can be hard to shift the mood. What’s the point of even trying since nothing changes. It just goes on and on. Some of us even wonder if we can go on and on.

Here it’s been very wet for days, windy but mild, the days dark, the valley shrouded in mist, people looking sad. The weather gets locked into its pattern. “When will this end?” one wonders. It can be very hard to have hope when things keep going on the same way and nothing seems to change.

We can lose sight of how things change. Nothing stays the same, although it doesn’t seem like it. Everything is in motion. The seasons change, slowly but inexorably. Winter is replaced by spring. Even as I write, the snowdrops are coming up. I brought them from England and put them in a little damp spot under a stone wall and they’ve survived the hot, dry summers and are peeping out of the ground, white tips appearing in the grey, auguries of approaching spring. The camellia,

Camellia perfection
Camellia perfection

battered by winds, is nevertheless likewise a mass of buds opening into pink heaven. Primroses on the lawn are showing buds, readying to flower soon, a carpet under the also-budding cherry tree. The seasonal cycle of nature calls us to remember, that warmer, sunnier weather is coming. Change brings new hope, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

The human spirit has hope. Without it, we wouldn’t do things in adversity. Life has faith, hope and trust built into it. We just need to attend to it.

I always think of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “…these three things remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians, 13:13).

It’s a powerful process, to re-member. We have this awareness within us, but it needs will and determination to shift our awareness within to the candle of love that burns constantly inside each of us. It might be a small, faint flicker, but it is there nonetheless.

Just before the dawn is the greatest darkness. It can even be our “dark night of the soul” as St John of the Cross recognised. The darkness can be black, gloomy and despairing, and it can contain the inner secrets of our salvation. We need to regularly revisit that space, not allowing the darkness to overwhelm us. For this, we need to exercise our will. “This too shall pass”, and the dawn will break once again. Nothing stays the same.

Always have hope, and know that this love is always within.

 

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Hope and possibility are always there

When in the midst of winter the snowdrops start to flower, as they are here now, there’s a sense of the first shoots of spring whilst it’s still being cold and grey, like an image of hope and possibility for us. It can seem for some that all there is is grey when in reality new beginnings are already there. Spring buds are already forming. Daffodil shoots are growing. The cycle of nature is already in action for the next opening to its own magnificence. As they say, behind the clouds the sun is always shining.

Snowdrops
Snowdrops

Having hope and possibility is a shift of perception, a change in our thoughts. When things seem bad, there is always another way of seeing the situation. What we can lack is the ability to let go of our concern and regard how things might be from another perspective. This is not to say that winter is a bad thing, but that it is common in winter for difficulties to seem more real and present. Depression, for example, can be particularly strong at this time. Outside is cold and dark and we shrink within and if within is not a very happy place we can feel that more.

Losing hope can bring us to the pit of despair, where it can seem like nothing can be done and nothing can change. People in relationships that aren’t working, or in jobs they don’t like, or with health conditions that seem constantly bad, or money worries or faced with the prospect of undesired possibilities coming up – all these and more can leave us depressed and unhappy.

Life will throw up these challenges and yet the human spirit endures. We do get through these things. Circumstances change. Nothing in life is constant. We have the capacity to feel great or immense sadness. Awful though it can seem, we do have choice as to how we deal with the situations we encounter. On the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I am reminded of how inmates had to endure immense privations and some of those used for slave labour or other hideous activities did survive. In Man’s Search for Meaning, a former inmate Viktor Frankl showed how although we may not be responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves, we are responsible for how we deal with it. Whatever is going on for us, life’s purpose is the meaning we make of it. We can either have despair or we can change how we see it, and make even the more unsatisfactory seeming situations part of the joy of our life! It is all about the thought we have, the meaning we make, our state of being.

So, in the midst of winter, the spring shoots are already there. There is always hope and possibility. There is always another meaning.

When you adopt a mindful perspective, you learn to let go, witness your thoughts, be present with what is, and know within you the joy that is always there.

I give coaching to help people change their mindsets and build a more hopeful and positive outlook and attitude to life and to create more positive outcomes. To contact me, click here.

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Hope springs eternal and every spring is a reminder

The arrival of spring is a reminder of that phrase, hope springs eternal. As this long winter is now evidently drawing to a close, the buds and spring flowers are opening and the birds are singing, and we reach that time in the cycle when spring is opening up and thus the seasons usher in new hope.  So too people feel more hopeful about new ideas and new possibilities. As Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Not for nothing are there religious festivals at this time. For example Christians celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter, Jews the Passover and thus the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, and there was the Pagan month of opening, Eostre. There’s something very powerful in the sense of opening that occurs across nature and it’s not surprising that we feel hopeful about the future.

Of course the cynic will scoff. As a result of life’s experiences, we learn to steel ourselves against disappointment and hold ourselves detached from these feelings as a protection. It’s safer to laugh at new hope and its expression by others, and make it seem naive and irrational. Yet hope is an important feeling, and it involves risk. We need it to sustain us, as Pope implies. This is not just about religion but our need to return our focus to what might be possible for our betterment. It invigorates us and brings new life.

This may be nothing more than an adjustment of thinking, the application of the will. We can choose to let go of our cynicism, doubt and negativity and instead turn our minds to that which inspires and uplifts us. Where the mind goes, the energy flows, as I wrote in an earlier post.

This is when we can think of new projects, new plans and new ideas. We can do this at any stage. What we need to do is dust off the cobwebs acquired through the winter, both literally and metaphorically. Not for nothing do people do “spring cleaning” at this time, and clear out things that are cluttering up their space and their lives. Often before a significant new departure people do this. There’s something in it about preparing our minds for the new to come in. We have to make space first.

So, it’s a good time to be clearing out old stuff, letting go of that which we no longer need, and turning our minds to what will inspire, motivate, uplift and take us forwards.

I coach people in developing and implementing new projects. To learn more about my coaching, click here

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Hope faith and trust in possibility feels limited at present

After the euphoria of the Olympics people in the UK seem to be returning to the doom-and-gloom of diminished expectations and lowered hopes, if barometers of consumer expectations such as indices of confidence are to go by. Intially, after the 2008-9 slump people carried on spending to a degree in the hope of a recovery but 4 years on and it seems people are becoming resigned to things staying the same. So what might this be telling us of our levels of hope faith and trust in possibility, and how much does this economic climate translate into how we think about possibilities for our lives in general at present?

If we’re feeling pessimistic, we’re less likely to take risks, and less likely to think things will work out well. People behave cautiously, “saving for a rainy day” as we say in the UK, not altogther without reason in the current climate – pardon the pun! When we set ourselves lower horizons we’re less likely to stretch ourselves and go for something beyond our current perceived limitations. “Be realistic”, people say.

In the 1930’s depression, people learned to hang on to their jobs and to save, very much as at present. It induced a caution and a spirit of endurance, “make do and mend”, that fed on into the 2nd World War and enduring the blitz and rationing. This in turn affected the mentality of a whole generation at least. Now we have an economic crisis every bit as severe and although we now have a welfare state, it seems that lower to middle level incomes will stagnate for a long time to come, and the social gap in society that had developed in the “noughties” will grow. Like the 1930’s economists are fiercely debating what is needed to restore growth.

Stagnation in economic life has a powerful influence on our sense of wellbeing. The self aware might ask themselves if that is true for them too and whether being pulled into this collective mind-set is serving them. In other words, there is a challenge here to rise above the doom-and-gloom and despite the apparent evidence, to take faith in what is possible.

Thus it is time to being going within and exploring and rooting out our own inner fears and doubts, and connect with our own faith in who we are and what we are about, and affirming our own personal vision. Then we can better take the initiative and lead others, rather than colluding with limited thinking. This is what faith is in part about, believing and acting despite apparent evidence to the contrary, pushing through the illusion of lack. The first step on this path comes with us ourselves.