by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Excerpted with permission from “SERENITY” – tools for personal growth. Published by ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn, NY
The most important awareness for becoming serene is to realize that serenity is up to you. There are two myths that work against mastery of serenity. Right at the beginning it is imperative to clarify the truth.
Myth One: Believing that serenity is a gift that either you possess or do not possess. Some people are born with serenity and are fortunate. Someone who is not naturally serene has little hope of changing. This misconception is a major block.
Truth: Serenity is a learnable skill. Every normal human being has the ability to learn the basics. Your brain creates serenity or its opposite. If you frequently experience stress, anxiety, tension, frustration, anger, and other unresourceful states, these are created by the way that you use your brain. You have amazing potential to condition your brain so that you frequently create and access the state of serenity, along with other resourceful states such as joy, courage, and patience. With knowledge and persistence everyone has the potential to gain greater mastery over his emotional states. Anyone who claims that we cannot is just saying that he has not yet learned this skill.
Myth Two: Believing that only when someone is in a perfectly peaceful environment can one maintain serenity.
Truth: Yes, it is much easier to be serene when you are in an ideal place with a peaceful atmosphere. Yes, it is much easier to be serene when all the people you interact with are rational, kind, and calm. Nevertheless, even when the external environment is far from being optimally fit for serenity, we have the ability to create an inner serenity and to resiliently bounce back when we temporarily lose it.
SERENITY IS UP TO YOU
Step one for serenity mastery is to accept the concept that you personally can increase your level of serenity. Since serenity is within you and is created by your thoughts, you can learn the patterns that are conducive for serenity and eliminate limiting patterns.
While doing research for this book, I asked people who had not yet read it (of course), “What stops you from being serene?”
I received many answers:
– “I’m not serene because I wasn’t born that way.”
– “My family was dysfunctional.”
– “My parents were high achievers and were always busy and in a rush.”
– “My business is highly competitive.”
– “I find school work difficult.”
– “I have financial pressures.”
– “I have so much to learn and I am constantly behind.”
– “I have a busy schedule.”
– “There are so many people who irritate and frustrate me.”
– “Everyone in my profession experiences premature burnout.”
No one answered, “I’m not serene because I haven’t yet learned and mastered this skill.” Since serenity is up to each individual this is the only accurate answer. When you put in the effort to master serenity, in retrospect you will be grateful that you did.
DON’T BUY INTO NEGATIVE ATTITUDES OF OTHERS
Working on developing the attitudes, perspectives, evaluations, frames and reframes that are conducive for serenity can take time and effort to master. Even after you put in the necessary energy, you must guard against acquiring others’ unresourceful and counterproductive ways of looking at things. You would not pay money to buy these attitudes, so do not accept them even when they are given to you for free.
Being aware of the attitudes and outlooks that are life enhancing will make you more sensitive to what others say about situations and events. Some of the things you hear will further your quest for serenity. Other statements, opinions, and points of view are stress builders. Add the positive positions to your own mental library. And disregard those that are negative and counterproductive.
If you are like most people, you already have unresourceful perspectives and evaluations that you acquired from others. They may have become part of your own thinking and you may consider them to be the objective reality. As soon as you are aware of a needlessly negative perspective, ask yourself, “How can I view this in a wiser, better way?”
Some common negative attitudes are:
– “When this or that happens, you just have to become stressed out.”
– “There’s nothing one can do to change their feelings about this.”
– “Your feelings are sacrosanct regardless of what those feelings are.”
– “Your initial reaction is your true reality. Don’t think you can fool yourself to try to change it.”
– “Everyone I know views things this way so I must also be nervous and upset.”
These are subjective limiting frames. You never have to be stressed out unless you are physically exhausted. And even then you can feel calm about it. We have a tremendous ability to change our feelings about things. Feelings are all temporary, based on how we presently perceive a situation. New and better perspectives and outlooks are always within our reach. The moment you change your thought, your nervous system changes how you feel. Life-enhancing thoughts create life-enhancing feelings. Even if this is only a subtle shift, you are moving in the right direction…