Several months ago, a friend approached me with a question. If I were to get up in front of a large audience and speak about something I thought would make their lives better, what would that subject be? For the last several years of my teaching and speaking career, my first response would have been to say, “Empowerment.” This time however, I looked at my friend and without missing a beat said, “The Serenity Prayer.”
He looked at me with great surprise; I am still not sure if the surprise was his own or a reflection of the surprise he saw on my face. When he asked me why I would choose this subject, I told him that I had used the Serenity Prayer for almost 20 years in my spiritual coaching and counseling practice to help my clients.
In this article, I would like to explore the serenity aspect of the prayer. As often times is the case, when I begin to talk or write about something, I like to see what Webster’s Dictionary has to say about it.
One definition I found for the word “serenity” was, “A place of calmness and tranquility.” The question that brought up for me was, “Is serenity a place where we go or a state that we live within?” Rather than answering this question on my own, I decided to see what other people had to say. Many of the people I asked said that serenity is associated with acceptance, as in The Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” However when asked where they found the calmness and tranquility that defines serenity, some replied that when they did find it, it was when they meditated or chanted; or did yoga or T'ai Chi. For others, it came by listening to certain kinds of music. Some said that playing or singing music could also create that state of serenity. And then there are those that find serenity while cooking, knitting, or even shooting hoops.
Did you notice that all these things required the effort of setting aside a period of time and doing something? It was a place they went to or an activity they participated in. It was clearly not a state of being they experienced in their ordinary day-to-day activities.
Another definition I found for serenity referred to being free from stress or emotion; the absence of mental stress and anxiety. Again, a question arose in my mind. “Does that mean that serenity is only achievable when we are empty of emotions and thoughts?”
Even the possibility of eliminating emotions and thoughts made no sense to me. So I did what I do best and allowed my soul to take me to where the answer might lie, at least where it might lie for me. As often happens when I go into my intuitive self for guidance, I flashed on to something from my own past that guided me to an answer.
For close to twenty years when people ask me what I do for work, I tell them that I don’t do work I do joy. I do joy because about 90% of the time, I am in joy, and part of that joy comes from what I do that some may call work. I can tell them this because I realized that joy, in of itself, is not an emotion, but how fully you live, learn, and move through the emotions that you have at the time that you are having them. Now why would I bring up joy when I am speaking about serenity? Simple – because to be in joy is all about acceptance; accepting exactly where you are, and doing so fully and without judgment. This is the first thing that one prays for in the Serenity Prayer. Serenity is clearly tied to acceptance. So what then is acceptance? Often, we associate acceptance with giving up on something, turning the other cheek.
However, when I hear that, I think of a statement one of my channels, who comes through me when I trance channel, Simon Peter (St. Peter) made through me: “Sometimes you turn the other cheek and sometimes you stomp down on their foot so that they don’t do it again.”
Acceptance is about clearly seeing and being in the reality of any situation; not just thinking about how you would like for it to be or fear it might be. It also means dealing with the situation from that place of acceptance. We can accept something and still have unhappy emotions or thoughts about it. Frustration, anger or sadness don’t change our acceptance of a situation, they just are, and they make us feel a certain way, which we in turn also accept.
Living in serenity isn’t about having no emotions, no stress, or no thoughts but light and fluffy ones. It is all about acceptance. In the Serenity Prayer, we ask God to grant us the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change. Yet isn’t it the ability to accept that which you cannot change that leads to serenity?
The acceptance of what you are not willing to change, but know that you could change, can also bring serenity. It is possible to realize that we can change something, and at the same time decide that now is not the best time to change it. But sometimes, we tell ourselves that it is okay to leave things as they are, and then proceed to beat ourselves up over the choice.
If we cannot be in peace about living with something for the moment, then perhaps, we really can’t wait in serenity. Realizing this is the difference between timing and avoidance. If it is truly just timing, then you actually can be at peace with the choice, if you can’t than it is probably avoidance. In other words, one does not find serenity without acceptance, and acceptance brings serenity. One of the great spiritual paradoxes!
Acceptance in all forms is what brings one to live in the place of serenity. Some might even call it radical acceptance, and this is what makes it possible to not only “find” serenity in certain activities, but to live in serenity.
So serenity is not about living without, or in emptiness, but it is about living fully within all that life brings you, fully embracing all of your emotions and each situation as it appears, so that at the end of the day, you can joyfully accept that you are just are as you are, living in each moment.
We began by discussing how some people can find moments of serenity for themselves, but the most important question is how to bridge the gap between moments of serenity to a life of serenity? The answer to this question involves four steps:
1. Doing the things we know bring us serenity as often as possible.
2. Daily spiritual practices.
3. Getting out of fear and staying out of fear.
4. Living in the now.
It is as simple and easy as that, which is neither “simple” nor “easy,” but can be accomplished.
Can we really live in serenity? Better yet, can we live in serenity when we are living in a world that is fearful, judgmental and full of unknowns? Absolutely, in fact it is the only way we can live fully in this world.
Dr. Kevin Ross Emery is a popular author, psychic, coach, consultant and teacher. Dr. Kevin travels internationally, offering lectures and workshops to empower people from all walks of life. He's also available for phone (and Skype) consultations. Dr. Kevin's primary practices are in Portland, Maine and Haverhill, Massachusetts. Visit his website for his radio show and additional articles -- http://www.weboflight.com