Serenity: what is it, how to build it
Serenity is not happiness. Serenity is our self-created inner peace. This is a permanent state of mind rather than a transient emotion like our usual happiness. On the other hand, our quest for happiness is endless since its sources, being external, are unlimited, transient and out of our control. This is why our happiness comes and goes with its ups and downs like a yo-yo.
Being serene means to accept and be at ease with life as it is, even when adversity and suffering occur. Of course, it does not mean to be powerless, fatalistic, leak or cynical. Accepting struggle does not mean avoiding their solutions.
Serenity can be learned rather than looking for and cannot be created and maintained without the control of our mind. Our body-mind is a fantastic instrument, however it is genetically wired in such way that our ego is controlling it. Eastern religions and philosophies call this ego self the little self.
Little self is acquired, mostly material and transient. Our True Self is genuine, immaterial, perfect and permanent. Many equate the True Self with global consciousness that believers call God.
The main roadblock against serenity is our ego-driven mind
Our ego or “I, ME, MYSELF and MINE” is critical for identification, survival, protection, enhancement, pleasure, procreation and many more other functions. Zen Buddhism considers our little self also as the main cause of our unhappiness, dissatisfaction and suffering. These negative feelings and uneasiness are triggered by so called 3 main “poisons” in Zen Buddhist:
1) Desire/ craving/expectations or “what we want”
2) Dislike/Hatred/Aversion or “what we don’t want”
3) Ignorance better called illusions or delusions. They are affecting us more subconsciously than consciously.
Desires / craving/ expectations: ” I WANT this and that
It is OK to have desires but how much do we need? Being addicted to more and more stuff is automatic suffering since our targets are endless, transient, we don’t control them and can never be satisfied 100% all the time.The quest for happiness from having more and more is pure delusion and a great source of unhappiness.
Dislike/ Hate/Aversion: “I DO NOT WANT” …….about people, events, ideas, beliefs, etc.
Dislike, hatred / aversion are creating avoidance, resistance, loneliness and conflicts.
All of them creating negative energy and negative emotions blocking the road to serenity.
It does not mean stupidity but rather our inability to differentiate the real from the fictional.
To be ignorant means to be deluded or being in a constant dream of self- created illusions.
Here are few examples of our main illusions. We believe that:
- Past and future exist and are real. No so. Only the present moment exist and we exist only now.
- Each of us is a permanent, independent, unique, separate self-entity with a self- intrinsic existence. Not so since we cannot survive by ourselves. Thinking of being isolated, permanent and unique is a main source of uneasiness and worries.
- We believe that almost everything is permanent. Nothing is permanent since impermanence and ongoing change are the basic characteristics of all living beings.
- We control our life, people, time and environment. This is just wishful thinking.
5) Because they are coming from our mind we believe in our thoughts. Not so, thought does not mean truth. In fact, thoughts exist but they are fictional and not real.
Other poisons blocking the road to serenity include:
Negative thinking and emotions. Our brain/mind is wired towards them and they are anti-serenity by excellence.
Having a frozen mind-set: Being stuck with pee-conceived ideas may create a painful mind trap.
This is why Zen Buddhism is advocating to learn and keep an open mind called “Don’t know mind” or “ No mind” . “Beginner mind”, “Mirror mind”
Attachment: Etymologically : to be one / to fasten with something/somebody. There is nothing wrong to be attached to something/somebody we love but impermanence and lack of control of the object are behind the corner. Attachment always creates subconscious fear of disconnection and potential loss of something/somebody will induce suffering.
Building serenity thru mind control requires discipline, patience, trust and perseverance .