When we think of being a champion, a winner, or a success we generally have a mental picture in our mind of the striving athlete, the aggressive businessperson, or an energetic youth. It is natural to want to be “the best”.
In beginning this article I quickly am reminded of Muhammed Ali who passionately claimed he was “The Greatest of All Time!”. Yes, for him to achieve such wild success and popularity he had to work really hard to become such a skilled boxer. But the fact of the matter is that one of the greatest fighters in the world who ever lived was actually also one of the nicest and serene people you could have ever met.
I actually have shaken hands with Muhammed Ali. My family was at a political meeting in Louisville in support for the candidate for Governor at the time Harvey Sloane, who didn’t win the nomination. After the meeting was over Ali was meeting and greeting people who had come to the event.
I was just a kid at the time and I gotta say that Ali seemed bigger than life to me. He was tall, had broad shoulders and big strong hands. But, when he shook my hands his grip was firm but gentle. He was soft spoken and had just a normal what I would call a “Kentucky” sort of charming smile. There was no agitation in him at all.
Later he always admitted that his “bigmouth” was as much a promotional ploy to get attention and excitement for his fights. He would also comment that saying those things were self-affirming and made him feel stronger inside. But, he was never out of control or violent, always in control and confident.
How did he achieve this? He did it through his religious practice. His practice gave him serenity in a world that was very turbulent.
As a white man from the exact same city as Ali, my experience in the world was much different than his. He was about 18 years older than me, so society was much different for him growing up than it was when I was growing up. There is no way that I can even partially understand the injustice he experienced as a black youth in Louisville growing up.
I’ll admit he was confusing to me at that time because of all of the different opinions being expressed about his art, his refusal to join the Army, and his conversion to Islam. On one hand I admired his courage and liked it that he was able to show such belief in himself, but on the other hand I was concerned about his “avoiding the draft” and not serve his country. I was really young at the time, and I wasn’t quite sure what to think, but I knew one thing, he was standing up for what he truly believed in and didn’t avoid the punishment society gave him for it. I always thought he was right about his stance on that subject. We as free Americans do have the right to stand up for what we believe in without the fear of persecution from the government or society.
So when I think of being a “Champion of Serenity” I think of a real life example of Ali. He was incredibly strong mentally, and not afraid to say what he believed and felt was right.
I know that he had to have been very angry for much of his youth. But he chose to become a man of peace and a man of love with the obvious talents of wit.
But to become a “Champion of Serenity” takes consistent practice while taking part in the world. Anyone can sit in a sanctuary and meditate and be serene, but can you do it amidst the turbulence of life? When all around you is spiraling out of control, can you find your inner anchor, the weight of presence, the keel that steadies the ship in the sea of uncertainty.
Nobody can give you that but people can help you along the way. You have to have it as a principle motivation in your life. The goal of self serenity can only be achieved in the present moment, newly practiced every day and to be serene while on the path to achieving great things in life is possible the number one ingredient for that success.
Being a “Champion of Serenity” makes you a trustworthy person. I think that the thing that made Ali such a popular figure in the world is because people sensed that they didn’t have to fear him. They knew he wouldn’t hurt them. They trusted him as a human being. He understood their pain and showed everyone respect and love.
I often wonder why these are such rare qualities to find in people. I think it is because people are concerned with getting taken advantage of, or it makes you seem vulnerable and can lead to criticism. But mostly it is out of fear.
Fear causes us to build an armor around us where we protect our dearest possession, our heart because it seems so very fragile.
To build a strong heart serenity is the only way to get there. It doesn’t mean to become a passive person it means to become an active member of society who opens their heart to others. I think people are generally attracted to people who have serenity in them.
One thing is for sure, serenity cannot be achieved naturally, it takes practice, commitment, and consistency of those two things. The rewards are great. It means the ability to act when fearful, help when uncertain, and learn when confused.
It all starts with the here and now. If you are constantly looking to the next thing and trying to be past the present moment, then you are causing yourself stress. Conquer the present moment with serenity and become a champion!