Spirituality in an Age of Anxiety

Spirituality in an Age of Anxiety

On the evening of March 26, 2019, Hakan Yesilova– editor of The Fountain Magazine – shared a talk about the spiritual struggles faced during an age in which anxiety has become prevalent. He began by noting that so many of us have become too familiar with the beautiful things throughout the world that they have essentially become “normal” for us and defined this over-familiarity as “habituation”. With the decrease in our responsiveness to the positive and beautiful things throughout the world, we have become overwhelmed with our responsibilities and deadlines which have led to an increase in anxiety.

He continued by describing spirituality as our “inner essence” and that it could give us an alternative perspective to overcoming anxiety. That is, spirituality and anxiety are ultimately in an inverse relationship:  the more spiritual someone is, the less anxious they are and vice versa. He discussed that a way to overcome anxiety was though “tawakkul” or acceptance. Acceptance of one’s own disease is the first step towards overcoming or curing it. Positive thinking and actions could help us come to terms with ourselves as well as our lives. It is important that we fulfill our responsibilities first and rely on God for what is to come next. While some people have been blessed with God’s grace, others have gone through many hardships. However, the way they lived their lives has become a model example for the rest of us. He therefore urged that we think positively and asked, “How willing are we to let things go?” They will all disappear one day anyways.. adding that tawakkul is fundamentally letting the world go before it leaves us.

Yesilova also brought up the question of  “what are we?”. No one is from just one place, but are from many different places. For example, Yesilova’s children were born in Turkey, he is originally Albanian, but they live in the United States. So identity can be confusing and DNA tests can even reveal different aspects of one’s background that wasn’t apparent before. 

Separation is another concept Yesilova talked about. He described that “galut” is a Jewish term and idea used for exile and the diaspora. Similarly, “hijra” means migration and immigration and in difficult circumstances, Muslims are asked and encouraged to leave. He stated that, “our anxiety comes from our homesickness which is not this world.”  He gave the example that people of spirituality and truth suffer among bigots and are thus separated. Thus, they are always in a state of immigration. We need to realize the majesty of God, but also experience His compassion because His mercy dominates the entire universe. 

Yesilova concluded his talk by defining Ihsan, which means excellence. It is the highest level a believer can have in regards to their relationship with God. Ihsan gives depth and meaning to one’s beliefs. It is a form of consciousness, knowing why we are doing what we are. As the movie Evan Almighty states, when you ask for love perhaps God gives you an opportunity to love and when you ask for patience, He gives you an opportunity to be patient. Struggles are an opportunity to grow spiritually.