Earlier in the week, my family and I took an impromptu day trip to the Catskill Mountains about an hour and a half north of where we live.
It was one of those beautiful end-of-summer days where it was still warm and sunny, but a hint of fall was most definitely in the air.
It was less humid than it had been in weeks, and there was just the faintest whisper of coolness beneath the warmth.
We took a walk by the Ashokan reservoir which supplies almost half of New York City’s drinking water, followed by an outdoor lunch in the sleepy Catskill town of Phoenicia.
All of it was lovely.
On our drive home, we took a winding, scenic route before getting on the New York Throughway. We passed houses of all sorts tucked in the hills, many of which bore various signs sprinkled throughout their yards.
Most of them had political messages with leanings in all directions: conservative, progressive, Democrat, Republican. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Truthfully, all of that has become white noise for me at this point.
But one sign in particular made me stop and catch my breath.
It was homemade, simply painted, no frills. All it read was:
Hope is a discipline.
I have thought about it over and over this past week, especially because of the constant barrage of world events that feel so…well…hopeless.
I guess I have always thought of hope as something that just happens.
Sometimes you feel it, and sometimes you don’t.
In this sense, experiencing hope is a pretty passive act.
It feels great when it’s around. But when it’s not? There really isn’t much you can do about it.
But what if feeling hope was in fact not passive?
What if we considered hope as something very active, a “discipline” as the sign suggests?
What if hope was something that we actually practiced instead of just passively waiting for it to either descend or not?
In yoga, the word “tapas” comes up a lot.
No, it does not refer to those delicious Spanish appetizers (although often I wish that it did).
In Sanskrit, the word “tapas” literally means “fire.” And in yoga, that fire is generally thought of as discipline. It is that burning inner conviction that motivates you to hit the mat and do your thing. Day after day after day.
I’ll be honest: I have a very short supply of tapas.
I lack discipline, especially when it comes to my own personal practice.
Too often I wait for the moment to descend where I really want to do my yoga before I actually get to it.
I am too passive about it, and therefore I miss out on many of its full benefits.
The same goes for hope as well.
Too often, I don’t actively practice hope.
I wait for it to come to me rather than the other way around.
But what if I shifted my mindset to what the sign suggests? What if I practiced hope as a daily discipline? What if we all did?
What if we thought of hope not as some sort of naive, passive, childlike fantasy, but as a strong, fiery, empowering reality?
Something tells me we would be a lot better off, both individually and collectively.
So here is what I am going to do.
I am going to actively practice hope throughout my day.
I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but certainly bringing it into my yoga practice is a good place to start.
Hope means showing up.
Hope means not running away.
Hope means being dedicated to the present moment.
And without question, all of that is yoga.
Thank you to the person who put that sign in their yard.
I really needed to read it.
You are totally right.
Hope is a discipline.
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