May I Experience Hopelessness

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My friend Renee recently asked if I wanted to go with her to hear a couple of speakers. I said yes without knowing who it was because my friend is connected to cool people and when she asked, I knew I was supposed to attend by a little butterfly feeling that fluttered in my stomach when she told me about it. I know my body’s reactions pretty well these days. When something is in line with what I am to do, my body lights up or I get that fluttering in my stomach and I take action. 

When we arrived at the event, I found out that the two speakers were Father Boyle (Renee’s friend) and Pema Chodron. Everyone there was all abuzz about Pema. I didn’t know this woman and was interested to hear what all the hype was about. I said my prayer that I say before I begin an new experience (when I remember), “God open my mind and heart to what is said today. Let me receive the nugget I am here to receive.”  Father Boyle spoke first.  He touched my heart. He created Homeboy Industries, which employees and supports gang members; past and present.  His touching stories brought tears to my eyes.  He shared a few stories from a book he wrote, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.  This man has dedicated his life to compassion and making a difference in the world. When he was finished, he introduced Pema Chodron.

She had an outfit on I imagined a Buddhist Monk might wear.  She was petite with a shaved head and held onto the side of the podium as she spoke.  She was so mindful with each word that left her mouth; not saying too much or too little, only using what was necessary to get the beautiful poetic messages across. Wow.  She was powerful.  I loved how she was down to earth, matter of fact, and funny. She spoke about a book, Training in Tenderness, in which she wrote the forward. As soon as she mentioned the name of the book, my body lit up and I made a note of the title.  I knew I was to read it.  The book says, “This is a guide to the building blocks of compassion and the purest and deepest form of happiness.  And with these tools, we can awaken the most powerful force in the world- a tender, open heart.” Being tender or gentle is something that I have been cultivating more of in my life.  My childhood story that I created was that I was unworthy and alone. My mother was mentally ill and locked behind her bedroom door.  My 7 year old self came to the conclusion that I wasn’t even good enough for my own mother to get out of bed. So I created a wall around my heart to protect it while navigating being a kid. I told myself that I didn’t need anyone, I was tough as nails, and believed nothing mattered including me. 

This tough persona worked for me great as a child, but not so much in my teens and 20’s.  When I met the love of my life, David Koechner, in 1996 at 31, it didn’t serve me at all.  Ever since then I have been shedding my old stories, taking care of my little girl that felt she didn’t have her needs met, while healing, growing, and exploring life.  Although I have evolved quite a bit since the time I met my husband, there are still traces of my closed off heart and at times I get reactive with anger fueled by my old hurts. I really don’t like that at all. I don’t like when I explode or when I act angry when what I am really feeling is hurt. When Pema mentioned the book, Training in Tenderness, it was just what the God doctor ordered.  It was the next step in softening my heart or melting the blocks blocking me from the pure love.  I started the book thinking, “How can I connect more deeply to the tenderness that’s inside of me?"  I listened to that book on tape and just loved it. “As we transform our attitude toward ourselves and those around us by practicing its teachings, we can actually heal our fractured world.”  Amazing!  

Just as I finished the book, another book popped up from my audile library. It was a book by Pema Chodron called When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Huh? I didn’t download this book. How in the heck did this get in my Audible library and pop up on my screen without me even purchasing it? Okay, one thing I have learned over time is there is a Higher Power guiding me, walking with me, holding my hand, and sometimes even carrying me. When things happen that I can’t explain, I don’t try, I just say, “Thank you God, I got it!" So, the next book I was to read was When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. It’s interesting because I just went through a difficult time. The worst part is over, but there is still more to look at, explore, heal, then release. I would not have chosen this book at the beginning of the difficult time started because I was curled up in my bed with a sick stomach and my mind spinning like a crazy person- literally. Now that that phase has shifted a bit, I am open and hungry to read it. That is what I call divine timing.

One thing I heard (book on tape) that I LOVED and had never thought about before was regarding the word hope or hopeful.  I always thought that was a beautiful word. A word that kept one going or pulled one through a difficult time. I was thinking recently during my hard time, “I am hopeful this will pass soon and things can get back to normal.” But actually, Pema gives an alternative perspective on the hope. She proposes, "Abandon hope". I think that sounds terrible. I mean if you don't have hope, what's do you have? She suggests what we have is the present moment, reality, life. She continues, “We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.”

“Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, not to run away, to return to the bare bones, no matter what’s going on. If we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.”

Wow.  Stop hoping for something different and experience what life  is putting right in front of you, especially when it is painful. Hoping it away is a disservice to our growth, learning, evolving, expanding and loving. When things get difficult and we hope them to be what we want them to be rather than what is…it doesn’t make sense. Are we God?  Do we really know what is best for the other person? Or for us?  Possibly we walk towards the pain asking it what it is here to teach us, then listening to the answers. Life is not happening to us, it is happening for us.  Let’s embrace the present moment as if it were the only moment on earth…oh wait, it is.  

My prayer today is that I walk towards the pain, the upset, the difficult time. That I open my arms and welcome it like an old wise friend.  I will sit with the pain and listen to what is has to say. I am not afraid. I am dealing with the only thing that is real, the present moment.  This is where life is happening and this is where I choose to be, no matter what it is showing up. Oh yeah, I like to remember the issue you are going through isn’t the issue.  How you treat yourself while you move through the issue is what is important. Be kind with yourself as you befriend the pain.   



Leigh KoechnerComment