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Hopefully hopeless

“When we build competency at ‘conscious hopelessness’, we can then move consciously back to how we approach hope and fear in our life, and seek to do them a better.”

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article is on a meditation technique I’ve enjoyed over the years, and that invites both resilience, peace and insight. If you enjoy it, it will be the subject of this Tuesday and Wednesday evenings meditation session, you’d be welcome, live or online.

In the spirit of hopeful hopelessness,




Hopefully hopeless

If you look at the movement of your mind, one pattern you may start to see is that part of you is hoping for good things:

  • For people to like you
  • For things to turn out how you would like
  • For the worlds problems to be solved
  • For the environment to be saved from pollution
  • For someone to fix your loneliness
  • To get the pay raise

And so it goes on…. A related movement then also happens in your mind, the wish to avoid the things that we fear

  • Fear of being disliked or disapproved of
  • Fear of things not going your way
  • Fear for the future of the planet
  • Fear of loneliness
  • Of not having enough money
  • Fear of death

Much of the activity and conversation in our mind then comes from this oscillation between hope and fear. So then, a kind of Zen method that I use in meditation is to practice “Hopelessness”. This doesn’t mean becoming depressed, what it means is to temporarily drop as fully as you can both your hoping and your fearing. If you can do this, then the conversation in your mind subsides very quickly, and you land with a ‘bump’ in the present moment! With no hoping and no fearing, your mind temporarily stops trying to solve the things you are afraid of or hoping for, and comes back home.
When you are meditating in this way, you can begin by noticing your hopes and fears, and the way they drive your inner conversation. Then you can choose to gently put them down, and relax into the open state of presence that arises naturally from that ‘putting down’. So ‘hopelessness’ then leads to a state of centered peace that we can drop into regularly amidst the uncertainty of our life.

Picking up hope and courageously facing fear
When we build competency at hopelessness, we can then move consciously back to how we approach hope and fear in our life, and seek to do them a bit better. This is one quote that I enjoy from Nick Cave around hope:
“Hope rises out of known suffering and is the defiant and dissenting spark that refuses to be extinguished”. We can open to hope courageously, despite our fears. We can find reasons to be hopeful and hold onto the brightness that they bring into our lives. We can grow them mindfully.
We can also then begin to face our fears courageously. We can learn to look after the parts of us that are afraid, to re-assure them and to work appropriately to resolve the causes of our fear. We can also bear in mind that potentially, the causes of fear are endless, and thus know when to pick it up and put it down appropriately.

Imagine you are in a landscape. To one side the sun is rising with its bright rays, this is hope. To the other side is a dark, tangled forest, that is your fear. Where you are sitting perhaps there is a pleasant tree, a little stream and some small what flowers amidst the grass. This space, exactly where you are is fine as it is. Relax into it and become ‘hopeless’ for a while, recover there. Then when you are you can go back to you hopes and fears in a more conscious and empowered manner.

To end, here is a quote from Thomas Merton, that I enjoy as a further meditation on the value of hopelessness: “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

Related articles: Dropping your hope and fear
Signless-ness – Meeting your reality as it is

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2022, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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