Serenity is not a state of the world but a state of the soul.
When we associate serenity with the state of things outside of us, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to constantly manipulate those things; we corner ourselves into a state of constant strife and struggle with the things of the world, a state of mind and soul which is the very antithesis of serenity.
But then where is serenity and how do we get it?
Serenity is not achieved through struggle but through acceptance of that which is. Serenity is not something to look for; it is something already here but felt only when we stop looking.
Fighting with what is present is a non-working attitude toward reality: what is given in the present actuality is always out of our control. What is in our control is what we can give back to that reality and how we respond to it.
If it happens that we are not pleased with the provisions of the present moment, an attitude of opposition and struggle only doubles the unpleasantness; we are spending serenity to buy it back at a higher price!
A more practical approach, and one which can bring us in touch with the serenity of the moment (and yes there is always serenity concealed somewhere in the present moment, even in the midst of the most chaotic moments) is to acknowledge and accept the present with everything in which it is wrapped, with all the salt and pepper it comes with. Being fully open to the fullness of experience allows us, instead of picking up a fight with it, to move on and to “do the next right thing” which will at least guarantee less unpleasantness in the future as a result of wrong action or inaction.
The next right thing is whatever is picking at our attention in that moment: it could be the mail waiting to be opened, an article to be read, a cup to be sipped, or just breathing our next breath until the next task of the day shows up by itself. In adopting this attitude we will begin to experience less tension and more serenity in each moment without actually looking for or trying to manufacture serenity.
Going for a head-on collision with an abrasive present moment would throw us deeper into a losing battle and consequently further out of the present moment. The result is, as we all have experienced, losing serenity. Serenity dwells only in the present moment, so any type of engagement that sucks the presence out of us will leads us astray from all serenity.
The present is the house of serenity
Of course, nothing comes overnight. That is why nature provided us with time: time! this workshop in which nature makes the most beautiful things. Consistent, mindful practice guarantees that we develop such an attitude of effective cooperation with the present moment, allowing us to accept the present and the present to accept us, the only relation conducive to a lasting serenity.
In fact, meditation creates the same effect: in proper meditation we discover serenity on the way to self-realization. Here I must emphasize that serenity is not the goal but only a byproduct of meditation. The goal is clear: Self-realization.
In meditation, done properly, we do not try to calm the mind but only discover the calm already present in it; we do not suppress thoughts and feelings for the sake of creating serenity but only discover the serenity already dwelling in us. In fact serenity, like energy, is neither created nor destroyed.
Serenity is neither created nor destroyed
Throughout meditation, instead of trying to calm the turbulent mind, a losing battle indeed, we accept the mind as it is, i.e. a circus; instead, we adopt the position of a happy but disinterested spectator. We do not calm anything but try to find the clam within the chaos; trying to calm the mind is like trying to calm the turbulent surface of a pond by pressing our hand against the waves; this would just create more disturbance.
The way to serenity is by recognizing chaos and perpetual flux as the nature of the mind and instead identify with the still and unchanging element in all of it, that is, the always present witness of that chaos.
Let me elaborate with an analogy: you’re sitting in a movie theater and watching a World War IV movie played on a screen; on the display there is nothing but killings, explosions, bullets flying around, etc. But none of that violent turmoil moves the screen even a bit; the screen is not affected at all, for the content of the movie and the screen exist in two different levels of reality. It turns out that the Self and the mind have a similar relationship to one another.
Here is the catch: our true self, and its undisturbed serenity, has the same relation to the contents of the mind as the screen does to the contents displayed on it. The true self, the source of all serenity, is the witness of the mind and is transcendent to all the things in and around the mind.
Cease the struggle and seize the serenity
Thus, in our search for serenity we need not bother with the contents of our minds; all is needed is to realize that we are not the mind: we are the eternal witness, the source of all calm and serenity.