They still are, after 30 years.
(This is yet another slant on H.O.P.E. Groups. I found it in a no-longer–useful 2009 external backup drive that I was cleaning up during our 2017 mid–March blizzard! All I had to do was to add some details that were already in place back in 1987. H.O.P.E. Groups continue to be all about healing…)
Using the wisdom of the ages for thirty full years, H.O.P.E. Groups continue to be all about healing… becoming whole…. H.O.P.E. and I have been maturing over these past 30 years and 6000 H.O.P.E. Group meetings! in 1975 I ran into my early childhood wounds–ANGER/GUILT–and was blessed by the presence of a compassionate practice manager who introduced me to Earl Nightingale (nightingale-conant.com), the greatest student of success the world has ever known. (Before I go any further,I invite you to follow this web page link success.com/article/earl-nightingale. It is a quick read telling the incredible story of this fine man’s life. He introduced me, in turn, to wonderful teachers who contributed to the creation of the first H.O.P.E. “Attitudinal Healing” Group meeting on February 12, 1987. I have heard this question, “What are H.O.P.E. Groups all about?” many, many times over the years since that first meeting. At that time we chose to call ourselves a H.O.P.E. Group with the proviso that we had to come up with the name to fit the acronym if we wanted to continue to use it. At the second meeting one week later, the nurse, Sharon W, who started this work with me, proposed, “Healing of Persons Exceptional” and all those present said, “Yes”. We discussed this and agreed to the following: “Healing” literally means to become whole… to integrate all of one’s parts or fragments into one Being. “Persons” reflects our shared human-ness. “Exceptional” reflects the fact that no two of us are alike.
And I want you to know that I am sharing thousands of years of this healing knowledge that have come to me through what Nightingale had to share through decades of its application… Yes, Nightingale’s lifetime of study went back 2000 years when I met him in 1975, and it had gone another 2000 years by the time he passed in 1989. I spent a full twenty years reading the monographs accompanying every one of his monthly INSIGHT tapes that I listened to several times a week, enjoying the company of a variety of three other great teachers on each tape, often while driving, learning the patterns of Nightingale’s thoughts that I summarize here: You can look at where you would like to be in a year, and now look at your toes to see that they point to the same place… if they don’t, a course correction is needed to align yourself to what is fair to call your “divine assignment” while you are here in this lifetime. This is the essence of all “Attitudinal Healing” H.O.P.E. work.
Nightingale’s 3-part gift to his customers
1. A Formula common to all great spiritual practices: “We become what we think about most.”
2. A Goldmine making the formula work: the Mind,… (The brain is an organ that the mind finds useful.)
3. A Word … the key to the doorways of the mind: Attitude.
It is crystal–clear to me that Nightingale is a healing gift to H.O.P.E., and we are to share it in order to help us evolve. And take a moment to consider how the Mystery works; give thought to Nightingale’s experience as a U S Marine in the rear observation tower of the battleship, Arizona, when the forward magazine blew up on December 7, 1941. He was knocked unconscious, feebly moving, afloat in the harbor waters, to be rescued by a Marine officer! I have heard him tell his story, choking up as he did from its emotional impact. Did he have Post-traumatic Stress? Of course, but it was not a “disorder”. He “reframed” the stressful trauma for the benefit of himself and countless others… just like you can be of benefit to others by participating in a “small group” like a H.O.P.E. Group!
A moment spent on these thoughts makes it possible for anyone to get out of restrictive boxes like “disease” or “illness” or “what’s wrong” We have seen again and again that living in such “boxes” limits human potential. Such thinking compromises our belief systems. The choice of beneficial thinking removes limitations from our potential and opens us to tremendously creative possibilities. “Reframing” becomes an essential H.O.P.E. function. H.O.P.E. is all about “moving from our problems to our possibilities;” so consider how any problem can be “reframed” to create images of beneficial possibility… and we humans have been doing this for centuries! It is the essence of success, which Earl Nightingale defined as “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal,” and he went on to say that every one of us is born with one!
Why we’re here
H.O.P.E. exists to help people whose belief systems have been challenged by “getting one upside the head with the cosmic 2 x 4” and finding themselves off balance to any degree from simple staggering to being flat on the floor… and they are asking for help to recover their equilibrium and upright position. So we can still say that H.O.P.E. Groups are all about healing to this very day.
The first H.O.P.E. Group comprised five of my patients with cancer. Two had recurrent, metastatic cancer; one had recurrent localized cancer that I had been able to remove; and two had new, primary cancers on which I had performed conventional surgical removal. We were not focused on the cancer, but on the life that each individual could create for her- or him- self, and we greatly enjoyed the exploration. When I first wrote this on March 16, 2007, two of those people were still alive, the one with the local recurrence and one of the two with the new, primary cancer. Of the other three, the two with recurrent cancer outlived their prognosis by a factor of three and the third died of another, totally unrelated condition.
The word got out that something unusual was at hand, and other groups started to form for people with cancer and they soon accepted people with other debilitating physical conditions. Again, the primary focus of H.O.P.E. was not on the disease but on life and what gave it meaning. However, when we moved to the lovely Ripley home at 52 High St, South Paris, in 1990, we were asked to assume responsibility for training hospice volunteers, because the local agency had lost their hospice director. That led to a widespread regional perception that H.O.P.E. was for people who were terminally ill. However, restricting H.O.P.E.’s work to people with terminal cancer is a misapprehension of what the work is all about.
Even in the hospice work, H.O.P.E. carried its focus on life into the work that we had been asked to undertake. It gave us the opportunity to clearly recognize that H.O.P.E. work is all about working with people whose bodies and/or minds have been given a major challenge by Life, itself. We found out that H.O.P.E. works equally well for people with cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, depression, or chronic anxiety. It works for prisoners. It works for recovering people by helping them explore the rich potential of a life turned over to a higher power. It works for ordinary human beings facing many of the different and challenging situations that life can throw at them.
How we do it
When Václav Havel said in 1986: “Hope is not about optimism or the conviction that things will work out all right but rather the certainty that things can make sense regardless of how they work out,” we began to examine H.O.P.E. as a vehicle by which we could help people find meaning, value, and purpose in their lives. Our vision began to settle into simply helping people discover that hope and vision collaborate to bring meaning into life in the immediate moment—NOW. Together, they empower a person to take hold of the main sheet and tiller of their “ship of life” and set course for the glow on the horizon. Then, perhaps for the first time in that life, all winds are fair winds. In this way, H.O.P.E. Groups continue to be all about healing… becoming whole….
H.O.P.E. helps people identify and acknowledge the resources that Life has given them to meet It with, describe the sequence of events that make up the history of their life–what life has met them with–and then decide what to do with it all. It is not rocket science, it doesn’t have to be; rather it is the science of anecdote–the study of individual, personal experience–well described by people like Edgar Mitchell, PhD, and John Mack, MD. Such a study acknowledges that no two of us are alike and that the essence of every human being existed at the moment the “Big Bang” lit up or “The Word” was spoken.
We discovered how wonderfully uplifting it is to know that each of us is a once-told tale, a once-painted portrait, a once-read poem, a once-danced dance, a once-sung song. When we tell others our tale, paint them our portrait, read them our poem, dance them our dance, or sing them our song, we have shared with them who we really, really are. Being thus informed, H.O.P.E. has learned to say, “You honor me with your Self. Thank you.”
When we evoke these qualities in our fellow human beings, we see their pain become our pain and that that pain calls our attention to the inner peace that really, really, really matters in our lives. We find that paying attention to what matters changes the character of the pain, even though it may not leave.
In H.O.P.E, we have repeatedly shown the creative power that lies deep within all human suffering. We have found that we do not have to carry it, but we can let it penetrate us through and through like an arrow, leaving its trail behind so that we can take its measure. We have found compassion. We have found that listening matters. We have found that advice-giving does not. We have learned to let go of judgment, criticism, and criticizing. We have learned to ask questions that increased our appreciation of each other. We have learned to reflect peacefully on qualities that we hear in another person’s words. We have learned to affirm each other by listening with honesty and sincerity.
In short, we have become practitioners of what the Quaker educator–philosopher, Douglas Van Steere, called “holy listening” (that) “listens a soul into life through a condition of disclosure and discovery, which may be the single greatest service one human being can do for another (On Listening to Another, Harper 1955)”. This is all about becoming vulnerable!
We have learned that these are the components of a “safe place”… a place where people can go and speak from their hearts because H.O.P.E. knows that every one of us is expert in our own lives without being an expert for another. In Steere’s words, found in my Quaker College, Haverford, where he was a professor of philosophy, “To be present is to be vulnerable, to be able to be heard, to be willing to be spent–but it is also to be awake, alive and engaged actively in the immediate assignment that has been laid upon us.”
We have learned to let go of fear and conflict and thus to be able to give ourselves permission to live and love in peace without condition or attachment. We have learned how to create “Rumi’s Field” that lies “out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing”. We have learned that when we are in Rumi’s Field, we are in Love. We continue to learn how to invite others into that wonderful place of creativity which is so rich with the potential of a “quantum wave”.
We have discovered how wonderful it is to see that we need acknowledgment of our different packaging, all the while recognizing the common essence of our humanity. As Cheri Huber offered:
Yes, I am me, but what animates me is what animates Uncle Bob, the cat, the tree, the rock and all that is. We are packaged differently, but we share the same essence. There are many of us and we are not the same but we are all one.
This is what H.O.P.E. is about… finding the one in the different packaging and honoring it. We have been doing this with reproducible success since February 12, 1987 in over 6,000 “volunteer” H.O.P.E. Group meetings. We know what we do, how we do it, and how to teach it. We are fully prepared to teach professionals from all the major institutions how to use these groups in their services and discover the time–effectiveness of this work. We stand behind all that we teach. Come, do join us.