Top 6 Lessons from my Grandma

1. Forget the wrinkle cream – go for Radiance.

My Grandma was BEAUTIFUL. Lots of people said so. It wasn’t because she was wrinkle free or had lustrous hair or because she ever stepped foot in a gym. She had a radiance that transcended the physical and came from years of working out her inner self. She had an undeniable light that radiated from her and around her.

2. You have enough to be happy right now.

I loved to visit with Grandma in her quiet apartment. One day she sat in her chair, in her 90s, with a blanket draped over her legs. She had developed severe, unrelenting neck pain. She wasn’t one to complain, but when asked directly about it she said, “Yes. It’s still there. I do hurt…but right now in this moment I have everything I need…to have a good day.”

3. Trust they will figure it out.

I was unhappy in my job for years. As I listed everything about it I didn’t like she kept asking me what I WANTED. Again and again (I see now) she attempted to redirect my efforts from fruitlessly focusing on the negative to looking toward the positive. I remember the exact moment she dropped it, looked directly into my eyes and said with conviction, “I know you’ll figure it out”. I had given her no reason to believe that, but she did. And, eventually, I did too.

4. It’s never too late.

Grandma was ahead of her time. She occasionally broke the rules and often took her own road. She was open to new ideas, new ways of thinking and of being. She kept growing and changing and learning. She had the courage to let herself fall madly in love in her 80s. She and Dan had a glorious, spectacular romance and marriage. That relationship was an inspiration to everyone lucky enough to be around them.

5. Be still and Listen

Grandma had a lot of interesting things to say if you were willing to wait through the pauses and let her find her words. She made a practice studying inspirational readings each morning and then sitting still and listening. It was through her that the most influential teachers and books came into my life. These teachings woke up my heart and mind and taught me to sit still…every day…and Listen.

6. You are the author of your story.

I grew up 3,000 miles away from Grandma and our relationship evolved mostly through letters. At age 35 I was finally living nearby and appreciating our face-to-face talks. During one of them she announced that she was at peace with the idea of dying soon and I panicked, “NO! Grandma! I just got here. We haven’t had enough time!” She let me go on for a while and then slowly said, “What if we decided we’ve had the perfect amount of time?”

We can do that. We can decide there is nothing to resist; nothing to regret; nothing to push against. We can decide we’ve had the perfect amount of time.

Marjorie Seelye
May 1921- September 2015

Who are all these people?

Turns out labeling the thoughts and feelings we experience makes us less crazy.

A few years ago I started naming the voices that live in my head. Polly the planner obsessively gets my ducks in a row. Helga the Holier-Than-Thou is absolutely certain how every one should live their life. Nora the naysayer is pragmatic and claims to see life as it really is. Now, before you send me a referral to a good psychiatrist, I was following the advice of a meditation teacher who has some evidence to back up this practice.

Researchers at the Brain Mapping Center at the UCLA school of medicine made the case that labeling calms the mind. In this study, subjects were shown pictures of faces expressing anger or fear and it turned out the fear centers in the subjects brains showed increased blood flow indicating their own fight/flight responses were being stimulated. However, when asked to label the expression they were seeing, the blood flow to fear centers diminished. AND parts of the pre-frontal cortex, a brain area that regulates emotions, showed increased blood flow.
Researchers concluded that labeling, which takes place in the higher regions of the brain, can regulate emotional responses, helping you to feel calmer. Polly keeps my life on track but she gets completely bent out of shape when one of the ducks goes AWOL – which makes her exhausting. Helga tends to put healthy meals on the table but she can get super preachy when she finds fast food containers in the garbage. Nora keeps me from making mistakes like chucking it all to be a ballerina, but she also tries to keep me small and tells me not to write blogs because people might find out what I’m REALLY like.

There’s also Miserable Martha; Complaining Calliope, Aster the Anxious…frankly, its crowded in here. Simply by naming them, they tend to sit down. They stop running the show. The gloriously freeing part is that I don’t have to fix them, or spend energy trying to get them speak differently or even to go away. They are here because sometimes they serve me well and because I am a human being who isn’t perfect. (Prudence the Perfectionist is having a hissy fit over that one). Labeling them reminds me they are not my identity. They are not the Truth of who I am. And when I remember that, I come home to my self. Home to the aspect of me that is loving and compassionate and forgiving and peaceful. This exists too and it is far larger and more powerful than all of the others because it is not alone and separate. It is connected to Life, to the larger Whole, to Source, to the Divine. I don’t create it or build it or sustain it – I need only align with it and allow it to flow to me and through me.

That is the greater truth of Who I am. What a relief.

Invitation: Start noticing and labeling the inner narratives and voices in your head and see if they quiet down a bit once you’ve got their number… and affirmed they are part of this present moment experience, but they are not your identity. (note: If I have inadvertently used your name in this post feel free to label one of your voices Karen the Crackpot).