Granny: My First Spiritual Teacher and Role Model

Granny: My First Spiritual Teacher and Role Model

I often talk about my grandfather as my first spiritual teacher, and about the Indian master Krishnamurti, who lived half-time in my hometown and was a voice in my ear from early childhood on. But probably the deepest influence on my life was my grandmother Zora Percy Selby, known to me and all twenty-seven of my cousins as Granny. This quiet woman touched my heart very early at levels much deeper than words can communicate.

Life on the Selby Ranch was never boring and was often challenging, as with any family business that involves hundreds of cattle and other livestock and a dozen people working together to survive off the land. There were always financial challenges, injuries, strong differences of opinion on how to proceed in a situation, and so on. Nonetheless, four or five times every day Granny would simply stop whatever she was doing, go out onto the back porch, sit down in her rocking chair, let go of everything, and enjoy a few minutes of pure peace.

Granny: Bringing Renewed Harmony

My first clear memories are of sitting in Granny’s lap as she rocked on that porch, feeling absolutely safe and happy, immersed in her aura of acceptance and love. And throughout each day, she would help soothe people’s upset feelings, bring renewed harmony to the household, and gently uplift everyone’s spirits.

Although I never heard her speak these particular words, I feel that in her heart Granny was regularly saying to herself: “I choose to enjoy this moment.”

As a child imitates its elders, I often encouraged people who were upset to feel better, and for this reason I was nicknamed “Buddy” when I was four. This, I suppose, is how a therapist is born.

Maintaining Ability to Enjoy the Present Moment

What amazes me in reflection is that, even in an extreme situation, Granny was able to maintain her ability to enjoy the present moment. Her son developed a fatal disease that slowly and painfully killed him; he lived out his final years in the family ranch house. And even as everyone else sank into a depressed sorrow while Uncle Jim withered away, Granny somehow still went out on the porch regularly, took a deep breath, tuned in to nature all around her, and shifted into a positive feeling in her heart.

What I learned from this example was that, even if our present moment seems terrible, we possess the power to reclaim positive feelings in our hearts. I remember Granny telling us one evening when Jim had fallen asleep that he was feeling bad enough as it was, without our pulling him down further by also feeling bad.

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Spiritual Teaching: I Choose to Enjoy This Moment

I now work with our local hospice and encourage the volunteer staff to approach dying patients with this same uplifting spirit. And whatever is happening around you, you can begin to explore your own power to say to yourself, “I choose to enjoy this moment,” and see what happens.

Every time you exercise
this particular mental and emotional muscle,
it will become stronger.
“I choose to enjoy this moment.”

Pleasure & Enjoyment as Your Birthright

Granny: My First Spiritual Teacher and Role ModelBiologically, human beings tend to have the same basic pain-pleasure reflexes as other animals. We are programmed by our genes to contract away from pain and suffering, and to move toward pleasure and enjoyment. It’s our nature to choose to enjoy each moment. This is how God made us. So how have we ended up focused overmuch on the agony of worrying, rather than focused on the pleasures of joyous living?

One of the main reasons is that human beings have the capacity to imagine all sorts of terrible things happening in the future, unlike other animals, who appear not to have this cognitive capacity. Whenever we’re lost in future projections and worrying, we’re not present in the here and now and, therefore, can’t perceive, respond to, and effectively deal with any dangers that confront us.

Worrying Can Be A Dangerous Act

In this light, worrying can be a dangerous act. When we’re anxious, our minds and bodies tend to dysfunction. As a general rule, worrying makes us contract, become nervous and dizzy, think less clearly, and perform physically at a much lower level.

When we think ourselves into a state of anxiety
we actually reduce our ability
to take care of ourselves
in the present moment.

Ease Up & Enjoy the Present Moment

Another reason we spend so much time worrying is that, for countless generations, all over the world, power-fixated priests have used religion to program and manipulate people via fear-based beliefs. If we believe we’re born sinners who will end up in eternal hellfire if we don’t hop through a myriad of theological hoops, and if we accept that we must believe just the right things and never make our vengeful God angry, then how can we ever stop worrying about our religious doubts and simply ease up and enjoy the present moment?

I humbly but fervently question
all religious theologies
that put the fear of the Lord,
rather than God’s eternal love,
into children’s hearts.

As a former minister, I believe we’re all created in God’s perfect, loving image — we’re essentially good by nature, not bad. I also believe it’s our spiritual responsibility as well as our freedom to say no to worries, and focus on positive things most of the time, so that we bring more joy and love into the world, not more fear and contraction. What do you believe?

Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.
©2011.  or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.

This article was excerpted with permission from the book:

Expand this Moment: Focused Meditations to Quiet Your Mind, Brighten Your Mood, and Set Yourself Free
by John Selby.

This article was excerpted from the book: Expand This Moment by John Selby.Expand This Moment departs from traditional long-form meditation guides by presenting a short daily practice that suits our busy lives. John Selby's process uses twelve unique Focus Phrases to quickly stimulate inner awakening, healing, insight and peace. This short-form process can be completed in just 5 minutes--and have lasting impact. The Focus Phrases gently insert positive messages into a person's ongoing inner dialogue, promoting spiritual development, emotional healing, and core success. "These 12 Focus Phrases," Selby concludes, "are now my daily meditation practice. They also stay with me all day long so that I can be more aware, more 'here and now', all the time!"

Click here for more info and/or to order this paperback book on Amazon.   (Order the Kindle version here.)

About the Author

John Selby, author of the article: Granny: My First Spiritual TeacherJohn Selby is the author of more than 20 books including Quiet Your Mind, Seven Masters, One Path, and most recently Expand this Moment. He was educated at Princeton, University of California, Berkeley, the Graduate Theological Union, and the Radix Institute. John spent two decades working as a therapist and mindfulness coach, while continuing with research into more effective cognitive methods for quieting the mind and maintaining a more alert, relaxed, enjoyable present-moment focus. Visit him online at

Watch a video: EMOTIONAL HEALTH with John Selby


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