Abandon hope. I frowned, flipping back to the front cover of my book. Yep, I was smack dab in the middle of my daily Buddhist meditation reader. I reread the first line of the entry again. Abandon hope. What the…WHAT?!?! Could Pema Chodron–admired, wise and renowned Buddhist nun–possibly be suggesting that I give up hope as a way of achieving peace? As I read on, the answer was clear. Yes. Yes, she was.
The Other Side of Fear
Chodron writes that hope and fear “is a feeling with two sides.” Regardless of which side we find ourselves, we are always looking to change what IS. We strive to end pain, or find an answer, to distract ourselves or improve our circumstances. Whether we choose hope or fear, we are effectively avoiding the Now, attempting to circumvent our discomfort or transform our experience into something “better” or “different.” Chodron posits that abandoning hope is “an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning.” If we can step away from the traditional Judeo-Christian interpretations of hope that permeate Western living, we can realize that both hope and fear come from a feeling of lack, that we are missing something, that the Now is not perfect in itself, even in its uneasiness, its imperfection, its hurt. Only by leaning into our real experience in the Now can we learn our limitlessness, our tenderness, our ability to embrace another with true compassion. “Hope robs us of the present moment,” Chodron writes. With courage and practice, we can learn to let go of hope and fully lean in to what is, and all that this moment has to teach us.