Monday, March 22, 2010

Cultivating Hope, Book Review

Cultivating Hope
By: Karen Casey
Minnesota: Hazelden, 2009, 191pgs., $15.95.

Karen Casey's book is a wonderful and hopeful book about how an individual can live a life that is fearless and meaningful at a time when such virtues are so difficult to find. We live in a very troubled time, socially, personally and financially. This is why Casey's book is so important for us today. Casey also comes from a troubled background. All she really wanted out of life was for others to change. This, she thought, would ensure her security. However, she later discovered that she was the one who had to change. Although this was difficult for her to accept at first, she did keep trying to open up to the idea that if she didn't change, nothing else would either.

Understanding the true nature of anger is the key to changing our outlook. Holding judgments against anyone holds us hostage. Everything we experience can be the pathway to a more peaceful and hopeful life. Our lives can dramatically change through the power of hope. When we face obstacles in life, we must refuse to give up on hope. Our experiences are all necessary and have been invited by us at an earlier time and place. We are always where we need to be, sharing space and time with others who are part of our destiny. People who are able to understand and then apply these principles can ultimately realize an inner peace that's so complete that others are changed by their very presence.

This process of seeing and understanding anew isn't something that happens overnight. We won't get to where we want to be without patience, commitment, and a little willingness and a lot of effort. Most of us don't like to change our old ideas and our old ways of doing things. However, we need to make informed choices about our behavioral and attitudinal changes. Every person that we affect with our new hopeful vision of hope will be encouraged to see their life differently. If we want a different life, a different set of experiences, a more hopeful world, we must be agents of change.

Hope is the trigger that can change every perspective an individual holds dear. A vision of hope is what gives it all of this power. When hope opens the door to these possibilities, individuals have to decide if they want to change or live as they always have lived. It is incumbent on those of us who have been led by our experiences with hope to serve as examples to others. There is another way to think and live, other than in a gloomy and depressive way. By embracing hope, we all have an opportunity to align our thinking with this idea.

Now her life is a testament of hope. What a wonderful message this is for readers! Hope is contagious. Sensing hope in others and in ourselves is like a breath of fresh air when we are in the trappings of a problem. We are lifted by the belief that situations will improve for us. Hope can transform how we feel about a situation. Hope is the forerunner of any life-changing decision. The belief that something better is available starts the ball rolling in a new direction. Transformation of ourselves, along with the situation troubling us, is right around the corner when we dare to hope. And when we can muster up the willingness to hope, we can allow others to carry hope for us as well.

Casey's book is divided into twelve themes, one for each month. Each begins with a story of hope, followed by an essay or reflection, for each week. Additional reflections are included at the end of the book for those months that have an extra week in a given year. Knowing that other individuals have overcome unfathomable odds allows us the privilege of holding on to the belief that we can do the same and then pass on our stories of success in turn. The essays for each week can be read once at the beginning of the week or daily, if its helpful. It is best to read each essay more than once so that it implants firmly in our minds.

Casey's book is a like a breath of fresh air. I so enjoyed reading it and I will be re-reading it throughout this year. If only readers can understand and accept some of the principles, insights and personal stories in Casey's book, their thoughts and habits will be imbued with positive energy and they will gain the perspective and strength to turn away from fear and will open themselves to a future that is filled with potential and positive change. All we have to do is to contemplate all that we are grateful for right now no matter where we are or what we've done, and we will experience true hope.

Irene S. Roth

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