Making Room for Hope
As usual, it's an exciting time. With vaccines becoming widespread, the present moment is pregnant with possibility. How can we both embrace whatever comes up—the fear, the pain, the frustration, the love, the compassion—and at the same time generate hope and create a vision for the future?
Personally, I learned how to do that when I got into recovery. At the time, I became very cynical because the obstacles in front of me seemed overwhelming. What I had to learn, in large part through meditation and mindfulness, was to accept what's there, but at the same time generate hope. The key was to create space between stimulus and response, because in that space I have the freedom and power to choose what I'm doing.
Then I can ask questions like: How am I choosing this moment? How am I investing in this moment? What's in front of me that I need to embrace and make a wise choice, in terms of moving forward? How do I use my time now?
All of us will soon be able to receive the vaccine against COVID-19, if we haven’t already. But there’s also a mental vaccine that we could be taking now, that has to do with not allowing the uncertainties about the future to make us cynical. Even if we have a lot of information and a lot of insight, if we don't have it balanced with confidence, trust, and hope, we will become cynical. Just as if we have too much trust and not enough information or verification, we can become Pollyannish. With mindfulness, we can look inside and see which one of these mental powers is needed at a particular time. We can make room for hope to arise.
At the same time as we are living in a time of renewal, we are also still very divided. For example, I'm extremely concerned about the violence against Asian Americans right now based on mistaken perceptions of some threat. This is a pathology: wanting to blame others for what is happening, or deny what is happening, instead of being open to it.
Yet even this crisis brings us an opportunity to connect with our basic human kindness and our capacity for mutual respect. This is an opportunity to consider not just people that think like me but people who don't think like me, not just people who look like me, but people who don't look like me. After all, we all have the right to exist and to pursue liberty, life, and happiness.
But we won’t take that opportunity if we're addicted to pathology or denial. So once again, mindfulness helps me turn inward and ask: Can I take care of my piece of this existence, of my experience, and bring a light into it? Can I be a light to myself and others? And from there, can I truly see people and greet them as a fellow human being?
Recently, I met a woman who used to work for a food pantry, but who had fallen on hard times and now was actually having to get food from that same food pantry. These are still really challenging times. But they can call forth the best of us when we can stay connected to our hearts and realize that we are all connected.
Facing these difficulties is what helps us develop what’s called “self-efficacy belief” – the confidence that we can meet the challenges ahead, just as we have met the ones that we have all experienced over the last year, and many of us are still experiencing. Our hope will have space to grow if we engage with this moment with an open heart and open mind, with compassion and with love.
George Mumford is a world-renowned meditation teacher and the author of The Mindful Athlete. He has worked with some of the best professional athletes in the world, including Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant during their championship runs.