Life Lessons from My 97-Year-Old Grandma

Moomay is my 97-year-old grandmother. Moomay is just her grandma name that she got stuck with when my older cousin, Chris, attempted to say "Grandma." No denying it’s unique, just like her. She is the mother of 9 children, grandmother to many and great-grandmother to many more. She is a spirited Irish woman who loves a good party, is passionate about all things Notre Dame, still leads "The Saints" at family weddings and is the source of the family condition that we refer to as "Fear Of Missing Out."

She is also very wise and has a number of life lessons that she loves to impart on the ones near and dear to her and anyone else who will listen.

One of my favorites is this…STOP THINKING SO MUCH ABOUT YOURSELF.

I think I heard this just about every day when I was in high school, acting as a typically self-absorbed teen who essentially moved through the days believing that the world orbited around none other than yours truly.

But, the moment that my sweet mom would say those words to me, always inciting the great Moomay as she did, I had no choice but to pick my head up, expand my scope of focus and completely shift my thinking. And, what a powerful shift in thinking that was.

When I stopped thinking about myself and my own silly dramas and preoccupations, about how things affected or didn’t affect me, about my own wants, needs, and desires, I found myself sitting in the center of so much welcome and unfamiliar space and freedom. When I stopped obsessing about ME, I created space for my thoughts, intentions and, ultimately, actions to organically transform into something different. Something more rewarding, more fulfilling, more life-infusing. I found that I could fill my thoughts with ones that actually made me feel expansive and good. It was the beautiful discovery that instead of asking “what can I do for ME” it felt so much better, so much richer, so much more amazing to ask the question “what can I do for YOU?”

With this simple shift in thinking, by asking not what I can get, but instead how can I give, a life can change from being self-serving to being one of service; a life that will be filled with so much more joy, gratification and meaning.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” This realization pretty much rocked my world in all the best ways. While it’s wonderful to receive, the really good stuff exists in the throwing back, in those moments of serving and giving to others. The real nectar resides in those sweet moments of selfless service where we do something for others just because we can.

We can even invite this devotion to service to unfold on the mat in the yoga practice, bringing the practice deeper into our lives so that as we connect more completely and profoundly to ourselves we are better able to connect more completely and profoundly to those around us. We notice that we are all connected through our very nature. In noticing that connection that exists between all of us and really tuning into it, the infinite opportunities to be of service to others become illuminated.

I often slip back into my old ways of being consumed with the goings on in my own little bubble of reality, but I try to remind myself every day to ask the question, how can my life, my thoughts, my words, and my actions be of service to others today? So, give and be of service to the ones you love to love and also to the ones that drive you crazy. There are always ways to serve, to give, and to do for others. So much of the fun is just looking for ways to make someone else’s day brighter.

In giving, so do we receive.

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