Pema Chodron is one of my favorite teachers. If you haven’t heard of her, I urge you to check out her books and recordings. In her book When Things Fall Apart she talks about hope, which most people probably think is a good thing. Pema encourages her readers to give up hope, to practice being hopeless. When I first read her words, I thought: wow what kind of negative person is she?
But then I tried it.
A couple of months ago, I found myself feeling upset that I wasn’t a more famous writer and as I swirled through this intense mix of self-loathing, blind ambition and jealousy of other writers, Pema’s words came to me: Try hopelessness.
Because I was so miserable, I was willing to try anything. So, I relaxed into feeling that I was never going to “make it.” I didn’t strain to feel hopeful about my future, make plans, visualize fame, or find the silver lining. Life sucked and that was okay.
I felt free.
Only then was I able to turn back to a writing project I was avoiding and move on with what turned out to be a productive day.
I realized that sometimes my ambitions and longings turn into their own kind of prison. So, may I suggest that when the only way out seems to be winning a Pulitzer Prize, try hopelessness. This time, it worked for me.
Have you ever tried this and discovered you accomplished more when you were less "ambitious"?
(Note: I have found discernment to be a most useful skill. It’s important to discern between your run-of-the-mill hopelessness and the kind of hopelessness that is really depression. Of course at my most depressed, I’m also my least able to tune into my discernment. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re surrendering to hopelessness in a way that will be helpful or harmful, consult a professional!)