Serenity Now…

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change those things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve heard of and read the Serenity Prayer many times in my life. As one who can have a tendency to be anxious and worrisome, my dad has often said to me, “Rachel, remember what the Serenity Prayer says. Only focus on what you can change.” He’d ask me if I really understood what it meant and I would answer affirmatively because in theory, I did understand it. But as I spent a few moments in quiet reflection in front of my meditation altar this morning, the words really hit me. I have my beloved Grandmother Ruby’s framed copy of the Serenity Prayer in the center of my altar. She passed away seven years ago, and of all her possessions, this was one of the things I really wanted. I remember exactly where she hung it in her bedroom. She lived to be 101 years-old, and I imagine that the Serenity Prayer played a key role in her living such a long and fulfilling life. I look at the words every day, but this morning I felt them sink in and touch a place deep in my spirit. I read the words over and over to myself until I was brought to tears. In my mind’s eye, I saw a parenthesis behind “cannot change” that included the word, “people.” I saw another parenthesis behind “those things I can” that included the word, “me.” I already knew that we cannot change people, but sometimes there can be a gap between what we know and really making an attempt to apply the concept to our lives. I acknowledge there is a gap within me.

I came to my meditation altar this morning heavily contemplating a certain relationship in my life. This person has been in my world for 15 years and as such, there have been plenty of ups and downs. We were friends, we were married and we now share custody of a beautiful 7 year-old little boy. I’m only one child in, but my experience so far has shown me that co-parenting can be one of the toughest relationships to navigate. I often find myself challenged by the way I do things as a parent vs. the way my ex-husband does things. Like my knowledge of the Serenity Prayer in theory, I have been aware that I can place high expectations on my ex-husband, but it wasn’t until this morning that I allowed myself to feel it. As I read the words over and over, I fully acknowledged that I can’t change him. I can’t make him be the parent or person I think he should be. I can only change myself and how I allow our relationship to affect me. I see clearly now why my dad always said that my life would be so much easier if I truly lived with the Serenity Prayer as my guiding principle.

As I went into meditation, my mind being what it is had a million thoughts running through it. I’ve learned that as thoughts arise in meditation, we should acknowledge them and then simply let them go. Yet one thought in particular just kept popping up. And oddly enough, it was a thought about a phone cord on the telephone I use at work. Strange, I know. But instead of trying to force the thought out of my mind, I allowed it to pass through. Once it did, it made total sense.

When my company moved offices a few years ago, we received new telephones. Over time, the cord on the phone I’d gotten became tangled and gnarled. It was a pesky little annoyance, because it prevented my phone from hanging up properly on the receiver. At times, I’d try to untangle it but then would become frustrated and just left it as it was. The company eventually moved offices again and the tangled cord came with me. We moved from a space where I had my own office, to a location where many of the employees, myself included, were collapsed into an open workspace. “Cubicle World,” as many of us call it. As such, a co-worker who has become a good friend was stationed behind me and had a bird’s-eye view of my telephone cord. She saw me fussing with it a few months back and asked if I ever put in a request to have it changed. When I told her I hadn’t, she said, “Here, let’s try something,” and she proceeded to go to another workspace that wasn’t being used, took the handle off a phone with a perfectly fine cord and replaced my handle with the new one. Then laughing she said, “See? Isn’t that better?” We shared a few jokes about it and moved on. What I didn’t realize at the time was how profound that gesture was.

By allowing the thought of the phone with the tangled cord to pass through my mind during meditation this morning, it landed with an eye-opening realization for me. Just as I replaced the handle with the tangled cord, I can apply the same concept to relationships in my life that have become tangled or convoluted. I can either keep fussing with trying to detangle things, or I can simply stop and replace the frustration with an untangled state of mind. Replacing the telephone cord on my relationships, if you will. It can be as simple as it was when my co-worker/friend replaced the handle and cord on my phone at work.

When I came out of meditation with that thought in mind, I read today’s reflection from “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. It’s about allowing to come to surface all of what’s growing underneath the “stuff” that we’ve always known, been or done. We have to learn to let the old skin shed so a new and refreshed approach to life can make its way through. In Nepo’s words, “Little deaths prevent big deaths.” I do understand that. And not just in theory. Peeling back layers, acknowledging our egos and admitting to ourselves that perhaps we are not always right is not an easy thing. It’s downright vulnerable and scary. But it’s so necessary if we are to move into higher levels of consciousness and bring ease into the journey of our daily lives.

It was after my meditation and reading Nepo’s reflection, that my eyes fell on my Grandmother’s framed Serenity Prayer. Then I looked at her picture that’s just off to the side of it, and I said out loud to her, “I’m trying, Grandmother.” I can only hope to be as wise as she was.

Wisdom is best derived from experience. I cannot change my past or the decisions that led me to where I am today. I cannot change the people in my life who I love or who I’m tied to by circumstance. But I can make the choice to have a more peaceful coexistence with it all from here on out. I now better understand the difference.

Namaste.

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The Road to Happy

Wayne Dyer

I recently caught up with a friend who I haven’t seen in a long time.  During our conversation, they asked how I’ve been doing. “Good,” I replied, which was followed by “not great?” from my friend. I paused and thought for a moment before I responded, “I guess I could say great, but I don’t because I am still on the road to what I deem my personal greatness.” My friend acknowledged this statement and our conversation carried on after that.

Thinking about this the next day, I realized a more appropriate response would have been “I’m happy,” because I am. I still have much I am striving for and working towards, but overall, I am actually okay with the space I am in now. I am sure to remind myself to embrace and appreciate this feeling, because it took a long time and a lot of work to get here.

My life since turning 30 has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been married, divorced, became a single mother (I try to use “co-parent” more often), was laid off due to downsizing, then re-hired in a new position a few weeks later, survived a house fire, laid both of my grandmothers and two dear cousins to rest, had love, lost love and most recently was in a car accident that kept me out of work for two months. There’s more, but I think you get the idea. I don’t list these things to complain or compare my life challenges to anyone else’s. It’s more about reflecting on the valleys I’ve endured and how I’ve managed, and continue to manage, to stay positive and not lose sight of finding what I call “my free.”

This is not to say that every day has been a good one. I’ve definitely had my moments of staying in the bed all day with the covers over my head, or having to work through anger while simultaneously making more of an effort to focus on forgiveness. I have also had some help along the way. About a year after my divorce, I started meeting with a therapist in order to better understand my self, my choices and what some of the root causes of my personal struggles were.  I always say my therapist is the best relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve been working with her for two and a half years now, and unless she kicks me out of the nest, I don’t have any intention of discontinuing my future appointments. I have friends who wonder how I can be so transparent with something that most people are very private about. It’s not that privacy necessarily equals shame, but for me, I have never been ashamed of the fact that I do see a therapist. In fact, those who are closest to me even know her by name. The reality, though, is that there is a stigma associated with therapy and other methods for supporting mental health. This is where my transparency comes in. My hope is that others, especially those who may be struggling with something internally, will see that therapy is actually pretty harmless and quite helpful. I’ve always said it’s like my personal GPS. When I feel I’m getting off course, I take 45 minutes out of my week to solely focus on redirecting myself in a positive way.

Looking back on some of my first appointments with my therapist, I remember telling her that I wanted to find peace within myself and be happy. Over the course of these 2.5 years with her, I’ve had walls broken down, plenty of “aha” moments and learned to understand the power of my love. I’ve expressed to her my desire to remarry and hopefully have more children by time I reach my “scary age,” if not before. When I started seeing my therapist, I was 32 and the scary age was 35. Well, as it turns out, I will be 35 in less than two short weeks and I am nowhere near being remarried or having another child.  I’ve already gone ahead and pushed the scary age back, but what is important about this, is that I am okay with it. When I got married the first time, I can admit there was self-imposed pressure of turning 30 and wanting to be sure “marriage” was something I checked off my to-do list. I don’t regret it, for without the marriage I wouldn’t have my son, but I did learn the most valuable lesson of patience. So while there is still a desire for companionship in my life, I am able to keep it in check and focus on the other areas of my life that are also in need of nurturing; mainly, my continuous work towards my free.

When I recognized my response to the question of how I’m doing should have been “I’m happy,” I knew this was another big “aha” moment for me.  I realize I am finding the peace within myself I have been searching for. There is still much more I want to attain, but personally, it is a major accomplishment for me to be happy in a space that is not exactly the space I thought I’d be in at this stage in my life.  In his book, “The Alchemist,” Paulo Coelho says that when you set your heart on something, all the Universe conspires to help you receive it.  I knew I’d want to write a blog about the experience of finding my happy and sure enough, as I was checking my Twitter feed the other day, did I see another quote from Coelho that said: “The path to wisdom is to be yourself. Stop ‘seeking.’” I was immediately able to wrap my arms around this and felt it tied in perfectly with what I wanted to write. I know I am on the road to happy because I am learning to look within myself more. I am learning to trust myself more. Everything I need, every answer to the questions I have, every desire I seek, is rooted within me. As Coelho implies, for each of us, the answers to what we are looking for are within our individual selves.

A few nights ago, I was talking with my mother and she expressed her desire to see me have the relationship and family I’ve always said I wanted. Normally, I would have had a defensive response to this, not because of what she said, but because deep down, it would kick up a feeling of frustration over something I have no control over. Now I am learning to understand how to coexist with the unknown. So I was able to calmly say, “I know Mommy, but I’m really okay with where I am now.  I’ve got a lot on my plate to focus on and I think the Universe wants to see me accomplish those things before I get into another serious relationship.” Not that I am being unreceptive to love; I am just okay with letting it find me in its own way. In the meantime, it’s like the song says, if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with. Right now, I’m pretty happy loving and being with me.

I wish you peace and happiness on your journey. And may you never stop searching for your free.

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