Seek Serenity & Peace Will Follow

 by Jef Bartow

So much of our altruistic orientation revolves around peace. We talk about Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man. We hope that our world will finally be without war, what we consider a state of peace. Many seek meditation as a way of bringing peace within themselves. Peace is very much a desirable state. But to understand it and how to obtain it requires some investigation.

To begin with, let's define peace. Theologically, Evelyn Underhill describes peace as "a state of will, the perfection of inner poise. Peace is the "willing acceptance of all the conditions which God imposes." St. Thomas Aquinas believed that peace comes from an order within yourself in a harmony with others. In the Gospels, peace is not a state, but something that Christ brings. Metaphysically, peace is the "establishing right human relations, a synthetic rapport with its resultant cooperation." Finally, Thich Nhat Hanh equates peace to the capacity of inclusiveness.

Closer to home, we've all heard of achieving "peace of mind." Characteristics of peace include tranquil, calm, undisturbed freedom from conflict; and an absence of movement or motion. As we will see, many overlap their descriptions and characteristics of peace with serenity. What stands out in the above to me is that peace objectively is a calm, quiet undisturbed freedom from conflict through right human relations. Inwardly (subjectively), peace is the perfection of inner poise and acceptance of what life, from Spirit, brings to us.

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So much of humanity's orientation to peace does not stem from an inward orientation. Peace in life comes from our environment and those around us removing conflict that impacts us. It's others treating us right, the way we want to be treated. It is as though peace is someone else's responsibility. Also, it is something that we will do or make happen that produces peace. All in all, peace is an end result far more than the state of being. Frankly, humanity has been pretty much a failure at producing Peace on earth.

On the surface, Serenity would seem to be far more elusive or ineffable. Webster's Dictionary somewhat muddies the waters here by defining serenity as "clear, calmness and tranquility. It is described as a state of undisturbed, untroubled calm; or bright and exalted. Synonyms include quiescence: a latent quiet; placid: implicit confidence; equanimity: the quality of remaining calm, evenness of temper; and pellucid: as translucent and clear.

If we differentiate Serenity from Peace, Serenity becomes a state of clear bright exalted tranquility and implicit confidence in the success of Spirit. Clear here means "transparent, perceiving acutely or free from ambiguity." Bright means "full of light, vivid and intense, glorious and reflecting of light." To exalt is to "raise on high," or to "intensify the effect." 

Further, tranquil is an "intrinsic quiet," similar to Peace. To me, intrinsic implies within, not necessarily without. In addition, Serenity's implicit confidence differentiates it from Peace's willing acceptance. Implicit confidence in the success of Spirit is the virtue of Hope. Willing acceptance relates to surrender with humility. Both are very positive characteristics, but not the same. A slight modification to a refrigerator magnet I have clearly delineates Serenity. Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but tranquility within the storm. On the other hand, Peace is the absence of the storm, both within and without.

Both Peace and Serenity are characteristics of Spirit. They both help Spirit penetrate and condition all matter. Within ourselves, we can see them working together with Peace as an exteriorization of an inner state of Serenity. This is why I define this spiritual principle as: Seek Serenity & Peace will follow. This specific principle is one of many that involve the spiritual Truth that everything begins within you, not from how you change the external around you. Fundamental change comes from within, not from without. Otherwise, we exhibit hypocrisy until we make the changes within.

So, the key here is to make the changes within, and then exteriorize them into your environment. Look within yourself first, then cast the stone to transform your environment and relations. This seems all nice and good, doesn't it? But how do we do that, you ask. The key is to understand what it means to seek Serenity. This is the method of my madness in providing very specific definitions above.

The first step relates to clear. We need to become transparent, perceiving acutely and free from ambiguity. We accomplish this through introspection, evaluating our motives and biases regarding each storm within our life. How did we help create the storm or continue the storm? Regarding relationships, it always takes two to tango; no one is free from responsibility for issues in relationships. Second, we need to become bright. To me, being full of light equals being positive, enthusiastic, loving and giving. If we do this with vividness and intensity as much as possible, we will become bright.

The third step is to seek exaltation. Characteristics of exalt include lift up; raised in status; fill with joy; intensify the action or affect; and to glorify. Frankly, that is exactly what the Holy Spirit does. When we internalize the Holy Spirit, we are then able to exalt everything in life at the turn of a switch within us. Even in the ugliest storms, we can use the Holy Spirit to separate us from the storm. 

For myself, I consciously and specifically sought out internalizing the Holy Spirit as a way of intensifying my connection to God. Although I didn't agree with much of the dogma of the charismatic Pentecostal Christian religion, I attended this type of church every week for years until I fully internalized the Holy Spirit. By attending/participating with a positive, enthusiastic and loving orientation while perceiving acutely, I was able to separate the Holy Spirit from a dogma that others needed, but I did not.

Exhibiting tranquility is the final key to the puzzle. As we just described, this is to create an intrinsic quietness within us. Our internal storm comes from us allowing our "internal dialogue," both mentally and emotionally, to run the show. Stopping the internal dialogue is the key to tranquility. It is also the first major step in almost every form of meditation. Conflict within will always create conflict without. Therefore, this last step involves using one or more of the myriad of ways of learning to meditate. These ways can be through forms of practicing Eastern mysticism, Western prayer, psychological introspection, meditative exercising, etc. etc.

By implementing this four step process to Serenity, Peace will follow. The first result is tranquility within the storm. The second result is that the storms will become less severe and less often. Finally, we each will be able to see how the storms are opportunities in life, helping to show us what we still need to transform within in order to change without.