I’ve always wanted my grandfather to read my blog.
He’s 96 and a very mindful guy. He lives in the moment and is happy doing so. He never worries about what happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow. And he never lets his emotions get the best of him.
He’s Zen like that.
My grandfather appreciates my love of Buddhism and mindfulness. So, last year he carved a Buddha for me.
Now I thought my grandfather would like my blogs, but one thing stopped him from reading. The internet.
My grandfather has never used it, hardly knows what it is, and wouldn’t know what to do with it even if he did. So last week, I picked out my favorite blog posts and printed them for him.
I went old school.
After assembling some of the more moving words I’ve written, I ran them through the hole punch and put them in a green binder for him to lovingly read. I couldn’t wait to hear my grandfather’s reaction to my work. 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.
The man 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 way different.
Halfway through the binder, my grandfather 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 didn’t know 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 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 it all to be over as quickly as possible. I thought I was going to inspire him, and instead I was driving him to drink!
After he flipped the final page in his binder, we had a long conversation about mindfulness, defeating the mean voices in your head, and living in the present.
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. I have to work hard to keep up and not let the mean voice 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 to not let my emotions take over my sanity.
I’m okay with this. I’ll do the work, since I know it works.
So, if mindfulness comes naturally to you like it does to my grandfather, you can stop reading this post and just think of it as a cute story about a remarkable old man.
But if you’re like me—ie, trying not to lose your mind so often that it’s practically a full-time job—keep reading.
I’ll share my latest hack with you.
My newest 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 become all-consuming.
Instead, try witnessing your emotions.
When you feel angry, instead of saying, “I’m so angry right now,” instead say, “Oh, look, there’s anger.”
Because truly, you are not angry. Anger is an emotion. You, on the other hand, are a beautiful human being.
I tried it yesterday. All day. Every time I felt a new emotion come on, I witnessed it instead of becoming it.
When I was nervous about a few 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 stop them from controlling you. You are just a witness.
What have you observed today?
Pay close attention. Witness as many emotions as you can and then watch them fall away. Luckily, I have a wooden Buddha in my kitchen who watches over me and reminds me that all the hard work is worth it.