Naturism as Therapy – Transformation of Self Through Alchemy

Dawn - and the birth of consciousness

Dawn – and the birth of consciousness

I have spent a good part of this winter involved in the real work of healing the soul and psyche – my soul and psyche. As my last two posts have indicated, naturism has played a significant part in this work. The photo to the left was taken a month ago by my wife while we were working on a poetry-photography project together. I didn’t realise it then, but this particular image taken at dawn with the intention of showing that with the return of light, there is a return to life, a rebirth of self as a more conscious being. The image and the process made me think of alchemy, the ancient art of turning something almost worthless into something perhaps more precious that gold. I will be using this same image repeatedly, editing the image to reflect the content and intent of the posts to follow as I explain this alchemical process.

In November, 2012, I began a series of posts that looked at the stages of alchemy from a psychological viewpoint. I want to return to that series of posts once again, revisiting and revising where necessary so as to fit better with my current understanding of the human psyche and healing. Why? The key lies in the content of this old post – the call to me as a therapist to take care as I return to work again as therapist, begs me to take head of these words I said in my original post:

“There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos  that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.”

Below is my first post looking at the first stage, the stage called “nigredo.”

* * * * *

The dark night of the soul, this is something that is intimately known by all who suffer depression. The dark night of the soul is what we meet when we enter into midlife crisis. Each of us senses a darkness, a place of shadows from which we want to flee. This depression is not “organic,” a depression that is chemically induced. This depression and darkness appears to be something “out there,” something to which we feel we are victims. Typically, we run like hell trying to escape, trying to hide from the darkness. Drugs, sex, money, work, new places, new hobbies, redecorating our homes, a new car, a new spouse: we try anything to banish that darkness. But, the darkness refuses to be banished. This is the dark night of the soul, or at least our introduction to that darkness.

If we are like many others, we head to a doctor’s office for some pharmaceutical relief; or to a psychotherapist’s chair for some answers, some other strategies to banish the darkness. We do this only as a last resort knowing that if we don’t do something we will descend into insanity or commit suicide. It isn’t a pretty picture, but it is real.

“Alchemy announced a source of knowledge . . . which yields a “bitter” water by no means acceptable to our human judgment. It is harsh and bitter or like vinegar, for it is a bitter thing to accept the darkness and blackness of the umbra solis and to pass through this valley of the shadow. It is bitter indeed to discover behind one’s lofty ideals narrow, fanatical convictions, all the more cherished for that, and behind one’s heroic pretensions nothing but crude egotism, infantile greed, and complacency. This painful corrective is an unavoidable stage in every psychotherapeutic process . . . it begins with the nigredo . . .” (Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, paragraph346)

So, the pain serves as an impetus to finally do something about the pain when all other avenues prove fruitless. So, one enters into psychotherapy. However, before the work can even begin, there is a need to create a place for the work; a safe, even sacred place. Like a surgeon preparing for an operation, there is the need to build a sense of safety in the relationship as well as place. The therapist needs to become aware of the boundary limits (or lack thereof) of the person and to build a sense of trust in that person as well as to have the person enter into a trust relationship with the therapist.

As time goes by, the two begin to test each other, test the boundaries of safety. And when there is a sense of safety, the belief that the container of their relationship has become sacred in its own way, then the work may begin:

“In the early period of analysis, the primary work is the establishment of the boundary, the analytical temenos, in which the analysis is to take place.” (Hall, The Jungian Experience, p. 78)

There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos  that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.

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Naturism as Therapy – Self-Help Part 2

Clothing-free meditation as part of your self-therapy work.

Clothing-free meditation as part of your self-therapy work.

Last post, I gave a number of steps to take in order to claim your sacred and safe place for the work of “self” healing. Today I am going to push you a bit further, perhaps stretching your comfort zone, perhaps not. I am going to approach the “naturist” aspect of self-healing in a very controlled manner and would ask that you limit your efforts to the time devoted to this practice. Going past these steps would suggest that your motive is not about healing, but about ego or exhibitionism. But before I get to the next steps, I want to bring forth a few critical bits of awareness with regards to “Why?”

The idea of shedding clothing as part of a therapy practice in a private, safe space has nothing to do with self-gratification, it has nothing to do with sex. In the setting of your sacred space, removing your clothing is a visible note to oneself to be honest, not to hide. There is a key aspect that I have discovered, that of taking the psyche to a time of innocence and trust. For self-therapy to be effective, one must risk and trust that the risks taken will heal and not harm the “self.”

  1. Remove clothing within your safe place which you have prepared earlier, making sure that you will not be interrupted by anyone. Lock the door if necessary to the room if necessary. If others are in the house, it would be a good idea to place a sign on the outside of the door letting others know not to disturb you as you are meditating, a true statement for what happens during the session.
  2. Take a seat using your preferred seat – Cushions, an armchair, a rocking chair, or anything that is about comfort. Make sure to put a towel or other covering down on the seat before sitting, with something that can easily be cleaned. It is a good idea to take a shower before beginning the session to ensure a sense of comfort with your seat as well.
  3. Simply sit still focusing on your breathing – the in-breath and the out-breath. If ideas arise, notice them and then again return to focusing on your breathing and letting the ideas go. Ten minutes is all the time needed for this exercise at this time.
  4. Take a few moments to record your thoughts to this point, thoughts about being clothing-free, thoughts about what is right or wrong about the ten minutes of naked meditation, and the thoughts that came to your attention while meditating.
  5. Write in your journal whatever comes to mind following this activity – what questions, what images, what feelings surfaced. What thoughts arrived? Write without making judgments of the worth of your words. The journal is for your eyes only and spelling and grammar is not an issue.
  6. With writing set aside, spend some time in this sacred and safe space – listening to music or simply resting without any other agenda other than “being” present in your sacred space.
  7. Take a deep breath and then get dressed to return to your normal activities.
  8. Before retiring for the night, take out your journal and read the day’s entries. Place a second journal close to your bedside with a pencil in order to record any dreams that emerge. Even if there are only a few words captured, they are valuable. Don’t censor your recording of dreams judging their worth. Don’t censor the contents of your dreams. Remember, only you will be having access to this “Dream” journal.

Repeat this daily, or as many days per week as you can carve out your time for privacy. Make the effort, for only you can heal yourself.

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Self-Help Therapy and Naturism

Beginning a journey to healing by building trust in oneself.

Beginning a journey to healing by building trust in oneself.

As I explore the use of naturism for therapy, a journey to mental-health wellness, I am talking about a private, “self-therapy”, not a process that is done in the office of a therapist. Therapy, as any therapist worth her or his title can tell you, is a “work” that is done by the person who is in search of healing. A therapist is, at best, a guide. The therapist as guide can only be an effective guide if she or he has taken the same journey through what James Hollis has called “the Swamplands of the Soul.” Having been there and done that, there is a better chance that the therapist will give you tasks and challenges that will teach the skills needed to grow into the light. For, it is the light that is the source of healing.

Light exposes the darkness, the shadows that haunt us bringing us into a state of despair. With light, we strip away the power of what is hidden in the shadows, our inner shadows. Naturism, as a healing strategy, is a deliberate action to build confidence in “self.” But, where does one start? I want to provide a small blueprint of possibilities, a template that is based on the assumption that nudity is not a comfortable state of being. It begins with taking “baby” steps with the intention of improving one’s self-concept which is challenged internally and externally. If you wrestling with the darkness and despair of brokenness, one’s physical sense of self is as challenged as one’s inner sense of self.

  1. Select a safe place where you can be alone with yourself without fear of being interrupted. You can even lock the door to this space if there is a sense that someone, even a trusted someone, might enter.
  2. Prepare this space as your sanctuary. Cushions, an armchair, a rocking chair, or anything that is about comfort while you engage in “hard mental work” is placed in the space along with other objects such as incense, candles, aromatic oils, source of peace inducing music, etc.
  3. Prepare writing materials for it is necessary for you to document the journey. Part of the journey needs you to look back and see where you have been in order to learn from all that has happened so that you don’t get trapped in a constant repetition of the same defeating behaviours and attitudes.
  4. Spend time in this sacred and safe space – listen to music, or meditate, or play an instrument, or simply rest without any other agenda other than “being” present in your sacred space. I would recommend about fifteen minutes to a half-hour of this each day. If possible, try to do this at the same time each day.
  5. Write in your journal whatever comes to mind following this activity – what questions, what images, what feelings surfaced. What thoughts arrived? Write without making judgments of the worth of your words. The journal is for your eyes only and spelling and grammar is not an issue.
  6. Take a deep breath and realise that what has happened is a vital part of the healing journey. This is enough for a beginning for the journey is not a race to a finish line. You will build strength through repetition of small steps as you build new patterns in your life.

Thus the journey of healing begins.

 

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She is a Woman

She is woman, a goddess of life and death

She is woman, a goddess of life and death

ella es una mujer / she is a woman
una maldición y una bendición, a curse and a blessing
en la mente de un hombre / in a man’s mind
porque ella es de gran alcance / for she is powerful
una imagen viva de Gaia, de Maya / a living image of Gaia, of Maya
sosteniendo el poder de la vida y la muerte / holding the power of life and death
no es consciente de su poder / unaware of her power
no es conscientes del miedo que evoca en todos los hombres / unaware of the fear she evokes in all men
hombres que la ven como madre, amante y bruja / men who see her as mother, lover and witch
ella es una mujera / she is a woman

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A Problem of the Collective Shadow – Law Codes

Facebook changes it code of conduct for users to allow breastfeeding.

Facebook changes it code of conduct for users to allow breastfeeding.

While my wife and I were walking the beach this morning, she brought up the news that Facebook was now going to allow breast-feeding photos as long as a mother’s nipple wasn’t visible. The news was good news as there has been too much negative response with regards to one of the most natural acts, if not the most natural act in human history – a mother feeding her infant child. But that only got me to thinking about just where laws come from, for in many places it is an act of civil and legal disobedience to breast feed a baby in public view. Obviously, someone or some group took offense at the sight of a mother with breast exposed with a baby attached. Obviously, that someone or group had power over the rest of the collective to cause a law to be written with punishments to ensure that women didn’t break the law.

So where do laws come from? What laws make sense? What laws are about a group of privilege maintaining their privilege? I can’t, personally, accept the validity of a religious belief being a valid reason as there is no one religious code that is universally accepted as valid. All opposing religions have just as much reason for believing their religious codes are sacrosanct. There are a few items that all seem to agree upon – the principle of justice based on the idea of what is good for the well-being of the group. I have yet to encounter a religious belief that doesn’t hold the law – don’t kill – to be one of the primary laws. Murder is not a good thing, Yet, there isn’t a religion that doesn’t or hasn’t engaged in activities that cause death and destruction of others who are seen as enemies or opponents. Such murders are dismissed as being necessary for the good of the community.

I would think that there must be a number of laws that are universal regardless of the religion or society, laws which are not just used for convenience or privilege or power. I invite you to submit such laws here in the comments so that we can carry on the discussion in my next post about shadow, the collective shadow.

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Too Muchness and Not Enoughness

Not enoughness - abandonment - there is a hole in one's being.

Not enoughness – abandonment – there is a hole in one’s being.

In our relationships with parents, children, family relations, neighbours and friends, co-workers, community members and our significant other, there are two factors that play a vital role in our understanding and defining our relationships – too muchness and not enoughness.

Not enoughness,” is an unconscious sense of being abandoned because one wasn’t enough in themselves to be loved, one wasn’t worthy. There are so many possible roots for this psychological response to life and relationships that begin with our parents. Each of us has different critical points that have us suffer the wound of not enoughness.

Too much, too much- getting lost, swallowed by sensation.

Too much, too much- getting lost, swallowed by sensation.

Too muchness, is an unconscious sense of being engulfed, overwhelmed to the point that we sense we are disappearing, that the self is being swallowed by everyone around the self. As with all issues of self-identity and its impact on relationships, the roots go deep, back into the family which nourished and raised us.

What is psychologically interesting is that what one person experiences as “too much” is experienced as “not enough” by yet another person. Children within the same family, experiencing the same interpersonal activity and engagement respond differently. Each of us suffers both conditions in our primary relationships – with ourselves and with our significant other. One moment we abandon ourselves and place all of our energies on giving to others, giving too much of ourselves. Another moment, we become overwhelmed with ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, our histories to the point that we sense we are drowning. The journey to the middle ground is one that has us learn to balance these complexes through understanding their roots and how we have scripted our relationships around the complexes.

It’s a hard work that only we can do, a work that is made a little easier with a guide that we can trust.

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Relationships Are Minefields – Playgrounds of Shadow

The archetypal relationship between significant others - beneath the surface of consciousness, a darkness lurks.

The archetypal relationship between significant others – beneath the surface of consciousness, a darkness lurks.

Wherever we go. it seems, the Shadow follows. Relationships are minefields – impossible to traverse without hitting triggering levers.” James Hollis

Yesterday evening I gave a presentation talking about relationships. I talked about the building of complexes in children as a result of their early relationships, especially the relationships with parents. The early scripts and belief systems, and the inescapable beliefs of self are built on the logic of early childhood where magical thinking reigns supreme, in a period of life before a child truly reaches the age of reason. With those early beliefs, all future relationships are contaminated, serving as a shadow background that works behind the scenes of all relationships.  None of us are immune.

Everyone in a relationship finds their relationship run afoul in spite of their best intentions. In spite of our love for the other, we use all manner of tricks to shape the relationship, to have the significant other follow what we believe is the right way of being in a relationship even though we rarely can provide a conscious blueprint for that plan. We subconsciously pull small triggers that we have discovered to have our partner respond in ways that are predictable and desirable. Yet, when caught in this manipulation, we protest with the belief that it is the significant other who has wronged us. Welcome to the world of Shadow in relationships.

What is important to realise is the fact that both parties, self and other, have a shadow. Added to that dynamic of two opposing shadows is the reality that they are contained within a larger shadow, one that exponential as it reaches past family, embracing community, nation and all manner of societal groupings. One is never cured of shadow, nor does one tame the shadow to be obedient to our conscious intentions. Yet, we can stop being victims of our own shadow. It all begins with the self and becoming self-aware.

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A Small Company of Pilgrims – Published!

My first fiction novel that was written in the fall of 2014 is now published.

My first fiction novel that was written in the fall of 2014 is now published.

What a great feeling it is to finally have the book available in print form. It is available from CreateSpace and will soon be available from Amazon as well. The Kindle version should be out in a few days at the latest. I last wrote about the book in November. Since then it has been read by a few trusted people who let me know about errors along the way. Then, it simply sat on my computer while I invested my time in preparing for Jungian presentations and writing the Naked Poetry book.

I will be migrating all of my writing, published as well as finished but never published, to Amazon and Kindle. I am doing this because of better editorial control and costs to me. With that decision made, I will be doing a clean up of my two-part (third part yet to be written) autobiography later this year following a current rewrite of a book I wrote thirty years ago when I wrote with a youthful flowery style that was typical for the generation of the “Flower Child,” the precursor to hippies.

Here is where you can order your copy of the book A Small Company of Pilgrims. – https://www.createspace.com/5242701

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Relationships

Trying to understand our relationships to others and to ourselves.

Trying to understand our relationships to others and to ourselves.

What a heavily charged word, relationships. In the world of depth psychology, any word or idea or image that evokes a significant heated response, a gut-level response, indicates the presence of personal shadow, where one unconsciously projects stuff about oneself onto others – good stuff and not so good stuff. Relationships will be my topic this week here in Puerto Morelos.

This week I will be giving the second of three presentations on Jungian themes here in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. I am fortunate to have found a place and a supportive group that is willing to host these presentations – Robin and Steve at Layla’s Guest House provide their learning centre to me, with needed audio-visual equipment, at no cost. Layla’s also serves as a Buddhist meditation centre one evening each week as well as a venue for Mayan/Mexican history and culture. Since first seeing Robin and Steve, a relationship has been gradually building resulting in this opportunity for me to give Jungian talks in this fishing village that has become home to a significant number of expats from Canada and the U.S.A.

On a side note, the final photos and poems have been completed for the third Naked Poetry book. Now, it’s time for careful editing and prepping for publishing. I will keep you updated with the progress I am making.

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A Work In Progress

Proposed cover for book three in the Naked Poetry series.

Proposed cover for book three in the Naked Poetry series.

I am currently at work on volume three of the Naked Poetry series, one that is a major departure from the previous two volumes. To begin with, no poems were written before the existence of a photo. Three sets of photos were taken over a period of two months – a set depicting masculine psychology, a set portraying feminine psychology, and a final set that illustrates couple psychology. The book contains three sections labelled She which has 15 poems/photos, He with another 15 poems/photos, and finally We with a final set of 15 poems.

I had originally planned on using Robert A. Johnson’s books by the same names HeShe, and We, as the guide for bringing masculine and feminine psychology as explained by him, to future readers of the poetry book. However, it soon became obvious that the idea caused more grief than success – I had to consider the reality of the woman and the man in the context of a modern world. Poetry needs to be authentic if it is to be worth reading, otherwise all one gets is lines of words filled with canned expressions that have no hope of connecting with a reader.

So, the process had to be revisited. I decided to give up sole control of the project and make it a cooperative affair, something that surprised. Unconsciously, I was working with my partner (couple psychology) to build a foundation for the book, one that was as authentic as could be constructed. Together we planned quite a number of the photos, taking turns at giving ideas and taking the photos so that both voices could be seen and heard in the book as it developed.

There are only a handful of poems left to write and two photos for the He section left to be taken.

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