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“How Do We Stay Hopeful?” with Rev. Karen Laughmen

How Do We Stay Hopeful?

We are living in challenging times with much uncertainty. To triumph in any challenge and to move forward, we need to stay hopeful.

Although our minds can go to a place of fear and doubt, the expression, “hope springs eternal” is also true. It is our nature to look for hopefulness. Hope is defined as an optimistic state of mind that is based in an expectation for positive outcomes in one’s life and events in the world at large. Our Unity faith is based upon hope and possibility.

In the Bible, Hebrew 11:1, faith is described as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus taught us, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith like a grain of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move.’ Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The Mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, but grows to be the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree. As this metaphor implies when we plant seeds of hope in our spirit, we can accomplish much and overcome much.

Our Unity co-founders, Myrtle and Charles Fillmore overcame illness and poverty with a great faith that gave them sustaining hope. When they led the beginnings of their spiritual community, they had setbacks, but never gave up because of their faith.

In the book, “Let God Help You,” which is a compilation of Myrtle’s writings, Myrtle states “God is All Good, All Power, All Wisdom, All Presence.” She often speaks of Truth with a capital T and the Truth that God is Spirit within us ever present, all powerful, all wise.

Myrtle speaks of God as Life, Love, and Divine Mind. Her advice is to listen to the voice of God within us to be led to the Truth that we are good, wise and powerful. She suggests that we can be led to new ways of thinking and living… a transformation of consciousness because we are endowed with Divine ideas, the most important and powerful things in the universe.

Our Divine ideas have their origin from Divine Mind, which is God, our Source. And this is how we transmute the negative to positive energy. We overcome with Divine ideas and hope. With prayer and meditation, Myrtle claimed her oneness with God, and encourages us to do the same. With the knowledge of Truth, we can have peace of mind, health of body and always create new possibilities!

Brother Sheindi-Rest, who is a Benedictine monk, an interfaith spiritual leader and founder of a global organization, Network for Grateful Living, teaches that faith is a courageous trust in life. He states that a deep trust in life is not a feeling, but a stance that you deliberately take. It is an attitude of courage in the face of challenges. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we have some control in how circumstances impact us with our attitude.

Myrtle Fillmore taught we can be free of worry if we follow Truth Principles, trust the power and presence of God within and turn any self- defeating thoughts into an affirmation of life, strength and faith. This is the foundation of Unity. We are not promised that that our life will always be easy, but we are promised that the presence of God and Spirit is always with us.

We can shift our thoughts from the ever- changing rhythms of life and align with Spirit at any time. We can choose to see situations in the outer world as temporary conditions, and affirm that our future is unlimited, contrary to any circumstance that may appear otherwise. This is what hope is. This what trusting in life is… trusting that our future is unlimited.

You may be familiar with the book, Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl who was a psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor. It is a profound book on maintaining hope in a most difficult time of suffering…living in a Nazi concentration camp.

This is a quote from his book: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. As a prisoner in unthinkable circumstances, he strived to keep an attitude of hope and helped other people around him be as hopeful as possible. He writes that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. He suggested that we adopt a courageous attitude in a situation of unavoidable suffering. He called this an Attitudinal Value.

In Unity, we practice an attitude of hopefulness with what we call affirmative prayer… first connecting with the spirit of God and secondly asserting positive beliefs about the desired outcomes…the good that is already here and now.

This is an example of Affirmative Prayer: “Divine Spirit, I am grateful for the spirit of wisdom and love within me, and know I am guided to blessings of peace, health and prosperity. Beginning with gratitude and affirming guidance, peace, health and prosperity. And then, I pray and trust that my highest and best good is manifesting in my life with Divine Order here and now.

This is the method of affirmative prayer that Jesus taught in Mark 11:24 when he said, “I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

As we believe we have power over our thoughts and attitudes, we believe in Unity that we create our experiences by our thoughts and feelings. A spiritual tool for keeping our thoughts positive and therefore creating a positive life path is the use of Affirmations and Denials.

Denials help us turn away from negative thinking and encourage us to not give power to any self-sabotage. When we have a negative thought about ourselves or a circumstance, we can catch ourselves and not give it attention. We can replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation.

So, if we are feeling overwhelmed by a situation, we can say to ourselves, I can handle this with confidence. We can say this is temporary and I am hopeful that a solution is around the corner.

For health issues, we can say the cells in my tissues and organs are working together for my healing.

For prosperity, we can say I greet each day with gratitude for the many possibilities that await me.

For affirmations to be effective, they need to be stated in the present, with an affirming message and a message that feels true to you. Affirmations can be stated simply and when repeated can make a difference in shifting our consciousness to places of hopefulness to help us create what we want and need in our lives. Affirmations help keep our thoughts positive and our hearts open.

Another tool for creating positive energy is meditation. I like to think of meditation as resting with the breath. There are many methods, but basically it is becoming conscious of the in breath and the out breath and gently turning attention to the inner self, allowing thoughts and feelings to pass without attaching or judging …accepting those thoughts and feelings.

Meditation can lead us to the Silence which is a deeper state where oneness with Divine Presence is experienced. Practicing meditation can help us feel more peaceful and hopeful as does the practice of mindfulness, which is staying in the moment as much as possible. When we are in the awareness of the present moment, we are not thinking of the past or the future. We can feel the joy and the peace of our innate spirit, and this helps us stay hopeful.
And, yet there are times when we feel anger, fear, sadness, grief which we need to honor and have a healthy outlet for expressing and releasing these feelings. As part of a healing process, we may need to cry, reach out to someone who can compassionately listen. What we don’t want to do is stay stuck in the energy of anger, fear, blame and hopelessness.

Instead of reacting, we can take a deep breath and choose peace and hope. Holding difficult emotions in mindful awareness without attachment is a Buddhist practice.

Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron who wrote the book “When Things Fall Apart” advises us to learn to relax with the groundlessness in our lives. She writes, “Whatever arises, breathe it in without pushing the feelings away or running away. Breathe it in with loving compassion for yourself and for others experiencing the same pain. Breathe out slowly, letting go of the struggle.” A relaxed state of mind in the midst of uncertainty can certainly help us feel more hopeful as we release anxiety and invite loving kindness to ourselves and others. Chodron also writes, “We can use everything that happens to us to help us wake up spiritually.”

Our Spiritual Director at my One Spirit Seminary would often tell us that the experiences that were challenges for us were ones which evolve our soul. Every encounter and every experience can help us grow on our spiritual journey.
When and how have you been drawn to hope for the challenges in your life? As a young adult and single parent, I often needed to draw from a wellspring of optimism to remind myself that I could provide for my son and look to the future with hope for him and myself.

In my middle years, hope and optimism helped me recover from cancer…I had affirmations of hope and strength all over my hospital room and in my home.

In my aging years, I use hope to remind myself and affirm that I am healthy and living a fulfilling life with purpose… with love and peace. I begin every day with prayer and the Unity Daily Word, and I use other spiritual readings to keep my spirit uplifted.

Today, I am grateful for all the people who have helped others in this pandemic. This makes me feel hopeful about the innate goodness of human beings and our feeling of kindship and unity with one another.

I am hopeful for our spiritual community as Sandy and our Board work to keep us sustainable and moving forward.
I am inspired and made hopeful by the young people and grassroots movements that are demanding change for racial and social justice, equality, freedom from violence and attention to saving our planet earth from climate change.
Today, I am hopeful that in spite of challenges, we will reclaim our democracy. A very capable woman and person of color has been chosen as a candidate for Vice President of our country. This makes me feel hopeful.

I feel hopeful that less than three weeks after the death of George Floyd, officials across the nation introduced or passed sweeping unprecedented reforms against police violence and racial injustice. In August, Governor Carney signed into law legislation that bans the use of chokeholds by law enforcement in the state of DE. This ban is part of a set of reforms that have been proposed to address systemic racism in Delaware’s criminal justice system. This makes me feel hopeful.

Imbued with the capacity to demonstrate love and faith, we can all be agents of positive change. We can use our life to express our divine qualities for the betterment of ourselves and other people.

“Our potential is always bigger than our problems” is a quote that I like from Michael Beckwith of the Agape Spiritual Center.

We can decide to never give up as John Lewes exemplified and implored us to do.

Martin Luther King told us to never lose hope for our dreams and aspirations. He also said we need action…not only faith, and Mother Teresa said faith in action is love and service.

Barack Obama exclaims that the audacity of hope is hope in the face of difficulty and uncertainty. He states, “Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, work for it and fight for it. President Obama says that the best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something!

And Michelle Obama advices us to make decisions based upon hope and possibility, not fear. That sounds like Unity doesn’t it?

In the book, Unity Metaphysics, our twelve spiritual powers are explored. These powers are “the fundamental and innate aspects of our divine nature.”

Faith is the first power and is described as the “spiritual assurance and power to do the seemingly impossible. A deep knowing that which is sought is already ours …the assurance of things hoped for.”

Strength is the second spiritual power which is “the faculty of steadfastness, endurance, spiritual courage and confidence. It is the calm, God-centered attitude of mind.”

So, I hope you are finding ways to be in that God-centered attitude of mind. I hope you are feeling strength of spirit and finding ways to keep your spirit uplifted and hopeful…. getting out in nature, reaching out to people you love and care about, giving a helping hand where you can, planning to use your personal power to vote.
On that important topic, you can go to Vote.org for information on registering to vote, getting an absentee ballot and other questions about voting.

I want to close with this thought. Hope is a vibration of energy that comes from our Divine Spirit and keeping a hopeful perspective with others helps encourage their sense of hopefulness. Hopefulness has a ripple effect. When we trust in life and trust in Source with gratitude, goodness and the grace of hope flows in our lives.

May you dwell in Possibility. Amen