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Great Blue Herons on black rocks against a grey sky

This piece was originally written as a reflection earlier this summer as thousands of people across the world were taking to the streets in the ongoing uprisings in defense and celebration of Black lives.

I am beginning to understand the danger of hopefulness. My mind too often prefers to live in an alternate universe, the ideal version that should’ve been, could be—if only we were strong or courageous enough. My heart yearning to fly away from this callous and grotesque world where certain humans are disposable and our rage can no longer be contained. I admit, I am losing all hope and I am learning to be at peace with that. 

This longing for something different dilutes the present, rendering it in half-tones, leaving the vivid colors only for my imagined life. I am left feeling often disappointed with my fellow humans for the violence they inflict, and with myself for expecting more. I struggle to find the words to explain to my daughter that this virus-and-violence riddled world is still beautiful and safe, at least for some of us. 

I search for the boundary between lost hope and unrelenting despair. I am having trouble finding it.  Instead I once again make the choice to come back to what is certain, the only solid footing for this often treacherous journey: 

  1. My breath (and the gift of this moment).
  2. This body (the only vehicle I have for this magnificent journey).
  3. The warmth of loved ones.
  4. The safety of home.
  5. Nourishment (food, water, art)
  6. The kindness of strangers.
  7. The solace available in the more than human world. 

During this time of increasing chaos in our world, where we are once again witnessing the extent of human inflicted violence, and the corresponding rage, we made a pilgrimage to a place that is sacred for myself and countless other living beings. Together we made our way to the gathering place of the Great Blue Herons. Where else can you go when all hope is lost but to a place where we could witness that in some corners of this world, things are just as they should be? 

It was a place that could only be approached with reverence.  These ancient and graceful birds chose this place as their home. Precariously placing their nests on the canopies of the tallest trees.  Arriving and departing with such precision and gentleness so as to not disrupt the understood order of things. 

Their songs and calls amplified by their sheer numbers, assuaged something in my anguished spirit.  Serving as fuel and replenishment to once again find the courage to face our ruptured, burning and beautiful world.  

Upon sharing this story with a friend, he gifted me a talk on the concept of spiritual hope. Though I’ve been reading and listening to Tara Brach for many years, this talk was the healing balm my weary soul needed to receive at precisely the right time. Ever so gently I am learning to distinguish the difference between egoic hope (what I have lost/am losing) and spiritual hope—the deep abiding belief that every human being has the capacity to awaken. I embrace this with all of my heart. May it be so. 

Virtual Walk Down to the Heron Rookery, Durham, NC: Presented by the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association

“Spiritual hope opens us to possibility and energizes us to manifest our potential for love and wisdom. In contrast to attachment or egoic hope, which is the grasping for what will benefit a separate self, spiritual hope arises from trust in the openhearted awareness (bodhichitta) that is always and already within us.” –Tara Brach from Spiritual Hope (Recorded Talk) 

Photo Credit: Amy Perez | Unsplash

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