Body Wise: A Fond Farewell

By Paepe, Val | Herizons, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Body Wise: A Fond Farewell


Paepe, Val, Herizons


body WISE: A Fond Farewell

In the fall of 1996, I wrote in these pages, "No longer is it possible to rationalize not meditating or not following the diet or not doing exercise or not discussing important issues with one's partner. When one has cancer, the time is now." Two years later I am as busy as ever and am struggling to maintain these activities as priorities in my life. I have come to the conclusion that I must eliminate some of the demands on my time to maintain the practices that ensure my physical and spiritual well-being. Much as I have enjoyed writing for Herizons, I know that it is time for me to write this final column as a part of the restructuring process currently going on in my life.

What has happened to me during my years as a columnist has had an impact on the evolution of my ideas and perceptions of reality. As I changed from an active, strong woman delighting in carrying her canoe over difficult portages to a partially disabled woman incapable of walking pain free, and with a cancer diagnosis to boot, my ideas about who we are, self-esteem and body image have evolved and matured.

In this space, I have frequently examined body image and its relationship to women's health and self-esteem. I have promoted the development of positive body image and self-esteem through physical activities such as yoga, canoeing and the martial arts. I believe as strongly now as I ever have that our bodies are the temples of our spirits, and our health, well-being and spiritual development depend on how we take care of these temples. Paradoxically, however, we must ultimately let go of these body images for they are still only images no matter how well they have served us, and they do not tell the whole story of who we are. Neither does our self-esteem, based as it is in transient, impermanent characteristics and abilities.

When our skills, strengths and abilities fade or are undermined or destroyed by accident, illness or dramatic lifestyle change, we often find ourselves in psychological crisis because we no longer know who we are. This is the question of spiritual quest: Who are we when we can no longer do what we have always done? Who are we when the self-image we have built no longer rests on reality? I advocate meditation as a practical and direct means to the answer to this question.

I declare myself a feminist without reservation.

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