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 work gradually. First, I achieved Headstand, which I couldn’t do a year ago. It’s a stepping-stone to the loftier goal of Handstand.
Yoga is always putting new challenges in our paths. Just when we think we have achieved a difficult asana, we discover that it was the modified version. It taught me to give up hope.
Hope vs. Faith
An old friend, Christianne, sent me an email. She wrote, “I accidentally gave up hope, but I got it back again.” Her mom, whom she calls Nana, was ill and Christianne was scared.
I wrote her that she needed to toss hope back in the give-away pile.
Hope is disempowering. It implies that all our eggs are 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 Headstand. I joined in, hoping I could do it too. I plopped my head down and force-kicked my legs up. Then, 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.
Hope looks to the goodness of something outside of ourselves to come and help us. It coaxes the mind into the future. Faith thrives in truth and understanding. It comes from within and roots us in the present.
Yoga teaches us that the first step to achieving your desire is to be open to the present moment. If you open your heart and put faith in the alignment principles of yoga, anything is possible. I can achieve my Headstand with sheer determination and 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 the root of courage and transformation. This level of connection and awareness allows the core to 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 was 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 transfers to 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, today in honor of Nana, let’s 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.
We asked experts, authors and readers like you to share their stories of Hope. Every day for the next month, you’ll find new tips for optimism on Gaiam Life, the Stream of Consciousness blog and our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And don’t miss the GaiamTV.com Hope Film Festival, with FREE films all month long.