Close both eyes; see with the other one. Then, we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments, our ceaseless withholding, our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened, and we find ourselves, quite unexpectedly, in a new, expansive location, in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.
– Father Gregory Boyle, Tattoos On The Heart
Someone, at some point in time said “hope is a muscle”. I agree. It feels like the last few weeks have caused a severe injury in my hope muscle. It is kind of immobile right now, for fear of injuring it further. And all of the supportive muscles of my hope; like compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, generosity, don’t quite function so well without the big hope muscle initiating movement. And the more I don’t exercise my muscle of hope and all the connective muscles, the more those very muscles atrophy, shrink, weaken, recede. Blah. What’s the current state of your hope muscle?
The next Daily Bread Yoga retreat is about HOPE. That visceral hope you feel in your gut, taste in your mouth, and notice in your breath. Not hope about one thing or another but they very experience of hope and looking at it as a muscle that you can strengthen, stretch, injure, and ignore.
This past week seriously blew out my hope muscle. A few lifetimes ago I did my pastoral internship in San Bernardino; in one of the many seriously poor neighborhoods, where gun violence is a daily thing. I could barely sleep last week listening to all the gun control rhetoric. San Bernardino is chocked full of guns. So many guns didn’t keep them safe from a horrible mass shooting. And all those guns don’t keep them safe on a daily basis. Guns beget more guns. Fear begets fear. That’s just how it works. Guns don’t save life. That’s not what they are meant to do. I know, I know, someone is going to tell me some brilliant come-back about what a violent explosion of the whole universe it would be if there was more gun control. Huh. Well, I’ll risk it.
And now I am faced with the task of coming up with a yoga retreat on HOPE. Whose idea was this? Hope seems pretty weak and foolish. Anger, stronger facts, louder voices, and blocking people on Facebook sounds better than trying to drum up some hope.
But, then who am I not to hope, in the midst of all? I really don’t have it in me? Seriously? Say that to the hard-working (a few jobs) mom or dad or grandma in San Bernardino who is fighting to keep their kids in school, out of gangs, out of drugs, out of danger. How about I pull my hope up by those blessed boot-straps and step out towards my HOPE. How about instead of flexing my desperation and desolation, I engage my muscles of hope in support of job training programs, after-school programs. Maybe my hope grows in relation to how much I exercise it?! HA! Imagine that? I want to be one of those people with huge, lean, fierce and flexible hope muscles. Like Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr…..who else? You know who I’m talking about; those big, bad-ass hopefull people, whose muscles are bulging from their incredible commitment to exercising their hope, compassion, forgiveness, holy outrage, generosity, and love.
Hope is far from weak when seen in their lives. Another bad-ass hopefull person is Gregory Boyle. He’s a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles who started Homeboy & Homegirl Industries. He invests and exercises his fierce HOPE by offering opportunities, stability, education, financial stability, accountability, support, and safety for men & women (boys & girls too) to get out of gangs. He wrote a fiercely hopefull memoir called “Tattoos on the Heart; The Power of Boundless Compassion”. Just go ahead and buy it. You will want to underline something on every page. When I need a booster shot to my hope, I break it out. Not because the lives of all the people he serves “works out”. Far from it. But the momentum, intention, and the very force of his life towards hope, is breathtaking.
It is an essential tenet of Buddhism that we can begin to change the world by first changing how we look at the world. The Vatican II Council Fathers simply decided to change the opening words of their groundbreaking cyclical, “Gaudium et Spes.” Originally, it read, speaking of the world: “The grief and the anguish…”. Then they just decided to cross out those words and famously inserted instead, “The joy and the hope…”. No new data had rushed in on them, and the world hadn’t changed suddenly. They just chose, in a heartbeat, to see the world differently. They hadn’t embraced, all of a sudden, Pollyannaism. They had just put on a whole new set of eyewear. – Father Gregory Boyle, Tattoos On The Heart
With that, I will say; come to the Daily Bread Yoga retreat to stretch, strengthen, and empower those muscles of hope. We all need it. Or, at least I need it. And it’s all the better when you are there. Philo Presbyterian Church, this Saturday 9a.m.-noon, $20, bring a bottle of water, a yoga mat, and a blanket. Let me know if you are coming and how many friends you are bringing…can’t wait to see you.
Peace on that radiantly hopefull head of yours,