quality or state of being tranquil; calmness; peacefulness; quiet; serenity.
How do I attain tranquility? How do I imagine tranquility in my life? How can I create tranquil waters for both by inner and my outer life?
These were questions I was contemplating almost a year ago at a yoga retreat in Colorado. The word tranquility kept coming to me and I knew it was something I needed to pay sincere attention to. I believe this desire for tranquility comes from a deep inner yearning for peaceful wholeness. I imagine I'm not unlike most people who desire to be content with who they are, where they are in their lives, who they are becoming, even what experiences they have had. I desire to grab that brass ring of serenity and to never let it go. But how?
There are ways we can nurture our spirituality that can lead to inner and outer tranquility, however, these are spiritual exercises that must also be seen as spiritual disciplines. In order to be good at something, most of us need practice. The more we do something, the better we become, the better the feel we have for it is and the more confidence we have in our own abilities to do what it is we're doing. It is the same in our spiritual lives. We need to be mindful not to neglect the conditions of our souls. Paying attention to that deep inner voice can bring us great certainty and tranquility...over time.
One spiritual discipline I enjoy is meditation. Meditation and prayer go hand-in-hand. For years I struggled with a decent prayer life, some days I still do, and that was partly because my mind was so busy I couldn't stay on the prayer track. Have you ever experienced that? You know, one minute you're praying for something and the next minute you're thinking about all the things you have to do tomorrow. Our minds need tranquility in order for our souls to have tranquility. Meditation helps with this. It helps us train our minds to be calm. This takes time and practice, but it makes a tremendous difference.
On Friday night, I attended a local event at the yoga studio I attend. They hosted a female (which was surprising, not sure why, but awesome none-the-less) Buddhist monk from a local Buddhist temple. The monk came to talk about meditation and how it can help with alleviating stress. Aaah, that's a key word right there. Boo stress. I want to make sure you know that being a Christian doesn't mean we don't listen to, study and dialogue with others from different faiths. Whether it be Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Taoists, Catholics, Protestants...we have a lot to gain from one another if we would simply talk to each other. Attending a Buddhist or Jewish event doesn't mean we're converting, it means we're open to seeing our faith through a different lens. Since opening my mind and my soul to this kind of interfaith dialogue, my relationship with God has ever deepened. I am a better Christian for spending time with people of other faiths. Their faith has often inspired me to be better and more attentive to my faith.
Anyway, the meditation class was wonderful. The monk taught us different ways of meditation to help us get to deep silence...I find this a great time for deep prayer. Often times we think that a good prayer is filled up with big words and lots of words. Some of the best prayers are the ones where we invite God into the moment and ask God to hear our hearts. We remove the words. We remove thinking about it. And...in this silence, we open up the opportunity for us to stop talking and start listening to God.
The monk did say some pretty enlightening things. I'm sure you've heard them before, but they bare repeating. She said that we spend our whole lives seeking to find happiness. All human beings, regardless of faith or culture, race or geographic location, we all want to be happy. So many of us try to buy happiness. We believe that the more things we have, the more money we earn, the bigger the house, the nicer the car, the better we can attain the better we will be. We all know that truly this is not the case. Our eyes are on the wrong things. In order for our happiness to be evident in all things external, we must find the essence of happiness internally, we must seek happiness for our soul. Maybe I think having another baby will make me happy. Surely it will, but it will not be able to be the center of my happiness through life. There will always be something else I want or need or desire that will make me happy, but only for a moment. Traveling makes me happy, my family makes me happy, but what if...what if...I couldn't travel ever again and I found myself suddenly alone. Could I find happiness inside?
What do you think? Can you define your happiness by things internal or just things external? Does your spiritual life bless and reward you with inner happiness? In what ways are you seeking tranquility?
By the way, the photo above is a picture of me meditating in my "happy place". I traveled to Maui in January of '09 and this spot was on the Road to Hana. I hiked up these lovely lava rocks in flip-flops (not advised) and found this spot. Whenever things in life seem to be at an unrest, I soar right back to this place and pray. This is my "happy place" for meditation. It's, for me, the essence of tranquility. As the ocean waters would rush in and slam against the rocks, the water would softly trickle down and for a few moment in the rush of the waves, there was still water, there existed a calm. The waves will always be rolling in upon our shore, but we must seek to notice the moments of tranquility and embrace them with sheer delight of soul.