By Greg Stein (Poornamurti)
Practicing the “ity” of Serenity has given me important insights into patterns of thought and behavior which I feel have been with me for a while. I can see how becoming free of worries and insecurities (related to what people think of me, for example) will create more of a sense of freedom in life. Just to be myself, to live my truth, speak the truth and be at peace with that seems like a wonderful thing.
Serenity is closely related to the very definition of Yoga given by Patañjali in his sutras:
1:2 Yogaś chitta vṛitti nirodhaḥ: “Yoga is the cessation of whirlpools of thought in the mind.”
This cessation (“nirodhah”) then leads to a state of deep serenity, including other qualities such as acceptance, contentment, peace and joy. Therefor, the mastery of serenity as a divine virtue logically would lead to nirodhah (it works both ways, in other words), and in turn the state of Yoga. So cultivating serenity is a simple and yet profoundly valuable practice for anyone on the spiritual path who wishes to grow and evolve.
I feel that one of the most powerful tools for cultivating serenity is to breathe deeply whenever I am noticing thought-patterns arise that are a disturbance to mental or emotional equilibrium. I then try to examine – why is this bothering me? What am I worried about? What is the problem? Then I try to remind myself the importance of faith and trust in Spirit, in G-d. G-d will take care of everything. There is no reason to worry about anything. The only thing to be concerned with is to attend wholeheartedly to the present moment. To “do your best and leave the rest”.
My teacher, Swami Niranjan, has said “never, never, never worry about the future, but attend to the present with the best of your ability.” (If we could fully embody just that principle, we have gained something immensely valuable in life. More valuable that any material attainment or worldly achievement). If we can trust in the Universe to provide us with the experiences we need to find freedom and peace on the path, that faith and trust will set us free. But it takes time to develop these qualities.
Practicing serenity in and of itself has the capacity to help us eliminate doubt, to do away with worries. In addition, the practices of Yoga in general are designed to lead us in this direction of positivity and awareness. To lead us “from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from death to an awareness of the eternal nature of the soul”.
ॐ ॐ ॐ
*The “ities” are 18 qualities that Swami Sivananda considered of special importance. He advised that those who wish to follow the path of Yoga meditate on the “ities” and how to cultivate these qualities in daily life, while getting rid of their opposites. It is therefor not enough to just read about them or know about them. The real challenge is to live them.