17 | Serenity is Not a Destination (so what IS it?)

Are you waiting for the noise to quieten and the disruption to pass? Are you hoping for some serenity? For some time, energy, and permission to finally focus on the stuff that matters to you? Or enough thinking space to eventually FIGURE OUT what that stuff is.

In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, we explore our relationship with the concept of serenity. We ask whether it’s a destination to reach or something a little closer to home. And if it isn’t a destination, how can we create and nurture more of it in everyday life, so we engage with the here and now rather than always waiting for the next storm to pass?

If we can’t find it now, we won’t find it then. If we can’t find it here, we won’t find it there.

The Arrival Fallacy of a Calm and Peaceful Life | 1:35

“Arrival fallacy is this illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.”

Dr Tal Ben-Shahar

What Is Serenity? | 4:07

In a Haven Theme Kota session, we discussed the idea of serenity not being a destination. We started with what serenity is (and isn’t).

Serenity Gives Us Options | 6:34

It was suggested that Coco Chanel wore a hat at home when people visited to pretend she was on her way out, just in case she wanted an excuse to escape. Was this a source of serenity? Or did being poised and ready to run reflect a state of unpeaceful alertness and discontent?

Serenity is Safety | 7:27

Serenity grows when we feel safe. But is feeling safe the same as feeling protected? Why does this difference matter?

Serenity is Flow | 9:09

It’s the inner flow of creativity, where we are drawn to what interests us, not what we should do to fit in or be accepted.

Serenity is Surrender | 9:29

In many ways, serenity is the absence of pursuit. So if we search for it, it disappears. It’s a sense of peace in the present.

It’s about HOW we go, do, and be, rather than WHERE we go, WHAT we do, and WHO we are.

Serenity is Acceptance | 10:39

Disturbances are inevitable in life. Serenity allows space for an authentic reaction to the noise. While simultaneously holding space to pick from an ever-expanding library of potential responses we have chosen to build.

Serenity is an Inner Home| 11:12

Like a home that comes with us wherever we go, it’s something we grow, nurture, and reinforce within ourselves. It’s built from the inside out with acceptance, connection, meaning, creativity (a spirit of expansion and possibility), and playfulness (inviting the time to stop and engage unproductively).

Serenity is The Calm After a Storm | 12:26

Serenity is that feeling afterwards when everything is out. The emotions can be named, held, and let go. The clouds can disperse and dissipate.

Serenity is not just the calm after the storm; it’s surrender to the storm itself. It knows that to process life, sometimes a storm needs to happen.

The Difference Between Serenity and Tranquility | 14:00

Serenity helps peace flow from the inside to the outside. Tranquility aims to invite peace from the outside to the inside.

This distinction matters because there is always something we can consider on one side of the equation, even when there’s nothing we can do about it on the other.

Serene People are a Source of Confidence | 18:49

Serene people contribute to our tranquility. When we spend time with people with a lot of inside-out serenity, we get infected. It’s attractive and safe for us to develop and nurture our inner serenity. We tend to reflect the energy we encounter in the people we spend time with. We might inadvertently absorb their values, beliefs, and priorities.

When you know they are there, you feel confident that you will find a way through even if something unexpected happens. Can you think of someone who adds to the tranquility of your life?

Serenity IS Connection | 21:31

At its core, I think serenity is about being connected. It’s a sense of connection with ourselves, others, and meaning.

Obstacles to Inner Connection | 23:19

There might be sources of noise from the outside world, but there can also be inner noise. This is the internal feedback loop that we can’t shake off from overthinking, judgements, and second-guessing.

Self-empathy allows us to observe within and become aware of our thoughts and feelings so we might recognise what we need. It’s a pause. A break in the flow of life to consider what might be alive in us at any given moment.

Do You Get The Feeling You’re Being Watched? | 25:52

Inner noise also comes from seeing ourselves through the eyes of others…or we believe we are being watched.

The presence of that other person suddenly influences our actions. Whether we thrive off attention or avoid it at all costs, this noise can stimulate or sabotage our ability to think and perform.

Connect With Meaning | 33:28

In his book Finding Meaning, David Kessler builds on the Five Stages of Grief, adding a sixth, Meaning, which draws from Viktor Frankl’s work in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Kessler suggests that there is an experience of post-traumatic connection that occurs when we integrate loss into our story of being. We can apply this to anything that doesn’t turn out as we would choose. Things that radically change our reality and events that shift the trajectory of our lives.

Eventually, we will connect the dots between what we’ve been through and where we are going next.

Man’s Search For Meaning | 36:38

Viktor Frankl was taken by the idea that even in the most unbearable circumstances, people can find a reason to keep going. He noticed that there is something that sustains us. Something that keeps us moving, even under the horrors he endured and observed in Nazi death camps during the Second World War.

Our decisions, our will to survive, and our desire to grow, develop, and learn becomes rooted in something meaningful. Even if we can’t consciously describe it.

Connection With Other People | 40:30

Serenity is the safe connection with others. Are we unconditionally valued in our important relationships? Are we still accepted, even if we do or say something a bit stupid?

True Connection is Not a Transaction | 42:57

A genuine connection is not transactional. It’s not pay off and trade-off, where we say, “do this for me, and I’ll do that for you”.

Serenity is surrender, shaped around letting go. It’s about allowing the flow to happen even when we can’t control or predict it.

Serenity isn’t certainty. It’s being ok with uncertainty. Serenity isn’t having enough. It’s peace with the fact you will never have enough. Serenity isn’t balancing. It’s allowing life to be lopsided.

Practising Serenity | 45:06

We are not looking for a destination. It’s not about perfection. We aren’t seeking guarantees, certainties, and promised results.

The practices related to serenity are personal. They are about surrender, observation, awareness, and response-ability.

Serenity is about allowing ourselves space and permission to notice what we notice.

Practise The Art of Noticing | 46:24

We practise serenity when we pause to notice what’s alive in the world around us. When we look up and allow ourselves to be here now. No judgement, just acceptance and a spirit of play, exploration, and curiosity. It’s about seeing where the mind wanders, what we see there, and what we notice about the metaphorical thorn we’ve caught our sleeve on.

Take an Alternative View | 49:34

Play with alternative ways of doing, thinking, and responding. We can gently scrutinise assumptions, actions, and choices. This helps us know whether or not they’re still helpful for us.

Serenity is about being at peace with the choices we make. This requires us to live from a place of intention rather than drift.

Accept and Invite Play | 50:48

Serenity grows in the space we make for play and spontaneity.

Sometimes play might beckon us in. Do we shut the door and walk away? Maybe we dismiss it by saying, “yes, I should do more of that kind of thing…one day”. Or do we surrender to it and say, “OK, it looks like this is happening now; let’s see where this leads”?

Serenity is Play
The screenshot from the spontaneous playtime in The Haven co-work session I mentioned in the episode

Share What You Notice | 53:42

Serenity emerges when we have an outlet to share the stuff that makes us weird. We encounter, observe, and hold the world in unique ways.

We experience serenity through the safety of sharing what we notice. This often starts within us.

It is a muscle we can train. So that even when other people look at us blankly, we can enjoy the weird and wonderful perspective we have on the world. We can learn to stop taking differences as insults and embrace them instead.

The Haven | 56:33

If this resonates and you want to explore simple and practical ways to invite more serenity into everyday life, come and join me in The Haven.

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