Life is like a restless sea, full of wonders and always in a state of perpetual turmoil caused by the waves of events. No one is secure from the waves on the surface of this deep ocean.
Certainly, the means of comfort and welfare have never been so within man's reach in any era of history to the extent they are accessible today. In the shadow of science and with the power of technology, the civilized human being has overcome many of his difficulties by employing nature's various forces to his benefit.
However, despite these remarkable advancements in science and its brilliant achievements, and in spite of possessing all the different means essential for a better life, man today possess less feeling of inner peace and less peace of mind.
Causes of Anxiety
One of the factors responsible for anxiety is acquisitiveness. In a social environment where people's thoughts revolve around the axis of materialism, where wealth and material comforts are considered the criteria of prosperity, and where everyone is constantly after the satisfaction of this inner urge, life is undoubtedly full of perpetual stress and anxiety. That is because no matter however extensive one's efforts may be, he cannot satisfy his endless greed, fill his mental vacuum, and realize all his desires and wishes. Also, often there arise insuperable obstacles in the way of his desires and goals, which decreases the peace of mind.
That which is certain is that one cannot succeed in solving one's problems with agitation and vexation, for agitation does not increase the capacity of one who has made a mistake, and regret and sorrow cannot change what is past. The only result that one obtains from his gloomy thoughts is to make his life gloomy, paralyze his activity and loose peace of mind. Peace of mind is necessary for one to disentangle the issues through reflection, and then try not to repeat the mistake. It is by correct reasoning that man can bring a discipline in his moral conduct.
The extent of attention that one directs to the future or the present greatly affects one's spiritual well-being. There are some people who give an extraordinary importance to the future; as a result they miss the opportunity to benefit from the present. However, one must remember that the past has no influence on the present and the future too is unforeseeable.
If you reflect you will see that amongst your friends, and even within your own family, those who have a positive way of thinking fascinate you more than the others. You like to be with them most of the time. Those who have a positive way of thinking are happier, livelier and have more peace of mind.
They get things done and make them work. They might make many mistakes, but then they have the perspicacity to acknowledge their mistakes and correct them. They have the determination to start all over again. They don't waste time worrying or loosing peace of mind over something that will probably not happen. In every twenty-four hours about more than twenty million meteorites enter the earth's atmosphere. But there is no reliable record of any person getting killed anywhere due to the falling of any of these meteors.
Life is a continuous stream of problems, and these have to be confronted with determination. Many of the problems that decrease our peace of mind, which we allow to upset us and spoil several hours of our life, and at times a whole day, are actually insignificant and of no consequence. The difficulty is that at the time we are not capable of noticing their insignificance.
And then whether these probable problems really take place or not, the present anxiety has no result except diminishing one's physical and spiritual capacities. In different stages of life one may encounter events that block the way of success. These events are not exceptional and happen for every one. We cannot alter the eternal laws of nature and make things happen according to our wishes.
Should the physical and mental energies that are consumed by anxiety concerning imaginary problems be spent in fruitful tasks, that can yield valuable and brilliant results. Many are the woes that trouble our hearts on account of self-pity. There is only one remedy for the disease of egoism. We should bring about such a change in our world that we cease regarding ourselves as its center and axis. Rather, we should take others into account and realize the fact that our being is a part of the human society and that our life depends upon and is subject to the welfare and misfortune of the family, community, nation and group to which we belong.
Some people make it their habit to constantly complain regarding their ill fortune and fate and are never satisfied with their life. They imagine that they cannot prosper in life unless all their affairs are set in order and unless they possess considerable wealth and all the means of comfort. They look for peace of mind in the distant horizons of the future while they squander the great asset of life, the precious moments of today, for the sake of the future's dream, whereas if they really care for their inner peace, they would discover it in plain and peaceful lives.
The obstacles that one sees in the way of realization of his goals may be the product of his own thinking, and his success and triumphs may lie hidden in the present itself. If the seed of today should remain unsown, tomorrow will not yield its fruit. Life cannot be lived twice so that one may make amends for his earlier mistakes.
A wise human being derives the maximum benefit from the passing moments of life, which pass quietly and soundlessly. He does not let them go in vain. As a result, with each day his situation improves, the horizon of his life becomes more radiant, and he has more peace of mind. He remains steady and unmoved like the centre in a wheel in the face of accidents and unpleasant events. Should the wave of a problem pass over his head, he is not swept off his feet. He draws benefit from pleasant events and takes lesson from undesirable incidents. He does not expect the world to change in order that events happen according to his wishes. Finally, he spends the hours of his life in such a way that at the end of the day he does not have any regret or remorse.
What we have said concerning giving attention to the present does not mean that one should do something today without paying attention to its bad consequences in the future. What we mean is that one should not let one's peace of mind be disturbed by regret for the past and anxiety regarding the future.
Those who are short-sighted seek refuge in external means in order to seek freedom from the chains of anguish. Because, on the one hand, man's wishes and desires are in a state of perpetual change and, on the other, there is nothing permanent and enduring in this turbulent world. Should man's happiness depend on external things, it would always be prone to destruction. Ultimately, nothing that is transitory and impermanent can give him true peace of mind.
A man's thoughts and ideas exercise a profound influence on his spiritual well-being. His progress and backwardness and, in a word, his spiritual qualities depend on his way of thinking. Various factors have an effect on one's way of thinking and looking at things. One who enjoys an active intellect is not overwhelmed by total despondency in his inability to obtain material resources and derive benefit from the external world. The world does not appear to him to be dark and frightful. Rather, he immediately closes shut the windows of the spirit that face external things and turns to the enjoyment of spiritual pleasures. Thereby he takes himself into a world free from the bondage of suffering and where he can satiate himself with the cup of felicity and peace of mind.
Hardships of Life
Metals, in order to be separated from impurities, are melted in hot furnaces. Hardships of life have similar result for the human being. They purify him and purge him of impurities, and prepare him for fulfilling his human duties. Ultimately no individual can attain to peace of mind and survival except in the shadow of hardships.
In order to drive home the same point, Rumi says:
"Cast was the wheat grain under the soil,
Then, ears of corn were gathered from its dust,
Then, it was ground between the millstones,
And lo, its worth rose and it became life-giving bread!
Then the bread was crushed under the teeth,
And lo, it became intellect, soul and gainful understanding!"
Hardships and difficulties make up the touchstone of morality. In the same way as some plants must be squeezed to give out their perfume, so also some natures have to be subjected to hardship in order that their essential talents and merits become manifest.
Under all circumstances, defeat and hardship are wiser teachers than happiness and comfort. Defeat reforms and strengthens an individual's character; suffering and hardship bring discipline and awareness to nature. They initiate the person in the rites of patience and forbearance, developing the most sublime thoughts and ideas in his mind. Only hardships can fathom the depths of human thought.
The great extent of one's expectations leads one to become a constant victim of sorrow and distress. Some people consider an immoderate amount of wealth to be a prerequisite for happiness and mental peace. Happiness and wretchedness, peace and anxiety have their own particular criterion in which wealth, position and prestige do not play any role. There are narrow-minded rich persons in this world who go hungry despite all their riches and who do not know any comfort, and there are many poor people who lament on account of their poverty. As a subtle poet says:
"Alas, that the golden cup of self-contentment,
Was turned into a beggars bowl by our acquisitiveness!"
Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, said:
"No treasure is as plentiful as contentment and the one who is not greedy and is content with the income that meets the needs of his life has procured the means of his well-being and mental peace."
Also in the opinion of researchers in the field of man's psychic life, a high level of expectations is a source of anxiety and dissatisfaction, whereas the observance of moderation and contentment gives mental peace and security.
In the field of mental health there is a principle called 'the principle of contentment' according to which: The lesser one's expectations are, the greater is one's peace of mind. To the extent that we minimize our expectations, we will also reduce the probability of defeat and failure. As a result, the oppressive feeling of expectation that besiege us prior to the achievement of success are automatically reduced. In fact, the principle of happiness is no other than the principle of contentment.
However, one should remember that the meaning of the principle of happiness and contentment is not that one should sit idle and refrain from every kind of activity and effort. What is meant by the principle of happiness is getting to know of one's own limits, abilities and means and becoming reconciled with one's capacities and powers. It means that one should not extend one's expectations beyond the ken of one's capacities and make unrealistic and extravagant demands upon them.
Role of Faith in Spiritual Peace
A study of the history of human progress proves that the supports of man's civilization and culture have always rested on the shoulders of those for whom the power of faith had made it easy for them to bear the heavy burden of hardship whose negative effects were neutralized by the faith present in their strong hearts. Psychologists generally admit that the power of faith is amazingly effective in the cure of psychic diseases and creation of confidence and inner peace. In cases where severe hardships shatter man's personality and divest him of his hope and will power, trust in Allah(God) produces a profound and undeniable effect in a defeated soul. Failure, adversity, and defeat can never create a storm in the pure hearts of godly men and make them suffer despair and loss of self-assurance and self-respect.
The faith in Allah(God), like a relief valve, helps regulate psychic urges which are themselves the mainspring of man's spiritual afflictions. The faith in Allah(God) gives a visage of perfect beauty to life, because when one has the conviction that everything does not come to an end with this life it creates an inner peace and makes him traverse the entire course of life with steadiness and moderation.
Allah(God) has made His remembrance the light and burnish of the hearts. It is by the means of His remembrance that the hearts recover their hearing after being deaf, regain their sight after being blind, and become soft and tractable after being savage and rebellious.
Acquisitiveness and greed which are one of the factors responsible for anxiety, are moderated as a result of faith in Allah(God) and observance of the moral precepts of religion.
Similarly, faith in resurrection and afterlife removes the intolerable strain induced by the idea of absolute annihilation and extinction from the human spirit, for the person with such a faith is convinced that at the threshold of death the door to another world will open in front of him and he will enter an eternal life and its everlasting bounties that cannot be compared with the joys of this world. This faith results in eliminating another agent of mental anxiety which is the anguish of absolute nonexistence.
Faith not only removes anguish and anxiety from the human heart, it can protect it from being overwhelmed by agitation and agony. The Qur'an describes the preventive role of faith in these words:
"So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith" (Quran : 3/139)
"Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah; now surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest." (Quran : 13/28)
"It is He Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the Believers" (Quran: 48/4)
"Those who belief and mix not up their belief with injustice - it is they who shall have peace, and who are rightly guided."(Quran: 6/82)
* Note about References: This website does not necessarily agree with all the ideas and the political view of the author of the referenced articles.