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Embrace Tranquility and Serenity



Proverbs 14:30

A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.


Virtues are foundational character traits that help us live a good life.  They assist us through tough times, protect us from difficulties, and guide us to moral, ethical, and Godly lives. Virtues are gifts from God; some are displayed naturally and easily, others need coaxing. But as a child of God, they are present within us because every virtue is of God. Our part is to develop the ones that bubble up and allow Spirit to express through them into Creation.


I have discussed some of the most important virtues already, and there are still important virtues to be recognized. The trait this week is serenity or tranquility. Perhaps, we know the word serenity more, perhaps because of the Serenity Prayer: 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.


Serenity is a state of calmness and peacefulness, as is tranquility. Not everyone agrees with this distinction, but some people view tranquility as inviting peace from the outside to the inside, whereas serenity helps peace flow from inside to outside. Some interpret tranquility as the absence of disturbance, noise, or agitation. Tranquility is born of an environment of quiet and calm. This can apply to either an outside environment or an inner environment, and this is where the distinction begins to fog in my mind.


Serenity is more known as a deep sense of inner peace and contentment. Serenity is often described as a feeling of harmony and balance within oneself, regardless of external circumstances. It is a state of mind that allows us to remain calm and composed in the face of stress or adversity.


That also describes tranquility to many people, so I am going to use the words interchangeably. The distinction is not important; what is important is the feeling of imperturbability, of calm, quiet assuredness under provocation.  Call it serenity or tranquility.


As our Bible verse stated, tranquility brings life to the body, as well as the mind and soul. Research supports the benefits of tranquility: Reducing stress, anxiety, and worry. Tranquility helps us cope with the challenges and uncertainties of life and prevents negative emotions from consuming us.


Tranquility improves our concentration and focus, clearing our mind from distractions and enhancing our cognitive abilities. Serenity makes us more mindful and aware of our surroundings, and boosts our happiness, satisfaction, and gratitude. It helps us appreciate the simple joys and beauty of the world.


Being tranquil enhances our creativity, imagination, inspiration, and insights. It also facilitates expressing ourself more freely. Developing tranquility promotes health, wellness, and healing. It lowers our blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation. It can also improve your immune system, sleep quality, and pain tolerance.


Having said all that, the opposite of tranquility – irritation, agitation, and excitation – results in contrary consequences: raised blood pressure, dissatisfaction, confusion, and conflict. What do we feel in our lives – a sense of peace or disturbance? What do we need more in our lives – satisfaction and happiness or disappointment and fear?


I think we all can use more serenity in our lives. But like other virtues, we choose it. Despite the chaos of the world, we do not have to react with agitation. That is the difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction is not chosen; it is involuntary, without intent or volition. But when we respond to something, we do so with meaning, focus, and purpose.


According to our biologist friends, one difference between the ape and the human being is that the ape passively reacts to the environment, whereas man can delay the reaction, remain calm, think rationally, understand the situation, and make an appropriate response.  The ape gets excited easily and reacts to that excitement. Human beings have the potential not to do that, yet how many of us really act rationally when emotionally excited?


Most of us do not remain calm and think rationally when we are agitated. We react like an animal, guided by the ego and the world, instead of responding like a divine creation. Tranquility is our original state. The ability to remain calm and serene in the face of chaos is a gift and can be developed. Individually, and as a species, we have much room for improvement. We are not totally in tune with God until we are tranquil and rational under pressure.


Christ came to share the Holy Spirit with us, and it is through Spirit that we receive our virtues, including serenity. It is through Spirit that we display inner peace, imperturbability, and tranquility despite what the world offers. One goal of this life is to learn to leave behind our animal, human, worldly nature, and live through our spiritual nature.


We have emotions, but we are not our emotions. We cannot eliminate our emotions entirely, but we can govern them, control them, and choose to use them when they are beneficial. It is through tranquility that we gain the ability to manage our reactions and emotions.


Tranquility is not inactivity; it is the taming of emotions, not the stopping of action. Serenity makes it possible to think clearly, and respond to a situation rationally, instead of reacting emotionally. Tranquility allows us to stop reacting and to start responding.


Like all virtues, just because tranquility is an innate gift, it is not easy to develop. It takes time, effort, attention, and willingness. Here are some things we can try.  Let us start and end our day with gratitude.  Expressing thanks directs our focus to the positive aspects of our life and cultivates a sense of contentment and joy.


We can pray and meditate regularly. Remember that meditation is the active listening part of prayer; it is listening and being open in mind and heart to any of God’s whispers. Watching our breath move in and out provides simple means to focus on something neutral and keep our minds from thinking random garbage.


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 summarizes the above nicely: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


We can change our stress response.  Instead of reacting to stressful situations with anger, frustration, or worry, we can become aware of our reactions and instead try to respond with calmness, kindness, and compassion. This allows us to avoid negative emotions and maintain our serenity.


Do one thing at a time. Multitasking can make us feel distracted and overwhelmed. Focusing on one task at a time improves our concentration, productivity, and quality of work. We also become more present and attentive.


Let us get rid of the clutter in our life. Clutter creates chaos and confusion in our mind and environment. Simplifying our life and eliminating unnecessary items creates more space and order. It can also make you feel more relaxed and peaceful. Every step toward order is a step toward tranquility.


Repeat the Serenity Prayer daily. Some things are going to happen that are beyond our control. Blaming ourselves is not only a mental error but is also damaging. Accepting what we cannot change and letting go of what we cannot control moves us into serenity.


We can practice acceptance. An attitude of disapproval, whether of a person or situation, produces panic and turmoil. Acceptance doesn’t mean everything is going to stay the way it is today; it is understanding what we can and cannot change today.


Be kind and respectful of others. The ugly things we think, say, and do poison us. Matthew 15:11 teaches: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”


Spend part of the day without noise. Television and music are wonderful, and so is sitting in the Silence. Give the ears and mind a break. Connect with nature. Nature can have a soothing and healing effect on our mind and body, as it can lower our blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and improve our mood.


Carefully choose who we share our time with. We can’t always eliminate the people who share the drama of their lives with everyone they meet. But we can limit our time with them. It isn’t our job to fix them. It is their mission to learn the spiritual lessons that relieve them of their burdens.   


Within our hearts we are ever tranquil, for that gift is established in the depths of our being by God. At this center of stillness, in the Divine Quiet of Spirit, we are always serene, and this serenity is healing to our mind, heart, body, and soul. It is my prayer that we embrace this tranquility by moving our thoughts and awareness within to God’s loving presence of peace, stillness, and quiet.


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