Friday, January 4, 2008

What Serenity Is

Now that we know what serenity is not, let's talk about what it is.

At its heart, I think, serenity is about living in reality and accepting what comes to us--and then doing our part to care for ourselves, regardless of what's going on around us. Serenity comes from developing a strong center that can weather or quickly recover from big emotional blows or reversals of fortune.

I remember when this realization changed my thinking. I was on public transportation, heading to my last full-time job before starting my business. I hated that job--or rather, I loved what I was doing and many of my coworkers, but something about it wasn't right for me. I was in agony over it every day. So, on the way to work, I entertained myself with an issue of Yoga Journal. Here's what it said:

Ignorance, or avidya, is a root cause of suffering, according to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. But the ignorance Patanjali refers to is less a lack of knowledge than an almost willful ignoring of reality. Today we call it denial. For instance, we may intellectually know that all things change, yet we desperately deny this truth--a denial that leads to anxiety, fear and confusion.

What he's working up to is a discussion of the Buddha's Five Rembembrances. They go something like this:

I will grow old.

This body will know sickness.

There is no escape from death.

Everything and everyone change.

All I have are my actions.


The writer, Frank Jude Boccio, recommends repeating these remembrances--these reality checks--every day to interrupt the machinations of denial.

As I think about serenity in my business, I need to adapt these remembrances for the workplace. For instance, I will get sick and not be able to work some days. Pretending like I can work nonstop and never set aside money or time or compassion for myself for those days I'm struck with illness creates in me--what did he say?--"anxiety, fear and confusion."

Yeah, that.

Or, pretending that the kind I work I enjoy won't change or that I can keep the same clients forever does nothing but leave me waiting impotently for the other shoe to drop. It creates a kind of self-satisfied, hazy denial where I refuse to think about what I would do if my biggest client dropped me.

That's why the last remembrance is key (from Thich Nhat Hanh's The Plum Village Chanting Book):

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

So again, the antidote to stress, anxiety and fear is to focus on your behavior today. How much marketing are you doing? How much are you relying on one client to make ends meet? What would make you feel more secure, like you could weather any storms? Think about it and then take one small step today to achieve it.

1 comment:

Anne F. said...

Hi Heather! Just stopped by to compliment you on your awesome blog. I've been reading it and really enjoying it. And that "My actions are my only true belongings" business kind of blows my mind. Here's to a fantastic new year for us both.