Thursday, February 28, 2008

Faith and Hope

We worked "faithfully" on trikonasana, ardha chandrasana and parsvakonasana last night and took that into standing balance work and also vasisthasana variations at 5:30. We finished the Beginning Series, reduced in numbers but with a few people who completed the Beginning Series Challenge with perfect attendance. The Beginning Series class learned the loops last night and were introduced to ardha halasana so when they continue on in the other classes they will not be shocked to see halasana! Both classes are really making a lot of progress so that is awesome.

Ari commented last night on the relationship between faith and hope. So, I looked them up. (Shocking right? But really- Anusara Yoga Teacher Training tip for free- learn about and use it to look up definitions, synonyms and etymologies and your themes will deepen and so will your vocabulary and understanding of concepts. Plus it is fun!)

HOPE- a feeling that what is wanted is likely to happen; desire accompanied by expectation. One of its roots implies "to leap up in expectation."
FAITH- unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence, belief in God. It has etymology similar to confidence and trust.

So in some ways they seem similar but at first perusal it seems that perhaps faith is a higher form of hope. Faith seems to imply a quality of trust in the Divine where as hope seems linked to expectations on a personal level of desire and want. From my days of 12-step recovery I remember a big teaching about expecations being the number one way to ruin one's serenity. Something in the Big Book says something about "serenity being inversely proportional to one's expectations" or something like that. So, as spiritual practioners it seems to me like cultivating faith in the Divine's Plan for us rather than hope for our own desires is the task to which we are called.

But really, no need to mince words. Hope is so important when we are down and feeling that dark cloud of despair, whose primary message seems to be "It has always been like this, it will always be like this." So in those cases hope, faith, etc. must be cultivated so that we have some inner ammunition against what I like to call "The Downward Spiral". When we are up against those inner demons what we call the thing that makes us persevere and tread the road of practice matters very little so long as it helps us stay in place, apply the principles and not quit "5 minutes before the miracle". (another 12-step slogan!)

Interestingly enough, someone who had been very close to my family for many years recently committed suicide. I think that the sad part of this was realizing how hopeless he must have felt and how bleak his life was to him to make such a choice. He was really dealing with a lot of challenges and I know hope had eluded him for a long time. Faith was not his gig either. So an interesting thing to think about this morning. It must be in the air.

May each one of be blessed with both hope and faith. May we have the strength to cultivate ourselves so that our hopes are in alignment with the Divine Plan.


mandy said...

Thank you Christina, that was a beautiful teaching.

whatnot said...

So funny--after I posted that comment, I went to one of the online dictionaries and started poking around, too! (my personal favorite is, although it is kind of a sensory overload)

I agree with your assessment 100%, but I do take issue with the dictionary definition of hope, and its correlation with expectations. That's right, it's me versus the dictionary. pistols at high noon. bring it.

Wikipedia makes a distinction about hope, in that in some cases it is an ACT (which is yes, fraught with expectations) and in some cases it is an emotional STATE. "Hope implies a certain amount of perseverance — i.e., believing that a positive outcome is possible even when there is some evidence to the contrary." There is that word again: belief. faith. So I think it's safe to say that hope, as a positive feeling, springs from faith.

You posted a long time ago (it came up again in the immersion, too) about the difference between the way a scientist describes the moon and the way a poet might describe it. This is how these two definitions of hope are hitting me, I think. One speaks to the head, the other to the heart. I trust the universe. I have faith that things will happen as they should. Therefore I have hope.

As for the necessity for hope in the face of despair, that most definitely has more to do with emotional states. Having battled depression, I can say that expectations don't even come into play when one is emotionally numb.

But rather than dragging on and on with a topic that could take up an entire blog, let me just say that this whole discussion has reminded me of a poem I heard for the first time a couple of years ago, "The People Yes" by Carl Sandburg: It is a little gritty, but it just gets me every time I read it. Talk about perseverance:

"Between the finite limitations of the five senses
and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
while reaching out when it comes their way
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
This reaching is alive."

See you tonight.

Anne-Marie Bowery said...

Here's a relevant Biblical passage on faith,

‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’

Hebrews Chapter 11 Verse 1

Jill said...

Here's one from The Little Zen Companion:

Great Faith.
Great Doubt.
Great Effort.

-The Three Qualities Necessary for Training