by Joel Levin, Perth, Australia
Image you live in a simple home with a hearth (fireplace) in the middle. The radiance from the fire is enough to heat the whole house. The warmth is not overpowering but complete and present in every room.
One day (for some reason) you crave something different and you open the window. At first the cold air stings, but the longer you stand in front of the window, the more used to this feeling you become. Over time you open another window, and then another, and then another… pretty soon the warmth leaves the house, all except the room with the hearth (nothing can touch this).
You live in this way for such a long time that you forget about the room with the hearth and start looking for other ways to get warm. You buy a jacket, a scarf, thermal clothing, you find someone to ‘snuggle up to at night’, turn to a ‘bracing drink’ to warm you up… it all works to a degree and you get comfortable with the ‘solutions’ you have found, going about your daily life all bundled up, ignoring the fact you are less able to move through all the layers. You do this for so long it feels normal.
At times you feel a remnant warmth from the hearth and it reminds you something’s not right, but you’re not sure what. You read books and go to courses that are dedicated to making life warmer, but you don’t notice that all they’re asking you to do is to put on more clothes. Some get you moving so much that you feel so positively, glowingly hot, you don’t notice they’ve put holes in the walls to balance the uncomfortable heat that’s been created. They all live up to their promise to make you warm… but long-term, they don’t work.
Then one day you meet someone who lives without their jacket, without all the layers… initially you call them crazy… why would you take off something so familiar and warm? Everyone else you see is wearing these thick layers – who would be crazy enough to stand out like that? When you ask him why he does not need a jacket, you write him off, because surely he is saying the same thing you’ve read in every other book.
But you see the way he moves, with no restrictions, no fatigue from carrying the extra layers. He doesn’t want or need a jacket to stay warm. Is life possible without all the layers?
You talk about taking the layers off, but this friend says: “Don’t take off the jacket until you feel you’re ready to. Maybe focus on closing some windows and reducing the amount of cold/damp air you are letting into your house; maybe there’s a room with a hearth.”
There it is… simplicity… the warmth comes from the inside and the cold comes from the outside. But you realise you have spent so long living like this you didn’t even notice the front and back doors have been opened too, and that it was you that put those holes in the walls. It’s simple, but it also feels overwhelming, like you might never ‘get there’.
The friend says, “Don’t try to ‘get there’, don’t rush to be something you are not. Walk to the centre of the house… see the hearth is still alight, remember this place always, come back whenever you need to and allow the warmth that has never left this place to be there”. At first you think it’s a trick: how can the hearth still be alight after all this time? You take a look and it is there – not once, but every time you choose to walk back to it, it’s there.
Now you have a true measure of warmth; not a temporary warmth, but solid warmth from the inside out. With this measure you can start making choices, smarter choices. You close the doors, you close the windows and the warmth starts returning to the rest of the house. It can sting as it thaws the colder parts of the house, but with each new choice you can feel when it’s okay to drop a layer of clothing.
It’s not until the doors and windows are closed that you start to really notice the drafts from the other holes and cracks. It’s not a theory anymore, it’s something you can feel. So you start to work slowly, without shame or blame for having put the holes there in the first place.
Over time, you feel ready to look at other things that leave you cold (what you eat, how you work). Eventually you can remember what it might feel like to move around in the simplest of garments, and what it’ s like to feel the warmth of the hearth in every room…
At times a passer-by stops outside your house and you notice them wondering what it is they are feeling coming from inside your house. They may not understand it straightaway, but maybe one day these passers-by will remember that they too have a house with their own hearth.