Six lessons I learned from my mother for a healthy body, soul

BY THE REV. BOB FURNISS – Guest Columnist

Even though I am well into my 50s, my mother still says the same things to me as I’m leaving her home like she said when I was a kid: "Be careful!" And if it’s winter, "Do you have a hat?"

I was thinking about my mother recently after Mother’s Day, and I realized that the six most important things I need for a healthy body and soul I learned from my mother. And it’s not so much a matter of my mother being special (and she is.), as that most of us learn these things from our mothers.

So, here are the six things I think are important for a healthy body and soul:

Eating: One of the first things a mother does for her new baby is to feed it. Whether at the breast or from a bottle, a baby finds not only nourishment, but also physical and emotional connection with mother as well. We do best when we eat thoughtfully, and in the company of others, as I learned from our usual family dinner as I was growing up. Thinking of my waistline, I wish I hadn’t learned this lesson quite so well.

Sleeping: Cradled in our mother’s arms we learn the comfort and relaxation that allow us to sleep. Mothers seem to know that toddlers are happier when they nap during the day. They also seem to know that keeping a consistent bedtime helps insure that their child gets enough sleep. This is a hard lesson to remember from the teen years and on, but I believe we are most fit when we get enough sleep.

Exercise and Play: My mom had a consistent answer when I expressed boredom at home, or had spent too much time in front of the television: "Go outside and play."

The neighborhood where we lived was teeming with kids my age then, and her advice always cured my boredom. To be healthy we need to be moving, doing things, exercising. And we also need to foster a sense of play, to give ourselves a break from the seriousness of life, to connect at a different level with spouse, family and friends, and to prompt our imagination and creativity.

Right from Wrong: My mother had no problem saying "no." Taking something that didn’t belong to me, "no." Fighting with my brother got a "no" from my mother, and then some. When "no" didn’t seem to get the point across, a swat on the fanny drove home the point, and usually meant that whatever naughtiness had been the problem would be no longer. The framework for judging right from wrong has guided me through my growing up and to this day.

Intimacy: Have you ever been to place more comfortable than your mother’s lap? We need to be held, cuddled, and told we’re special and loved, and moms are pros at this. Whether it be a spouse or partner, family or friend, even a hug from a friend at church, we thrive best as adults when we can find some kind of intimacy with another person. I think the practice of intimacy helps to open us to the love of God, who loves us even more than our mothers do.

Spirituality: Mothers play a key role in teaching us about God, about recognizing the divine, and experiencing the holy as they read to us, play with us, and pray with us. I think that spiritual balance plays a key role in our overall health as adults. We do best when we are prepared to acknowledge that there is something greater than us that cares for us, loves us, and gives our life meaning. I think moms model this for us.

I don’t know if this is an exhaustive list of what we need for a healthy body and soul, but it’s a good starter. Thank you God, for moms. And thank you mom, for getting me started.

The Rev. Bob Furniss is chaplain at Lakeview Hospital and Hospice.