Today is the first Sunday of Advent – a four-week long Christian tradition, when the faithful will prepare to receive Spirit (or Christ) on Christmas Day. Though I keep edging farther away from Christianity in my own belief system, I love this tradition, and I’m inviting you to join me this year in celebrating these next four weeks. We’ll be using the traditional themes of the four weeks of Advent – hope, love, joy and peace – to calm holiday madness and get deeper into our own spiritual gifts. This week, we start with hope.
“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”
– Martin Luther
At this time, I feel a strong call towards being these qualities instead of contemplating them. I’m inviting you to BE hope with me this week, and I’ve designed this exercise to help us do just that:
Step #1: Find One or Two Signs of Hope
Think of things you have noticed lately that have brought you a sense of hope. Pick one or two. These don’t have to be ‘spiritual’ or even deep – it could be any random thing – for me, it’s flash mobs and 3D printers.
“No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.”
Step #2: Identify the Qualities that Inspire Hope
Something about these signs have inspired hope in you. This is a very personal thing, so your answers might be wildly different than mine. I’m listing out mine just as examples:
Flash Mobs: They are unexpected, they are collaborative, and their only real purpose seems to be to spread joy. (If you have no idea what a flash mob is, google this. If you’re like me, you may spend hours watching them!)
3D Printers: They allow individual expression, design, freedom. They feel like magic to me, and make me think I might be able to appear in holographic form to visit friends in the next ten years. (Fulfilling part of my childhood dream of being like the cartoon “Jem.”)
“Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.”
Got yours? Excellent! Moving on…
Step #3: Brainstorm Ways to Invoke These Qualities
I challenge you to come up with 28 ways to do this. Many of your answers will be absurd and unworkable, and that’s okay. For example, I could easily get unexpected, collaborative, and joyful if I could convince my coworkers to sing with me at our cafeteria during lunch hour. If you knew my coworkers, you would agree that it would probably signify the impending apocalypse, but I am giving myself credit for thinking up the idea nonetheless!
Stuck? It can help to list out the quality and then ask yourself…
How can I embody … (freedom, as my example)?
How can I create… (unexpected joy)?
What can I do today to spread … (magic)?
How can I encourage … (individual expression)?
What thoughts can I think so that I feel … (magical, joyful) today?
How can I incorporate … (design) into my day?
When you have at least seven workable ideas that you would actually do, you can stop. (Though it can be quite fun to continue. I think any time spent contemplating, ‘how can I spread hope?’ is time well spent.)
Step #4: Pick One Activity per Day, and Do It
Ack! I know, I hate when I come to a real action step too. But here we are. If you’re a quiet person, you can easily choose actions that fit with your personality and comfort level – smiling at a harassed cashier, offering a silent blessing to someone who appears stressed, etc. You don’t have to do anything that would cause YOU stress, as that defeats the purpose.
Bonus Step: Make It Collaborative
Get a friend or two to do this activity with you. Text each other daily with your action and how it went. At the end of the week, celebrate together all of the hope you spread this week.
Ready to start? Post a comment below and let us know you’re going to be a force of hope this week. If you know already, share one of your signs of hope.
““Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.