Years ago, I spoke with the director of a resource center for people with life-threatening illness. One of the criticisms of his work, he told me, was that it gave people a false hope. “False hope?” he asked. “I don’t think any hope is false.”
I’ve been writing about reaching for comfort and joy and I’ve been getting myself tangled up in doubt. If I am reaching, aren’t I saying the present moment isn’t good enough and I want something else? Haven’t I chosen for this month and this year to focus on the present moment? Can’t joy and comfort only be found in the now?
Hoping, wishing and wanting have left me wounded in the past. I know what people mean by false hope. About a year ago, I tried a new diet. I read about a Dr. in Iowa who has MS and moved herself from being in a wheelchair to riding a bike by changing her diet. I gave it six months. I followed all the rules except for eating organ meet once a week. (I’m a vegetarian.) Nothing changed. My disease continued to progress. I went through a familiar path of excitement, commitment and hope followed by disappointment, grief and acceptance. Again.
But hoping, wishing dreaming seem to be part of what it means to have a human imagination. In many ways, it’s a wonderful part. Each night, as we hunker down in front of our television sets or sit in auditoriums or on bleachers or in front of blank canvases or musical instruments, we offer ourselves up to hope and wishes, to dreams and imagination. How sad it would be to live in a world without those moments.
I notice what I am experiencing in my body in this moment. Without that initial mindfulness I can’t move forward with honesty. First, I open to my own experience. Then, I express compassion for myself. If I am hurting, I do what gives me true comfort. If I am joyful, I celebrate. Happily, connecting with others makes everything better. If I comfort others, my own hurt is decreased. If I celebrate with others, my joy is increased.
Like other openings of the heart, reaching (hoping, wishing, wanting) is worth the risk.