Enthusiasm and the Warm and Fuzzies
by Dr. A. Schaeffer-Pautz, M.D.
Essential for health, warmth supports the development of the outer physical body in childhood and also the inward faculties we require later as adults. Staying warm is of course more than just avoiding catching a cold. And physical warmth is more than the body burning food calories to release energy. Throughout life, warmth not only supports and protects bodily life, it also nurtures and builds a basis for the inner life. Warmth as a process in childhood leads directly to warmth-like forces of soul in adulthood.
Clearly, the warmth enveloping a child is necessary for the proper formation of healthy physical organs. Over time, these physical organs gradually begin to support the “organs” of soul. Calling soul and spiritual faculties “organs” may seem odd until we realize that clarity of thought and stability of emotion, for example, require a proper seating in their corresponding physical organs. Warmth nurtures these later-to-unfold faculties and forces of the inner-life.
On the other hand, most Waldorf educators understand from experience that a consistent lack of warmth in childhood may lead to a “coldness” of soul later in life. Such coldness usually manifests in adulthood as one-sided intellectualism or judgementalism. Parallel to the body not being warmed through enough, thought forms become unable to penetrate (warm through) the nuances of more sophisticated ideas and perspectives. This too may seem outlandish until we see the connection between nurturing warmth protecting the child and thought’s ability to love something outside its kin.
We can recall a memory of mom tucking us into bed: There is fullness to the feeling of protection, both the physical warmth of mom and the emotional, supporting sense of a loving parent. What happens if we don’t get enough of such warmth? We may become weak in our sense of self worth, have anxiety and fears, or develop one-sided mechanisms to cope with life. It is easier for me to close down and block out a foreign idea than to embrace it. A little warm hugging of a child helps them hug big ideas later in life.
Keeping children warm, including their hands and feet, is important to keeping them well in their body. Because of smaller body mass, a child’s body exchanges heat more rapidly than an adult’s – it is more difficult for children to maintain temperature. They cool off and heat up faster than we do. In cooler or colder weather, the child’s care giver should make more frequent adjustments than they might for themselves. Dress the child up in a warm sweater or jacket and scarf, if it’s real cold. During transitional weather, use thinner layers of clothing. Peel off a layer if they overheat during play. But be prepared to peel it back on – watch out that they don’t cool off again too rapidly. Doing this is certainly more an art form than skill. Warmth and heat improves the immune system, helping it to fight better.
During the colder seasons, underwear of cotton, silk, or even soft wool right against the skin gives a much appreciated feeling of being hugged by the touch. (For some, however, wool might be irritating.) Such undergarments are more appropriate than the typical loose-fit tee shirt. Of course, as any parent knows, many kids like to throw off their clothes at every opportunity. But if the child is brought up from infancy with the feeling of the right buffer of warm clothes, this won’t be an issue later. And, by the way, independent of the amount of clothing worn, occasional sweating is healthy.
Infants inherently tend toward “womb-like” conditions. Remember placing a baby in the cradle or crib and later finding that the child had moved, nestled into an edge or corner? Often more than coincidental rolling around, the child needs touch, the feeling of surface. They seek a womb-like boundary of warm assurance. Warm touch reminds us of the welcoming physical world.
Proper clothing, while providing physical protection, helps to welcome the soul and spirit into the body. A good, hearty welcome in turn nurtures healthy physical and mental development. We need our body, our temple, to be at its best so that we can express soul and spirit into and through matter via the physical organism. This is what we strive to teach our patients in holistic medicine. And it is a foundation provided in Waldorf education: the protection in warmth and love for the growing child to move in healthy balance between heat and cold.
Physical heat is akin to emotional heat. By lifting the fire of the hearth into the alter-fire of soul, we can find courage to work in life’s fullness. Enthusiasm enables the Will power to carry idea through to deed.
Raised in a Waldorf environment, Dr. A. Pautz, M.D. is a trained eurythmist and is board certified in both internal and holistic medicine. She is also a DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) doctor. She specializes in anthroposophic treatment approaches in conjunction with conventional medicine. The practice can be reached at (904) 246-3583 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.