My Grandmother Used to Say, by David van Zanten

My Grandmother Used to Say, by David van Zanten (Health & Wellbeing)

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In 1915 my Grandmother had her life turned upside down by the death of her mother. At age 14, with no father to rely on she was left to raise her 4 younger siblings by herself. She came through the school of hard knocks with a caring heart and a tenacious spirit and learned a great many things. Her experiences became the foundation of her wisdom. This wisdom was passed onto me in her sayings which I heard repeatedly throughout my childhood.

My life, like yours, has had many twists and turns. I have grown to learn how wise her words were. The deeper philosophical meaning and message behind them can help transform and repair life paths that may seem broken.

All her sayings are probably well known to you but they are fully expanded and explained in their individual chapters. Together they offer a remarkable insight along with practical and effective ways to truly change, mend and empower your life and your world.

As she would have said: "If a job's worth doing its worth doing well" 


Author interview link:



My Grandmother Used to Say ... 

By David van Zanten

Self-help books abound on the shelves of many a library, bookshop or home, and they offer advice in varying forms and degrees of usefulness. Some relate to religion, some to money, some to esoterica - David van Zanten's book is accessible common sense..

What he has done is use his grandmother's universal sayings to provide solid, useful counsel which can only lead to a better life.

It's not about riches in a material sense, although there's no reason why wealth would not be a by-product of the goals achieved through the guidance offered by this book.

Written in a straightforward, and sometimes humorous way, My Grandmother Used to Say ... delves beneath the obvious face of each saying to discover the real meaning and, therefore, real direction.

It's not a big book, at least not in page numbers, but the message within is huge, gigantic even. Non of it conflicts with any religious beliefs you may hold, nor does it lead you along airy fairy paths of new age mumbo-jumbo, and I say that in a caring way. Some self-help messages are presented in such a manner that, for many people, the flight response is immediately triggered (as David would put it). This book welcomes its reader through the author and his personal approach.

David's understanding of the human condition has permitted him to amass knowledge and information pertinent to the betterment of people. His attitude and insight has enabled him to access that store of wisdom and his teaching skills have allowed him to direct it easily to the reader. By picking up this book you are not embarking on a journey of sharp rocks and fearsome tempests. David gives practical, easy-to-understand insights, written in a way that makes the reading pleasurable. For the reader there is discovery and lots "Oh, I get it!" moments.

 Chapter nine is entitled: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. That does not apply to this book review - I have carte blanche to say what I feel - but I can't find anything off-putting about My Grandmother Used to Say ... at all. Positive is a way to describe a lot of the content. Finding and developing the best in people and helping them to understand things relevant to everyday life.

It's a fine book, this work by David van Zanten, and I'm happy to recommend it. I think his grandmother would concur.

Paul Brooks

Editor, Wanganui Midweek.


It is a common thread amongst us all that we desire to leave something to be remembered for, something positive and empowering when we leave this world.  Each chapter of “My Grandmother Used to Say” took me to such a place of understanding, hope and potential. 

We have all heard the sayings but to read about them in a deeper more profound way allows more thought to their meaning and how it has, or might have, a connection in one’s life path. It is a book that could easily be returned to if an aspect of your life seems to be a little difficult - this is the perfect guide to help find inspiration and a way forward. 

I genuinely recommend reading this delightful book to anyone who has pondered on aspects of their life but hasn’t known where to start.  Some of the wisdom contained in it will seem obvious when you read it, but some will make you say to yourself, of course!  The first step you need to do is get this book; the second step will be to take action. I have done this, and I hope you will do the same. 

Annette Main

Mayor of Wanganui 

From: Grandmother Used to Say, by David van Zanten

Chapter 8: Watch out it doesn’t spring up and hit you

Anyone with children either used this saying, a like phrase, or can see the application and accuracy of the words. Children are notoriously bad at finding what is right in front of them. I heard the phrase many times in humorous, disappointed and angry tones when I was young. I use it often with my own children and it feels strange being on the other end of the phrase. I assume that my children will use it later in their lives too. Such is the cycle of life.

I am quite sure that my Grandmother had no other use for the phrase, no other level of meaning, no deeper spiritual significance. But I may be wrong. What I have discovered is that the action and pathway which will lead to empowerment and enlightenment all have a special glow that is obvious once you know how. I have heard this called ‘luminosity’. It is a most apt expression. When you learn how to truly search and see, empowered paths will literally spring upon you.

When I was at university in the late 70s and early 80s a local meeting place had a state of the art game which was brought in to replace a pin-ball machine. The game allowed the player to act as a potential hero on the screen. The mission was to find treasure, save lives and evade nasty events. As each calamity or test was about to befall the trusty wannabe hero a small flash of light would happen somewhere on the screen. The flash indicated to those perceptive ones where said wannabe should go to effect some heroic action. The image of being given a brief flash of light, some luminous moment as a guiding light, touched me and affected me deeply. To me it was as if one’s guardian angel, ones very keen guardian angel, was just so enthusiastic to help empower their charge that they couldn’t help but give little clues in order for an empowering outcome to happen.

It prompted me to think “what would it be like to be a guardian angel?” I assume that it would be amazing at times and very frustrating most of the time. Picture it yourself; you are there unconditionally for the earthbound lifetime of one particular soul. Your role is to guide, to help your charge discover their chosen goals or life tasks and to learn from them. You watch them see or encounter clues that will give them answers for their problems but frustratingly you also see them fail to grasp the clues or follow up or follow through with them.

The frustration is magnified because of the absolute rule that you cannot tell them directly nor do the growing for them. So instead of sitting back our guides ‘coat’ or imbue the important knowledge, the vital clue, the empowered path, with a light. A light that is perceptible only to those who truly seek. (Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find. Matt ch VII 7-8).

The obvious question now is probably, how? How do I see this light?

First realise that humanity has always been seeking it. You know it is there and have been personally seeking it. You do this because in your soul is housed this drive, this seeking, this innate knowledge. The knowledge that once you find the light you will be closer to peace, answers, and your true path.

I have personally heard many people cry out for their God to put a huge neon sign up for them. They have said this at times of huge frustration and confusion. It is done during their lives when peace, answers and any concept of their true path are as foreign as the concept of flight is to a dog. If they could but realise that their God has indeed been illuminating their path forever in so many ways but, like so many of us, they have failed to see what is in front of them.

“Watch out it doesn’t spring up and hit you” suddenly takes on such deep significance. Maybe by seeing how we make choices, life choices, in the first place might help us see where we go wrong. Be very clear that we make choices. Don’t allow yourself to be a fatalist. Destiny is not about chance, it is about choice.

From a very young age we seek instant gratification. It is a common fact proven by many repeated trials that young children commonly seek it. The repeated trials go like this. A number of young children are tested individually; tempted individually is more correct. They are given one treat. The treat sits on a plate in front of them. They are then given the option of eating it now or, if they can wait a few minutes, they will receive two or more but they must wait and resist the treat in front of them.

The vast majority cannot resist and eat the one treat in front of them. Now, although we develop more self-control as we grow older it is still a tempting path to walk. A path of instant gratification. Without it no-one would take a scratch and win ticket. We know the odds but buy them anyway because it is instant. We switch on the television rather than talk, we seek hedonistic endeavours and even continue to choose the yummy treats over sensible food with less flavour.

So seeking instant gratification or, more aptly put, the choice with the easier option is so ingrained it is a habit, an instinct that is driven by our reactive, sub-conscious self. Choosing from habit, making choices based on instant gratification and possibly selfish hedonistic reasons one can possibly see how we are virtually guaranteed to miss any luminosity present on the paths we do not choose.

We also live in such a disposable world and are easily tricked into taking the seemingly easier path. Society teaches us generation by generation to take less responsibility for our actions. It is a daily occurrence to read of another person or group of people suing someone else for their own misfortune. I have read of a massive payout to a man who was late for work every single day by as much as 8 hours per day. He was eventually fired. He sued and won by saying that it wasn’t his fault as he suffered from chronic tardiness and could not be held accountable. The fact that he won destabilises the society in which he lives as it sends out the strong signal that you don’t have to be responsible for your actions. Just as so many people blame their obesity on the companies who produce the poor quality food they choose to eat.

The outcome of these stories and their like is a very clear message which deludes many into believing that their negative life situations are mere misfortunes for which they have no responsibility or control. This leads to many seeking quick fixes, short term magic pills, or actions which will put it all right. Seeking the golden magic pill or action which will ‘cure’ their life and all of their ills prevents many people from seeing the lighted way, the true path to empowerment which lies before them.

In very simple terms, most of society chooses these seemingly easier paths, these magic cures and instant gratification options because to do otherwise requires one to be conscious. Being conscious requires us to be aware, to change and to be ever vigilant. This just seems too hard and too exhausting. Or at least that is the message our negative voices, our internal ‘parrots’, tell us. In fact being conscious is our destiny because it is the ONLY way to becoming empowered.

Personal empowerment starts with a belief in your own inner power and connectedness to your energy source. The ‘how do I see the lighted path among all the other paths to choose from’ starts with belief. You must believe that you are here for a purpose, a personal goal, a mission.

It is a mission of empowerment, to be more conscious, more closely linked to your light source and thereby more empowered and beautiful as a person. Without these beliefs you have no foundation or confidence in your actions.

From here you need to write down exactly what you want to achieve in any specific area of your life (more about goal-setting in chapter 10). Then you must relax. To be anything other than relaxed simply blocks out your guides and your connection with the light.

“Worry removes life force, which limits our ability to create abundance.”

I read this saying many years ago and it is so true. The moment one starts to worry a large cloud gathers over our heads and the light (which will solve the problem) cannot reach us. As Bobby Ferris said, “Don’t worry, be happy”. We receive a constant supply of qi, prana, life breath or just light from above us. Literally, light flows into our crown chakra and is distributed around our bodies. Those individuals throughout history who have passed on huge insights to humanity have been noted as having a blazing countenance, a glow around their heads which has artistically been depicted as a halo. They are the gifted ones who have developed a strong connection with the same light source which is available to all of us. So when we worry, when we become obsessed about our perceived lack, when we focus on the depressing minutiae of our lives and our world, we begin to stoop. The more we stoop the harder it is for the light to reach us, our guides to talk to us and for us to see luminosity in any part of our lives.

Being still and seeking quiet time every day is meditation. Meditation is an excellent way to connect with our energy source and thereby help with our ability to see our lighted path/choice. It is also great practice for shutting out our self conscious mind. Those of you who have tried meditation may have found what I did initially; my mind would not be quiet. I found that by either focusing on an image, vista or specific question to be very helpful. If you do ask a question then have a very real anticipation, a knowing that answers are coming. It is so important that we shut off the noise as intuition is from our guides, our higher self, our God. Intuition enters us ONLY when our self conscious minds are quiet. The more we intuit, the more light we will see around us. Believe and relax. Intuition is our direct path to our guides and to listen we must be still. Seek peaceful times every day and you will be amazed at what you start to feel, hear and see. You will begin to watch out for things and they will start to be so obvious that they will in fact spring up and hit your senses. Once this happens it will be obvious what actions or paths we must take. A very important point here though is that once you start to ‘see’ the more enlightened or empowering option, you MUST take it. Inertia and self doubt will rise up to distract us but to truly empower ourselves, we must DO, we must ACT.

This is crucial early on because seeing more illumined choices is a skill you will only just be learning but with each practice you will get better and better at seeing the things that ‘spring up and hit you.’

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Tags: Health, Wellbeing