Matt and his grandmother

The Lighthouse Effect

Growing up, my grandmother and grandfather played an important role in shaping who I am today. At 12, when my grandfather passed away from cancer, my grandmother took on the role by herself.

To this day, she and I share a special bond because of those years spent together. A woman, now 99, that I still to this day attribute to me not becoming a psychopath, because of the warmth she showed me. Because of the safety she created for me to exist.

She was my lighthouse.

My calm in the storm when my mind, emotions and life were too overwhelming. Which was often the case for me at a young age.

No matter how hard it felt to be alive, to navigate the world, she was a safe haven from the storm. The way with which she held space for me then, impacts the way I do it for my clients today. With gentleness and compassion, she always did her best to help me come back to a feeling of ease.

As a kid when emotions were running hot or I was feeling afraid about something going on, she was my sanctuary. She would always help me come back to ease. She would find various ways to help me laugh. The end result was often the same, what before felt insurmountable, no longer was so.

Looking at my life today, she played the role that many of my coaches and mentors have since played. I have since worked with many patient coaches and mentors. Each one supported me to create greater harmony within myself.

They continued where she left off. They continued helping me create life from relaxation, and receptivity. And from that harmony, translating that into my business, relationships, and finances.

It’s been a long journey from being that scared and angry child and for a long time, man. Whether with my grandmother or a mentor, they each offered total acceptance of me. Acceptance of me as a man. Acceptance of me as a human. And there is no shame or judgement to try and force me to be someone or somewhere I am not.

And it’s in those spaces, that I have been able to see how my ways of thinking bring harm to myself, and the world around me. These spaces have helped me see where I hold back and hide, or where I create a mental break from what is reality.

Each has helped me train myself in coming back to life in the moment. And moving beyond the catastrophic stories that once filled my mind every day.

These special people have helped me change from the inside out. It’s almost difficult to recount being in the same brain and body of the young man I was that attempted my life at 18.

When we are shamed or judged, we may change something outside of ourselves, for a moment. Or, we may go the other route and lash out, creating further conflict.

Neither is creating any meaningful change for ourselves or the world around us.

Using the path of shame and judgement, we become more on edge. We become more tense and at odds with other human beings, including ourselves.

We dig into our position of how we are right or were done wrong. Or, we shut down in a cycle of shaming ourselves. Leading to more conflict within our minds which will reflect in our health, and quality of life.

I used to think that to judge and to shame would be somehow effective in getting what I want. In truth, I didn’t know that was what I was doing. I would judge, shame, and criticize another, without realizing I was.

Often what I wanted more than anything, was to feel at ease in my mind. Even though I may get what I want at that moment, when I’m honest with myself, it changed nothing. I still had to be alone with my thoughts that were, for many years, driving me insane.

To be accepting and compassionate does not mean there’s no accountability for behavior. With my grandmother, her kindness and efforts to understand me, did not mean I could do anything I wanted.

What it did mean, though, is when I did something that was harmful, we looked at the reason it occurred. We looked at the reasons to not do it. We looked at what I believed about it all. We focused on the situation, rather than what my behavior meant about my value as a child. We knocked out the pedestals of less than or greater than.

As I reflect back on those years, especially now, I’m grateful for this woman. Wherever we are in life we benefit from having a place where we can be ourselves, as we are. A place where the walking on eggshells falls away, and we begin to experience ourselves in new ways.

The kind of space where the person also cares about us enough to challenge us. To challenge what we may be doing that harms ourselves or another. While never devaluing the human being we are with the beating heart that rests in our chest. Something we all carry with us.

It’s in these spaces that we can flourish inside and out.

It’s navigating the world from this sense of ease and receptivity, that change occurs. And within these spaces, be it with a spouse, mentor, friend, we get back to what is meaningful for our lives. We remember the finite nature of this existence, and allow the extra noise to subside for a moment.

We are the holders and choosers of the meaning our lives bring. Only we can connect with the feeling of what a live well lived looks like.

By being in greater levels of ease, we begin to ask new questions. With new questions, new answers become possible.

As I write this, I’m in the process of changing my plans for a trip to Asia, to go spend a few months in Missouri. I’m going to be near my grandmother. The source of inspiration for this article. She’s 99, and can’t hear me on the phone. It’s difficult for her to write, and does not know how to use a computer.

Every time we speak, it’s clear how much she misses her grandson. It’s been 18 years since I moved away from the area I grew up in. Over the years, I have visited her.

But for so long, I held hesitations about being in the place I experienced so much challenge growing up. I didn’t know how to feel at ease in my hometown, because of many painful memories. And so my trips back have always been short, rushed, and often distracted.

In session with my coach the other day, amidst a battle between my brain and my heart, it became clear it was time to go home.

It was time to go be with and near her for some time. Through sobs and pouring tears, my mind that tries so hard to use logic to steer my life, shut the hell up and got out of the way.

What emerged in that moment was the realization of deep sadness. Sadness knowing that I could be enjoying this time with such a special woman. A woman that taught me what love felt like. And the sadness imagining it becoming too late to have what time may remain.

The words that came up from my heart, through heavy tears, “what the hell am I waiting for?” As I fell to tears, my coach and mentor held space for me to connect to what has always been there.

I’ve missed her for a long time, and yet, because of various perceptions and faulty logic, I stayed away. When I allowed myself to feel the truth, it was clear.

What an incredible experience. One lighthouse in my life, helping me reconnect with the one that started it all for me.

And in this moment, I’m reminded of the experiences we all share.

We fear loss,

We want happiness,

We want to experience love,

We want to experience acceptance from others,

Even more, we want to accept ourselves.

Throughout the years, I’ve been on a journey of coming back to an internal state of ease and harmony. On this journey I have hated and harmed myself. I have done the same to others.

Throughout the years, my grandmother’s love persisted. She always was a reference point of kindness. She remains a reference point of what’s possible when we are accepted by another. An instrumental aspect of our journey to accepting ourselves.

And it’s in the accepting of ourselves that we begin to accept another. In accepting another at the level of being human, again, change is possible.

As we wrap up this conversation, I offer you to consider the lighthouses in your life.

The places with which you are accepted as you are, and also challenged.

The places where you can feel safe and open enough to explore the tensions you are holding in your mind.

The places where what keeps you at odds with life and yourself continue to fall away.

It’s in the falling away of our internal conflict, that we are finally free! When we free ourselves, we become lighthouses to free others.

Be well.

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