There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincere, active, constructive hope for the human spirit.Maria Popova
A vessel — most simply — is a container for holding or carrying things. We’ve all had an experience of tending a vessel of some kind – whether a cup, a vase, or a boat – and giving our time and attention to its creation or care. Perhaps you’ve pieced together a favorite mug that had broken apart, patched the hole in an inflatable raft, or even created a pitcher or bowl out of unformed clay, holding your hands just so at the turning of the potter’s wheel. In so doing, you offered whatever was required for the vessel’s purpose to be fulfilled, for its capacity to be created or restored.
The heart is literally a vessel for life, delivering blood and oxygen to our bodies to keep us alive. Figuratively, the heart as a vessel holds both our sorrows and joys, our longings and sweetest memories. It is the homeground for our dreams, yet also suffers under the weight of our hardships. As long as we are alive, the heart — and all that it holds — needs our tending and care. As you continue your personal journey of cultivating hope as an orientation to life, how would you like to shape your heart into a vessel of hope? What are the daily practices and sources of inspiration that will nourish and maintain this vessel? How will you intentionally make space for hope in your heart so that your sorrows are held in hope’s embrace and your joys can fully flourish?
Day Five: Building a Hope Altar
Here on this final day of the practice, we invite you to begin building an altar as a testament to hope. Whether simple or elaborate, an altar offers a meaningful and tangible focal point for a particular intention or honoring. In this case, the invitation is to create an altar that will support the ongoing cultivation of hope in your heart. We suggest starting simply so that your altar will be an immediate source of inspiration, meaning, and joy.
- Choose a place in your home or workspace that you’ll see most days — the corner of a bookshelf, a space at the end of a counter, the top of your dresser. Begin building your hope altar by establishing the space with a favorite piece of fabric or scarf; even a placemat or cloth napkin will work perfectly. Keep it simple.
- Place something at the center that represents your heart.
- Over the course of a week or so, add something each day that inspires or reminds you of hope — a plant, photos, stones, mementos, perhaps things you have kept hidden away because they are so precious to you. Take them out and let yourself see them!
- Try making your hope altar a multisensory experience by playing music as you add to it, placing a drop of favorite oil on a stone, or lighting a candle.
- Allow your altar to remain as simple or become as elaborate as you’d like, but don’t let an elaborate idea keep you from getting started!
As you build and add to your altar, consider the following:
- What insights or guideposts from the first four days of the practice do you want to include in your altar? For example: What will you place on your altar to remind you to open to life’s mystery? What will you include that reminds you to embody hope in action?
- Consider making your altar part of a daily gratefulness practice by giving thanks for the sources of hope that you’ve placed on your altar. How does this intentional appreciation help make your heart a stronger container to hold hope?
- Remember the power of keeping messages of hope in your awareness and within sight. How might you use your altar as a focal point for meditation, a source of conversation with family or friends, or simply as your personal touchstone reminding you of hope?
- As you actively tend your altar, allow your altar – in turn – to tend you.
We invite you to share your reflections below. How will you continue cultivating your heart as a vessel of hope? What are the first things you will include in your hope altar?
The Great Czech Playwright Turned Dissident Turned President Václav Havel on Hope by Maria Popova in The Marginalian
You may recall that the invitation to our five-day practice began with these powerful words from Václav Havel: “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.” In these two sentences, Havel captures the meaning of hope that we aspire to cultivate – hope as an orientation of the heart. In this excellent piece by Maria Popova, she offers us Havel’s sweeping thinking on hope in an accessible and beautiful format. As you continue to deepen your own thinking about hope, may this piece serve as inspiration and guide.
Photo Credit: Oksana Zub
Enjoy the full five-day Hope practice.
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♥️Make Your Heart a Vessel of Hope, A Five Day Practice♥️This time reflecting on hope has been very important to me.
I thought of hope as expectations and felt like hope often led to disappointment. But as I’ve learned, I was thinking of specific hopes, not Hope.
*Hope is an openness to life and to surprise. How wondrous!
*When I am open to uncertainty and surprise, I allow for the possibility that life will offer something I’m not yet able to envision.
This is life changing for me. I have not liked uncertainty and surprise because I have wanted to be safe. But trying to eliminate uncertainty and surprise has been limiting for me. I have been trying to protect myself from pain, but in reality I have been putting a lid on my joy. Fear has been stopping me from spreading my wings. I can try new things for the joy of new experiences. Enough of second guessing my ideas. I feel energized and open to living in a new way. I don’t need to have all the answers. It’s okay to try new things. Outcomes will be what they will. I don’t have to be so concerned with them. I will look for what feels right and what feels joyful. Making a Hope Altar will help me to stay on track.
Cultivating hope as an orientation to life is new to me.
I will be intentional about this and am already feeling joyful in this new found freedom.
Thank you to all who created and worked on making this 5 Day practice possible! ♥️♥️♥️
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Mary. I’m deeply pleased that the practice has been meaningful for you and awakened possibility! Enjoy making your hope altar as a touchstone for your new pathway.
As I consider building my altar of hope, I think this space could be called an altar of love. Hope engenders love. I look at the hangings on the wall behind my computer where I am now. There’s an icon of Mary with the Christ Child, a card with a picture of hummingbirds sipping nectar, a coloring sheet created by my friend that says: “Stop and Smell the Roses.” Next to that is a letter of hugs from a 92 year old friend who thanks us for remembering her Birthday. Last of all are two short prayers printed out from the Heart of the Nation Sunday Mass booklet. One asks for Grace for Today; the other starts, “Lord, help me.”
Surpise! I already have my hope altar set up. Hopeful signs right in front of me. Now all I need to do is stop, look and listen to hope!
Me, too, Liz – I think my home is a Home of Optimism – cards from friends and family on the shutters to my kitchen pass-through, a gallery of family photos and art on the wall of my spare bedroom, mementos and treasures of all kinds on my bedroom walls, an altar in a shelf in the closet…
Stop, Look, Listen – thanks for the reminder, Liz 🙂
Thanks, Mica. You are right! How good to make sure every room in your home has hopeful signs. May we have open eyes and hearts to pay attention!