Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Serenity Prayer’

Developing Wisdom and Serenity

This is the fourth and final blog ( the first three can be found in the March archives on my website) on the Serenity Prayer. A prayer that millions of people repeat daily to help them hang on, push forward and recognize either their own present behaviors that are limiting them in their lives or impeding their desire for change. The prayer itself, “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,” can be life changing when you take it apart and study the intent behind the words.

To date, we have looked at what it takes (and what limits us) to change the things we can change as well as what’s required to accept the things we cannot change. Both areas involve our inner discovery of the way we choose to look at our own fear factors, early conditioning and life experiences. The gold nugget obtained by truly thinking about what causes us to react the way we do is an important element that can allow us to move forward toward greater understanding and control in our lives.

Now, let’s look at the last part of the poem, “the wisdom to know the difference.” Many people believe that wisdom is only acquired by living decades on the planet. I disagree. In reality it is not simply the experiences but our ‘thinking about our thinking’ behind them that can cause us to become wise beyond our years.

For example, when something happens that was out of our control we live through it but do we then use the mental energy to dissect the experience and search for the lessons learned? Many people are just relieved that they have made it through the experience and try to put it behind them. However, the residual feelings of ‘what next’ or the shock and fear from the experience just lays in wait in the emotional baggage in our minds. Negative emotions buried result in a greater fear of tomorrow as we try to wrap ourselves in a protective cocoon of control.

Similarly, when we face something that needs to be changed and we know we should do something about it – but don’t – it erodes our self confidence and enthusiasm for life. Over time, this pattern results in thinking that life is simply what it is and any attempt to change a particular course is fruitless or at least not our responsibility. That type of thinking erodes our hope for a better tomorrow. It takes both courage to change things that need to be changed and grace to accept those
things that cannot be changed to fully live.

The last part of the prayer, “having the wisdom to know the difference,” is not as elusive a concept as we may think. We all experience intuition, that inner voice or gut feeling, that little nudge that let’s us know that a certain path or decision is the way to go for now. Sometimes when we are unsure we say to others, “Let me sleep on it.” It gives our minds time to process what our intuitive sense is trying to tell us. Waking to the light of a new day the answer seems as clear as a bell. This is your internal ‘wisdom worker’ activated during sleep when the daily distractions prevents it from being fully heard.

Greater wisdom and serenity can result from every life experiences we have IF we do our own mental work to discover what the purpose and reason of them were designed to teach us. The answer is usually found by asking ourselves, ‘What is the most difficult thing to accept about the experience?’ Our lives are not random pieces of material thrown together but a beautiful tapestry of life experiences, each piece sewn together with the thread of lessons learned that create who we are at our core. To create our own unique tapestry we need to keep our eyes focused, our ears attuned and our heart open to accept what is clearly presented to us with gratitude.

Wisdom and serenity then is an accumulation of both our experiences and thoughtful reflection of them. When we get into the daily habit of doing so it results in less fear and more confidence as we face tomorrow. We realize the truth in the statement, “All is meant to be,” and we receive the ultimate compliment when someone says, “How did you get to be so wise?”

Have a great few days!

Accepting What You Cannot Change

In the last two blogs we looked more deeply at 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.” We first examined the topic of having the courage to change the things we can change. We dug deep to find out if our fears, developed from our early life conditioning and other life experiences have served to limit our courage to change those things we can change. In this blog we will look at accepting those things we cannot change. As with everything in life, the topic of acceptance starts with examining our personal attitude, beliefs and behaviors.

Acceptance of ourselves is the key to a life well lived. Many of us have grown up watching T.V. programs that portray what a perfect personality, size, looks, career, home, family and life is all about. What we may have failed to realize is that there is no such thing. Those were a figment of someone’s imagination – a story that someone made up and sold along the way. When we accept the story line as truth (this is what you need to have or to do to be happy) then add to it the reality of our early conditioning, we may feel that our lives are lacking something or just isn’t that great. Every human being experiences tough times and times of personal doubt. It is a part of living on planet earth. Accepting that perfection in life, or even a life of smooth sailing is not only highly unlikely it simply doesn’t exist helps us gain perspective. The issue then is to decide what is in our overall best interest to accept without resentment or regret and realize that our life is a gift to be grateful for not a burden to be carried.

Through our own effort and with free will we have the power to build on our strengths and change nearly anything in life if we so choose. Likewise, we also have the right to recognizing that we don’t have to meet anyone’s arbitrary standard. Accepting that growth and acceptance is totally within our control we feel more empowered. We are living the life we chose with all of its’ challenges and rewards. Each of us as different as our fingerprints. Once we truly accept our authentic self it speaks volumes to others. We are happy in our own skin and the positive energy we emit attracts more of the same to us like a magnet.

To check yourself on your level of self acceptance ask yourself if it is harder to accept the good in yourself or are you too busy thinking about what you don’t like about yourself? The later view keeps you locked into remorse, anger or resentment which attracts more negative energy and experiences in your life. There may be things that we would like to improve upon but when we allow ourselves to become laser focused on them making them an all encompassing concern we lose sight of the joy in living.

Are we living the life we had planned? Or totally accomplishing those things that we want to do? Maybe or maybe not at this time. But you got up this morning right? You went about your daily tasks and made it through the day. You may have even found a little time help someone or to relax along the way. So the day might have been challenging but it was successful.

To experience more acceptance in our lives we can start by putting things in perspective with a thought from the Buddha, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought.” The good news is that if you read that statement closely it is in the past tense. In other words, today you lived the energy you thought about yesterday. Was it positive accepting energy? You can make tomorrow even better by accepting the lessons you learned today with humility and grace.

Knowing that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes and accepting who you really are, deep down inside, helps us to feel a greater sense of confidence and serenity in life. Acceptance then is about you – first and foremost. When you fully accept yourself you no longer find the need to focus on what you don’t have but are grateful for what you have been able to achieve. We are all doing the best we can and succeeding at it – one human being at a time.

Have a great few days!

Fear or Serenity?

This is part two of looking at the Serenity Prayer to discover the lesson in it for each one of us. If you missed the Wednesday blog which was part one please go to the archives on the right hand side of my website so you can get the frame of the discussion. 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’ can change your life.

I had asked you to consider which approach is HARDER for you -accepting the things you cannot change or actually changing the things you can change in your life. Assuming you have decided which approach you have a tendency to avoid I would ask you now to ask yourself ‘Why’ five times. Seriously, with each answer ask yourself why this is true for you. Usually the fifth and final time you drill down in you thinking as to the ‘why’ the real ‘Aha’ happens.

If change is the hardest approach for you consider the following. Changing the things we can change involves both confidence and trust in ourselves. The thousands of messages we received and events we experienced as we were growing up made indelible marks on our lives. What are a few of the messages that you received that have ended up controlling your life? For instance, if you were raised in an atmosphere of fear with messages such as ‘Don’t do this or something bad could happen,’ the initial warning might have been for your physical safety. But when you constantly hear this message of fear over and over you begin to generalize it to your entire life. You may feel out of control when something new pops up that you didn’t expect. You might then find yourself getting angry, lashing out when something – anything upsets your apple cart. You might prefer to keep life as it is so you can ‘depend on it.’ Well – news flash – that’s not going to happen. The truth is that the more you try to control your life the more insecure you become since The Universe just has a way of throwing us curve balls.

Learning how to control our fears is more than a survival mechanism it is a cornerstone to developing serenity. Just think about all that you have worried about over the last two weeks and the time you devoted to imagining the worst thing that MIGHT happen. There is a saying that 99% of what we worry about never happens. I believe that to be true. If you let fear control your life the Universe will just continue to present you with lesson after lesson (each one getting more difficult along the way) until you begin to TRUST in yourself. Think about the things in your life that have been really, really tough – did you survive? Yes! Was is hard – absolutely! Did you learn from it? I’m willing to bet you did.

Fear is the most insidious of emotions. It robs you of the moments of joy in life and puts you in a constant state of nervous tension regarding what could go wrong next. It also causes you to refuse to change the things you could change in your life because it paralyzes you into inaction.

We all learned a certain degree of fear from our parents. My mother was consumed by fear. You name it and she was afraid. Growing up I had the choice to accept those unwarranted fears or think to myself, ‘What is the worst thing that could happen’ given a particular situation and followed this thought up with ‘Could I survive if it did happen?’ Practicing this mindset I slowly developed a confidence that allowed me to face – head on – the challenges in life knowing I would survive, I would make it and ultimately be stronger in the process. She was not wrong in pointing out things to be mindful of, but it was the degree to which she applied fear to her life that had the potential to negatively effect my ability to change the things I could change.

The good news is that we know more about the effects of fear now. We can change our mindset about change and decide to grab the next opportunity as it presents itself knowing we will survive. As we expand our comfort zone, our lives become richer, fuller and more enjoyable. We learn to seize the moment, control our fears of the new or unexpected and move forward in life. Inch by inch it’s a cinch!

The next blog will be looking at the issue of acceptance – accepting with grace and humility those things we truly cannot change in life and moving forward with peace.

Until then, have a great few days!

Developing Serenity

We have all read the Serenity Prayer at some point in our lives. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change. And the wisdom to know the difference.’ If you are like me it seems I have read this a million times and yet actually applying its deeper meaning seems to work better when issues are less critical or important in life. When the ‘big dogs’ of problems surface oftentimes, the real meaning of this prayer is lost and we find ourselves simply reacting as we have done in the past and feeling more and more frustrated with the results. We typically take the path we have chosen so often in our lives because it has become a conditioned response.

As with so many significant sayings in life we can mouth the words, even memorize them and yet never completely internalize them which will cause a change in our attitude, beliefs and behavior. I have chosen to use the Serenity Prayer over the next few blogs to delve more deeply into what it can do for us. The few words contained in the prayer have tremendous potential to help us arrive at a greater sense of confidence, peace and wisdom in our lives. It is worth taking the time to think about in greater depth over the next week. It can help us harness the power of these words and then apply them when we face the next truly big challenge in our lives.

The Serenity Prayer basically boils down to two issues: learning how to accept with grace and humility the things in life that cannot be changed or learning how to dig deep to surface the needed courage to change the things that are possible for us to change. Seems straight forward enough doesn’t it? Ah, but as with everything else in life simplicity is an art that only results after wrestling with the true complexity of the elements behind it. Determining which path to take is, of course, the ultimate challenge but it is not a mere choice arrived at easily but rather the result of understanding and examining the complex web of emotions and beliefs established from our early conditioning, cultural mores and personal life experiences.

To begin our more in depth look at the deeper meaning of the prayer I would ask you to consider the following questions.

Which approach is usually HARDER for you … accepting the things you truly cannot change (without anger or resentment) or finding the courage to actually change the things (with grace and tenacity) that you can change?

Your answer to the above question is important. As individuals we have a preference for one approach over the other. It doesn’t mean that we can’t use the other approach but it is not something we typically do or prefer to do especially when dealing with the ‘biggies’ in life.

Your answer is very important as we continue to dive deeper into the well of understanding about human emotions in our goal to develop greater wisdom and Serenity. In essence, in one response we are dealing with learning to trust more fully and with the other response learning how to better control our fears. Both are difficult but achievable behavioral changes. One answer is not better than the other it is simply different and will help us decide on the next pathway to follow. In the meantime after you decide which approach is harder for you the logical step is to ask yourself the question – why? Really think about why that particular approach is harder for you – just a hint – it is usually the result of early conditioning.

Stay tuned and we will follow up on the possible ‘why’ in the next blog.

Have a great few days!

Seeing is Believing?

The idiom, ‘Seeing is believing,’ was first recorded in 1639 and interpreted to mean that concrete or physical evidence is convincing. Although we have heard this phrase hundreds of times it actually assumes that the new evidence presented will be accepted in our minds as truth and will broaden our understanding. Seeing and believing requires us to demonstrate an openness- a willingness – to set aside our previous assumptions- and let go of our need to control long enough to take in the new ‘evidence.’

That is a tall order for many – especially those ‘special’ people who just seem to feel that they have all the answers. When new information comes along if it doesn’t match their world view or their plan, oftentimes, they simply dismiss it regardless of any evidence to the contrary. They may continue to replay their old truths in their minds digging a deeper rut in their behavior and attitude. Problem is, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole!

When we are in the rut, dismissing new evidence and demanding control, the Universe just seems to step in and throw us a curve ball from time to time. We are left thinking to ourselves, but…. that’s not the way I planned, expected or wanted it to be. We have all been there and it isn’t easy, in fact, it’s down right hard work to adjust our attitude, eat a bit of humble pie, and move forward.

For those who, given new evidence, choose to accept and internalize it, they discover that flexibility, change and letting go of their stranglehold of control was an essential part of the process. They have chosen to deepen their understanding about themselves and life in general. The good news is these folks regroup, reboot and move forward in their journey. They are the learners, the positive beings that refuse to be daunted by the curve balls. They are the type of people to which we are naturally drawn. We feel energized, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future when we are with them.

A line in the Serenity Prayer is especially meaningful in this context, “…. grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Think about how you react to new information that just doesn’t fit into your existing comfort zone. Do you push it away with disbelief or draw the new information in and sift through the evidence searching for the golden nugget – the lesson – that has been presented.

Have a great few days!