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Ottawa Creative Writers’ Group

March 27, 2011

How can one overcome the anxieties of this world?

It would be helpful, at the outset, if we disabused ourselves of the notion that we can achieve a permanent and complete victory over anxiety. Trying too hard to achieve peace of mind or rebelling against the cares and sorrows of life would only aggravate the problem. Accepting that anxiety is part and parcel of human life, particularly as our responsibilities increase with age, is in itself a first step to overcoming it.

This attitude of acceptance creates a little space around the problem and helps us to manage it and achieve greater peace of mind. The saying from popular spirituality is true: “Resist and it shall persist.” The greater good is to willingly, and even happily, bear the anxieties that come with the increased cares and responsibilities of life. To do so shows proof of great faith and courage and achieves a high spiritual station.

Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), the head and Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, answered an individual who had queried him along the lines of today’s question. He answered:

“But suffering, although an inescapable reality, can nevertheless be utilized as a means for the attainment of happiness. This is the interpretation given to it by all the Prophets and saints, who, in the midst of severe tests and trials, felt happy and joyous and experienced what is best and holiest in life. Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us to better adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self-improvement … What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings” (letter of 29 May 1935).

A number of practical spiritual aids also assist in overcoming anxiety. These include prayer and meditation, which give us greater peace of mind, finding the guidance offered in scripture, seeking the good counsel of wise and trusted friends, and using what the great psychiatrist Viktor Frankl called “logotherapy” — finding some hidden or deeper meaning or wisdom in the anxious situation that has troubled us.
- Jack McLean

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© The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Ottawa, Canada 2011