As the obedient prayer-learning child of Catholics, and the unknowing but attention-paying granddaughter of an alcoholic, I knew the Serenity Prayer by heart by the time I was seven. You know it too, right?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
By the time I was a senior in high school and had made the final call not to be Catholic anymore, or to pray for that matter, I could still appreciate the words as valid, just maybe without the god part. I wasn’t sure about that, or him, or it yet. That came later. So when Sinead O’Connor released “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” that same year, the song Feel So Different made sense to me. I found beauty in the words as a reflection on how I was raised, as well as a reminder of a worthy philosophy as I packed up and moved on to college and whatever was next.
The little ditty has served me well. It takes courage to step up and act when you can act. It takes bravery and focus to have a goal and to work towards it systematically, undaunted. It takes ambition and work to change ourselves, to shift social mores, to engender revolution. But it can be done. And just as the most seemingly daunting bastions of how-it’s-always-been can be changed, there are things that we honestly have no control over. We can’t change our pasts (though we can do things differently in the future). We can’t control how others feel about or react to us (though we can control how we feel about and react to them). We can’t change some physical challenges (though we can opt to overcome them and develop other strengths). We can’t change the death of those we love (though we can change our understanding of it and the way we live in its wake). So, yes, it takes serenity and grace to recognize not only what it is that can’t be changed, but also to find in yourself what it is, in light of this recognition, that can be.
Today, though, I’m thinking about this differently. I’m thinking about serenity itself.
What I’ve missed until now is that the first few words of this prayer are the most important. These words have been etched on my brain for 35 years and it’s not until this morning that I finally get it. It’s serenity. Serenity is the key. The answers I seek I will find… in serenity.
Grant me the serenity…
Grant me the serenity to…
Grant me the serenity to listen… to hear… to understand… to envision… to dream. Grant me the serenity to discover, to connect the dots, to connect. Grant me the serenity to feel deeply, to relate, to find and express my truth, to be me — the best me — the brightest version of myself.
In meditation, I’ve experienced one repeating message over and over. In different words and in different ways, I hear: “Still your mind and open your heart.”
Still my mind. Experience serenity.
When I channel my higher self, my Spirit Guide, or any of the spirits that come to speak with me, I hear differently. I calm the chatter in my mind and I hear with my heart. I hear through feeling. I can’t do that when I’m not serene. When I work with clients, guiding them through past life regression, it’s when my mind is calm and I’m most present with them, in serenity, that I’m most effective. When I channel Reiki energy, I can intuitively foster the most healing environment when I am serene.
But more than that, it’s when I am serene that I can let go of the unnecessary weight in my daily life. In fact, it’s when I’m serene that I can see clearly what it is that actually is unnecessary. I can identify what I don’t need, or what isn’t mine. I can let go of hurt or anger or desire or confusion and just be. Serenity gives me the space to step back, to think objectively, and then to act in the way that I feel is representative of the me I want to be.
How to do it? There are lots of ways. Meditation. And if that comes hard for you, try guided meditation. Yoga Nidra. Listening to calming music. Walking, hiking, running, swimming, or dancing. Lose yourself in your breath, in the rhythm or flow of your own movement. Try attributing a color to the chatter in your mind. (Mine is yellow.) Then imagine that color fading or escaping or being gradually replaced by another darker color as you feel your receptive center move gently down from your head to your heart. Feel the vibration of what you hear change as well. Notice what’s present when this happens. Notice that what remains is what is important. Take stock, peacefully. Feel the freedom of less. Then listen.
It is in serenity that you will understand and know how to proceed. It’s in serenity that you will see different things differently. It’s in serenity that you will find answers. It’s in serenity that you will be most able to forgive, to let go, to let lie. It’s in serenity that you will be able to accept the things you cannot change and to change the things you can.
And, maybe, like me, today, it’s in serenity that you might just pull out an old memory, pay attention to it in light of what you know now, and find something new.