The H.O.P.E. GoldBook
Participating in a H.O.P.E. Group is an opportunity for an individual to discover the gifts that make it possible to have an intention for their life and then choose their current path and its timetable that together point to the realization of that intention…. today, acknowledging that the past and the timetable will have their own adjustments in response to occupying yet another moment of living now. H.O.P.E. Groups use the H.O.P.E. GoldBook, a letter-sized publication that is folded and laminated to make a very durable four–page document which sets the context for the meeting with H.O.P.E’s Prime Directive for each meeting: “We come together to find the wellness that comes with the discovery of peace of mind.” In this way, group participants create a safe container to hold the agenda for each meeting—an agenda that walks in through the door containing that which is important today.
H.O.P.E. Groups’ primary responsibilities to themselves are to model holy listening (from On Listening, Douglas Van Steere, Gleanings: a Random Harvest, Abington Press, 1986), which gracefully affirms the presence of spiritual movement and direction aligned to that person’s intention; and trusts that the sought–after answers lie within the person with the question or concern.
The meetings establish their context by reading the GoldBook, sentence by sentence, beginning with the H.O.P.E. Group Opening that came to the author one day in the midst of a silent meditation, and which answers the four meaning questions:
- We are a H.O.P.E. Group.
- We come together to find wellness.
- Wellness comes with the discovery of peace of mind.
- We find peace of mind through understanding and letting go of guilt and fear.
- In this way, we learn to live in each moment.
- In this moment, we can choose to focus on the whole of life rather than its fragments.
- We seek the power that makes this choice possible.
- We come to realize that this power lies within each one of us.
- This power, as we understand it, is love.
- With Love’s power, we come to realize the promise of hope.
The group then reads the twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healing (Jampolsky, Love is Letting Go of Fear, 1979) to set the attitudinal tone for the meeting:
- The essence of our being is love.
- Health is inner peace. Healing is letting go of fear
- Giving and receiving are the same.
- We can let go of the past and of the future.
- Now is the only time there is and each instant is for giving.
- We can learn to love ourselves and others by forgiving rather than judging.
- We can become love finders rather than fault finders.
- We can choose and direct ourselves to be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside.
- We are students and teachers to each other.
- We can focus on the whole of life rather than the fragments.
- Since love is eternal, death need not be viewed as fearful.
- We can always perceive others as either extending love or giving a call for help. (H.O.P.E. prefers to replace “help” with “love”.)
The group then goes on to read the H.O.P.E. Group Guidelines that comprise ten verbal agreements which honor time commitments and confidentiality, focus on the person speaking in that moment, work on one’s own process in light of one’s own experience, and see others in a loving way that supports others in their process, free of judgment, confrontation or preaching. The guidelines point out the choice between hope and fear; between peace and conflict; and that seeks love in its highest sense (compassion). We share what has worked for us; we risk and expose our own emotional states; we create a common experience that allows for joining—breaking down the fear that causes the illusion of separation between us.
The GoldBook is a crucible of context—the container that we build at the start of every H.O.P.E. group meeting to hold the content of the meeting that always walks in through the door. With everyone agreeing to use it, the group finds the guidance to govern itself for the duration of the meeting. According to the Guidelines, any one of us can speak up, should we find a violation of any one of the 12 Principles or the 10 Guideline–agreements. The author finds that some people who have been in other “support” groups raise their hand as if they’re asking permission to speak. This action sets up a hierarchy where we do not need one because “We agree to treat each other with mutual care, consideration and respect.”. There are always breaks in the dialogue—even in monologues that fail to honor this agreement. A H.O.P.E. Group is autonomous—self–governing. Consider for a moment the power in that. A little patience will present a break in the dialogue making room for another voice to be heard. Consider too that certain members of the group can be looked at as “elders”—a title of respect for their serenity, courage, and wisdom, all of which have a reputation for coming with age. The role of the “elder” is an important role, and “eldering” is not about controlling as much as it is about nurturing wisdom—the wisdom that comes along with lots of rich life-experience. H.O.P.E. Group meetings are not about advice-giving, judging or criticizing; rather they are about unconditionally sharing experience, a practice that adds value to the whole meeting.
The meeting begins when it begins with those who are there, and no one is ever late to a H.O.P.E. Group meeting. The meeting usually lasts two hours but always ends just when it ends. If a guided imagery is appropriate to the meeting, we (usually) give it the last thirty minutes of meeting time.
H.O.P.E. Groups have the option of using guided imagery to help their participants move through the steps outlined above. Hamilton learned guided imagery from Bernie Siegel, and went on to study with other successful practitioners of guided imagery, many of whom are members today of the Academy for Guided Imagery www.acadgi.com/index.html that was started by David Bressler, PhD, and Marty Rossman, MD, in 1988. The author has extensive experience with closing H.O.P.E. Group meetings using twenty–minute guided imageries that he has learned to reflect on ideas that have come up in the H.O.P.E. Group meetings. He has recorded twenty-four of these “themes” that appear most commonly in H.O.P.E. Group meetings, each one of which contains a single “metaphor” (such as the “path of life,” the “inner guide,” and the “tapestry of life”). These are all available on CD’s that can hold as many as three imageries to serve as an important adjunct to any meeting. We are in the habit of burning each CD according to the request of the one who is ordering it; so, in this case, a H.O.P.E. Group could choose their own imageries at H.O.P.E’s Guided Imageries. Of course, they would have to find their own CD player.
Hamilton learned the value of this work in Siegel workshops. Bernie always did his imageries with one piece of background music: the beautiful and peaceful performance of an extended version of the Pachelbel Canon in D by the violinist, Daniel Kobialka, who has performed with three major symphony orchestras, and is an accomplished composer in his own right. Hamilton bought a Siegel tape and practiced working Siegel’s metaphors (usually five in the 22 minutes of Kobialka’s performance!) until he got good at picking up the working metaphor for the meeting (a vital practice that Richard Rockefeller, MD, of Falmouth, Maine, taught him after a H.O.P.E. Group presentation Hamilton gave at Portland’s Maine Medical Center) and developing just that one image in the magical 22 minutes. (The piece is “magical” because it begins with a dancing pattern of single musical notes that is perfect for inducing a light trance. It then sounds two lovely little “grace notes” before moving into a multi-instrument 70—beat rhythm that matches the rhythm of the first sound we ever hear—our mother’s resting heart rate! Kobialka develops the musical theme right up to a change in pattern than announces the end of the piece… perfect for light hypnosis in which the listener does her or his own work with the metaphor!)