“The final wisdom of life requires not the annulment of incongruity but the achievement of serenity within and above it.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr
How do you achieve serenity while living in a world of incongruity and limitations? Everywhere you look in the world today there is evidence of turmoil, conflict and unrest, a state that would seem diametrically opposed to the experience of serenity. If you feel regularly boxed-in by circumstance, I encourage you to read on.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I imagine that most people are desirous of serenity, of a sense of inner peace and tranquility. If you watch closely, you’ll see that people are willing to try anything to taste even a tiny morsel of the elusive state of serenity known by so few through the ages. Mind-numbing drugs and alcohol, withdrawal from society, religious rites, ritualized forms of exercise, meditation and the list goes on. Does any one of these approaches produce a lasting sense of serenity? It doesn’t appear so, for the ugly and harsh realities of life always seem to find a way back into the hearts and minds of devotees of any one of those approaches.
While I don’t claim to possess a panacea to restore serenity to the heart of the individual or of mankind, I have come to realize over the years that unless there is a motivation that is deeper, more powerful and more important than anything else that comes your way, you will be swayed by the winds as they begin to blow.
I’ve also come to understand that serenity can be known on a sustainable basis when you learn to be at peace with any limitation, constraint or restriction present in your world. That does not mean that you are in denial of the limitations you face, neither does it imply that you accept the limitations in your world permanently, as would a fatalist. What it does mean is that when you develop the habit of meeting any limitation with equanimity, without judgment or reaction, accepting it as a restriction that must be tolerated on a temporary basis, you are then free to work and live with the restriction creatively and proactively, rather than reactively.
Limitations are not fun, comfortable or desirable, but they are ubiquitous. The sooner you learn to handle them creatively the more effective you will be in the living of life. You cannot try to have an untroubled heart, it either is or it isn’t. You cannot buy, beg, barter or steal a state of serenity you must rise into it. To rise up you must stop looking down so regularly and so stubbornly. You must find a way to maintain your vision or you will be permanently shackled by the limitations in your world.
When you first meet a limitation – and I guarantee you will encounter at least one today – ask yourself first (before passing judgment!) “What is the most creative and productive way I can handle this?” Most people when faced with a limitation jump immediately to self-pity, blame and retribution. “This limitation is so uncomfortable. I hate it!” is followed by “Why me?” and often then becomes “This is so-and-so’s fault and they should pay!” And on this basis we have the world we have.
Dare to be different in this regard. Defy the ordinary approach that has become normal but is by no means natural to those dedicated to living an uncommon life. Do the unexpected when limitations appear and rise up rather than tumbling down. Recognize the challenge and meet it with creativity rather than futility.
What really do you have to lose? The opportunity to complain and commiserate? Well, if that’s all, then give it a shot!
Serenity is found, known and preserved by means of this approach, no matter how hectic, limited or challenging your life may be at any given point in time.
10 thoughts on “The Achievement of Serenity”
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I made a decision a while back to stop fighting even what is called the “good fight”. I think the two words good and fight are antithetical. I don’t believe fighting, resisting or struggling can exist where there is genuine serenity. I loved your suggestion of treating limitations with equanimity. It makes sense that you can’t enjoy serenity with your thoughts and heart embroiled in reaction and as you say everyone meets limitations daily.
Wonderful post. Excellent presentation of this fundamental subject.
Thank you. It is a wonderful reminder of free will and our ability and responsibility to choose serenity.
It is both, in my opinion. Thanks!
These are words to live by!
The unexpected is many times forgiveness, patience, appreciation. These seem to be the gateway to serenity.
Excellent consideration this morning, thank you.
If just this one simple principle were lived by, the whole world would be a different place!
The new Alice in Wonderland was on the other morning while I was exercising. When faced by several limiting or challenging circumstances Alice said, “Hey, wait a minute this is my dream, and nothing can hurt me!” From there she creatively turned and face the situation at hand, calmly, from a place of action instead of reaction. Loved that!
Really enjoyed this post. Thanks Gregg!
I appreciate the analogy, yet the factors are very real in many cases. I suppose I am more realist than idealist in this regard, that said, learning not to judge limitations is a positive step no matter how you feel about the nature of reality.
I’m sure that there are things that every person feels constrained about, whether they are personal or circumstantial limitations. I find my trick to being serene about things that might not be ideal is to be in a mindset that is ready and willing to change them when the time comes. The feeling is almost like an easy vigilance, where you make sure to never waste an opportunity for growth and further maturity. If you are not spending your life flitting away opportunity and then blaming others for your misfortune, serenity will find you like a beacon regardless of the circumstance.