Over the years of tracking social, environmental and economic change, I have felt like I am on a roller coaster ride of optimism and despair. The challenges can be overwhelming at times and the future can appear bleak. In order to stay engaged and not get overwhelmed in the challenges I have found it so important to find ways to maintain hope.
Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book ‘Active Hope‘ speaks of “how we face the mess we’re in even when it’s overwhelming”. Whatever mess we face we get to choose our response.
Inspired by this I have been thinking of ways we can choose hope in these times, and what creativity has to do with it.
1 Practice gratitude
For me hopelessness feels like losing connection with life around me, like I am floating rudderless in a sea of the unknown. Gratitude is a choice and practicing it brings me back into the present, letting me see hear and feel, and be present to simple everyday blessings in my life. I tend to write, draw, dance, sing or paint to really find my roots in this.
I am never going to get a recording contract but I have found myself walking out in the hills making up songs about the landscape and the sea, warming up my heart and my hope for the world. I’m not so sure how hope-filled the sheep have been with my singing but this practice in general brings me into the present and reminds me that, if I can find what is good in this moment then I have the seeds of hope for what can be good in the future. Try listing 21 things you are grateful for today.
2 Honour the pain of the earth
“You can’t contemplate hope unless you address despair” ~ Anne Gallagher
Seeds of Hope, founded by Anne Gallagher, facilitates story telling, based on The Troubles in Northern Ireland, through music, art, drama, writing and sport. “We listen to people’s stories, but we don’t judge them. There’s healing in that. The idea is that when you hear my story and I hear your story, it becomes our story and seeds of hope are sown.” ~ Anne Gallagher
There is great healing to be found in safe creative spaces where we allow one another to tell our stories, engage in grief and honour our pain. This awakening to, and honouring of, what is happening in the world gives me hope. Grief is different for each of us and yet there it is a language we can all understand, try expressing it through writing, poetry, a drawing or music.
They teach us new ways to live and work in connection and within our living systems rather than continuing our colonisation of the earth. These connections inform and dovetail with our creativity to create new methods of planning, working, growing, building community and honouring our living earth. Create a mind map of an aspect of your life to see all you are in connected to.
4 Practice a craft
There is some thing about the pace at which craft is created that deeply soothes my nervous system. It is the sculpting of ideas with materials, the way that precision and complexity are valued and how “the magic and beauty of everything lies in the detail” Verson.
It reminds me of my Dad doing woodwork at the weekends when I was growing up. He always had some project on the go, making boats or furniture, bit by bit, over months, carefully working away. The steady showing up and honing a craft allows me to trust that change can happen in a gradual conscious way, that it is safe to take the foot off the accelerator and allow for considered crafted change instead.
5 Commit to showing up regularly
I have witnessed friends start with a simple idea, follow their intuition and steadily show up day after day until their business blossomed. It takes tenacity, dynamic creativity and patience to stay when things get tough. Commitment is a muscle that must be exercised regularly. Find a practice that you can commit to on a regular basis, make it simple and doable. You will be surprised at what changes take place by taking a small simple action on a daily basis.
6 Seek laughter
“Comedians who say something serious about the world while they make us laugh are capable of mobilising the masses, focusing a critical lens on injustices, and injecting hope and optimism into seemingly hopeless problems.” ~ Borum Chattoo & Feldman
In the face of all of the challenges in life the fact that there is still a place for humour gives me hope. It can all get terribly serious and dark at times and I am grateful for the wicked, whacky, creative comics who tickle ribs and shed light in dark places. [For a giggle: Foil Arms and Hogg Awkward interview with planet earth]
7 Practice the art of Ubuntu
Ubuntu (I am because you are) is an African philosophy that Nelson Mandela described as, “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.”
In the lovely little film The art of Ubuntu a creative collaboration by international artists tell stories of hope and acknowledgement of our shared humanity.
Through the acknowledgement of their shared humanity and the catalyst of their co-creative potential intentional communities are forming new models for living based in new ways of organising socially, economically, ecologically and culturally. New forms of community are possible.
8 Practice forgiveness
“No matter what happens in life you can believe in hope” Sunny Jacobs
The Art of Ubuntu features the stories of Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle who were individually wrongfully convicted of murder, sentenced to death and imprisoned for seventeen and fifteen years respectively. In both of their stories they speak of their years in solitary confinement, inhumane treatment and their journey to mental and emotional freedom through practicing meditation, yoga and expressing through art.
Practice choosing to believe in hope when it seems like there was none. Practice forgiveness: committing to letting go and choosing change. And choose to delight in the beauty of life – for delight abounds when we seek it.
9. Learn to see with new eyes
Creativity “dares to dissolve the boundary between dream and reality… believes in the unlimited power of our imaginations…and is the key that opens the door to our unbounded freedom” ~ Verson
Our potential to see the world in new and different ways that fills my heart with joy. It opens new perspectives and ignites our visions. When I tune into this I can feel that there truly are no limits to the changes we can create. Seek out projects that inspire new ways of seeing the world; initiatives like Community Gardens, Gorilla Gardening, Trees for life, Doughnut Economics and Community led housing.
10. Chose to leap!
“A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for” ~ William Shedd
I appreciate those who dare to follow their heart (Coeur— the root of the word courage) and take action. The creative, social and environmental activists, ARTivists and courageous followers of their hearts give me hope.
Creativity requires that we start before we are ready (because if we wait to be fully ready we will never start….). We need to be at the edge of our comfort zone in order to engage in creative flow. Find what is your next step however big or small and take a creative leap!
I have so enjoyed this journey or remembering some of the so many ways to choose hope. We are living in challenging times, so do lean in to the resources that best support you to keep the threads of hope weaving through your life.
I would love to hear of the ways you choose hope and the creative projects, stories or initiatives that give you hope.