The last thing I ever said to my grandmother was, “Speak up.” That was the day before she decided to move to hospice care.
I’m not sure what came over me at that moment, which was our last moment together, but I remember my face feeling very warm. I think seeing someone you love in a vulnerable place like a hospital bed naturally triggers this feeling, but this was something different. Something I cannot explain.
I didn’t know the severity of what she was going through at that moment. My family thought the hospital trip was going to be a precautionary one, just a quick check-in on my grandmother’s heart, which, as people age, becomes a normal thing to do. So that’s what I thought it was, normal. But it wasn’t a normal visit at all, and what came over me at that moment, my last moment with my grandmother, I’m still unsure about.
I remember focusing on my breathing, not in the intense way I sometimes practice during meditation but instead with a calm and casual awareness that kept me present. In being present with that moment, I believe I was able to channel something higher than myself. Something my grandmother needed to hear without me knowing.
See, my grandmother was a very quiet, eloquent woman who never wanted to be the center of attention. (So much so that if she knew I was writing this about her, she’d probably be embarrassed.) For example, when I would call to talk on the phone to her and my grandfather, I never really knew she was there until she said goodbye.
This reserved, modest personality is the reason why I told her to speak up in our final moments together. I said it a few times, and in a somewhat direct manner, “Speak up Grammy, I can’t hear you, speak up.”
Throughout her life, she had a soft, gentle demeanor, yet a powerful voice, and I wanted to make sure she was heard. I didn’t know I was going to be a guiding force in her decision to move to hospice care the next day and transition out of her body. I was just present.
What Does it Mean to Be Present?
Being present starts with the breath. The breath is always present, always moving our chests up and down, always expanding our bellies. When we bring our attention to the breath, we also become present. Not only that, we become aware that we are alive and conscious of the subtle energies that flow through us for the greater good of ourselves and those around us.
When we are fully present, we don’t have to think, just be. This state of “just being” leads us to the effortless and magical state of connected flow that many refer to in sports.
We have to remember that living and being with one another isn’t in itself a sport, though, even if it sometimes seems like it. Often when we talk with others, it feels like we’re throwing jabs in conversation trying to “win” or convince the other person why we are right. But this clouds our room for growth. When we are present, we create space to be heard and to listen. We no longer feel this competitive need to win, because we are too busy understanding, too busy experiencing. Which reminds me of a phrase I love:
“Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters – coincidence?”
I think we forget that listening involves being silent. This could be interpreted to mean that we need to silence our mouths while the other person is speaking, which is true, but we need to silence our minds, too. We can hush our mouths but keep throwing jabs in our minds. This takes us away from the moment because we can’t hear past the constant fight going on in our minds. If you notice that it’s difficult to focus or listen to another person in a conversation, this is probably what’s happening to you.
What can we do if we experience this?
Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret I’ve found to create meaningful moments in every conversation.
Breathe. If you find your mind wandering, focus attention on your breath. You don’t need to sit cross-legged on the ground with your eyes closed and your fingers in yoga mudra so people wonder what the hell you’re doing. You don’t even need to focus for more than a second or two. Simply notice the air, how it feels coming into your body and then let it go. That’s it.
Keep eye contact, if you don’t want to look like you’re not listening (no one will know). Just one breath is enough. This breath is your ticket to hop on the Present-Moment train and in an instant, you’re on it, moving forward not only in your conversation but also in your life.
Try it out next time you find your monkey-mind rattling the bars mid-conversation or when you can’t wait to speak next. Ask yourself: Are you listening? Or are you thinking of what to say next? Take a breath, observe it, and stay in the moment of constant and meaningful creation.
When we do this, we realize the conversation we have in front of us is only possible when the one in our heads has calmed down. That means using our breath as a tool. We’re also accessing the meditative state when we do this because meditation also has a lot to do with focusing on our breath. When we tap into the meditative state, we become superhuman, channeling messages from higher places and giving others the space and ability to use their own powerful voice.