Looking for Serenity

Attempting to achieve anything remotely resembling a sense of serenity these days seems to be a fool’s errand. We are bombarded around the clock with news telling us that almost everything we hold dear is under assault in some form or fashion. How can a person find serenity in an environment in which chaos supplies us with the oxygen necessary to sustain life? If I had the answer, I would joyfully share it with the world. Sadly, I don’t. But I have encountered some suggestions I want to try.

Breathe: Take a deep breath, count to three, and release. Repeat it ten times. By the tenth time, a greater sense of serenity (or, at least, a lesser sense of chaos) should have come over me.

Focus: Instead of trying to juggle dozens of tasks that need to be done, focus on one at a time. Do that whenever possible. That approach to “to-do” clutter should be a soothing exercise.

Drop Everything: When the challenges become too great, simply walk away. Obviously, the walk must be short-lived, but I’m told it can be enormously restorative and calming. Even a few minutes away from the demands of daily living carries the potential of revitalizing one’s sense of serenity. Or so I’m told.

Read for Entertainment: It happened slowly, but it happened: I read quite a lot, but I read almost exclusively for information, insight, knowledge. That is great, but I think reading as an escape into a fantasy world or a world that exists exclusively for my entertainment can reduce my blood pressure and smooth the sharp edges in my brain. That I have to remind myself of this is evidence that something has gone wrong. It’s easily fixed. Will it give me some serenity? Maybe; especially if combined with some of the other ideas.

Exercise: This is not news. But, still, too many people (including me, of course) just don’t do it. Stretching one’s muscles, breaking a sweat, putting the body in motion can relieve the tension that builds up over the course of a day’s exposure to stress-inducing thoughts and experiences.

Pay Grateful Attention to Humor: Look for reasons to laugh. Actively seek them out. Share them. I suspect this is one of the quickest ways to sooth one’s soul. I imagine the type of humor matters, though. Light-hearted silliness, I suspect, is the best kind. In my experience, that kind of humor seems to excise rock-hard clumps of stress from within me.

Pay Grateful Attention to People Who Matter: We do that already, right? Maybe. But I think conscious gratitude for people who mean something to us is a little less common. We are grateful, yes, but do we consciously tell ourselves (and them) by paying close attention? Maybe not so much. I do not know how much this will impact serenity, but I’ve seen the suggestion from more than one source that offers advice on retrieving one’s serenity. Whether it works or not, I think it’s good practice.

Recognize that Worry Doesn’t Change Things: Worry is a sure way to crush serenity. One cannot feel serene while engaging in worry about something. The reality of worry is that it has no impact on the object of concern. Worrying about something will not change it. The issue, of course, is to recognize that fact. Worry is especially useless if you can’t do anything about the problem. If you can do something, the solution is to do it, not to worry about it. I know this. But it’s easier to write about than to internalize and be guided by it. I will continue to try, though.

Meditate. Meditation need not be a formal process. It can be a simple retreat from daily stresses by thinking about something soothing, calming, relaxing. Occasionally, I achieve a sense of peace (albeit not necessarily long-lasting) by visualizing a pebble dropping into a glass-still pool of water and then watching the water ripple away from the place the pebble dropped. I think that’s a form of meditation. If I train myself to do that regularly when I feel stress, I suspect I will achieve a greater sense of serenity.

Understand that Serenity is an Internal Affair: In spite of the fact that some of the ideas I’ve written about thus far suggest otherwise, serenity is internal. It’s impossible to look for our serenity in other people or in other places. It’s all inside our heads. By recognizing that we, alone, have ultimate control over our sense of serenity, we should be able to exercise governance over it. And it may be just that easy. Or that impossibly hard.

I think I’ve been so far from serenity for so long that I might not know what it felt like when I found it. That’s probably not the case, though. The sense that I can accept whatever comes my way is, I think, a feeling of serenity. Though I haven’t felt that acceptance in a long while, I do remember feeling it. And I’d know it again if I stumbled across it.

I intend to incorporate these suggestions into my thoughts and behaviors. It would be so refreshing to feel a sense of peace and serenity. Not “would.” “Will.”

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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