Monday, September 16, 2013

Anxiety and the Simple Life



Why is it that there is so much anxiety in daily lives? Usually anxiety arises when things are not going the way we think they should. To take a very simple example, we were troubled by a new refrigerator that made some loud and unusual noises. The old one worked fine but we wanted more space. We had spent a good sum of money for this new device and expected it to make our lives better, but instead, it became a very annoying device. We called the repair man and he came out and told us the noise was a normal one. Well, we knew it was not normal. So now, with a bit an anxiousness, we think  about what to do. Did we make a big mistake in this purchase? What can we do to resolve this new irritant in our lives? We call the person who sold it to us to see what recourse we had to correct this problem. In the meantime this issue lingers in our mind about how we are going to resolve it. For us the noise was unacceptable, and we felt it was unfair to expect us to accept this kind of performance from a new refrigerator. But how were we going to get a company like GE to do something about it? To make a long story short, eventually we did resolve the problem but there was a lot of  energy put into getting it resolved. Plus many idle conversations were had over this. 

Our lives are filled with much more serious events than this one that cause anxiety, but they all add up and we feel like we are suffering from something we cannot quite describe. When we are anxious, our demeanor suffers and our relationships with others suffer which adds to our anxiety. Also, and most importantly, our spiritual life is degraded and we lose site our our true purpose. We find ourselves focused on ourselves and mundane issues of a material world trying to get everything around us to go the way we want it. 

This is the basic problem with our materialistic way of life coupled with our self-centeredness. We want everything to obey our commands including mother nature.

Elder Paisios says the following:
People today have made their lives difficult, because they are not satisfied with a few things, but are constantly chasing after more and more material goods. 
So how do we deal with this fact of modern life? We can't all go off to a monastery and escape. The key is to not set such high expectations out of this material world and set our hopes instead on the life to come. We can learn to strive less for material well being and begin to strive more for spiritual well being.

Elder Paisios says,
Those who would like to live a genuine spiritual life must first of all be satisfied with a few things. When their life is simplified without too many concerns and nuances, not only will they be liberated from the worldly spirit, they will also have plenty of time available for spiritual things. Otherwise they will tire themselves out by trying to follow the fashion of the times; they will lose their serenity and will gain only great anxiety. 
All the fancy things we pile onto our life adds to its complexity. You can do something as simple as install a new carpet and then find you begin to worry about it getting soiled and start tormenting all who come through your house. Just because of a carpet! 

We can learn to seek simple and practical material goods, things that make our life easier with less hassle. This is not a simple task but one worthwhile pursuing. Keep life simple and you will find you have more energy for the spiritual life which will bring you great rewards and joy instead of anxiety.

Identify things you do not really need. Seek a smaller house rather than a large one. Identify at least one activity that you can withdraw from to make more free time in your life. Identify one relationship you need to sever. Make time for and build a habit of daily prayer. Simplify your daily menu and follow the fasting guidelines. Repent continually and participate in the life giving sacrament of Holy Communion. With a little effort you can begin to change your way of life towards one that demands less rather then more. The monetary surplus that emerges you can use to help those who are disadvantaged and who cannot meet the minimal material needs of daily life. This is the right path. This is the Orthodox way of life.

Ten Points for Living an Orthodox Way of Life.

Reference: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels IV: Family Life, p 160

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