The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for awhile.
Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi
When I saw the above quote in my Facebook feed today, I immediately thought of a photo that my sister, Michele Le Fever Quinn took earlier this year of my 85 year old Mom, Mary Le Fever (pictured above). My Mom clearly understands the enormity of the value of life and got that understanding at an early age. She lost her Dad at a young age. Despite this early loss and impact to her life, she cultivated a sense of responsibility to love and care for others unconditionally.
I didn’t always get this about my Mom. It was only as I grew into adulthood that I realized how wise and purposeful my Mom was and still is. When I was 11 she started her own Montessori school because of her commitment to giving young children the sense of discovery at an early age. As a traditional elementary school teacher, she didn’t feel the freedom to help others self-learn within a standard curriculum so she founded her own school. As elders in her life needed care, she was the first to be there. I watched her care give to an aunt and uncle, a childhood neighbor, my Dad’s Mom, her Mom and more recently my Dad. Her sense of life’s value and the need for dignity through the very end of life is a testament to how she lives her own life.
My Mom personifies living a healthy life style. Her family history included a tendency for heart disease and diabetes so she was an early adopter for the role nutrition played in longevity. Long before vegetarian and vegan food choices were regular menu options, my Mom’s cookbooks included titles like Diet for a Small Planet and Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease.
In contrast to my role model Mom, I transitioned from picky adolescent eater to culinary gourmand in early adulthood. I embraced and prepared the rich textures and tastes found in my Julia Child or Craig Claiborne cookbooks. My Mom’s healthy recipes with reduced fat and sugar seemed bland. In my mind, food, like life, was to be celebrated, and I loved having a party in my mouth!
My Mom was the first to instill the concept that the body is a vehicle for our soul. Again, I didn’t get it. In my teens, I was beginning to be disdainful of her Roman Catholic religion which she passed down to me. Her words sounded comical to my adolescent ears. I remember a metaphor equating my budding body to a “Holy Tabernacle”. This brought to mind a gilded cage with priests in white satin robes swinging golden globes of incense in its direction.
Now, I have a new appreciation for my Mom’s wisdom. With Craig and Julia both long gone and their cookbooks still on my shelf – but not opened in decades, I’ve moderated my fat and sugar intake. A reconnection with another woman and life teacher made me remember the Tabernacle metaphor. My teacher from 20 years ago educated me through a course called “Women’s Wisdom” . She recently lost her partner and co-teacher to Breast Cancer. After our reunion this month, she reminded me to “treat your body like a temple”. Based on our discussions, this meant both caring for our physical body and the spirit that is contained within this temple. It occurred to me that part of “living with intention” begins with how you treat and care for yourself first. While proper nourishment is a big component of this, sometimes we just need to “sit down for awhile”.
As this busy holiday season approaches, and whether you like the metaphor of a temple or a tabernacle, think about how you care for yourself. Take a pause before selecting foods for nourishment. Reflect on “the rareness and value of your own life.” Pause in between on-line shopping clicks for a deep breath of appreciation for all that is good in your life. If you don’t do this as a matter of course, set an intention to focus on some self-care practices during this year’s busiest season. In the meantime, I’m grateful to my first teacher and role model, my Mom for helping me to understand what living with intention means, even though it’s taken me decades to “get it!”
© photo credit Michele Le Fever Quinn © Denyse Le Fever, 2015