When the Vietnam war ended and thousands of people fled the country, they became known as the “boat people.” They left in boats that were overcrowded and rickety, facing rough seas and pirates, not knowing where they might land. Thich Nhat Hanh says that if there was one calm person in the boat, that boat was more likely to make it safely to shore.
One of my aspirations is to be that calm person in situations where others are anxious. When I am talking to an anxious person, if I am conscious of it I will deliberately speak more slowly and quietly and deepen my breathing. Often that helps them to be calmer too. At least it helps me not to ratchet up! I also sometimes imagine scary situations so that I can practice maintaining a calm presence; then, if I find myself in that situation in real life, I have a greater possibility of being helpful.
So when you notice me being anxious, help me find my way back to that calm presence!
Photos: Bali, 1987; Venice, 1968