We each possess a ripe environment in which to cultivate our own Garden of Hope; but is up to you to ensure that the soil of your soul is fertile ground for your garden to grow successfully. Like “acceptance,” “hope” doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one day and announce, “I am Hopeful!” It is a daily practice; it takes time. And just like a garden, it needs to be nurtured, fed and cherished.
Life and its circumstances can clog our garden with weeds and debris. All it takes is one solid shake of a tree, rattling our core foundation, to scatter leaves to all corners, disguising the Garden of Hope that lies beneath. In times like these, it is wise to call on external support to clean up your garden, to lift up your spirit. Hope isn’t a solitary pursuit. Hope is meant to be shared and to be received.
So how do you cultivate this Garden of Hope? It starts with just one seed, sowing your mind with little daily reminders of Hope. Overtime, these individual experiences start to reseed the soil, creating clusters of Hopeful memories. Hope becomes exponential. The more you practice Hope, the more Hope grows. And the best fertilizer to help your Hope blossom is a generous dose of Gratitude.
Hope and Gratitude go hand in hand. Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, clogged with the weeds of Doubt, Worry, Fear, Anger, and Apathy, think of just one thing that you are grateful for that day. Most often that one thought leads to another thought, and then another… until you picking poppies rather than stinging nettle!
Here are additional ideas for incorporating gratitude into your daily practice:
- Write an “A-Z Gratitude list” with one grateful reminder to match each letter (ex: A=Asha, my cat; B=Babies, like my awesome nephew; C=Colorful sunsets; D=Dave, my always supportive hubby; E=Enjoying a book in the hammock; etc.)
- Write a Retro-Gratitude List, travel forward 10 years from now and then look back at your life today and all the things you felt blessed to have had in 2013. Many times we miss moments of gratitude and grace in our daily living. Remind yourself of all the unexpected gifts you received, friendships formed, risks taken, challenges met, times spent with loved ones, etc. Start with the basics: “I lived in this amazing apartment/house I loved at (location).”
- Make a list of all the ways “God showed him/herself in your life today.” As you experience moments of grace, gifts of support and friendship, opportunities for hope or growth, or periods of peace, jot them down. Or it may be more symbolic, “signs” that God is working in your life.
- Create a Gratitude Grab-Jar: As you experience feelings of gratitude, write them down on a small piece of paper and stick them in a jar. Then you’ll have reminders to pull out during times you are feeling less than grateful!
- List all the things you can do in your life (regardless of physical, mental, financial or time constraints) that bring you a grateful heart. For me it’s: listening to music, meditating, taking a short walk, sitting in my backyard, petting my cat, reading a book just for pure entertainment purposes, enjoying a dark piece of chocolate. This is another list to resource during times of sadness or stress.
- Think of all the people in your life you are grateful for; make your own catalog of angels. List both people in your present circle but also those who are no longer in your life. For me, some of my biggest supporters and champions have passed away, but I know their spirits still watch over and protect me. Other people were in my life for short periods but the impact they made is ever-lasting (like a caring nurse).
- Start a “3 Good Things” daily list: at the end of each day write down “the three things you are grateful for” or “three good things that happened to you that day.”
These exercises will help you cultivate a Hopeful Heart; something you’ll carry inside of you always, like a soothing secret. Once you have created your own flourishing Garden of Hope, you can then visit it anytime to pick a bouquet of flowers. And, when doesn’t a handful of fresh, bright flowers make any situation seem brighter?!
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in your soul
And sings the tune, without words
And never stops — at all.”