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se·ren·i·ty
səˈrenədē/
noun
the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

What can I control and what can’t I control?  How can I be calm, peaceful, and untroubled when so many around me are hurting and very troubled? How can I best be of service?

These are questions which I began asking myself in earnest three years ago and which, just when I thought I had them down and was acing my serenity tests, have come back with a vengeance over the past ten days.  In the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election, I find myself reactive, confused, angry, annoyed, pessimistic, optimistic, hopeful, and fired up.  How can one person (or country) be such a soup and what do I do with all that is rising to the surface?

While I was asking these questions on a very personal level three years ago, it has become clear that while the context may change, the answers actually remain the same. I can control myself, my actions, my words, and (with practice) my thoughts. I can not control anything else. End of discussion.  How can I be calm and peaceful when so many around me are hurting? Well, how is my not being calm, peaceful, and centered going to do anything to help others or to better the situation, whatever that may be? It is only with a calm and centered mind that I will be able to act without reacting and to communicate clearly and kindly.  How can I best be of service? Like the previous answer, only when I have taken care of myself on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level will I be able to assist and help others.

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Tonight I turned off the news and went for a walk.  I could see some sort of a sunset filtering in through the curtains and realized it was my responsibility to my own wellbeing to go look at it, get some fresh air, take some photos and breathe.  It was when I realized I felt some kind of guilt for turning off the news, afraid to be deemed uninvolved, complacent, or an irresponsible citizen that I realized how far off course I have become lately. What exactly do I hope to do with whatever it is NPR will tell me tonight, besides get upset?

While on my walk, I saw a bougainvillea in full bloom, a hawk sitting on a power line, a sunset, a wall decorated with hearts, and two bird of paradise flowers that looked like they were having a conversation.  I came back, turned on some music, ran a bath, and poured a glass of wine.

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Life has a way of sending us the perfect situations to test foundations we thought were solid and, until they really are, will continue to do so. I have been shown many cracks in mine lately and, as Leonard Cohen wrote,

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

It is an ongoing practice to remember that I am the only thing/person/ place/etc that I can control and that it is only by taking care of myself first that I can then be of service to others.

 

 

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