Serenity is a state of mind desired by most of us. But considering our chaotic, stress-filled lives, how is this possible? The Serenity Prayer quite brilliantly asks us to accept what we cannot change. Easier said than done, we reply. Acceptance is the way of the Buddha. We "nonattach" to the suffering of those around us. We distance ourselves emotionally from those we love. We face our own obstacles, disappointments, rejections, failures and view them as life's lessons.
Is that possible? Do we need to meditate 24/7 to achieve that bliss in the midst of all that bombards us? What about another path to serenity?
What if we focus our awareness on gratitude? It doesn't require that we de-tach from the suffering of the world. It doesn't encourage us to accept the disappointment, frustration, anger, despair that we all experience with passivity and inaction. It essentially re-directs our attention, our awareness away from pure acceptance /non-attachment to a mindfulness of what we can hold on to, what we can be grateful for. It is the old-fashioned "count your blessings", focused on a personal yet metaphysical level.
We can "count' our blessings. We choose to look at what is working in our lives. This will be a completely personal examination. It is unique to each one of us. We don't list the negatives in one column, the positives in another–not in this exercise. We ignore the negatives. We fixate on the positives, they become our personal gratitude list.
If we have difficulty releasing the negative column and finding the positive it might help us to recall the quote from French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teillhard de Chardin, " we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience". This is an experience that requires problems, difficulties, suffering as the source of learning, overcoming, transcending.
Gratitude removes us from this evaluation process. We don't have to compare ourselves with anyone else in the universe. We need to simply and directly meditate on that which is working in our lives. It may be an expansive list, it may be as narrow and restricted as this–we are alive. We have an opportunity in the next moment to transcend our suffering. We can become a beacon of light for some other soul, suffocated by darkness.
By being grateful for one thing only–the gift of life, we can detach from all the negativity which weighs us down. As it has been said, if you question whether your spiritual journey is over, ponder this–if you're still alive, it isn't. Our incarnation here is for one reason–to challenge our true self–our soul. Every challenge requires stress. We did not incarnate here to have an easy time of it. We are all here for one grand reason–to face adversity and do our best to overcome it. In doing so we expand our karmic duty–to those around us. We can become an example to others. Gratitude is a powerful tool to assist us in this task.