Saturday, June 13, 2015

How I Know I’m In A State Of Serenity

I received many comments last week– all positive – about our trip to Cuba. In those comments, however, were lots of statements that identified with the angry lady I quoted from the novel by Dennis Lehane (Moonlight Mile, [Harper Collins, 2010). That kind of surprised me. I was expecting more comments in the vein of “How can you consider such a communist godless country as providing a good vacation?” I didn’t receive any of those. As stated, virtually all comments also contained a resonance with the anger or repressed rage of Lehane’s fictitious lady.
Repressed rage – still alive and well in our country just as Steinbeck (I think) stated in that famous line “… people living a life of quiet desperation.” I began thinking a lot about how angry, frustrated, suspicious or resentful people can be. They seem to be pleased they understand the situation. Nevertheless, they do not seem to be filled with joy and peace.
These comments made me think of how it is that I know when I’m in a place of serenity, of peace, of joy, of happiness.
I cannot rely on my feelings to provide a clue to recognizing my serenity. My feelings are too transient, too fleeting. They can change almost instantly. Old-timers in AA have told me “Feelings or emotions are an indicator, not a dictator.” I need to always remember that.  My egoic mind will latch onto a feeling and treat it as if it’s a gauge of reality. It’s not. It is simply a passing state of my emotional being – which, most of the time is in some state of fear: frightened that I’ll lose something I have or not acquire something I want.
When I place too much emphasis on the “reality” of my emotional state, I find myself constantly buffeted by invisible forces that make me miserable. In that state, I chase my tail as a little puppy. Going nowhere and feeling tense, apprehensive, and defensive. I may not know where I am, but I know I’m not in a state of serenity.
Early in my sobriety I kept asking members of the Fellowship “How do I know if I’m enjoying serenity?” Often they laughed, but I was very serious.  I didn’t ask this during a meeting, but I would bring it up at an after-meeting coffee shop where many of us went.
Finally, a mature member who had a stable and constant program of recovery told me this: “Don, when I’m in a good place in my recovery, it is because my spiritual development is on track. The Big Book [Alcoholics Anonymous] tells us that our state of serenity is directly proportional to the state of our spiritual life. When all is well for me, I am viewing all that is happening either as a joyous outcome to a situation or as another learning experience for me. It is either one or the other, and both are good for me. I am not upset with some outcome or relationship. I realize that I am fully enjoying what is happening or I am being confronted with another view of one of my character defects or shortcomings. I can say to everything around me: ‘This is good.’ Or ‘This is a good learning experience.’ Under these circumstances there is nothing “bad” going on with my life. I am content. That is how I know I am serene.” 
I have taken that description to heart.
When I’m driven by my emotions or feelings I am anything but serene. I am not looking at what is happening to me in terms of joy or a needed learning experience. I am angry or fearful, or defensive, or nervous, or irritated, or envious, or, or, or. But I’m not peaceful. I am not calm. I am not at ease. I am not happy.
So, I try to understand that all that happens to me has been filtered through my perception. If I am uncomfortable and ill at ease, the problem is within me. I need to change my way of looking at what’s going on.
That, however, is something I cannot achieve by my egoic self – by my will power.
All I can do is recognize this is where I am and I am willing to see it differently. If I ask this of the Holy Spirit, that is all He needs to hear. He will answer my plea. I need, also to be ready to listen for His voice, which means I have to tune my hearing, not to the loud monkey-mind voices of my ego, but to His whispers.
That is still hard for me to do. But my spiritual development is all about progress not perfection. So, I still try and am still willing and still remain very desirous of seeing life in a manner that is serene, joyous, and happy. That is my inheritance. That is what I am. That is the promise of A Course in Miracles: “… Nothing real [Love] can be threatened. Nothing unreal [Fear] exists. Herein lies the peace of God.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#2 June 2015

Copyright 2015

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