Archive for the ‘naturism’ tag
It is another beautiful day here in Puerto Morelos. This morning I tried meditating in a different location other than tucked in a corner of the studio apartment. I was able to enjoy the sound of the breeze, the feel of the breeze, and the sound of the water lapping against the pylons of the pier. I sat at the far right corner which sticks out even further into the sea. Because of the hour and time of day, I did keep on my bathing suit while meditating. It was an experience worth repeating, only tomorrow [weather permitting] I will go there two hours earlier, before my morning coffee with my wife. While I meditate, she does yoga, so this is a shared experience in its own way.
Meditation is vital for me. Because of my history as a child and as a youth, I have lived in a self-imposed straight-jacket as I tried to contain the demons that haunted me. When it became too much to contain, it was in meditation where I first found the path to ease the strain and thus be able to move forward into another day of masking the psychic pain that wanted to swallow me. I needed meditation, but didn’t really know why.
“Well, meditation is dealing with purpose itself… Generally we have a purpose for whatever we do: something is going to happen in the future, therefore, whatever I am doing now is important — everything is related to that. But the whole idea of meditation is to develop an entirely different way of dealing with things, where you have no purpose at all. In fact, meditation is dealing with the question of whether or not there is a such thing as ‘purpose’.” [Trungpa, Meditation in Action]
Today, I know why I meditate. I know that this act of letting my ego consciousness give up control, in a way disappearing for a while, allows my body to feel the freedom from the prison of memories. While I meditate I don’t have any history of pain, of confusion, of betrayal or of being someone who has committed his fair share of betraying, confusing and of inflicting pain. I become a being, simply breath, sitting in my space which disappears leaving me freer than it is possible to imagine. I cease being a victim and a victimizer.
My body appreciates this momentary space where all is released, as does my spirit. I breath, I sit, I am. And, that is enough.
The sky is wild this morning. One minute it is dark with ominous clouds flying by as if they are on a freeway, and the next minute there is glorious sunshine. And the speed at which this is all happening makes the mind swirl. The wind has been blowing all night following a long period of rain yesterday late afternoon and all evening, and is still blowing strong creating whitecaps and pounding waves along the shoreline. Sometimes nature serves as a good metaphor for what is happening within one’s psyche. I know that in today’s case, it is quite the mirror.
I didn’t sleep well and it wasn’t because of the rain or the wind. Rather, it all had to do with the stirring of shadow contents within, stuff that lies below the surface of my awareness. I was asked why I was a naturist, why I needed to be naked when the rest of the world, the civilized world was doing well with their clothing on. I wasn’t able to give a satisfactory answer nor did I think that there could be a satisfactory answer in terms of having another person who is not a naturist, understand and accept. Of course, saying that, I open myself to the possibility of being very wrong. I don’t really have an excuse for not finding the words to answer this question, even if it is just for myself.
Because of my long involvement with depth psychology, I knew that the answers did exist, somewhere deep within my psyche. So this morning, I opened up the door to the question during my time for meditation which then lasted longer than usual. It was essential to let the question stew for a while, allow the contents within to become stirred up in the darkness of the unconscious. Later in the morning, after sitting for a while in silence with my morning coffee, not actually thinking but also not banishing thinking, I went for a long, two hour walk along the beach. I refused to force an answer but I also left an opening as if an opening in the clouds, for whatever needed to come to consciousness to have an entry.
As a child I was sexually abused, emotionally abused, physically abused in my family of origin by my biological parents. The sexual abuse extended to include my maternal grandfather and more than one parish priest. I was a docile child, the eldest of a large group of children. It was my job, the expectation that I came to embrace that I was there to please others, to take care of others, to put others before myself. I forgave my parents before they both passed away, enough years before their death so that I would be able to include them in my own children’s lives as grandparents. It also gave them time to acknowledge their part in my wounding – but that never came to be.
The patterns learned in early childhood that continued through to a few years after I was married with children of my own carried over into how I interacted within the family in which I was husband and father. It carried over into my career as an educator, coach and then as counsellor to students, staff and people within my community. I was well trained to put myself behind me and do my utmost best to be a good father, a good husband, brother-in-law, coach, neighbour. This is a story I knew well, one that I wrestled with through midlife and my own course of psychoanalysis. But where does this almost primal urge to naturalism come from?
It was soon after the sexual abuse from my grandfather, the last time I was sexually abused as a youth, that I found myself in a quiet meadow in a nearby small forest with a book of poetry. It was a warm late spring day, about six months following this last incidence. Feeling the warmth of the sun and feeling the words of classical poetry, I soon found myself naked. Over the next two years, my last two years at home, I took every opportunity, weather permitting to hide in this forest and meadow in order to be free.
Leaving home, I found other opportunities, especially the opportunity of sleeping in the nude, to recapture this sense of freedom. A job at the other end of the country found me enjoying social nudity in swimming pools and saunas with my co-workers, other young adults. The exhilaration of body freedom acted as a sort of barrier that banished my history of being abused.
Yet now, the pull to nudity is again strong so I look to these roots and it dawned on me that it is being nude where I claim control of my body, control of my identity, control of my sexuality. My body is not about pleasing others, making life easier for others. Do I remove body hair or make sure it is groomed for my own sense of well-being, or do I allow the needs of others dictate what I do or don’t do with my body hair? It comes down to control. Am I in control or do I defer control to someone else?
Now, in my sixties, I am saying this is my body and I will care for it, and my identity, and my psyche as best I can. I will not be a child and give control to another. I am a man, not a child victim continuing to seek approval, seeking to please others while disregarding my self.
I wonder if this is an answer, or just the beginning of an answer?
Strolling the beach on the Mayan Riviera reveals so much about the human condition. Yes, there are people of all sizes and shapes wearing all manner of clothing and bathing suits [or none at all]. But, it is the faces that tell the biggest stories, the authentic stories. The Mayan Riviera is one of those romantic get-away locations for many in North America.
There is an allure that is pregnant with expectation, even for singles who hear the stories of love found, love and lust, and “what goes on in Mexico, stays in Mexico.” So many, if not most of us, head to the tropics for a few weeks of love, romance and the promise of “Eros.”
Yet, all is not well for many not long into these romantic get-aways. It comes down to expectations. For, as Aldo Carotenuto notes in his book, Eros and Pathos: “When expectations do not coincide with reality one is struck by panic, by a suffering that is almost physical.”
There is somehow a belief that by changing setting, to immerse oneself into a romantic tropical setting, the problems that have arisen between to, even unspoken problems, will somehow be banished with a renewed commitment to the depths of romantic love. However, when one arrives in paradise, one finds that they have not escaped conscious and unconscious issues that have been nagging in the background. If anything, the expectation of paradise results in so many people walking along the beach with sad and strained faces, even as they walk with their chosen other.
It feels like the ultimate betrayal of love. “How could you not be a better person? I thought that at least here you wouldn’t do [fill in the blank] and embarrass me. If you truly loved me, you would [fill in the blank].” And so it doesn’t take long for paradise to become an emotional hell.
We are so quick to blame the other, to see the other as breaking the promise of love forever after. We don’t realise that it is not the other that has betrayed us, but our own inner image of the magical other that has both ravished and ravaged us. The image found in the face of our beloved is a reflection of our inner self, an image that triggers Eros making us think we have found a soul mate. We are unconscious of the drama and find ourselves on emotional roller coasters in relationship.
Yet, the person chosen as significant other was no accident. For, the person we have unconsciously chosen to hold our projection of soul mate has been unconsciously chosen because of the hooks embedded in their psyche, ready to catch those very projections. It remains the responsibility for each within the couple to become conscious of themselves so that they can consciously appreciate the real gold in the other with whom the fates have drawn together.
The decision to take time with one’s significant other in a different setting can open the portal for both to see each other, completely free of the trappings of work, commitment, community. Stripped naked and facing each other, there is a golden opportunity to finally see the beautiful truth of the other and in their eyes, one’s own beauty. It becomes vital not to take time for things to emerge without being forced. One needs to sit still with one’s sense of brokenness in order to move from narcissism into a fuller sense of love.
I intend on presenting a series of posts that look at alchemy from a naturist and psychological point of view. If I accept that naturism allows one to achieve a physical state that is in holistic balance with the earth, with relationship with others and with the self, it is desirable that one looks for a psychological balance as well since we are as much spirit as we are body. I will draw on several major sources for this series. The first is a document written by Nigel Hamilton called “The Alchemical Process of Transformation.” The second source is a contemporary web site maintained by Adam McLean called, The Alchemy Web Site. The third source is a book written by Marie-Louise von Franz called, Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology. The final, and perhaps most important source is to be taken from the works of Carl Gustav Jung.
I am not an alchemist. However, there is much in the realm of alchemy which allows me to better understand myself, allows me to remove all the layers that hide the essence of who I am.
In following the model of alchemy from a Jungian psychology standpoint, the exposure to the naked self allows for a transformation at a conscious level. With that transformation, I am able to be, to live more authentically, more aware of myself in the world. In adding the dimension of Buddhism to my journey towards awareness, I have found that even in Buddhism, alchemy has had a significant role to play in its history.
I can’t pretend to be an expert on alchemy, but I can talk about the stages of transformation as I understand them in relation to my experiences as a therapist and as analysand. This isn’t an easy process, but then one would not expect it to be easy. Awareness, enlightenment – these are the goals, to become as fully aware as possible, aware of self, others and the world. To approach these goals, one has to strip away a lot of layers and face truths alone and naked.
As most of my readers know, I take time in my life for meditation. A few of you also know that I am a naturist at heart. So, it is my preferred habit to combine both. Why did I choose this photo for today’s post? Well, for one thing, I want to share this excellent photo with you, a photo taken by my wife. She saw something in the way that the light was falling on me while I meditated and she tried to capture what she saw. She didn’t see nakedness, nor meditation. Rather, she saw a deeper meaning, one that said something about who I am in this modern world. She saw something and respected what she saw.
Relationships are difficult things. With two individuals who fall in love the initial image is one of projection. One sees an archetypal image that is bigger than any one person can ever hope to fill. As time passes and one begins to see this person without the archetype clouding vision, one must learn to respond to the reality of this person. Often we exclaim that this wasn’t the person we married. The truth is that this statement is a true statement. One marries a real person but one thinks one is marrying a different person, one that is created within one’s own psyche.
As the years pass, we begin the process of discovering the real person we have taken as a mate. As we note the reality and adjust, we change ourselves to fit with the other in an attempt to continue the relationship. Sometimes the changes are too much or go against the fundamental beliefs we hold of ourselves. When this happens the relationship enters stormy waters. We are forced to re-examine these fundamental beliefs and weigh them against the positives, and there are always positives, in the relationship.
If one is honest, then a relationship will always enter stormy waters. We must be honest with ourselves and with our partners. That honesty will point out the differences between each other and the differences we hold about the other than are causing personal discord. This honesty isn’t spoken with the intent of changing the other person as that can’t be realised and have the other person be true to their own nature. With honest there is an opportunity to see each other in a new light and consider how that resonates or complements what one honestly knows about oneself.
Attempts to change the other, demand change in the other, or force change on oneself for the other always ends in fracturing. Accepting the differences allows a relationship to continue and to grow. As the relationship grows, the strength of the individuals in the relationship also grows. The relationship becomes a sacred container within which both partners feel safe, the relationship becomes a holy marriage.
It isn’t often that I borrow images from others, but today’s image is one that just begged to be brought here. I came across this image thanks to one of my Twitter friends, someone who had found the image at a site called Poor Artists hosted on Tumblr. I then went in search of Paige Bradley’s own page where the statue is featured in four different settings. I encourage readers to check out both sites as there is so much to see. The world is richer than one often thinks.
In a way, I find this to be a synchronistic event, the “tweet” to view the image. I am reading Women Who Rub With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. In the book she talks about accessing the Wild Woman or La Loba:
“Each woman has potential access . . . She arrives there through deep meditation, dance, writing, painting, prayermaking, singing, drumming, active imagination, or any activity which requires an intense altered consciousness.” (Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 30)
How fitting an image to go with this ancient idea! Yet, that is not all that was synchronistic for me. As several of my recent posts have discussed, naturism is another current area of study, the idea of being Sky Clad as an outer expression of honesty to match the quest of discovery of the authentic self. This image, Expansion, addresses this quest as well. I guess I could say that I am double lucky in having this image appear in my life at this particular time.
I have good again to the 2006 trip to Mexico to bring a new photo here. The trip to Cancun was a two-couple affair with the other couple choosing the location as it was to be their first such experience. They chose an “adults only” resort which meant that there was some nudity to be expected. I was quite surprised with this choice though I don’t think that they really understood what that exactly meant. Once there, they got to see little in the way of titillating scenes, nor did they engage in any “au naturel” experiences. As usual, in the privacy of my own accommodations, I was able to steal a few hours of sheltered freedom from clothing. The nudity that was present was definitely just topless young women who were proud to flash. Experiences such as this make up the bulk of most North Americans; experiences of nudity.
Two evenings past, I got to have a cup of tea with this couple who wanted to talk about last winter’s trip to Jamaica. While telling their stories, they mentioned that there was a scene where they got to see a poor Jamaican man taking a bath in the river. The wife remarked that his “willy” was big. She also talked of seeing a beggar asleep on the roadside with his “junk” hanging out. These stories were told with a disgusted tone.
Somehow or other, the conversation shifted as she then related an experience her son had while travelling in Ontario where they came upon a long beach where the family with two young children were intending to spend a few hours. However, seeing an older couple, likely in their seventies, they beat a hasty retreat to their car and continued their journey. When I asked why, the response was that it was gross for older people to go in the nude. You have to understand that this couple are basically the same age as I am, not young. I asked why and the response was all about “body” image. Only the young and beautiful should be allowed to go nude. There was no chance of having them see any other way of thinking.
I made only a few more attempts to talk about “natural” and about “positive self-concept.” In my opinion, there is a link between mental health and being able to accept ourselves for the way we are both mentally and physically. At the stage of life I now find myself, I begin to believe that taking time to be in our own skin, to experience the world “au naturel” is very therapeutic.
“Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology in the 1960s, states: “I still think that nudism . . . is itself a kind of therapy.” (Joseph Sommer)
One bares one’s soul in the therapist’s or analyst’s office in order to heal the inner wounds. I begin to wonder if we also heal the soul with the baring of our bodies in nature, letting the sun, breezes and water wash over us.
I took this older photo from 2006 in order to continue the series about naturism. But before I go further, I want to be upfront and say that in this series of photos, judicious cropping has led to the illusion of my being fully in my own skin. It’s not true. I cropped the swim wear in each photo to give an illusion. Obviously in each photo I was not alone and someone else was taking the photographs with my camera. And because of the fact of the presence of another person, I find myself, like the vast majority of North Americans, uncomfortable in my own skin concerned about my less than perfect body. I wouldn’t think of going “au naturel.” And so, I ask myself “Why?”
Well, I have convinced myself that it is “selfish” of me to not care about the sensibilities of others. I have told myself that I would embarrass those closed to me in any given situation, embarrass strangers that would accidentally see me. Being seen unclothed in a public place, even at a beach in Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere would be an intrusion into the space of others, an assault on their own concepts of self and others. And as I continue to think about it, there appear many layers of “reasons” for my feeling uncomfortable in my own skin when others are present. I want to include a few words here that I found on another site while researching the psychological aspects of naturism:
“Progressively, over the centuries, society has developed the use of clothing as a mask. Clothing was originally used and designed to protect people from the elements of heat and cold, to stop themselves from getting burned or frozen. It was also used as a method of adornment to enhance attractiveness and for ritual and ceremonial reasons. In the latter centuries, people developed a cultural dependency on clothing. Clothes became a mask and a prop for perceived personality and character deficiencies.
“We frequently see people who would not be seen dead without their clothing on. Clothing is often used to portray an image that is different from the person’s perceived inner deficiencies. It is a form of artificiality or masking that they outwardly project to cover up any personality or emotional defects they think they have. People tend to feel that by hiding behind clothing they can metaphorically cover themselves and deny others exposure to the inner-self they perceive to be crippled. The need to do this most commonly occurs in people with low self-esteem.” (Naked Beneath Your Clothing)
Again, the masking of the self, the portraying of an image that would be more socially acceptable, one that would leave me safely protected from the collective. I know that I have a lot of scars and messy aspects and I desperately want to hide them so that others will like me. I hide my true self. But that hiding can only go on so long before one is forced to expose one’s true self. I have no issue with seeing others in their own skin, something which isn’t so rare in other countries such as India, and in IndoChina. Seeing others in their own skin in North America is also not an issue for me other than me berating myself for lacking the courage these others demonstrate in being comfortable in their own skin.
The journey of individuation forces one to become honest with one’s self, and in turn, that leads to a transparency that forces one to be honest with others. I am not really there yet though I yearn to be there, need to be there in order to feel whole, to feel a sense of real holiness. This blog space is one place where I feel a real sense of safety, especially in allowing my inner self to be more transparent. The journey continues.
This image was taken at Jaco Bay in Costa Rica in January 2010. While in Costa Rica, sunset photos became a frequent activity with an occasional photo pf myself making it into some of the photos. I chose this photo in order to continue on with the theme of naturalism, being whole in one’s own skin. As I write, I do understand that many in the world do not see the naked body as a moral issue as it is understood in the North American collective. Naturalists exist in both Canada and the U.S.A. and have gathered together at private campsites, private resorts or isolated beaches. North American society grudgingly gives in to these isolated pockets while maintaining as much pressure as they can to push the fundamentalist, Victorian ideology/morality as far as they can in terms of public freedoms. Strange for me how the focus in on having citizens keep their clothes on rather than real issues of sexual exploitation and violence.
I am a naturalist in a quiet and private manner. Of course that means that I pick and choose times for liberation from my clothing, at least finding sleep as a time, space and place for being natural. Interesting to me that I honour this with the belief that in doing so, I allow the portal to the dream world to be as transparent as possible with the idea that in putting my body fully at ease, I am more receptive to whatever is attempting to be heard.
In doing my research for this post (and yesterday’s, I cam across a few interesting thoughts that I would like to bring forward here. The first is from Walt Whitman, taken from his work, Specimen Days. I have just quoted a few of the words from this section (133) called A Sun-bath – Nakedness:
“Never before did I get so close to Nature; never before did she come so close to me… Nature was naked, and I was also… Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature! – ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent.” (Whitman, Specimen Days, “A Sun-Bath – Nakedness,” 1892
Another one of my early influences on a number of different levels was Henry David Thoreau who wrote a three part essay called walking (available now in various ebook formats from the Gutenberg project) written in 1861 from which he offers his thoughts on being “natural”:
“We cannot adequately appreciate this aspect of nature if we approach it with any taint of human pretense. It will elude us if we allow artifacts like clothing to intervene between ourselves and this Other. To apprehend it, we cannot be naked enough.” (Thoreau, Walking, 1861)
I know that I have found peace in nature, especially when clothing is set aside for a brief time. I have found this peace in lakes and in gentle pools along various rivers, walking through a Yucatan estuary, on protected areas along seashores, in isolated fields and meadows and while walking down remote trails in the wilderness. This is not about social activity or about sexual gratification. This is about being honest with oneself, stripping away yet one more mask and exposing all the flaws so that they can be accepted as natural aspects of self rather than as deficits.
Again, I return to the topic of transparency and authenticity, something I have talked about here before. I want to talk about “natural” man as distinguished from “civilized” man. This is a relatively old photo taken in March, 2009 while spending the winter in a Mayan fishing village. I chose this photo because it is “safe” and reader friendly. The image is symbolic to me of times long past that are more about young adulthood than about midlife. I am reminded of how over the years I celebrated naturalness in the water. In today’s world there is an element of fear attached to being natural. I admit that I am quite conflicted about the being at one in a natural state, in the world. I am a naturist at small, private moments yet I must choose with care these moments because of the impact it has on others in my life. When I was younger, I didn’t care that much. Isolated beaches, forest meadows, in the privacy of home naturalism was present in small doses. My children grew up knowing the freedom of skinny-dipping and moving from bath to bedroom without body shame. We never passed a camping trip without at least one skinny-dipping night swim. Somehow, for some reason, the freedom has gone, at least in North America.
The world has changed, become more charged with sexuality. With the growing ascendancy of the right, fear is reacting badly attempting to criminalize sexuality, especially when it comes to young people. Who in today’s modern world would take a photo of their children playing in the bathtub with cousins or siblings or parents? Should someone dare this photo, it risks the photographer or owner of the photograph being charged with a criminal offense and being put on a registry of sexual offenders. Walking in the buff in one’s own home is risky as any passerby who chances to look in a window and see a nude body risks being charged with indecent exposure and being placed on a sexual offender registry.
Many psychologists say that clothing is an extension of ourselves. The clothes we wear are an expression of who we are. The Naturist’s comfort with casual nudity, therefore, represents an attitude which is comfortable with yourself as it is in its most basic state, without modification or deceit. (Indiana Naturists Blog)
Naturism. It’s a word that is not held in high regard in the western world for the most part.
Johann Lemmer, in his work, Introduction to Sexology, discusses CG Jung’s concepts in terms of sexuality and suggests that the moral issues that confront modern man are often centered around sexuality and points to the masculine and feminine images and archetypes discussed by Jung as psychology’s attempt to deal with the issues. One needs to remember that Jung’s work was built on the foundation of Freud’s work which has a significant focus on human sexuality.
“FKK” (Frei-Körper-Kultur) or “Free Body Culture”. FKK derives its roots from the philosophical works from Carl Gustav Jung (one of the founding fathers of modern psychology) and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (German physicist and philosopher), who maintained nudity was a form of returning to nature. Specifically, it was a form of returning to the natural state of mankind, before clothing dictated our social status, and set standards of how much respect we pay to people based on the clothes they are wearing. (Celeste Neumann)
Good information, but how does that solve the moral dilemmas faced by men, women and children in both Canada and the U.S.A. And more importantly for myself, how do I navigate to liberate myself from the attitudes of those around me? I know it is my choice, that I can find the space, place and time for naturism. Yet, my choices always seem to have an impact on others, others who have meaning for me. Regardless, little by little, I am pushing back the straight-jacket that would have me wear clothing even when sleeping.