Rahima's Inner Views Blog

Posts on Creativity, Writing, and the Inner Life

Hope and Fear: Our Worst Enemies?

Inner Views Blog: Writing and Art Reflections on Creativity, Life and Spirit

Most of us would agree that fear is one of worst innerenemies, keeping us from taking chances, moving forward—but hope? Doesn’t hope keep us moving, working to make things better? Yes, that’s the problem. Hope keeps us focused on the future, on striving to get the hoped-for reward. Fear keeps us always looking behind or around for the threat or danger. Unless there is a bear or a tiger actually roaring at us RIGHT NOW, fear comes from past experiences of harm, threat or insult. Neither hope nor fear allows us to settle into the present moment, which is the only place where peace, joy and love can be found.

Sea of Hope & Fear  Pema Chödrön explains:

“Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.”

As I read this quote, I have several reactions. First, I get grumpy and grumbly. “Well, of course we want to be comfortable!” Then I get irritated. “Oh, stop! We’re only human. Of course, we have hopes and fears. How could we not in this crazy world?”

But then a sense of recognition sinks in. I know Pema speaks truth here. I remember seeing this myself. Somewhere in one of my journals, I drew a picture of me as a mouse in an exercise wheel, running and running, with Fear behind me snarling, and Hope before me smiling seductively, getting me absolutely nowhere. When I visualized jumping off the wheel, it was scary at first, then exhilarating. And then I landed in myself, in the present moment, in peace.

But how do we let go of hope and fear? Good question. Pema Chödrön is saying to look behind the fear or hope to the discomfort or uneasiness or pain underneath. To me, that means being present and aware of what is arising in us, and just noticing it with curiosity. Where did this discomfort come from? When did it start?

I’ve been feeling grumpy and out of sorts this morning. So let me sit with it and see where it goes. Okay, the first thing that comes up is that I got grumpy when I started dealing with my aging mother’s taxes, instead of writing. Next, a feeling of being overloaded with doing stuff other than what I truly want to be doing, out of a sense of duty and obligation. No wonder I get grumpy!

Phew! The grumpiness is subsiding, but now there’s some sadness. What’s this all about? Is it about my mother getting near the end of her life? Hmmm, that’s only part of it. What else? Is it because I’ve been abandoning part of myself? Ah, yes. Which part? Oh, the playful little girl and the wild woman who both love to be outdoors, dancing with the wind, walking quietly by a gurgling creek in the woods, spying a tiny orange flower or a lizard with an electric blue tail, smelling the bay laurel’s scent, watching a redtail hawk soar. Wow, now I’ve got it, and I feel better, clearer and more settled in.

As Ram Dass wrote, it’s all grist for the mill. Whatever arises needs attention and curiosity, rather than avoidance or soothing. Nothing necessarily has to change, except our inner responses. And these can shift toward peacefulness just from being recognized and accepted.

Contemplation Questions

  • How do you deal with Fear? With Hope?
  • Do they run you around in circles, or can you step off that “exercise wheel”?
  • How is it for you to sit with arising discomfort without judging, avoiding or soothing?
  • Does noticing what’s going on in you help shift you back to your peaceful center?
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10 Responses

  • Mar 15, 2013

    Lovely – Lovely!! Thank you for writing this truth so clearly, Rahima! Simply being with what it truly does bring us to the core of the situation and creates a more peaceful space, right where we are.

    Astra Mar 15, 2013
    • RWarren
      Mar 15, 2013

      Thanks, Astra! And the great thing is, we can use this process anytime, anywhere to get back to our inner peace.

      RWarren Mar 15, 2013
  • Mar 15, 2013

    Ah, that’s the trick isn’t it, “to sit with arising discomfort without judging, avoiding or soothing”. To me it’s done in layers, I sit in clarity as long as I can, then become aware of the movement towards judgement or avoidance. It helps me to remember to observe only what’s happening. Know what I mean?

    Janet Roper Mar 15, 2013
    • RWarren
      Mar 15, 2013

      Oh, yes, makes sense to me. There are often layers to sift through to get to the bottom of what is causing fear or hope to arise.

      RWarren Mar 15, 2013
  • Leanne
    Mar 16, 2013

    When I’m conscious enough my reactions often, if not mostlly take me to prayer and through that prayer I’m able to release and let go. Sometimes it’s a process that takes time. Recently I read some wise instructions and realised how they corresponded with other similiar words from Ekchart Tolle. Remembering the wisdom shared by others also helps me along the way.

    Leanne Mar 16, 2013
    • RWarren
      Mar 16, 2013

      It’s all good: prayer, meditation, reading wise words, being in nature, whatever helps us let go of past and future and just “be here now” – as Ram Dass wrote so many years ago, and as Eckhart Tolle says so well in his books. And I have found that the process of paying attention to whatever is arising inside with curiosity and openness is essential too.

      RWarren Mar 16, 2013
  • Mar 17, 2013

    I’ve had issues with hope for years. I’ve seen too many people spend too much energy hoping for a future that never comes. I find acceptance a healthier more fulfilling emotion to be in. Hoping sends a message that we are disempowered and must rely on others for change.

    Monica Wilcox Mar 17, 2013
    • Rahima Warren
      Mar 17, 2013

      Interesting take on this! Hope as disempowering, yes, I see that. It leaves you hanging, waiting for something to happen in the future, instead of finding your power to act now.

      Rahima Warren Mar 17, 2013
  • Mar 25, 2013

    The past and future are two sides of the “not right now” coin. This makes sense to me – we are sometimes fearful of the past, the feelings re-collected, the worries they project into the future. We’re also hopeful in our efforts to learn from the past, change ourselves, and experience our new selves in the future.

    Being with what is here, right now does bring a sense of peace, and I practice being here, right now daily and sometimes moment to moment each day.

    But we can’t always live in the moment nor should we. We’re amazing, we humans. We purposefully make plans and predict outcomes so that we can live our lives as we wish, to the fullest, being our best.

    I think the power for me is in the acceptance of what has passed and what will unfold regardless of my re-collections of the past or my plans and predictions about my future. The known past and unknown future are unsettling at times, yet the hope in learning from the past and venturing forth into the future is exhilarating too.

    We understand that the present moment is all we really have, and we practice being in it, but we also choose to reflect on the past and project into the future – we’re good at it too, and many of us don’t seem to mind. It’s intriguing.

    Thanks for provoking my thoughts today. What do you think about the future (e.g., hopes) when we envision or dream?

    Midge Mar 25, 2013
    • RWarren
      Mar 25, 2013

      Wonderful comments, Midge! Thanks for sharing today. I think you got it – Of course we make plans, envision or dream for the future. That does seem to be one of our human qualities/skills. The trick is to be ‘unattached to outcome’ – as you say – be in acceptance about what unfolds even when it doesn’t meet our hopes and plans. That’s the hard part, right? And like anything else that is overused, hope can be overdone, and then it keep us out of the present, always leaning forward to what’s next.

      RWarren Mar 25, 2013

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