©'98 Jonathan J. Dickau
What does it mean to be serene? The state of being tranquil is a good starting place. Having true serenity in one's life is deeper than having peace of mind, a relaxed approach to life, and a good attitude, however. It actually begins where those things leave off. Serenity involves the ability to deal with adverse situations gracefully. It is what you need to have, when times get bad, if you hope to survive intact. Serenity is the ability to be dignified and thoughtful, even when you are not being treated that way yourself. It's more a feeling than an object or action, but still more it's a way of being. It's a way of being immune to the troubles which would otherwise plague you. Serenity can strengthen and comfort you, allowing health to establish itself, or healing to enter your life.
Serenity is a way of flowing, or going with the flow of life events, so that you are aided in your purpose by the natural forces, rather than getting caught in the cross-currents. Part of this way involves being in the right places at the right time. It could also be called being in phase, or in agreement, with life. It also involves having a knowledge of the natural order of that which you wish to be involved with. This, in itself, can be very tricky sometimes. Life does not always give us clear signals about exactly what is required of us. Knowing what you need to do, where you need to be, and when you need to get there, can aid in making life more harmonious, and this makes serenity easier to sustain. There will always be times when you need to go beyond what you know, however, and then you can only hope that you have enough serenity to take things in stride.
Having one's own life in order can add to the harmony of life, and having harmonious surroundings can greatly aid the acquisition of serenity. This means that having your own space well organized, in a manner that serves you, is your best way of getting the process started. Harmony on the job is a rare condition for many, though it can be cultivated, so many times spending time in nature is more than just a luxury. Serenity can indeed rub off, to some extent, from both people and places which have this quality, and you are left feeling more serene by visiting or associating with them. On the other hand, abrasive people and places can wear away some of your serenity, especially if you take offense at them. To deal with such things, and especially with the quick pace of changes in modern life, yet another aspect of serenity is required.
Practicing serenity involves changing smoothly, and executing changes gracefully, rather than making abrupt adjustments in response to life's curves and surprises. One way to effectively deal with change is to become more fluid, rather than being rigidly solid, and thus more changeable. Being fluid involves activity which is more smooth than abrubpt. Movement that takes place in a smooth curve can change direction in a heartbeat. An object moving in a straight line, however, needs to be slowed down before it can be redirected, then accelerated again. This all takes extra effort. Being fluid can thus allow one both to save energy, and to reduce wasted motion. The same principle also applies to changes in your emotional state, or thought patterns. Fluidity allows one to pursue any goal via the path of least resistance. Applying this principle to any area of life adds to your serenity.
Serenity can be very much like a bank account, where you make deposits into your storehouse of serenity, and draw upon it later. Cultivating order and fluidity helps you become more serene. Going to serene places, and hanging out with serene people, can also help you build up a greater reserve of serenity, until you feel a calm warmth that you carry with you, almost always, wherever you go. By practicing serenity among friends and loved ones, and implementing changes that affect them with grace, we create a harmony in our social environment that can be a source of strength, when we need it. Others who care can then set our minds at ease. There will be times, however, when faith and determination are all you have to draw upon, and serenity can be a difficult thing to find indeed.
For times like these, the best serenity builder seems to be meditation. Daily practice of any meditative technique builds inner strength over time, and adds to the level of serenity which can be maintained throughout the day. It is often possible to get a re-charge, or re-connect fairly quickly, once one has attained a serene level in a meditative state, and this allows one to dispel stress before it has a chance to become a part of you. Meditation doesn't have to be a distraction from the work at hand, either, as it improves focus and attention, in addition to making the meditator more relaxed. Various kinds of meditative practice can be undertaken during short breaks, and some practices can even be continued during light or repetitive activity. Often, the quality of the work is improved by doing this. Serene people seem to care more about doing their job well (though often not as quickly), and have an easier time dealing with problems. Meditation helps one establish a shield of serenity, but those who don't meditate can achieve a similar result in other ways.
Serenity seems to be connected with a relaxed, and unhurried, flow of the breath. When the breath is smooth and flowing, with no tightness or restriction, a sense of calm arises naturally, which develops into serenity. A sense of relaxed detachment, being almost indifferent to the outcome of the situation you are in, is a by-product of this of this state. The breath has an almost magical property to it, in its effect on our physiology in general, and in its ability to influence the character of our thoughts. It creates energy, or allows it to be released, and it's also the distributor of that energy. The force of breath, carried through our bodies in the blood, is necessary for survival, but there is a still deeper meaning to the breath, and to breathing. The diaphragm, the muscle which controls the breath, is also where the nerves of the cerebro-spinal and autonomic nervous systems link up. When our breath is flowing freely, with a deep slow rhythm of its own, our emotions, our thoughts, and all of the bodily systems, tend toward health and harmony. We become serene.
Posture is an important part of maintaining a serene state, both physical posture, and postures on other levels where we, as humans can assume a posture. One can, in practice, assume the physiology for a serene state by adopting an appropriate posture and breathing pattern. Where most of us are quite used to the idea of regulating our breath, however, what is required here is that we de-regulate the breathing process. The process of un-learning such a fundamental habit pattern can take time, but applying a few simple steps consistently will guarantee an improvement in your level of serenity. The most important thing is to encourage the breathing to be slow, and fairly deep, with a rhythm that flows naturally. It helps to relax any tightness in the throat, chest, and abdomen. It also helps to assume the mental state of being OK with all possible outcomes of the life situations you are in. This all has the effect of giving your body permission to let go, and breathe in a relaxed manner, but the last step has other positive effects, as well.
By being detached about having what you want, you can remain focused on living your life instead. Strangely enough, this not only adds to your serenity, and to success with breathwork, it also helps you to achieve your goals. By going with the flow, and remaining in the process of doing your own thing, you stand a far better chance of having what you want from life, as well. We all do what we must, but how we choose to do it is important, and we also have choices beyond this. If we have done everything we can, and those choices don't appear to be taking us closer to our goals, we can change direction, but sometimes the solution is far simpler. Often, all we need to do, in order to make things work, is to get out of our own way. Effective action requires decisiveness, and sincere self-agreement. Humans' difficulty doing this is by far our greatest weakness, and the greatest roadblock to serenity we have. We seem to be pre-disposed to worrying about the future, second guessing our decisions, and ruminating about past mistakes. This worry usually comes about because we haven't first believed in our self, or in what we want, enough to make it OK.
We have a right to our feelings and our desires, a right to our own thoughts and beliefs. This is something that we should each accord to ourselves, and to everybody else. When people allow their desires to flow naturally, all kinds of good things happen for them, including an increase in serenity, and improved chances for success. Unfortunately, not many people know what this really means, as it is so easy to get caught up in the pursuit of what others want from us, what we think we should want, or what has brought us pleasure in the past. True freedom of choice is much more delightful, but harder to achieve. Part of the problem is that it's difficult to know what you are feeling, deep down, while you're feeling agitated or stressed-out. Thus, serenity may be the only way that we can come to have enough understanding of our true desires to insure actually being happy when we achieve what we want to do, and have what we want to have.
Serenity is something that can come upon us, without any plan or effort, but it doesn't usually work that way. The feeling of serenity can be cultivated, and it often takes a sincere effort to obtain it and yet more effort to maintain it. Serenity can be gained through relaxation, but exercise and conditioning help greatly, as well. Both physical and mental conditioning can aid the individual in cultivating serenity and reducing stress. Physical exercises which strengthen the abdominal region have been shown to increase people's resistance to stress remarkably. This part of the body is where stress tends to accumulate, and when the gut is weak, it can't take it. We all have stress, and it can be a killer, but when some of it can be eliminated through proper exercise, you will have greater serenity. Making the body healthier, and more dependable, also eliminates a source of worry, and this too adds to our serenity. Ultimately, our bodies should be a home for serenity. Yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi Kung can all help with this, as they combine the benefits of physical exercise and relaxation in one activity.
Mental conditioning to reduce stress consists mainly of techniques which remind one to let go, and relax the mind long enough to let the natural flow of life come through us. It's sort of like stepping aside (from criticism of self or others) in order to let yourself be yourself. Fear is the enemy of serenity, and the worst fear for humans is the fear of not knowing what is happening. Knowing with certainty that things are going to be painful, or difficult, creates far less anxiety than wondering how things are going to turn out, or when the difficulties will come. There is a distinct problem with this dynamic, which makes it a great challenge to find serenity. The fear of not having answers to all of life's questions and challenges can actually prevent things from becoming clear. The more frantic your pursuit of answers is, the more muddy your thoughts become, and clarity becomes more and more elusive. When you can let go of questions for a while, however, the answers to many questions just naturally come to the surface.
Giving up the incessant need for answers may be a key to obtaining them. In a similar way, serenity can often be yours by just giving up the struggle to have it. By simply allowing yourself to be contented, you can circumvent the search for it entirely. We humans spend a lot of our time being offended about one thing, or another, even though it usually does us no good whatsoever. Our ego insists on being in control, and keeping our focus on what is not right, because it is afraid of losing our attention, and thus its identity. This doesn't mean that it's always working for our happiness. Often, the ego has the exact opposite effect. We can keep ourselves from fulfillment by focusing on how far away from it we happen to be. In a similar way, serenity can elude us so long as we continue to complain about not having it. Focusing on serenity as something that is a natural part of us, however, and realizing that it is already ours, may be all that it takes to find it.
©'98 Jonathan J. Dickau - all rights reserved
Return to Spiritual Meaning
Posted on June 10, 1998
updated January 19, 1999
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