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Why hope encourages you to start acting

Why hope encourages you to start acting

Expectations can lead to frustration – you expect something, and it doesn’t happen. But hope is an entirely different thing, according to famous Zen master Bernie Glassman. Hope empowers you to work on what you really want to do, without getting attached to the results.


“I make a distinction between hope and expectations. Expectations are only rarely met and we get frustrated when we expect something and it doesn’t happen. But hope is actually an encouragement to start acting. When I began my projects for the homeless in Yonkers, an underprivileged area in New York, I said: ‘Let’s put an end to homelessness in this area.’ At that time it was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in America. I didn’t expect I would manage it, but I hoped I would. Hope gave me a direction in my work. But I didn’t get frustrated because I had no expectations whatsoever about what, how or when it would happen. Hope is a beautiful, positive word that allows me to set goals to work towards, without getting attached to the result.”

Let go

“My vision of Zen can be summarized in three important rules of life. The first rule is not-knowing. It’s about being prepared to lose control of a situation. You practice letting go of fixed ideas about yourself and the world, and you exchange them for a life of questions.

The second rule of life is bearing witness to what there is: joy as well as suffering. If you live without fixed answers, you can see situations for what they are, however difficult or painful. And finally, turn this not-knowing and bearing witness into action. In practice, this means approaching people and situations with no clear-cut ideas, no plan, without knowing what’s going to happen.”

Text: Eveline Helmink – Photo: Sarah Gray

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