I’ve always wanted my grandfather to read my blog.
He’s 92 and a very mindful kind of guy. He lives in the present moment and is eternally happy doing so. He never worries about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. And he never lets his emotions get the best of him.
He’s Zen like that.
He appreciates my love of Buddhism and mindfulness. So much so, that last year he hand carved a Buddha for me.
So, while I thought my grandfather would appreciate my blog posts, there was only one thing standing in the way of him reading them.
He’s never used it, hardly knows what it is, and wouldn’t know what to do with it even if he tried.
Never one to back down from a challenge, last week I picked out my favorite blog posts and I went old school on them.
I printed them.
After pulling together some of the most powerful words I’ve ever written, I gently ran them through the hole puncher and placed them neatly in a green binder for him to lovingly flip through and read.
I couldn’t wait to get his reaction to my words of wisdom.
I drove to his house and hand delivered the goods. I nervously paced back and forth from the kitchen to the living room as he sat in his recliner and flipped page after page and post after post.
He gave nothing away while reading.
No giggling, no sighing, no laughing, not a single sign of emotion. I started to anticipate what he would say when he was done. “These are fantastic, Katherine! Wow. You’ve really got a handle on this thing called life.”
Wishful thinking. What he said next was nothing like that.
Halfway through the binder, he abruptly closed it, started laughing out loud and said, “Man, this stuff is deep, Katherine! It’s making me depressed. I need a drink.” And with that, he walked into the kitchen and made a vodka tonic, heavy on the vodka.
I wasn’t sure what to say. The only thing I could muster was the first half of a single sentence, “When you say it makes you depressed, you mean…”.
My eternally happy and optimistic grandfather went on to say, “I just don’t have all that stuff floating around in my head like you do. It makes me tired just reading about it.”
Lord have mercy, I love men.
With vodka in hand, he went back to reading the blog posts. At this point, I wanted to throw up and crawl into the bed in his guest room and cry. I thought I was going to inspire him and instead I was driving him to drink.
After he had flipped the final page within the binder, we had a long conversation about mindfulness, defeating the mean voices in your head and living in the present moment.
And here’s what I learned: Some people have to work hard at it, and some people don’t.
My grandfather and I have a lot in common when it comes to living in the present moment. However, what I learned is that he doesn’t spend any time, energy or effort thinking about it. Meanwhile, I spend most of my waking hours fighting the mean voice in my head that says I’m not good enough…at anything and everything.
So, we’re the same, but different.
We’ve arrived at the same plateau in life. His feet just seem to be firmly planted on that plateau, and I have a fast-moving treadmill under mine.
I have to work hard to keep up.
I have to work hard not to let the mean voice in my head get the best of me. I have to work hard to live in the present moment and not fast forward to the future. And I have to work hard not to let my emotions take over my sanity.
And I’m OK with this. I’m willing to do the work I know it works.
So, if mindfulness is in your DNA and comes naturally to you like it does for my grandfather, you can stop reading this post right here and consider it to be a cute story about a remarkable human being.
I’ll share my latest trick with you.
My latest crutch for saving my sanity is to separate my mind from my emotions…one emotion at a time. It’s a trick I learned in a meditation class last week.
It’s easy to get caught up in your emotions. “I’m so angry right now. I’m so sad right now. I’m so frustrated right now.” Your emotions can quickly become all-consuming.
The trick is to witness your emotions.
When someone does something that angers you, instead of saying, “I’m so angry right now” you say, “Oh, look, there’s anger.”
The truth is that you are not anger. Anger is an emotion. You, on the other hand, are a human being.
Don’t forget it.
I tried it yesterday. All day. Every time I felt a new emotion coming on, I witnessed it instead of becoming it.
When I was nervous about some meetings I had in NYC, I said, to myself, “Oh, look, there’s anxiety.” And the anxiety decreased. When I walked out of a meditation class, I said, “Oh, look, there’s optimism.” And the optimism increased. When my children were falling apart before dinnertime, I said, “Oh, look, there’s frustration.” And the frustration decreased.
When you separate yourself from your emotions, you prevent them from controlling you. You are the witness. You are the observer.
What might you observe today?
Pay attention. Pay close attention. Witness as many emotions as you can today and then watch them fall away like magic.
It takes effort. It takes work. But it really does work.
Luckily, I have a Buddha in my kitchen watching over me who reminds me all the hard work is worth it.