A Time for Radical Hope

A friend greeted me by text this morning with a message of hope – and humor: “I hope you’re staring your day with a full cup”.  This is a friend I appreciate a great deal for the hope she holds onto as I also try to, that hope will get us through.  That doesn’t mean that we always get what we hope for, but that we are, in the end, always protected and strengthened to get through what we must. 

During this time when we are dealing with so much angst in this country, and Covid at the holidays with numbers taking huge jumps, we may be wondering just how we are to have hope and remain at all positive.  Hope is one of the only things I think we do have.  If one has a spiritual connection, I do believe it may be easier.  But hope, in the end, is the mental or spiritual or emotional trust that something will happen or come to be in the future.  I saw a picture when perusing the Internet looking for some different views of hope.  The Christian view of hope at this time of Advent is that of focusing on light instead of darkness; the Judaic of Hannukah is hope in the midst of darkness; both essentially saying that to hope is to trust that there will be light, brightness, change, or answers once the day is again well-lit or the time of difficulty passes. 

Henri Nouwen wrote of radical hope:  Essentially, he wrote, it is waiting with openness and trust – (wow, hard to do!) that “something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings”.  I have to tell you, that is not something I can do daily – leaning far beyond  into a Source, for me a source of strength from my God despite anything that one might encounter in life.  I may seek to be that strong, but it is a daily choice.

And that’s the funny thing about hope, it is a choice.  I was recently speaking with two different friends, both of whom are in the midst of very difficult times in their lives for very different reasons – one a relationship and one an illness.  And I was reminded how hard it is to hope in the midst of those dark seasons.  When all one has hoped for or believed to be true is suddenly turned upside down, leaving us bereft, questioning the reality of all one believes or holds sacred in life or a relationship.  So how to change and lean in more fully to hope?

  1.  Live your life today as though it were your last day.  Another way of doing this as suggested by some coaches is to first write your obituary.  Write what you want your life to have meant.  And then – live it in some way.  For me, that is continuing to care about people day by day.  And something as simple as treating Finley, my dog, with care even when I’m tired and don’t want to play – but he does.  Reach in to find the willingness, and reach out to care. 
  2. Exercise patience when the change comes slowly.  I went through burnout in a previous career many, many years ago.  Eventually I took a leave of absence at the advice of my therapist.  It was a very difficult thing to do, but I stayed home until I actually felt in some way that I wanted to go back.  It was an achingly slow process.  And each time I asked him if I should go back, he looked back at me and asked, “Do you want to?”  He told me to go back any earlier would undo any good the time away was doing me.  During that time I read, took walks, slept in, cooked for loved ones, prayed, journaled.  All of that helped me to come back slowly.  So eventually I was able to say to him, “I think I’m ready to go back”.  And I meant it.  But hope in the middle was seen in such fine splintered improvement – nothing big, like a log.  No, only a splinter at a time.  Yet splinters add up.  Ever started a huge roaring fire and couldn’t get it going without the kindling wood?  Not so easy – but a little bit of the right small pieces can build a lasting fire for warmth.
  3. It takes daily living in hope to finally feel it.  It can be unbelievably difficult, but hope demands we keep moving before we feel it.  The paradox I’ve found to be true is that I must act on hope, trusting I will eventually feel it, and by the time I do the most difficult times have finally passed.  I want to feel it before and during the difficult time.  But while I consciously hold onto the thought for it, the feeling comes after recovery from cancer, after one has finalized the divorce on all levels and gone on to live a new life, after one’s energy rebuilds after surgery or chemotherapy, after one has built the business or rebuilt what went wrong, after the pandemic has ended.  Or has it?  Isn’t hope the living – the belief things will get better…and the time we can see the results the effect of the hope?  Think about how that might apply in your life.  You might be surprised to find you have some hope – you’re just not acting on or living it.

Make no mistake, living a radical hope in which one believes life will improve beyond one’s expectations, is not easy.  But it will give one some modicum of peace in the moment.  Despite the migraines, nausea, sleepless nights, or worried days we may also experience, hope says but this will change and improve eventually.  So, through these days of Covid-19 numbers exploding, or personal crisis, or preparation for Christmas or through Hanukkah or as one tends the crops before Kwanzaa–may December be a month of radical hope for you.

Take care,

Dr. Beth

Deepening: Thoughts to Consider

Deepening…the word for 2020 that we are using at The Wholeness Institute.  Angie and I spent a good deal of time on brainstorming and planning what we want to accomplish in 2020, and deepening resonated with our goals and, hopefully, with yours.  Deepening has many meanings…

            ~To become more profound

            ~To enhance

            ~To strengthen

            ~Powering up

            ~Living more deeply into something – a relationship, spirituality, one’s inner self

            ~Living with purpose

            ~Leaning into experience

            ~Result of transformation.

When I think of it in terms of my counseling practice, I think of it as being present to others as they grow, as they go within themselves more to the discover who they are. Witnessing each person transform parts of him or herself that may no longer fit or has caused pain.  It’s being privileged to be with a person as they are leaning into their gifts, owning them, allowing themselves to become better acquainted and experience life more deeply as well as broadly.  Broadly alone isn’t enough, though, if we want to feel connected with others, with those most special to us, to ourselves.  This isn’t so new, if you go back to the Quakers, the mindfulness writers, those who are Jungian in thought, there are many books and articles written.  We hope that at the end of 2020, the first year of our new decade, you feel that you have received direction or ideas from me that have resulted in deepening your life and experiences more completely. 

Toward that we are restarting, adjusting, and adding some offerings, and welcome you to ask questions, reach out as you are called to deepen in during this year, or share with me how we can help you in your process throughout the year.  We are still working with many of the same populations and with similar issues, but with a slightly revised focus as we walk into 2020.  Rather than just teaching, or counseling, I hope to experience a deepening of my practice, and Angie’s work here, so that you are able to find a deeper sense of who you are and perhaps how things have moved forward in your life. So, we will be working in the next month to begin adjusting things in the following ways:

~ We will offer two blogs a month – one about a change or addition to your knowledge or understanding of what the field of psychology and spirituality are understanding today.  So perhaps an update on how yoga is used; a new treatment method for brain injury or depression; or even just a new idea to try to keep life balanced. The second will offer deeper content such as journaling exercises, ways to make your growth more experiential, and allow you the opportunity to move a tiny or larger step forward.

~As some of you know I have a new puppy – Finley.  We are going to add Instagram back with a focus on Finley’s Corner, lessons he is learning, that we also can learn from.  As an example, a lesson he learned after Christmas family celebrations? We all need rest after a long day. Look for an Instagram link soon!

~More days of retreat and mornings of information.  There are two we are looking at now, in addition to two in conjunction with others we have been invited to or are co-offering.

March 7 – Unfolding to Yourself:  Understanding Self and Spirit

May 16 – Professionals with Brain Injury:  Couples Facing Change

~Watch for the addition of concierge counseling services soon both for brain injury and personal growth clients – with special information pages, some case management built-in for no additional charge, consults with other professionals on your behalf, priority scheduling to meet your schedule, and other tips or help.

~More teletherapy appointments available to you.

So, as you are beginning your new year, here’s a deepening question for you to consider and write about:  What do I need to do to lean into my own life more fully? Write for 10 minutes and stop. Step away from the writing for a few moments.  Reread it and write down one action step to take or new awareness you have.  It might be set a reminder to write tonight before retiring for 10 minutes.  It might be to spend 5 minutes of your walk in silence, not talking with anyone with you, but taking in what you are seeing.  It might be saying a prayer or writing a prayer to your Higher Power tonight at bedtime.  Then go – live your life as it is unfolds today (including football and friends).  Begin each day with this – and just watch your life transform and deepen this year.

With care and encouragement to dare to dive more deeply into who you are,

Dr. Beth

In my own deepening understanding of myself
find my capacity to serve others is deepened as well.
The 
better I am at selfcare
the more 
genuinely nurturing of others I am able to be.
– 
Mary Anne Radmacher