The lake in this photo isn’t always an image of Serenity. A few days before I snapped this shot, it had white caps and the sky was black as a hurricane passed through. Nature, like our internal landscape, has moods.
Unlike Nature, we can be agents of change when it comes to our moods. There are, fortunately, tools we can use to lead ourselves closer to Serenity. You know Serenity when you’re in it and you sure know when you’re not.
So, what to do when anxiety, over-caring, worry, and stress wreak havoc with our internal weather? There are some tips that come out of the 12 Step programs that are wise and that work. One of these is Keep It Simple. Often when we feel out of control either our minds, our bodies, or both are all over the place. Bring the mind home by focusing on your breathing. Stop the body wherever you safely can and sit or lie down while you do this. Look at the lake above. It’s not doing anything but holding the boat afloat. In fact, the serene mind has been compared in Buddhism to a clear lake.
Once you’ve quieted the mind and body, you can apply another tip First Things First. Since you can only do one thing at a time, do the next right thing, then the next, then the next. This is calming in and of itself. And things get done. Maybe even some of the things that were worrying you. If you’re like me, you spend 3 days worrying about a phone call that you can get over with in 10 minutes. Or you spend a month putting off a project that takes an hour to do. We all do this number on ourselves. Only we can change the pattern.
We must first recognize that there is a pattern. Sometimes a person close to us will call our attention to this. That’s what our loved ones are for, you know. To hold a mirror up for us. So be grateful. Even if they’re not so skillful in their communication. Would that we could all be gracious, tactful, and sensitive all of the time. I’m not there yet. Are you?
You may notice that the path to Serenity involves taking responsibility for our own moods and actions. We must be quite deliberately on the path. We don’t have to know exactly how to get there. There will be help along the way. We do have to be willing to leave baggage behind.
If we remain attached to our judgments, our anger, our fear, or our heartbreak then Serenity will elude us until we set aside these barriers. Moreover, these preoccupations keep us from being present to others and fully living in the moment we’re in. Remember how I said there’d be helpers? We may fail to recognize them as such if we’re distracted by habitual patterns in our minds. Be curious about what’s around the corner. Make your way mindfully toward it and be open to what you encounter. Whenever fear or anxiety ambushes you on the way to Serenity, apply another tip from the 12 Step programs, Easy Does It. I bought one of those That Was Easy buttons at Staples. Every time I overcome one of my perceived obstacles I push the button and inject a bit of delight into my journey. The Easy button is my signal to sit (preferably out in Nature) and rest in Serenity.