I had not turned on the car radio for about 4 weeks and I felt to switch it on just before arriving home the other day. The timing was perfect to catch about 2 minutes of an interview with a man who recently lost his home in one of the Californian fires. This is what I heard, somewhat paraphrased:
A man in his 70’s is describing the moments when fire was all around his house and the front gate was engulfed in flames and would not open… eventually he gave up on trying to break it down and realised he couldn’t get out. He says that is when he called his wife and said goodbye to her… but somehow, he did manage to get through the gate and drive through the smoke and fire to safety.
The house burned to the ground, as did most of the town – a town, ironically, called Paradise. In the interview, he and his wife have been sifting through the ashes and they have just found his wife’s wedding ring and her rubies. The man says pointedly to the reporter “It turns out rubies don’t burn.” At this the reporter asks how he is doing psychologically. He answers, “Excited…” There is a quiet moment before he continues. He says, “It was a gift,” followed by another quiet moment. He then compares his home to a storage unit. With a calm yet joyful voice he continues to explain, “A storage unit is full of un-made decisions; having my house burn has cleansed me of all my problems.” The reporter seems a bit flustered and stumbling at this point and she asks, “But now you have new ones, don’t you?” The man replies with lighthearted laughter, “Yes, sure I have some new ones, but you know the saying, ‘It’s like turning a page in a book’? Well, I’m turning the page.”
It was audible to me that what the man shared in this interview was his deeply felt truth.
In his voice I felt a clear sense that he had awakened to something precious in himself and about life, and he was enjoying the feeling of being free of so many old things and constructs that had been weighing him down. I could feel him marvelling at his feelings around alighting on new terrain and making a new beginning in his life. His voice was full of appreciation – appreciation that the fire had offered him an extent nothing else could have: the chance to start afresh with more clarity and a greater chance to do things differently.
Even feeling all of this, I was tempted to write it off thinking, “Oh, he must have money and that’s why he can afford to have a good attitude: he can afford to be philosophical because he can start a new life without the stress of homelessness and destitution…” – and on a very practical level this may be true. On a very physical level, starting from scratch with no money is a very real and tremendous difference to getting disaster relief or an insurance cheque to rebuild…
But then I remembered the stories I’ve heard of people who have been through unbelievably horrible things: slavery, having their children taken away, people who we would say have ‘lost everything’, and yet they not only returned themselves to a loving life but a way of being that had joy and which inspired those around them. So, what if, in facing his imminent death and in feeling such a cleansing away of all his old possessions, comforts and indecisions, this man totally understood the symbolism that gems don’t burn? What if, as huge, daunting and massively challenging as it can be to house and care for our bodies, the thing this man has just re-discovered is even greater?
And if there is something greater, deeper and more settling than the security of a home, if there is something that brings with it a sense of joy and freedom, it would be worth connecting to, no? Do we need a fire to help us feel it or can we simply make the choice to start letting go of all that holds us away from feeling it: all that keeps us in the density and smallness we have accepted as normal, and simply re-connect with the Love that we already are?
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~ Helen Keller
We live in a security-based society… and yet the wise words of Helen Keller expose this concept as being mostly an illusion, as something impossible to hold onto. Isn’t the striving for security one of the many ways we try to fight nature? In these few words Helen Keller makes the point that we cannot actually avoid danger and that trying to outsmart it or protect ourselves from it cannot actually work. What I see is that orienting our life around efforts to cushion ourselves from danger and discomfort manifests its own guarantee of certain dangers.
I know that when I have favoured security over following what I felt deep down was true for me, it has brought with it its own set of ills: constructs which were detrimental to my ability to live my life in full. What if all the many comforts and protections we use expose us to a slow and seeping kind of danger where we end up existing instead of embracing life. I know that when I have felt insecure, I was focussing on getting my security from the outside and this contributed to my body being in levels of stagnation, hiding, contraction and slow decay. But once I sought and discovered the sense of wellbeing inside me, I have been able to accept and embrace the uncertainties of life with a level of integrity and vitality I did not know I could have before, where growth and evolution are a natural and ever-expanding process.
We need to understand with great compassion where our need and search for security, comfort and safety comes from, and I would say that our world’s problems of greed come from the same place, so it is worth exploring on many great accounts.
We need to know the True warmth we can live from when we feel the wholeness-of-our-being that we all hold in our core. We need to reunite with the steadiness we have when we feel part-of-it-all. We deserve to remember a known way of being where we feel our connection with all others and where we feel the support of an explicitly Loving Nature that is inside and all around us.
We need to know what life can be like when we are in touch with the deep wisdom within ourselves instead of feeling empty of who we are, shaken with the insecurity the illusion-of-aloneness leaves us in, weak with anxiety and reactive to life. We need to see others doing this so that we know we too can choose to live from this loving centre where we can very naturally stay with ourselves, feel the Love and Joy of who we are and know how to respond to life in each moment.
By Jo Elmer, Domestic Magician for Shared Living Spaces, Oakland, CA USA