Hopelessness against the present moment. According to Buddhist thought it is hope that creates suffering for us all. Hope creates fear which is suffering. Think about it for a moment. If you weren’t telling yourself that something in the future was going to change or that someone was going to change and therefore things in the future would be better what would you be feeling right now?
Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron writes, in her book “When Things Fall Apart:”
“Hope and fear come from the feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world. We can know the nature of dislike, shame, and embarrassment and not believe there is something wrong with that. We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better “me” who will one day emerge. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our sanity arises. If hope and fear are two sides of one coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. 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.”
If I’m truthful with myself, when I am hoping for someone or something in the future that is not the way I want it now, or not in my life at all now, I feel anxious. Perhaps I might define that anxiety as excitement, anticipation or hope but it all boils down to me feeling unsettled. This means that as long as I am still “hoping” for something in the future to be different from what is now I need to find ways to deal with my anxiety, excitement, anticipation etc.
This is where my use of food and my negative body focus used to come in. I would be thinking about what’s wrong with my life now and what I hoped would change and I’d feel naturally unhappy and unsettled and I’d want to distance myself from that discomfort. My coping strategies (my ways of distancing) of choice were food, negative self-talk, judgement and blaming of others, relationship addiction, co-dependency, all or nothing thinking and anger (irritation, resentment, annoyance etc.).
In my early 20’s I first stumbled upon the concept of “letting go.” The premise that in accepting what is in this moment we free ourselves from the pain of wanting…longing and we create a genuine sense of happiness and peace at our core. When we’re loathing what is it’s a pretty big challenge.
How can we authentically say to anyone we love our body or we love ourselves when we’re filled with judgement about what we’re not? Ahhhhhh, but that’s the answer. When we stop hoping for things to be different and we just see what is and accept what is right here and now we have immediately released the loathing and disgust and disappointment and shame and replaced it with love and compassion.
When we allow that we feel emotional pain when we want things to be different, and only then, it makes pretty good sense to let go of wanting things to be different. That doesn’t mean nothing will ever change. In fact, it opens the door for the greatest success.
How successful have you been so far with the Drill Sgt. motiviation through criticism approach? How effective has withholding love and acceptance from yourself until you’re “good enough” been for you? Not so good I think – and it certainly has never ever worked for me.
Now, this concept of letting go of expectation, that interests me and resonates deeply. When I let go of expectation I am not giving up on myself. I am instead, for the first time ever, making a loud and clear vote of confidence in myself. I can handle what comes. I don’t need to orchestrate every facet of the future. In truth I have no control anyway.
I’m far better off to spend my time here, now, appreciating the gifts in my life now even if they are sometimes hard to see through the many things that aren’t the way I want them to be.
Over the years of my growth I’ve gone from not being able to see anything good in myself and feeling entirely fraudulent and insecure to having many authentic experiences of confidence and security and seeing many good qualities and skills in me. Still though I get caught up in wanting…..wanting something or someone (often me) to be different or to feel or behave differently. The story is that if that happens I’ll finally be safe, I’ll finally find that elusive security. Well, I’ve had enough relationship and life experience to know that security is elusive because the way I’ve been trying to make it manifest in my life doesn’t work.
Security doesn’t come from what you look like, who is in your life, how successful you are or how much money you have. It doesn’t come from where you live or where you vacation or what other people think of you. In other words, the things that I had always thought would bring me peace and that final big sigh of having arrived are just coping strategies. They’re just filler. They’re just things I’ve been doing or focussing on to take my mind off the fact that there is no “there.”
Peace and happiness are truly not contingent on what I look like, what I eat, whether I have a partner or not, whether I have professional success or not, etc. Those things change, they are not stable or secure. And the more I try to manipulate any of those facets of life to feel more secure and safe in my world the more anxious I become and the less happy and accepting I am in my life this moment.
Just stop for a moment and ask yourself has your happiness level increased or decreased the more you’ve tried to find happiness through manipulating your food or weight?
There were many times in my son’s early life that I was so very sad that his father and I weren’t able to make our relationship work that for a period of a few months I hardly really was present with my little guy. I mean I was there feeding him, bathing him, putting him to bed but I was so sad about what wasn’t there (ie. Dad) that I felt resentful at times rather than grateful to have Ben and just couldn’t really engage and celebrate him. This to me is a perfect example of being so attached to hope that I couldn’t be here now, feeling the sadness and seeing it as part of the healthy process of life; the inherent insecurity in all things. I was so caught up in wanting Ben’s dad and I to work out or wanting someone to complete my family that I couldn’t see that I had a family, it looked different from how I imagined it but it was a family and it was mine. My attachment to how it had to look prevented me from seeing the gift of what was there.
I felt regret and some guilt when I started to realize how unavailable I had been for Ben during that time and I acknowledged that to him and to myself. And I committed myself to, from that day forth, being present with him and with whomever I’m with, wherever we are.
How often are you so focussed on what you weigh, how you look, what you’ve just eaten or what you’re wanting to eat that you don’t even celebrate who you’re with, what you’re doing, the health you have, the food you have access to etc. etc.?
How much happier and more peaceful and loving to yourself and others would you be if you just invited yourself to notice when you’re focussed on food and body image and acknowledged that you’re using a coping strategy because you’re telling yourself that there’s something wrong because you feel anxious. What if you then said something like: “there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with me feeling anxious – I’m only anxious because I’m telling myself there’s something wrong with me or with my life. If I let go of that thought I’d lose the anxiety! Could I let go of the belief that I need to be any different or that anything in my life needs to be any different in order for me to be happy?”
Each time you pose that concept to yourself you are giving yourself a great gift. A gift of returning to the present. A gift of seeing what truly does create security in life: love and compassion for yourself.
Let us all commit to letting go of our attachment to the future and things being different or better there and instead allow ourselves to see what is working in this moment and know that in being here, now, we are setting the stage for things to unfold in the most peaceful and rewarding way possible and we’re awake and present for the whole journey!!
Have a lovely day and thanks for reading.