In such a chaotic world it is easy to feel overwhelmed. How do we cope with the pressures and demands? It helps if we break things down into small steps.

Mary Kretzmann, the head of our Healing Prayer Ministry, related how difficult it is to keep staff over a long period of time. People get overwhelmed by the many tragic circumstances among the prayer requests sent to Ananda each month—hundreds of them. She told a lovely story about how she copes with this problem:

A young girl was walking on a beach on which thousands of starfish had washed up after a big storm. She would stop, pick up a starfish, and gently toss it back into the ocean.

After a while an observer approached her and said, “Why are you doing this? The beach is littered with thousands of starfish. You can’t save them all. In fact you can’t begin to make much of a difference.”

The young girl stooped to pick up one more. After she threw it back into the sea, she looked up and said, “Well, I made a difference to that one.” The man nodded quietly and joined her in helping the ones they could.

Mary applies this principle to her particular service, but it applies to so many circumstances in our lives. When we feel overwhelmed it helps to tackle the problems one step at a time.

It also helps to keep a sense of humor. Devi and I would often save up a good joke to tell Swami Kriyananda at our customary afternoon tea with him. I can vividly remember the look on his face as he waited with joyful anticipation for the punch line. Here is one we told him:

A rather pompous minister arrived at the pearly gates. St. Peter glanced at him and told him to sit down and wait. A little while later a bedraggled man in old clothes arrived and St. Peter lit up with joy. “Joe, it is so good to see you. Your seat in heaven is waiting.”

The minister, upset by this, asked, “Why does he get the red-carpet treatment while you ignore me? I’ve been doing God’s work for many decades.”

St. Peter replied, “Well, you see, Joe was a cabdriver in New York City. A lot more people offered up sincere prayers in the back seat of his cab than ever did in your church.” I can still remember Swami roaring with laughter as his natural joy bubbled to the surface.

We can’t get far with problems, either in daily life or in meditation, unless we learn to concentrate on one thing at a time. It also helps to approach our problems with a little detachment. So often, when feeling overwhelmed we resort to daydreaming or fantasizing. There is a verse in Swami Kriyananda’s song, “The Christ Child’s Asleep” that captures this beautifully:

Our pleasures and pains,
Our losses, our gains
Have kept us long bound.
The ropes of yearning hemmed us ’round.
We dreamed of imposing on desert sand
Flower gardens of beauty, verdant vales of delight:
Imagination misted our sight!

So, concentration, humor, and detachment are our allies. We would do well to ignore the larger issues for the moment and take things one step at a time. If it works for starfish, cabdrivers, and swamis, it will work for us too.

In love and joy,

Nayaswami Jyotish

Listen to Jyotish as he first reads the blog, then expands on its meaning and messages for readers with behind-the-blog commentary. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (8:14):

healing life force therapy and techniques yogananda teachings kriyaThe new trilogy shared by Nayaswami Shivani on Healing with Life Force: Teachings and Techniques of Paramhansa Yogananda, is now available in Italy, India, and the U.S. In addition, you might enjoy various resources on healing and prayer compiled by our prayer ministry and Mary Kretzmann.


  1. That was awesome 👌🏽💕🌷Thank you so much for sharing 🙏

  2. Thank you; the timing was perfect for me to read this. ❤️🌟❣️🙏🏼

  3. Thank you for this beautiful blog Jyotish ji, and the hilarious joke. Cab driver I aspire to be!

  4. I appreciate these these articles. They are always positive and inspirational.

  5. Wow!🙏 A magnificent blessing in words. I had to re-read every word over and over. Namaste!🙏❤️

  6. It just goes to show that not all nature is human nature but it’s not any less tangeble.

  7. I do my best to do everything in my life step by step. It helps my by
    concentation and focus on one point.
    Thank you so much for your story.

  8. Thank you. I needed to hear that in light of my son’s 6 month post cancer surgery scans coming up. One step, one moment, one joy at a time and reliance on the serenity provided by the Divine. 💛

  9. You never disappoint, dear soul. Thank you deeply for the ardent reminder of She who is in Charge and always available. Also, your sharing of the lyrics of ‘Christ Child’ had me take a mental and perhaps an emotional step back. I have sung this song many times and have not been particularly cognizant of the depth of meaning of Swamiji’s intention to express, perhaps our deepest challenges, and seek God and Guru’s guidance to help uplift me/us in all we do. Making right decisions with right attitude. In Joy, Steve

  10. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. Very useful guidelines. To be put in to practice immediately. Much needed for daily life…

    I enjoyed the joke :-) thanks for sharing!


  11. AUM🙏
    I can totally relate to the New York City Cabdriver.
    I too have prayed in the backseat, many times 😉Hahaha

  12. Well Jyotish,
    You’ve always got more. You and Devi told me in Fort Collins how you had written 500 of these pieces and it just keeps on coming. I so compliment you on your drive and also your keen intuition and readiness to do God’s work. I now hold you and Devi up to the light of God and Guru and thank you for all you have done and will do. Blessings,,Jeff

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