During November we will explore the meaning of serenity, where it comes from, and how we might nurture conditions for more of it in our lives.
We are kicking off our dive into the theme with another conversation between Lindsay-Celeste, Kendra, and myself (Andy). This gave us chance to open things up from our different perspectives and to invite you to explore these ideas from your own experiences and observations.
What Does Serenity Mean to You?
Serenity emerges as we let go of things that are weighing us down. This might happen through the intentional choices we make ourselves. But as Kendra points out, from her experiences, serenity can also catch us by surprise when the decision is made for us and we are forced to let go.
For Lindsay-Celeste, Serenity emerges through surrendering control. She reminds us of the Serenity Prayer which says, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”.
What is Serenity?
Is serenity all pastel colours and outward calmness? Or can it be felt through a lens of vibrant technicolour?
Can we be serene and excited? Serene and sad? Serene and gleeful?
Maybe serenity is not an escape from life’s extremities, but in fact a deeper embrace of them.
I wonder if we enter serenity when we integrate our action and intention. In this sense, serenity could be an awareness of spirit, and a commitment to how we want to respond to and engage with the events of our lives through any given season or event.
Serenity as an Inside Job
There are highly serene people who feel at peace when engaging in extreme sports, horror movies, or in the middle of a death metal gig. Perhaps it is experienced on the inside more than it is judged on the outside.
Seeing serenity as “acceptance of how things are” is not the same as being passively disengaged or disinterested. The courage part of the serenity prayer might give us something interesting to think about here. It is about starting where we are with what we have and being consciously aware of what is worth our investment of time, energy, and other resources.
This is why serenity is an important part of gentle rebellion. It shows us what we can let go. It is a way to engage with and embrace the unimaginable magnitude of existence. And to choose the battles worth engaging in when it comes to fighting for a better world.
In other words serenity is an inner clarity and confidence about the things that truly matter to us.
The Inner Witness
One of the main concepts in The Return to Serenity Island Course is ‘The Observatory’. This is a position of deep inner awareness, from which we view the thoughts and emotions that flow through us as we experience our lives.
This is akin to what Michael Singer calls Witness Consciousness and the Untethered Soul.
This is how we can feel the fluctuations, ebbs, and flows of life without being defined by them. Serenity is the practice of observing and witnessing. Of noticing the rich plethora of weird, wonderful, mysterious, confusing thoughts and feelings that arise from sentient human existence.
Serenity as Preparedness
Life is full of storms and unusual weather patterns. We are all aware of this. And just like the weather, feelings of anger, despair, pain, grief, and other extreme emotional reactions, might feel really intense at times. Yet we also know that in time the weather will change.
Serenity is the acceptance that the storms will occur and that we will experience foggy seasons of life. It is not about fighting them or feeling like we’ve failed because they happen. Serenity is instead about observing these moments and letting them speak to us. And then drawing on such experiences as we continue learning to weather the unexpected shifts in the future.
Maybe a part of serenity is the small thread that provides confidence that this WILL pass.
Serenity Through Creative Expression
Serenity can emerge through intentional expression. Maybe we need to find ways to move our bodies and shake out the pent up emotion or tangled web of thoughts. For some people dancing and playing music are great ways to reach a place of serenity.
This will look different for everyone. The mind can settle into rhythms and patterns. Some people who do extreme sports like climbing talk about the serenity that comes through things like counting or the sound of movement as they engage in the activity.
Identifying the Sources of Un-Serenity
We are living through a time of collective un-serenity. Society is broadly unsettled, anxious, and acts from a spirit of urgency and scarcity. Without a sense of coherent vision there’s a sense of pull in many directions and a lot of outward projection of fears and anxieties. This can have a knock-on effect for individuals, leading to negative feedback loop that is difficult to define or escape.
It can be useful to observe and become aware of personal sources of un-serenity. If we don’t know what causes us to be unsettled we might only seek sticking plasters and short term solutions to the symptoms we experience, i.e. finding ways to escape the feelings that arise rather than looking at the causes of those feelings.
But if we begin to recognises what creates our un-serenity we can find ways to intentionally address them. This is where we access the wisdom from the Serenity Prayer, to recognise the difference between the things we can and cannot change, and how we need to engage our tools of acceptance and courage.
Sabotaging Our Own Serenity
Sometimes we all get tangled up in the perverse enjoyment of our own dissatisfaction. Perhaps we stare with morbid fascination at the news, reactions on social media, and the comment sections on websites. Maybe we even involve ourselves with these things and get caught in polarising arguments and conflict loops.
This is another interesting screen to look at in our inner observatory. And to ask ourselves questions like, what did it cost us? What did we gain? Why didn’t we walk away? What might we do differently next time we’re in that position?
Identifying and Nurturing Sources of Serenity
What reconnects you with your core? Perhaps it’s the natural world or your pets. Maybe it’s your creative projects or getting lost in a good book. It might be linked to a certain place, a time of day, an activity, a habit, or a thing.
Serenity is often found in simplicity. Small things that bring connection and meaning. It brings a sense of expansion towards and within the important stuff, which makes the sources of un-serenity too small to derail us in that moment.