In the kickoff episode of Casual Buddhism, I asked Venerable Dhammananda about how we remain hopeful in the face of ongoing uncertainties surrounding COVID, and increased violence towards Blacks and Asians. She surprised me when she said that one hopeful aspect of COVID is that it allows us to think globally. “We cannot be free from COVID alone; we must be free together.“

Venerable Dhammananda advises us that “Hope happens when we open our hearts and let other people come in.” Her comments inspired me to ask, how does hope happen for me?  I am often hopeful in nature, or when I am with a good friend and simply feel the joy of our companionship. There’s a shift in my thinking; I stop worrying. My mood becomes joyful and I feel an immense sense of gratitude for everything around me. I want to reach out to extend kindness and caring to others. Noticing this brings me back to Venerable Dhammananda’s teaching that we are not safe alone; we are safe together. We need one another and we are all interconnected.

But there are also those times when I feel lonely, separate from other people, or discouraged for whatever reason. Especially being divorced and living alone, there are times when no one is around and I get lonely, tangled in a web of old childhood fears that I’m somehow unlovable or unworthy. Sundays can be challenging because it’s a family day.  I always have breakfast with my son and his beloved dog, Bubba—a good reminder that family is what we make it.

The truth is I’m surrounded by friends.

I recently had my seventieth birthday and the array of cards displayed in my living room is incredible. Venerable Dhammananda often says we can discover the joy around us if we simply look for it.

We can feed ourselves a meager diet of despair or look with gratitude towards the beauty that surrounds us. In spring flowers are abundant—the purple Iris’ are my favorites. Discovering those blooms in the fields where I hike with friends is a potent reminder that hope happens when we open our hearts to receive it.

Hope is a practice of seeking joy whenever and wherever we can find it.

How does hope happen for you, and how do you feel when you find it?

Post your thoughts on hope and offer suggestions or questions for Venerable Dhammananda on my Facebook page, or via my contact page.