Excerpted from "Healing From a Grandmother's Heart." Used with permission.

My grandmother Edna's family came to America in the eighteenth century. The Larsons, my grandfather's family, were a much more recent arrival from Sweden and the cultural differences between the two families were vast. I asked Edna one day how she came to marry my granddad, Ivar. She told me that she fell in love immediately and they had eloped. Being a kid, I said, "Oooh, was your Mom mad?"  Edna looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Baby, I never cared. And no one has had a better life than me. Trust your heart and you'll always win. The whole purpose of life is to live it, love it, and take a happy smile to God when you're done. I never gave a hoot about what anyone thought."

 And do you know what? Every member of my family, both Larsons and Tilghmans, adored her.

Isn't it true that we spend a lot of time wondering what others think of us?


One of my teachers said the most marvelous thing to me years ago--"What you think of me is none of my business." I chuckled at the time, and he very seriously told me that his life was lived according to that principle. I'll never forget that phrase, mostly because it reminded me so much of Edna.


Edna somehow knew as a young girl that this life was meant to be seized and lived to the fullest. Apparently she did not have to go through the "what will people think?" phase. From all accounts she was calm, the anchor for many in our family, and was never swayed by outward appearances.


My grandmother was a true and steadfast believer in Spirit. She had been introduced to affirmative prayer by a friend. She credited this "very pleasant habit" with her ability to be steadfast, kind, and resistant to the negativity of others. She also just happened to be akin to the Rock of Gibraltar, and everyone who knew her was aware of the affirmations that made her this way. If you're not acquainted with this idea and way of living, I'll give you an introduction.


Affirmative prayer is about rejoicing and thanksgiving. It's recognizing all the wonder, joy, and abundance in your life and being thankful from the bottom of your heart. This way of life does not involve beseeching prayer-it's more like a meditation, a communion of Spirit. This kind of prayer affirms perfection in our lives as we are thankful for having received all that we need, even if it hasn't shown up quite yet.


It's about faith.


Faith can be hard to come by, and when we march to a different drummer, our spirit can be taxed and sometimes on the edge of despair. This is when following your own tune and not worrying about what others think can be the most difficult.


Edna taught me about faith and resistance to others' negative views by telling me about the thought pattern that underlies much of human behavior in a not-so-positive way. She said that many people live with the illusion that life happens from outside in. This way of looking at the world results in a life that is lived on the surface, rather than from the inside.


"If you're on the inside looking out, you get to see everything!" Edna said. "Trying to check things out from the outside is much more difficult--windows tend to distort any images we might see."


When you want something, what do you do? You move in a forward motion. How many times have good things appeared to you that seem to be just on the other side of a big glass door? You can see it, you can smell it, you can even hear it, but it's just out of reach. Most people push against the door with all their might.  They push harder and harder, and that door just stays shut. The more they push, the less that door is going to budge. They are pushing from the outside, trying to get to all their good.


What if I told you that the door to living successfully opens inward? And that your good is waiting for you to simply allow the door to open on its own?


Most folks react with a sharp intake of breath when I tell them that. We're taught to be aggressive, to always move forward and never take a step back. Allow? We don't allow, we pursue! We're told to model ourselves after the successful members of our society. We do what's currently accepted as fashionable and acceptable. Being stressed and constantly on the go takes up all of our time. We're taught in our society that we have to do certain things to fit in. We face tremendous pressure to conform, to keep up with the Joneses.


(As my father would say: "Who are these Jones people? Are they really that happy? And are you sure you want to be like them?")


We don't have to keep up with anyone. Life is about being thankful for what you have and what you're about to receive. It's about keeping the negative comments from others away from your heart. It's about listening to that still, small voice within us. It's about living a happy life.

A happy life contains abundance from many sources, and your path to abundance may be a lot different than another's. Celebrate the differences. Achieve balance.


Balance. How do you get it? Balance is achieved by right thinking. Right thinking is achieved by following your own internal compass. Impressions and opinions come from everywhere--parents, friends, the guy down the street. Frustration and imbalance often come when we try to reconcile our wants and needs with the wants of others, those who have good intentions, but no one can know the right path for you but you. Balance comes when you love yourself enough to put your own needs first. Loving yourself has nothing to do with narcissism. It's a deep feeling of self-respect. With that self-respect comes the ability to forge your own path with joy.


When we hold others' opinions in high esteem, we have a constant battle of emotions. The "should" and "wants" are at war. We alternate between periods of satisfaction and self-doubt. Some of us can be immobilized, and spend years stuck on hold, trying to reconcile our deep knowing with the expectations of those around us. By commanding self-respect and by giving respect to others, we neutralize those mood swings that threaten to overwhelm us. 

There's an old expression--"one's ship comes in over a calm sea." Your life path and attendant abundance with materialize when your internal sea is calm and centered. Nothing can land safely if your emotions are crashing about like storm waves on the rocks. What does a ship do in a storm? It stays away from shore, as the unpredictable waves can send it crashing into the cliffs. Think of your abundance as that ship. All that is yours by right and divinity is waiting, just offshore, for the emotions to balance. When the storms pass, all will become clear.


Do you have balance in your life? Edna was the most balanced woman I've ever known, and she took the time to live every moment as it came. She would weigh the opinion of others, but toss it out if it ran contrary to what her heart was telling her. She was so completely at ease with herself that everyone she came in contact with felt at ease as well. She said it was because she followed the Golden Rule every day of her life. 


The Golden Rule--treat others as you wish to be treated. It was the reason she suffered very few slings and arrows. Even if others disagreed with her, she was never cruel or unpleasant to them. She let them have their opinion and went on her merry way. It didn't matter what others thought, only that she be treated with respect. By showing everyone around her that same respect, even if they disagreed with her, she commanded that respect in return. Edna mastered the art of living by treating others as she wished to be treated herself.


We don't all have to be the same. Balance comes when we cut ourselves loose from that idea. Every single one of us was born to do something special on this earth, something no one else can do in exactly the same way. To go within, to find this source, is our highest ideal. Allow the door to your good to open...inward.  Remain aware that we are all on the same path, which is the path to finding ourselves. If we can be kind to each other on the way, we'll all arrive much sooner, and with fewer bruises! By allowing others to be themselves, we can expect the same in return, and we won't obsess over the opinions of the others. This attitude of calm will illuminate your soul, bringing on the peace and light of a balanced life.


Edna said that human beauty can be seen by the light of the soul, not the light of the sun. Even in darkness, someone who is filled with that light is instantly recognizable.


"Treat everyone, no matter who it is, the way you wish to be treated, and your life will be made of gold."

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