Accessing Serenity in Challenging Times

This simple prayer is widely accepted as holding a lot of wisdom about serenity:

God (Spirit) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

- American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

Although there were precursors to this sentiment, this particular usage of a petition for wisdom is the one that has stuck through several decades and has been widely popularized by gatherings of 12 Step Groups, the YWCA, and other spiritual and secular groups.

But what does is mean? This particular petition, as I see it, suggests that by accessing a state of serenity (calmness, tranquility or peacefulness) one has of a greater likelihood of accepting “what is” and of releasing what cannot possibly be “changed”. There is then, of course, further serenity in the wisdom that comes from discerning the difference between what you can change and what you cannot change.

Where then do we begin? I go to nature. There in the great outdoors there is no mental confusion or conflict. There in nature is the state of “what is”. By watching and breathing and allowing I come to see that I cannot make the hummingbird fly without flapping its wings, or make the ocean’s tides reverse, nor can I make the wind stop blowing. I can, however, change my attitude, change the rhythm of my life, slow down my pace, release my judgments and breathe! There in nature is the wisdom I seek. Where do you go to find serenity?