This article in the New York Times was so touching—did you see it? It’s written by a man who was struggling to finish a novel and suddenly having crippling panic attacks. (“Seven years into writing a novel, I started to lose my mind,” he wrote.) To make himself feel better—and quiet his mind—he did something counterintuitive: He started praying for other people.
Here’s an excerpt…
Sitting on the bench by the river that day, I remembered having read in Reader’s Digest—a periodical my family has undue reverence for—that when you are feeling bad, one way to make yourself feel better is to pray for others. I began to pray for the people who were passing by. I prayed for the nanny pushing a stroller. I prayed for the young woman jogging by in spandex. I prayed for the little boy pedaling his bicycle. I prayed that each of them got the same things that I wanted for myself: that they have good health, peace of mind, financial security. By focusing on others and their needs, my own problems seemed less unique and, somehow, less pressing.
…I called my parents a few weeks ago on the second anniversary of my brother’s death. My father began telling me that he felt abandoned by my brother, that my brother’s dying feels like him leaving us. As he spoke, I started thinking: I love you. I love you. My usual response at this point would have been to tell my father that he needed to focus on the future, that what was past was past. Instead I told my father that he was wonderful, that he should think of how brave he had been to take care of his poor sick son for all those years, that his devotion had been heroic. However odd my reasons may seem, I am glad that I said this.
Are you religious? Do you pray for people? Even though I’m not very religious, I love this advice. Sometimes when I’m walking around the city or taking a cab, I’ll watch people go by, look at their faces and think of the complicated lives they must lead—all their worries, hopes and fears; how they might be planning a trip to visit their mom, how they might be reminding themselves to pick up a prescription, how they might be hurrying home to see their children. It makes you really love strangers in a funny way.
P.S. His article reminded me in some ways of Humans of New York.
(Photo from the movie Her)