I have a friend named Ryan. His dad died at the age of forty-five. Ryan's forty now with a family of his own. He knows all the gloomy stats and projections about the future. He spent years getting informed. But instead of dwelling on these or doom-scrolling from one negative headline to the next, he purposely chooses to seek out inspiration and hope. He tells me that hope is a verb.
Ryan is a dairy goat farmer. But he didn't grow up on a farm. After his dad died, he took some time to heal. The path led to travels, yoga, and deep self-inquiry. Along the way, he realized all the ways that agriculture is fundamental to society and that the current industrial model couldn't last forever. So he decided to dedicate his life to aiding the transition of agriculture from an unsustainable industry to a sustainable one. Hope is a verb, you see.
His farm's dairy is distributed by grocery stores up and down the East Coast. And his dairy goes into some of the highest quality goat cheeses in the country. His expertise is sought after by the industry leaders across the globe. He has business loans, employees, and mouths to feed. Yet he's never made a distinction between his spiritual practice and his economic existence. His life is his practice.
He's the only farmer I've met with a regular yoga and meditation practice and that's effortlessly conversational in Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Yogic cosmologies. Our conversations seamlessly meander from the life and teachings of Ram Dass, the Harvard professor turned saint, to the finer points of passively drying hay using solar power. Because the transition to renewables is part of his life's purpose, he's in the trenches innovating ways to make this a reality. Solar drying hay is one such innovation he's bringing to the farm. Hope is a verb, you see.
After our most recent conversation, I thought about hope and I thought about fear. What guides my actions? And how does this concept translate to large groups of people, like a family or a nation. Is hope in the driver's seat, or is it fear? And which emotion promises a better outcome?
Fear Is a Verb, too
In times of change, it's natural to experience fear. Graduating college, leaving the military or deploying overseas, market instability, loss of a loved one or job, there are countless events that can throw our comfortable routines into chaos. For most of us, it's routine that makes us feel safe, after all. We turn off the parts of our brain that scan for threats because our routine has proven safe countless times before.