Give Up Hope

This piece was originally published at Gaiam Yoga as a part of a 24 Things Fall Clearing Series

I don’t like being upside down and backwards. This makes handstand a challenge for me. I don’t trust that my fellow students can hold me steady, while I substitute my hands for feet. It’s a reflection of my own limited thinking, not an accurate assessment of their competence.

Still, I try. I go to class and take it step by step. First, I achieved headstand, which I couldn’t do a year ago. It’s a stepping-stone to the goal of handstand.

I have found that the key to achieving any difficult pose is to give up hope.

A fellow 24 participant, named Christianne, sent me an email. She wrote; “On day one I accidentally gave up hope, but I got it back again.” Her Mom, whom she calls Nana, was ill and she was scared.

I wrote her and told her that she needed to toss hope back in the give away pile.

Hope is disempowering. It implies that all our eggs in someone else's basket and that our input is minimal. But, faith is different. Fostering faith cultivates the small things that nourish and strengthen us.

Both values stem from desire, but desire without self-knowledge, strength, and balance can hurt us.

Years ago, when I was new to yoga, I watched students pop themselves up, into headstands. I joined in, hoping I could do it too. I plopped my head down and force kicked my legs up. I fell and damaged my neck.

It is important to be grounded and centered before reaching for our desire or we will be knocked off balance.

Anusara Yoga teaches us that the first step to achieving your desire is to “open to grace”. If you open your heart, and put faith the alignment principles of yoga, anything is possible. I can achieve my headstand with a forced kick or I can find my center and hug the heart open. I can come to the midline, and engage the belly; which is Manipura, the third Chakra and root of all desires. This level of connection and awareness allows the core lift the legs, almost effortlessly.

Christianne sent out a Facebook post, asking her friends to send cards to her Mom. “She adores cards.” She opened to grace with the faith that those who care for her would extend themselves and that small kindness, would fill her mother with happiness.

Faith aligns us with a higher consciousness. It shows us that we have the power to create change.

Christianne’s mom passed away last week. Her bedside table covered with cards; many of them, from people she didn’t even know. She passed away with the faith that her daughter had a loving support system to help her through a difficult time.

I believe that when someone dies, a spark of their energy jumps onto everyone they loved. This enables them to know us better now than they did when they were alive because that fragment of them, now sees the world through our eyes and feels through our spirit.

That spark continues to glow, expressing itself through each of us. What we learned from them and loved about them-- can be expressed in the way we move through the world in honor of that person.

This faith eases those upside-down moments in life. It helps us achieve a balance between grief and the joy of loving someone dearly. It gives us the knowledge that our friends can steady us in difficult times.

Desire requires a leap of faith not hope. Hope is the façade of fatalism. Faith is the core of self-determination.

So, on our 24th day, in honor of Nana, lets give up hope and make space for faith.

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. This is the first step on the path.

~Pema Chodron

Thanks to all of you who joined in, let go, and shared your experiences with us. See you January 1st!

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