I was watching the movie, Kundun, the true story of the 14th Dalai Lama. One of the things that struck me was how peaceful he was. The actor radiated a deep calm. I understand the real Dalai Lama does too, even under catastrophic circumstances such as those portrayed in the movie.
As part of their spiritual practice, the Buddhists in Tibet say prayers to bring enlightenment to all beings. They wish others well and pray that people find happiness and peace.
I have tried this, just for the hell of it, and found it feels good. Wishing others well — only in my head, now, I'm not talking about saying anything aloud — feels soothing and calming. One of the most distressing experiences is being angry at people and feeling hurt by them. The habit of wishing others well counters that directly. It makes sense that the practice would lead to peace and calm.
If you were in almost continual prayer or meditation, you could probably remain as tranquil as a holy person, no matter what happened. I know, I know, that's crazy, right? You've got a life to live, and you're not about to meditate it away. But I'm thinking more along these lines: What if when you met with someone, you occasionally said something like this to yourself, "May you find happiness."
What would that do to your state of mind? What if while you were walking to your car to go to work, you said a silent prayer for all beings? What state would that put you in? Would you be calmer or more tolerant if someone tailgated you? I think you would. And why not? Most of the negative thoughts we think about other people are worse than worthless. Why not replace it with the practice of blessing other people?
Now when I say "blessing," I don't necessarily mean anything religious. I'm not much of a religious person. You've probably guessed already. I just mean wishing others well. If you want to think of it as asking God for it, or directing some kind of cosmic energy, or using "mind power" or simply wishing it, the effect on your own body is probably the same.
I've been trying out this idea, and it has some very good effects. I haven't ascended yet, but I'm working on it. Last night a friend of mine really got on my back. We were working on a project together, but she was all over me, overseeing me and questioning me to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything or to make sure I was doing it right, and she was very intense about it. When I got up this morning, I thought about last night and I was mad at her. And resentful. But I tried this method — I made a wish that she find happiness in her life — and immediately it changed my feelings toward her. It changed the way I saw her behavior last night. To wish her well, I had to shift myself to a different point of view and from the new perspective, it was clear to me that she meant well and that reminded me that she's a decent, kind person who has been very good to me. It is as if the act of blessing her disengaged me or unhooked me from my self-righteousness, and I became more the kind of person I want to be.
The day after I wrote this article, I came across a new study by researchers at Columbia University showing that women who were trying to get pregnant were twice as successful if someone was praying for their success. And the people praying for the women were total strangers. The women didn't know they were being prayed for, and the nurses and doctors didn't know either. The researchers were surprised, and weren't sure whether or not they should publish their findings, but they decided to do it because the differing pregnancy rates were so huge between the two groups.
My emphasis in this article has been on the effect on you when you wish others well, but it may also be true (and I thought it might help the effect on you) that it might actually help the other person. I'm pretty skeptical about this stuff, but this isn't the first study I've seen like this. I almost didn't include this study in this chapter but it seems to add some oomph too my well-wishing to think that my blessings might actually do the people some real good, so I put it in.
Give a silent prayer of good wishes — happiness, well-being, peace — for someone. This is good for you and it might be good for the people you interact with. Sometimes praying for others' well-being feels like a job and you just don't feel like it. When that's the case, wish yourself well. You probably need it.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.