Serenity, Tranquility

by Christopher Lovejoy on July 29, 2012

Where I live, Sunday mornings in the summer at sunrise are … relatively quiet.

This morning was no different. Instead of my usual jog, I walked in silence, in mindful contemplation, clearing space in my heart for the beauty that surrounded me at every turn.

It pays to be at peace, to allow heart and soul to dwell in a relatively quiet place.

I make time to be intimate with my surroundings.

The details of my experience are less important than the fact that I took the time to be.

Give Me My Peace and Quiet

When I respond to a placid misty lake at the crack of dawn, I take poetic licence when I say that the quiet scene before me is peaceful, blurring the boundary being observer and observed.

Certainly, such a scene invites a state of being at peace.

By way of response, and without deliberation, I project a state of being at peace onto the scene, and then say that the scene is peaceful, having a quality of peacefulness.

I perceive the scene as relatively still, as a backdrop for a natural symphony of notes that arise in harmony, but I observe the scene as peaceful only because I, the observer, am at peace.

Here’s what I propose, at least for the sake of presenting my perspective in this post:

Serenity: a state of being at peace (i.e., virtually calm, conducive to feelings of well-being)

Tranquility: a condition of quietude (i.e., relatively still, complemented by harmonious sounds)

These definitions suggest a clear distinction: where serenity is internal to the observer, tranquility is external to the observer. Serene skies are only serene because the observer is serene. Regardless of anyone’s state of mind, the relatively quiet misty lake at the crack of dawn is tranquil.

I can be at peace in a tranquil setting, but I can also regard a boisterous crowd through the eyes of serenity. Serenity applies to persons and states of mind, tranquility to scenes and settings.

Serenity is a healing, wholesome state of being at peace that allows or enables the observer to respond or project in a way that is conducive to receiving or expressing general feelings of well-being.

Tranquility, as a condition of quietude, is essential for the appearance or occurrence of peace.

Attachments to Serenity and Tranquility

Too much of anything is hardly ever a good thing, but if someone has been struggling and straining too hard for too long, serenity and tranquility can seem like godsends.

I can also imagine the peculiar tragedy of becoming fixated on serenity and tranquility to a point where the soul is sated with satisfaction but the spirit is left for dead.

A happy medium can be found, not with attachment or detachment, but with fulfillment – the kind of fulfillment that gives time, space, and energy to both contentment and upliftment.

How might this fulfillment look and sound? How might it feel?

Serenity or Tranquility: Which Comes First?

I cannot say for certain if I will ever lose myself once and for all inside a peace that passeth all understanding, thereby reducing serenity and tranquility to irrelevance.

What I can say is that I will allow tranquility to find its way to me (and through me) by whatever means possible, letting serenity bloom as and when it does, with or without tranquility.

When I come upon a tranquil scene, I can view it as tranquil if my serenity seems assured, but even if I feel serene, I know that this state of being can all too quickly evaporate in a noxious moment.

If I’m feeling even somewhat preoccupied or agitated, I cannot fully appreciate a tranquil scene or setting unless and until I can settle myself down (or lift myself up) to enjoy all that it has to offer.

A relatively quiet scene, such as this one, invites Presence. Presence, in turn, releases the heavy heart of the soul from the clinging, clutching hands of painful memory. Presence eases the burdened mind and spirit from any and all fixation on expectation. With Presence, there is but one eternal moment, a timeless moment of serenity, here and now, for the experience of tranquility. Eight steps to infinity, in an ocean of infinite possibilities, brings me to a place where I can sit or stand in the light of Presence, serenely situated in a sea of tranquility.

In a tranquil setting, such as this one, serenity seems assured. The crystal blue water laps the shore in rhythmic strokes, the cooling sea breeze gently caresses the skin, the warming sun makes sitting with stillness a pleasure to behold. Tranquility invites serenity and serenity appreciates tranquility, inducing a symbiotic relationship of observer and observed. If heavy, the heart of the soul is relieved, or else it is blessed, if already light. The monkey mind is made calm, even as the spirit gathers its vitality. Renewed, the body comes alive to its promise, which, ultimately, is to carry soul and spirit, onward and upward.

The Art of Surrender, Redux

Beauty, harmony, serenity, intimacy, ecstasy: in my post, The Art of Surrender, I presented this cherished list of five core values, which point to my life as a life lived in fulfillment.

I chose these values because they best convey my sense of personal fulfillment. Even today, they continue to express what my life feels like when personal fulfillment is mine to enjoy.

In beauty, I see harmony; in harmony, I invite serenity; in serenity, I welcome intimacy; in harmony, by way of serenity, through intimacy, I allow ecstasy. This could be my mantra for life.

Encounters are encounters of heart and soul. Experiences are experiences of mind and spirit.

While a healthy body, serving as a vessel for heart and soul, is drawn to encounters that are more or less beautiful, more or less intimate, a vital body, serving as a vehicle for mind and spirit, seeks to enjoy experiences that are more or less harmonious, more or less ecstatic.

But where does serenity fit into this brief account for living a fulfilling life?

We’ve already seen how closely serenity and tranquility correlate, often making it difficult to discern which comes first in the perceived order of our lives as we go about our daily routines.

In the absence of conflict, chaos, and confusion, the heart can open itself up to intimate encounters with beauty, even as the mind can open itself up to ecstatic experiences with harmony.

Serenity is the conscious ground for heartfelt appreciation and mindful anticipation.

The question remains: just how good can I get at letting go of my inner resistance?

Can I clear a safe place in my heart and mind for ugliness and disharmony?

A Life Lived Around Beauty?

Conceivably, I could build an entire life around beauty – around its cultivation and appreciation. Where beauty is concerned, I could be its constant gardener in the course of living (and loving) my life.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do – Rumi

Certainly, I have more than several kinds of beauty to choose from:

  • the beauty of nature
  • the beauty of living forms
  • the beauty of art
  • the beauty of design
  • the beauty of personality
  • the beauty of character
  • the beauty of movement
  • the beauty of what I love

Interestingly, I encounter beauty in one of two ways: in actuality or vicariously.

Vicariously, I can see and/or hear beauty in a movie, play, or documentary, but in actuality, I involve all of my senses (not just sight and sound) to more fully embody the encounter.

Standing in a field of flowers, I can actually feel the breeze, inhale the fragrance.

There really is no substitute for reality when it comes to the appreciation of beauty.

In The Art of Surrender, I described harmony as a kind of beauty – as beauty in motion. When flowers sway gently in unison under a persistent breeze, I feel the harmony vividly, viscerally.

In the presence of harmony, I invite serenity.

I can take a walk and actually become one with my natural surroundings.

With serenity, and with effortless ease, I can welcome intimacy with beauty and harmony, remaining open to a spontaneously emergent and naturally occurring ecstasy.

Parting Words of Wisdom, Just Because

Who I am emerges organically, spontaneously, and mysteriously as and when I relate to others.

Because my relating is so vitally connected to the promise that arises from having peace of mind, I would do well to heed the necessary wisdom for healthy, happy relating …

These Are My Wishes For You
by Sandra Sturtz Hauss

May you find serenity and tranquility
in a world you may not always understand.

May the pain you have known
and the conflict you have experienced
give you the strength to walk through life,
facing each new situation with courage and optimism.

Always know that there are those
whose love and understanding will always be there,
even when you feel most alone.

May you discover enough goodness in others
to believe in a world of peace.

May a kind word, a reassuring touch, and a warm smile
be yours every day of your life,
and may you give these gifts as well as receive them.

Remember the sunshine
when the storm seems unending.

Teach love to those who know hate,
and let that love embrace you as you go into the world.
May the teachings of those you admire
become part of you, so that you may call upon them.

Remember, those whose lives you have touched
and who have touched yours are always a part of you,
even if the encounters were less than you would have wished.
It is the content of the encounter that is more important than its form.

May you not become too concerned with material matters,
but instead place immeasurable value on the goodness in your heart.

Find time in each day to see beauty and love in the world around you.

Realize that each person has limitless abilities,
but each of us is different in our own way.
What you may feel you lack in one regard
may be more than compensated for in another.
What you feel you lack in the present
may become one of your strengths in the future.

May you see your future as one filled with promise and possibility.
Learn to view everything as a worthwhile experience.

May you find enough inner strength
to determine your own worth by yourself,
and not be dependent on
another’s judgment of your accomplishments.

May you always feel loved.

Copyright © 1987 Sandra Sturtz Hauss. All rights reserved.
Originally published by Blue Mountain Arts in a greeting card.

Reproduced with the author’s kind permission.

The author wrote this for her son in 1982, long before the digital age kicked into high gear.

For me, these wise and loving reminders offer glimpses of what really matters, in an age that challenges almost everyone with mass distraction, digital addiction, and information overload.

The author told me that the number of people who have found them helpful and healing is staggering.

Though relieved, I can’t say I’m surprised. Taken to heart for the sake of vulnerability, her words of wisdom will surely dissolve the influence of cynicism, pessimism, and fatalism with uncommon ease.

May you find serenity and tranquility in a world you may not always understand.


Image credits:

1. “Steps to the Sun” © Elenaphotos21 – Fotolia.com

2. “Beautiful girl meditating in yoga pose” © Václav Hroch – Fotolia.com

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