Yesterday I found out that the 7 train I normally take to go to Green-Point Brooklyn wasn’t running, so I had to take the G train which I have never taken before. As soon as the door of the train closed, a young man started to scream very loudly. He seemed very angry and upset, and kept repeating something about money owed to him that he didn’t receive. He looked like he was having a psychotic episode, and there was a sense of danger to him, like he could snap and get violent.
When you have lived in NYC for a long time, you know intuitively how to conduct yourself when someone around you is having a psychotic episode. Most of the people in the car continued reading or looking into their phones, and seemed like they were minding their own business. But I was wondering how they really felt inside, because while I couldn’t wait to get to the next stop soon enough to leave the car and be safe, I also wanted to help this man to manage his episode and the passengers be more at ease. (I worked for a year as a teacher and demonstrator on a study for outpatient schizophrenics, who would often go into a ‘voice’ and be consumed by it, but were also able to respond to ‘coherent breathing’ and manage their voices)
While all this was going on, I re-memebred that I first needed to take care of my self and follow the model of “When you are in a plane and the oxygen masks drop, you have to first put the mask on your own face before you put it on the face of the infant sitting on your lap.” To take care of myself, I needed to pay loving attention. While the stressful story in my head was going strong and demanded my attention, I connected to the breath in my body and followed it’s pace. I could then breathe with more ease and let go of the the stress, open my heart with compassion to the fear, and feel more relief. I then had a heart for the passengers in the car, and breathed~love to the troubled man. Soon after, the man who was pacing around nervously sat down, and seemed calmer. That incident reinforced my conviction that when we calm our own world, we contribute to creating a calmer world.
Samuel Jakob Kirschner – Voice of the BREAZE