During a conversation the other day, a young man expressed the desire to find serenity. Since then, I have been thinking further about how to define that elusive quality.
It strikes me first of all that serenity is not a quality but a process. As such, it is not something that one has so much as a way of living. I thought it might be useful to try to articulate what that way of life might look like.
We can begin with the center of a serene life — the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This simple prayer suggests several aspects of serenity to include:
1. faith. Serene people believe in some reality outside themselves. This is necessary to escape the confines of ego; 2. the capacity to let go. Serene people are able to recognize their own needs for control and to stop fighting when faced with powerlessness. 3. righteous anger. Serene people are not passive people. They are fully capable of speaking up and acting when faced with injustice or when trying to be of help.
Serene people are honest with themselves and not afraid to face unpleasant truths within. Avoiding oneself takes effort. Part of this honesty involves the capacity to confront one’s shortcomings and failings and to come up with a course of action.
Serene people have a boundless capacity to forgive both themselves and others. There is probably nothing more antithetical to serenity than resentment.
Serene people live their spiritual lives with discipline whether about prayer or meditation or service. One can’t live spiritual serenity when it’s convenient and one has a little extra time.
Serene people practice gratitude regularly. Serenity seems to go hand in hand with seeing life as full of gifts.
Finally, serene people are in some way of service. Again, there is the necessity of confronting and stepping outside of ego to find serenity.
I struggle with all these issues. I regularly trip over my ego. There is plenty about me that I’d just as soon avoid. I have a long list of resentments. Discipline is definitely not my strong suit. And there are days when I’d rather be left alone than serve. These struggles, however, do not mean I am unserene. There are victories when I manage to face a character defect or forgive or simply hit my knees and pray a prayer of thanksgiving. These victories are signposts that I am on Serenity Road.
Reflection: 1. Can you identify moments of serenity in your life?
2. Are there any spiritual practices that help you find serenity?
This is a particularly beautiful and powerful post. For me to experience serenity, I need to do at least two things. One is that I need to work to stay in the stillpoint of neutrality in which I’m hanging out somewhere between my ego and my Greater Self, being as surrendered as possible to the situation that might be confronting me. Also, I need to do specific work on recognizing and clearing my shadow. Added to this is a daily meditation practice. I certainly have moments when I flip-flop back and forth and feel everything but serenity, but these three practices are invaluable in helping me experience serenity more consistently than earlier in my life.
When I am with my clients I am serene, always. When I am with my son and husband I am serene, mostly. The rest of the time I am, well, whatever the opposite of serene is. I do have a 100 pound male conscience who asks me questions like, “Since you are a Christian, and you want to go to church, why can’t you forgive P——? Why can’t you forgive G.M.S”?