Woman's Book of Hope: Meditations for Passion, Power, and Promise

Woman's Book of Hope: Meditations for Passion, Power, and Promise

by Eileen Campbell

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573246996
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 09/01/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,195,540
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author


Eileen Campbell is the author of several books, including The Woman's Book of Joy. She was an alternative/New Age publisher for over 30 years and worked in various capacities for major publishers including Routledge, Random House, Penguin, Rodale, Judy Piatkus Books, and Harper Collins. She was also a writer/presenter for BBC Radio's "Something Understood" and "Pause for Thought" in the 1990s. Visit her at www.eileencampbellbooks.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Creating our vision of the future

* * *

The point about hope is that it is something that occurs in very dark moments. It is like a flame in the darkness.

— JOHN BERGER

Each of us at some point in our lives is likely to experience adversity, grief, and despair. For some, the crisis may follow the loss of a loved one, an accident, an illness, or an unexpected firing or dismissal. It may be an ongoing struggle with poverty or abuse, or it could be simply the dire state of the world with its inequality, violence, and terrorism that plunges us into a deep depression.

Whatever the cause, hope seems to elude us, and fear, doubt, and confusion make us lose our way. We reach rock bottom. This is sometimes referred to as a "dark night of the soul," originating from the title of a poem by sixteenth-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross. On such occasions it's hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel, we feel overwhelmed by the darkness, and the future stretches bleakly before us. We find ourselves questioning the whole basis of our lives and whether there is any meaning and purpose in them.

Hope is the opposite of despair, and we need it because it helps us deal with our suffering, but how is it possible to coax hope from the embers of despair? We can start by reminding ourselves that the light is always there, even though we can't at the moment see it. There is never a time when dawn doesn't break or winter doesn't end. Hope is like the bird singing in the dark night, sensing the approach of the dawn light. When we accept that light is the other side of darkness, we are more able to face our dilemma. Nothing stays the same forever — things change, we change. We can turn things around and begin again, perhaps making something good out of the pain and turmoil we feel.

It may well take some time to accept and come to terms with what has brought us to this juncture, but that glimmer of hope in the darkness helps us find resources that we didn't know we possessed. We discover a different perspective that helps us deal with the situation. As Maya Angelou, the American poet, writer, and social rights activist, put so well, "God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us — in the dreariest and most dreaded moments — can see a possibility of hope."

Once we have tasted hope, we can hold on to it, magnifying it while building a vision of something better. Hope makes the present less difficult to bear and gives us the energy to pursue our dream. Our dark night has been like a death and a rebirth, an awakening to a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Each new day we can cultivate a more expansive state of mind and enrich our lives with the prospect of a brighter future, one in which the essence of who we truly are is revealed, as spoken of by the Persian Sufi poet Hafiz:

I wish I could show you,
1. Turning things around

Let's imagine we've allowed the possibility of hope to surface. Perhaps the future can look different. Maybe all is not lost.

There's a story about a famous painting called The Chess Players (sometimes also called Checkmate and The Game of Life) by Friedrich Moritz August Retzsch. Probably painted in 1831, it used to hang in a public gallery but is now in private hands. The painting depicts two people playing chess, one of whom is Satan, the other a young man, possibly Faust, since Retzsch illustrated Goethe's Faust.

The chessboard appears to be placed on the lid of a sarcophagus, and a skull reminds us that death is never far away. Hope is also present in the form of a guardian angel, who watches over the young man. He looks forlorn, as if he knows the game is over and his soul is lost. Checkmate!

The story goes that a chess Grandmaster on a visit to the gallery spent a long time studying the positions of the chess pieces. Suddenly he cried out, "It's a lie. The painter is wrong. There is a way out. The king has another move." The young man actually has the chance to defeat his deadly opponent. All is not lost!

However desperate a situation and however troubled we may feel, there is always hope. Just as stars in the sky are at their brightest when it's truly dark, so we can find hope in the darkness of despair. Whatever our pain and suffering, all is not lost. We have a choice; we can save ourselves: we can select hope and turn the situation around.

I remind myself that there is always hope, however dark things may seem.
2. Allowing inspiration to take hold

If we choose to rise above our circumstances and dare to hope that the future might be better, we need to feel inspired and focus on what lifts our spirits, rather than be brought down by the negative messages and depressing news stories that dominate our media. We need positive and hopeful encouragement. After all, as the Dalai Lama reminds us:

The very purpose of our life is happiness, which is sustained by hope. We have no guarantee about the future, but we exist in the hope of something better. Hope means keeping going, thinking, "I can do this." It brings inner strength, self-confidence, the ability to do what you do honestly, truthfully and transparently.

We actually have a tool we can use to help us, one that is always with us — our breath. Inspire means to breathe into or blow upon, so inspiration is breathing into the mind or soul. Instead of focusing on those thoughts that make us feel hopeless, we can choose to focus on our breath instead. This simple act of connecting with the breath calms us and helps us feel more hopeful. As the basis of meditation and as a regular practice (see pp. 50–51), it can have enormously beneficial effects.

We can also turn to nature to inspire us. Modern life has somehow caused us to become disconnected from nature, yet we can choose to take a walk in a park or garden, along a river or canal, by the seashore — wherever we can take ourselves to so that we can be aware of the beauty of our surroundings. Allowing our senses to be uplifted by nature's sights, sounds, and scents enables us to forget our troubles for a while and recharges our batteries.

We might choose to listen to some uplifting music, go for a swim, have a massage, read aninspirational book, look at paintings in a gallery, cook something special, or do some gardening. Sometimes merely taking a long luxurious bath, washing our hair, and putting on fresh clothes and make-up can make a difference to our mood.

Affirmations help too, by changing our patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. An affirmation is a strong positive statement, which can be general or specific. It has to be clear and concise and in the present tense, as if it already exists. We can affirm, for example: "The future looks brighter for me" rather than "The future will be brighter for me." We can say the affirmations silently or out loud, or we can write them down. Making continuous positive statements and trying to believe an affirmation as much as possible helps shake off any negativity and restore some kind of balance in ourselves. While accepting what currently exists, we can see the possibility of creating something better for the future and therefore feel energized and more hopeful, even in the most difficult of situations.

I dare to hope the future is brighter.
3. Vibrating at a higher frequency

Our universe consists of matter and energy. Matter is merely energy moving very slowly, which behaves at a quantum level like a wave. Energy is matter moving very rapidly, and it takes the form of a field with invisible lines of force. The universe is a constant translation of matter into energy and energy into matter, which is expressed through vibrations, waves, and fields. Everything in the universe vibrates, including us, and our emotions are also vibrations.

When we choose to hope rather than despair, we automatically tune in to a higher vibrational level, freeing ourselves from the negative impact of the slower vibrations like fear, anxiety, and doubt. We don't have to be held back by self-limiting thoughts and ideas that have become ingrained and that tell us something isn't possible. We can change them.

Neuroscience has shown that we create our world moment by moment with our thoughts, words, and deeds, something the truly wise have always known and that are expressed here in the words of the Buddha:

The thought manifests as the word The word manifests as the deed The deed develops into habit And the habit hardens into character.
We can envision and create better lives for ourselves through accessing the higher vibrational states of imagination, insight, and intuition. To develop these states, we need a greater balance of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Most of us tend to be left-brain dominant, relying on it for rational thinking and our actions and responses to events in our lives. There's nothing wrong with rational thinking, but sometimes we don't know all the facts, or a situation is gray or confused because of too many facts, and that's where intuitive skills are more helpful. It's the right brain that is more attuned to these. Even a great scientist like Einstein recognized that intuition is important. All of us have intuitive abilities, but we just need to practice using them more.

We can develop our intuition by changing the way we pay attention in the world. Technology has brought so many distractions that our attention is focused on what is going on outside and around us, rather than what is going on in our inner world. We tend not to trust the signs, gut feelings, coincidences, or our dreams — those sources of information that come from our subconscious mind and are there to help us on our journey. Intuition gives us a different way of perceiving the world and helps us see what'shard to see. It can tell us what's right and wrong in our lives, what we need to change, and where we need to make adjustments.

When we access both right and left sides of the brain, we're less trapped by the problems we find ourselves facing. We're connected to the life force and attuned to the higher vibrations, enabling us to eliminate those attitudes and behaviors that keep us stuck.

However difficult the circumstances of our lives, hope and despair are both attitudes experienced by our minds. When we choose to bring the higher vibration of hope to a situation, we find things begin to shift and change.

I let go of fear, anxiety, and doubt.
4. Dreaming the impossible dream

What is it we most long for? Most of us want good relationships, a comfortable home, a rewarding career, good health, but probably much more besides — and there's nothing wrong with that! We're all entitled to dream, we don't need permission, and neither do we have to prove anything. Basically, we want what will make us happy. Sometimes, however, we have a burning desire to do something that may seem impossible and that others might regard as a foolish dream. We have to take that passionate desire and make it our quest, no matter how difficult it might seem to reach our goal.

Dreams are expressions of hope, and how our lives unfold depends on our dreams. When our imagination is fired by them, we're lifted to new heights, and we can overcome those patterns of thoughts and beliefs that so frequently hold us back and prevent us from realizing our dream.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," wrote Eleanor Roosevelt, who in spite of her privileged position as the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt had her share of misfortunes and is to be admired for how she coped with them. She campaigned throughout her life for human rights and as head of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights helped draft the 1948 declaration of human rights.

Doreen Peachy did not have a privileged background, but she had dreams. When she grew up in the 1950s in England, there wasn't enough money in her family to pay for ballet lessons, but she always wanted to be a ballerina. When she was seventy-one, she became the oldest woman ever to pass the grade six exam at the Royal Academy of Dance in London. Having had a successful career, she was able to fulfill her dream by taking up ballet when she had retired ten years earlier.

My own experience with singing is not dissimilar. I always loved to sing, but there was no money for music training when I was young. I put all my energy into getting an education and a career, and it never really occurred to me that I could take up singing without a music background, but the dream never left me. It was not until I was fifty, after many years of going to India, that through a curious serendipity I became involved with classical Indian raga. Indian music and the way it is traditionally taught, totally by listening and by repetition with no need for musical notation, suited me perfectly. Because I had studied Sanskrit, singing in different Indian languages wasn't really a problem; I seemed to be able to pick them up enough to be able to sing in them. After many years of practice now, learning different styles with several Indian teachers, I have become reasonably proficient, even performing on stage in both London and India. It's clearly never too late to fulfill an impossible dream!

I allow my imagination to run free.
5. Saying "yes" to possibility

With all its uncertainty and unpredictability, life may be challenging for us at times, but it's always richer with possibilities than we might at first think. We always have a choice as to how we react to situations. If we remain hopeful, open, and receptive, the future unfolds in a manner that allows us to pursue and realize our dreams. Possibilities emerge that, if we're negative and despairing in our attitude, we fail to see.

Throughout history there have sadly been exiles and refugees, and recent history has been no exception with the turmoil in the Middle East. We have all been appalled by the plight of thousands of refugees leaving the horrors of war-torn Syria to come to the West. One of the most heart-rending, but at the same time inspirational, stories is that of the young girl Nujeen Mustafa, who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk. She traveled in her wheelchair in search of a new life, wanting to join her brother and sister in Germany, and dreaming of becoming an astronaut. From Bodrum in Turkey, she traveled in an overcrowded dingy to the Greek island of Lesbos and then took a fourteen-hour ferry ride to mainland Greece. The Hungarian/Serbian border had closed to refugees the day before her arrival, so she had to make a long detour via Croatia and Slovenia, where she was held in a detention center for twenty-four hours, before finally making the long bus journey to Germany. Now settled and at school, she plans to go on to study physics. It was her positive attitude and saying "yes" to the possibility of safety and a new life that Nujeen believes helped her face the long and difficult journey: "I thought of it as something that I'm living through now, but that will pass. I thought of everything as a big adventure."

I have Gujarati friends living in England, who similarly had hopeful attitudes when they were expelled from Idi Amin's Uganda in August 1972. Of the eighty thousand Asians who were ordered to leave Uganda, thirty thousand came to the UK, leaving behind their wealth and possessions. They brought with them, however, a determination to rebuild their lives, no matter the sacrifices that had to be made. They said "yes" to starting all over again, even though their start was hardly propitious — they were housed in old military camps with very few facilities. Their parents worked hard and they worked hard, studying to get more qualifications and build successful businesses. My friends' stories are stories of struggle, but one is a consultant anesthetist, another ran a successful chain of pharmacies before retiring, and another was an academic librarian. All are engaged in volunteer work in their communities. I'm full of admiration for how they overcame adversity and how they have built successful lives for themselves and are contributing to their communities too.

With a hopeful, determined attitude, however much things are against us at certain points in our lives, we can undoubtedly win when we say "yes" to the possibilities that are always there for us.

I am emerging from my difficult times.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Woman's Book of Hope"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Eileen Campbell.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction,
Chapter 1 • Creating our vision of the future,
Chapter 2 • Having conviction and holding on to our ideals,
Chapter 3 • Daring to take action,
Chapter 4 • Persevering when it's an uphill struggle,
Chapter 5 • Cultivating patience,
Chapter 6 • Opening our hearts to love,
Chapter 7 • Growing in wisdom,
Chapter 8 • Becoming our best selves,

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