Articles

Below are articles I have written for other publications.

Reclaiming Hope

“….and I don’t know what’s going to happen.” How often do we hear ourselves saying this phrase when a negative event or life changing experience comes our way? It usually is spoken with a fretful and worrisome tone in our voice. When applied to a significant life change, medical challenges, an upcoming move, work problems, or relationship issues, we often attach a series of negative outcomes that are surely just around the corner. We tell ourselves this is the way that we prepare our selves for the “worst”. In truth what we prepare instead is our stories and internal movies of fear and distress. I believe that we’re just wired to quickly move from observing the fact of a life changing event and speed ahead to negative prediction land. It is so difficult, probably impossible for us, not to begin to tell ourselves negative stories around our new circumstances. Yet, the price of this activity can be a heavy one, paid in added stress, obsessive thinking, worry, reduced sleep, diminished hope and increased overwhelm. This is due in large part to the negative stories we’re weaving about this change and our failure to see the gift in the words, “….and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

It is a fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen, not in the next minute let alone the next day, week or year. So if we begin to hold ourselves, not to the terrible stories of what might occur and simply sit with this phrase of not knowing, our brains and bodies begin to slow down.

Try it now. Think of something in your life that you are currently struggling with, something that you believe has a variety of possible negative outcomes. Next, write down the list of those options and ask yourself this simple question: “Does this option go in the fact column or in the negative prediction column?” Once you’ve separated your options you’ll probably notice that there was a lot more items in the negative prediction column than the fact column. Read through the negative prediction column slowly and just notice very carefully how your body responds. Now slowly review just the fact column and at the end of that column say to yourself “…and I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Notice how your body feels.

Not knowing is a fact of life. We all want to know how the story turns out and not knowing can feel scary. However, not nearly as scary as all those negative predictions we all spin in our heads. This isn’t about not making up negative stories. It is about learning what to do with them when they take over too much of the airtime in our heads.

The simple statement “…and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” brings us back to the present moment: the only place where we can effect change. It’s not about the past or the future. We’re just right here, in the now, and we can always handle this present moment. Not knowing what’s going to happen and handling the present moment is the birthplace of hope. When we choose these options over negative predictions we create a greater space for hope to grow. We often think of hope as a future oriented commodity. However, hope is very much a present moment experience of calm, peace and expectant delight.

So next time you find yourself zooming down the road to negative prediction land, pull over and try this: Sitting quietly with your eyes closed, breathe normally and on your in-breath say to yourself, ” and I don’t know what’s going to happen and on your out-breath say, “…and I still don’t know what’s going to happen.” Repeat these phrases on your inhale and exhale 5 to 10 times and enjoy the shift to the present moment and a growing calm and sense of hope in your body.