Serenity; Peacefulness in the 'Eye of the Storm'  
I love studying individuals of great character. I enjoy watching people
as much as listening to them. It's fun and you can learn so much by
what a person does. If you take a long look at those people who have a
great capacity for peace you will find that they have developed an
unusually long fuse. Some even have no fuse. That sounds remarkable,
doesn't it? There are those rare individuals who seem to misinterpret
life as a series of adventures. Every stress, trauma or misfortune
seems to them to be a gift from God. They walk the earth with a
profound peace, a peace that passeth understanding. They are the living
These people who are living with what I call profound serenity are great
examples of what can happen when you give up your right to raging
It really is uncanny how they do it. But since they do achieve
peacefulness even in the midst of the great storms of life, it is useful
to look at their beliefs to see what we can learn.
I said that the living serene misinterpret life, not because they are
wrong, but because they march to the beat of a different drummer. They
see everything as part of a great plot to keep them spiritually
centered. It's okay if you are not one of them, most of us aren't, but
there are some wonderful lessons to be learned. One of my patients who
called himself 'old timer' had a very interesting philosophy.
"If it has already happened to me, then God must have wanted it to
happen. If God wanted it to happen, then I should be in favor of it. He
must have meant it for my well being."
This old timer used to say, "Even if someone else does something that
means me harm, God could be using it for my good."
I call this philosophy the "God knows what's best" reframe. A reframe
is seeing the event with a new meaning or seeing what happened from a
different perspective. We usually reframe the meaning of something
through what is called insight. I have heard hundreds of patients say,
"I never understood why that event had to happen until now. Finally I
know what it was in my life for."
When a person stops judging things as bad or good and starts to believe
that all things work together for good, an internal shift occurs. Every
event becomes a blessing. Sometimes these blessings are harder to
understand than others.
I am not saying you should suspend all judgment of behavior. That is the
common trend, and it is a politically correct formula used in many
communication courses. Being nonjudgmental has is place, but at times
is inappropriate. It becomes impossible to communicate your values and
morals with a totally nonjudgmental attitude. Of course it is
reasonable to be able to refrain from judging a person but not his
behavior. If you don't believe me, try raising your children without
judging behavior. You'll need a lawyer by the time they are ten years
Serenity is a wonderful state of mind. It is alternatively described as
tranquillity, peacefulness, calmness, ease and equipoise. It is the
reflection of a soul that is centered as though on a placid lake on a
calm day - no disturbances, or ripples on its surface.
The living serene, though, are not placid and inactive. In fact they
are active and energetic because they operate from a state great
potential energy. Everything empowers them. Life is totally
supportive. I have friend who puts it this way, "they operate by
matching calamity with serenity." When you achieve a stable state of
serenity, your creativity soars, you ability to maintain intimate
relationship is enhanced and you are a better communicator.
The raging indignant, however believe that they have a right to erupt.
They also tell you it was out of their control. "Someone pushed my
buttons," said one of my patients. "Well, you get to make amends," I
replied. "You also get to work on disconnecting those goofy buttons and
learning how to stop people from pushing them."
Patients often told me that they really didn't want to explode, but
after years of listening to this rationale and watching patients use
stupid excuses, I realized that most of them secretly planned to explode
when it fit their needs.
An angry man is again angry with himself when he returns to reason.
--Publilius Syrus

Here is the bottom line. When you've worked on an issue and you still
explode it means that you still have the responsibility to work on
yourself. No one else is to blame. I am certain that there are lots of
issues that push those buttons. I still have them, and most of us do
too. I am responsible for the consequences of my actions, however, I
reap a benefit when I am able to be serene. The fact is everyone in my
sphere of influence reaps the rewards of my serenity too.
Here is simple, almost simplistic advice to use when you feel like you
are losing your serenity.
Exhale slowly
Do a deathbed contrast
See the anger as chains
Empty the garbage
Focus on what you love.
I get kick out of this simple process. A formerly violent patient
taught it to me. I especially like the deathbed contrast. My patient
used to say, "I imagine myself on death's door thinking about my life.
Then I try to see if the current situation would be of any significance
for me then."
Anger is as binding as chains. It keeps you from have fun with your own
life. Most of the time it is related to some garbage you have been
carrying around. So it is better to focus on what you love.
I grew up on the East coast where every fall we would have to brace
ourselves for hurricanes. Yet even in these monster storms there exists
an eye - peaceful, serene and calm, with the sun shining brightly while
all around it exist turmoil. Nature gave us that metaphor. It sounds
like the living serene to me.




Thirsting for God

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Substance Abuse
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