Why Am I a Naturist, a Nudist?

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It all began in darkness, when depression became a matter of life and death.

Now that I have started to re-approach nudity as therapy in the container I will continue to call, Nude Psychology, I find that I need to explain something very important – Why? Why nudity? And the only way I can do this honestly is to speak of my own roots, my own initial experiences. Everything grows out of those early years. I have posted most of what follows below more than once, in more than one forum.

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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.

Light does emerge from the cover of darkness.

Light does emerge from the cover of darkness.

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?

In the safety of a forest, reclaiming control of body

In the safety of a forest, reclaiming control of body

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.

Alone in nature

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?

Naturists as Outliers and Deviants in a Good Sense

The price of being different, being true to yourself . . .

Naturism is a deviant practice in reference to the modern world in which I and many other naturists find ourselves. When I say deviant, I am not declaring that naturism is a state of immorality or evilness. Rather, I am strictly talking about the practice of naturism within the context of the modern western world, especially that of Northern America. The larger society is phobic about keeping clothing on regardless of the weather and activity conditions. Common sense is not a consideration. I like how Thomas Moore looks at the term deviancy as “veering off the straight line.”

“Humans often have a preference for straight lines. We think of evolution and human development as following an uncrooked path toward perfection. We expect our neighbors to walk the straight and narrow”.

Religion somehow, likely through the process of falling into and growing power in a world that was ripe for exploitation, began to believe in its own messages, which were created to increase and solidify its power, messages which basically said to give up personal autonomy in favour of the collective ruled by the Church. In accepting the authority of the Church as the true and only mediator between the Divine and self, people took comfort in having someone else become responsible. Tolerance of the outliers, those who didn’t fit too well into the role of faithful, was lost and in its place, grew a fear that the collective would suffer for the actions, the straying away from the straight and narrow. The Church reinforced this collective fear, blaming all the misfortunes of life and nature on the presence of these outliers.

Today the church has been supplanted in power by the economy where the dollars are doled out to the faithful, those who follow the new straight and narrow, one that strategically keeps the church as ally. Fear of being denied heaven has been replaced with fear of losing all the riches promised and given for following the straight and narrow. Heaven and earth are now both at risk. No wonder there is no tolerance for those unable or unwilling to follow a straight line through life, the outliers, those who deviate.

Some of the outliers find themselves circling through life like the seasons. A different reality, a different heaven catches their attention, a reality and heaven that isn’t based on fear. They know, intuitively that they need to honour the soul of the earth, the soul of humanity, and one’s personal soul. Rather than retreat from confrontation with the dark moments, the tragedies, the storms and winter; we are invited, perhaps even required to get caught up in the seasons of life rather than spend all of our energy trying to go in a straight line to some dubious final destination.

Naked Therapy – Falling Apart and Being Put Back Together

Garden meditation with sunshine

It’s summer, yet somehow I woke up to a temperature of 4 Celsius outside. I woke early as is normal. By 8:45 the temperature had soared to 10 C, warm enough to be outside to capture a bit of sunshine on my body. Today, meditation is not as easy on my body as it has been in the past. My left knee is hurting when I assume a semi-lotus position. With age, it seems my body is falling apart, tiny bit by bit.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. . . . The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

I am in a good space and place in my life, and for that I am grateful beyond measure. I am one of the lucky ones. In spite of those things of childhood and youth that sought to forever break my spirit, body, mind and soul, I survived and moved on to create a different life. I had thought I had left all behind me in the past. But, I am learning that one never leaves anything. The past is not something left behind. It is always present. I used to think that memories can be safely contained as if it was a photo tucked away in some photo album. But the memories are contained in the body and the senses and as a result are as close as one’s skin.

Even though I am in a good space and place in my life, things do fall apart and I tumble back into the same space and place of past trauma. There are triggers – just ask any military veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD – the war erupts and one is again totally immersed in the traumatizing events. One learns to flow through the falls and the ascents that cycle through one’s life, the falling apart and the coming together again.

“When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test for each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize. The spiritual journey is ot about heaven and finally getting to a place that’s really swell. In fact, that way of looking at things is what keeps us miserable.”

These words help me. I stop expecting some pill, some therapy, some guru to give me the answers and the relief from the complexities of being human, of being alive and complicated and complex.

Owning Body, Mind, and Soul

Pensive, and blaming it on the weather.

There is a real need to take ownership back: ownership of one’s body, mind and soul. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what other people think or say. One’s well-being ultimately falls to what we think and say and believe about ourselves.

In the world of nudism and naturism, there is often the same dialogue and drama about the human body as there is among the rest of the human population. There seems to be more should’s and should not’s than one would expect when the clothing falls off. There is a fear, a real fear about the unknown, the person beneath the exposed skin. There is this idea that humans should follow rules rather than respond to their environment of people, place and time in a natural way seems to be non-existent. Humans just don’t trust each other, or themselves. We’ve somehow come to believe that humans are essentially not to be trusted, that somehow humans and their bodies are basically flawed.

With the modern psyche accepting this idea of humanity being flawed, as a central belief embedded in religion, law, and social relationships, with the exception of activities that serve economic interests; there is a built in filter that has us cover up our self-perceived flawed bodies, and our self-perceived flawed characters. Humans work hard to present a self-idealised version of themselves, typically achieved through the clothing they wear, clothing which is carefully selected. Other strategies include exercise and diet. To do any less is to be vulnerable, to give up power over self to others – at least, that is what we tell ourselves. Yet, all of these strategies achieve precisely the opposite. Power remains with the nameless “others” and becomes even more oppressive in spite of our efforts.

We also have built in filters to cover up the truth about our inner selves. We adopt different personae to convince our various audiences that we are okay, worth the time and effort for a relationship. And, we hope like hell that the shadows we are deliberately hiding, stay hidden. We worry that no one would come within ten feet of us if they saw who we really were under our social disguises.

We work harder and harder to keep the physical and psychological truths of who we really are at bay. The harder we try, it seems the more cracks appear in our efforts which force us to up the ante and adopt newer and proclaimed more effective strategies to appear perfect in the eyes of others. Or else, we simply say the hell with it all and go nude letting the self finally become free. Caveat: going nude is problematical in a world that is phobic about human nudity. Expect to be harassed and perhaps even persecuted.

Naked, Authentic, and at Peace with Oneself

Emma

As I sit here this morning wondering what I will write about, with too many ideas racing though my head, I turned to a collection of images that are resting on my desktop, images such as this one of Emma James, a naturist from the U.K. who had become part of Naked Poetry book 2. I was struck by the openness and authentic sense of being at peace with “self” that this image portrays.

I have both taken and collected images from other places to illustrate my blog posts over the years. As I looked back at my archive, I noticed how the expression on my face and the stiffness of my body has changed. It has been only in the recent few years that my own image begins to show the same level of self-acceptance as I see in the image of Emma.

I think back to a number of years when I was constricted, barely able to breathe for the tightness in my chest and the vice-grips that had imprisoned my soul. None of it made sense as I had a good life as a parent and spouse with a good career that had earned me a lot of community respect. What had been responsible for my dark state of being within the embrace of family and community? What had changed between then and now when I can once again breathe without worry of the shadows that are still present on the periphery?

My writing since that time of darkness, a writing that had found its way into a number of formats – discussion groups, poetry, reflective journals, blog posts and stories that acknowledge the reality of darkness that broods with a life of its own, within the compass of my life. As the stories emerged, I found myself battling the emerging monsters and ghosts, never able to defeat them, but finding a way to co-exist with them. I created a space where whatever and whoever it is that I identify with as my self, a legitimate space hard-earned.

As the spaces opened up and breathing returned, somewhat to normal, other images of the unconscious emerged, images of those moments in time when I had previously felt whole. More often than not, the images showed a transparent self, one that didn’t hide in closets or in cardboard boxes. I saw myself without the borrowed clothing of others. Yes, I saw myself without clothing, daring to be exposed to the universe. Of course, I was a child, a youth, and later a very young man when these rare experiences were lived. To be graced with these images bathed in light in a world and life that was otherwise darkness, allowed me to remember, to re-member that child, youth, young adult into a much older adult. And so I dared to search again for those spaces and places where I could risk being authentically and transparently myself.

My life has changed, dramatically because of my work with writing and with my risking being vulnerable. I have learned, perhaps for the first time, that it is okay to be me. I now know that I don’t have much choice but to be authentically me if I am to continue breathing without the power of the darkness once again imprisoning me so that I become only a shell of a man.

Back Home From Another Road Trip

Checking out the Hosta and other plants.

It has been a bit since my last post. I am back home after selling fifty books on the last road trip. I now have a month off until I again hit the road for more grandchildren then more selling of books in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. I have to say that it is good to be home. One of the first things that I noticed was that a hummingbird was taking in the nectar of the flowering Hosta plants.

Now that I am back home again, I have again returned to meditation and to walking in the countryside. Both were set aside as I made my way through hours of driving to, and through, and away from cities.

On another note, I have been elected to a two-year term as a Director of the Federation of Canadian Naturists. I’m not sure what that all entails, but I imagine that it will be an interesting two years with involvement in their magazine goingNatural which now has my friend Alex, a.k.a. HappyBare, as the editor.

Now, it’s time to go and be of some use as a helper so that we can put up a new batch of dill pickles for the coming year. Our children and grandchildren raid our basement shelves [with our permission of course] for sauerkraut, dill pickles, canned tomatoes, and even home-made sausage.

Another Naked Gardening Day

Carefully picking beans so the plants can produce more for another harvest.

It’s time to lighten up a bit here at Naturist Lens. Tomorrow I take my small trailer and head off to Regina, then Winnipeg where I will be doing more book-signing events. I will be staying at the Legacy Naturist grounds near Winnipeg for four nights, my first time to visit this venue.

There aren’t many purple bean plants in our small garden, but the harvest is excellent.

Today, I spent my time alternating between harvesting purple and green beans, as well as spinach, and finishing with the packing and preparing for my camping adventure. The gardening I was able to do naked. The camping trailer work required clothing as it is parked in front of our house, in full view of the passing public.

I’ll write again from Winnipeg.

Fundamentalism Denying the Naked Truth

Catching morning rays while sitting in my armchair

I was sitting in the living room this morning with my wife, enjoying a cup of coffee after breakfast. We were looking out the window and talking as we usually do before we get busy with planned projects for the day. At one point, the idea of people trying to build up their own sense of worth by putting down others came up. Both of us found many examples of this basic human tendency from our workplaces where there is a fear of superiors and a disdain for inferiors in the pecking order of the workplace. The idea that we are all simply just humans doing a job the best we can, that we all have lives that are not our jobs, seems like a foreign concept. And, as usual, that got me thinking. I knew that this needed to be taken here, if not for you, my readers, then for myself so that I could spill out what I needed to say and free up energy for the projects of the day that lay ahead.

We are born naked; every last one of us was born without clothes, without much more than an immediate fear of an unknown world, born hungry. Somewhere along the journey babies learn that the world contains others somewhat like him or herself. Typically there is power in those relationships where the baby is powerless and learns that she or he is powerless in the face of the parent. Every baby also learns that she or he has a body and that the clothes on the body is not part of who they are. And when the baby is able to slip out of the clothes and become familiar with the body, there is a real pleasure in the sense of discovery about the self.

Babies soon become toddlers and the lessons begin to teach the child that the self needs to be hidden behind clothing as well as lies. And at this point in time, the need to find a new way to define the self arises. Does the child learn to relate to others and thus re-establish a relationship to self in terms of equality? Or. does the child learn to compete, to dominate, to retaliate with passive resistance? Whatever lesson the child learns, that lesson is carried forward into adulthood following years and years of practice.

Perhaps the child becomes a manager of a facility. As the manager, work relationship patterns emerge that can be traced to lessons learned while growing up. Will the manager dominate the supporting cast of characters in the workplace? Will the manager collaborate and validate the staff to achieve workplace needs? Unknown to the manager is that this is all occurring at the unconscious level.

Beneath the roles and the relationships each of us finds ourselves involved with as adults, we are still naked. Stripped of our roles, our titles, our wealth, our own ignorance, we are all vulnerable and naked. Why do we cower and grovel like some insecure pet before our bosses, our mates to whom we given over our own power of self, our authorities be they presidents or shift bosses? Each of these powerful others are really no different at all. They are all naked beneath their clothing in spite of how much they may have paid for that clothing. They all have to deal with the elimination of body wastes using the same body parts. They all have to deal with body health issues that come with passing viruses and other nasty sources and that come with aging. Beneath the veneer of job or social rank, the same insecurities weigh in to trouble sleep and give rise to troubling dreams or frightening nightmares.

Oppression in the name of God, Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, etc.

What pisses me off are those who adopt a fundamentalist way of being in the world which needs to deny the value and worth of others in order to shore up their own insecurities. False truths and supporting dogma are used as weapons of mass psychological destruction. Young girls and boys, women and men are all enemies until and unless they mindlessly adhere to the dogma and enter the crusade to purify the world of others. Particularly frustrating and devastating is the crusade to deny the body, to wrap the body in darkness and declare it to be the tool of the ultimate enemy of humanity.

What brings on this rant? Well, it has several sources. The first that pops into my mind is how a government such as exists in Canada, has devalued the feminine, defunding groups that have women’s issues at their core, and has no will to deal with the issue of so many aboriginal women going missing in Canada. The message is clear – they are not worth it.

The second issue is that of how a political group in the U.S.A. has shut down government using the issue of entitlement, the right to good medical care by the lower classes within the country, the funding of which would eat into the entitled wealth of those who are working so hard to deny and defund.

And the last issue? Probably it was something I ate last night.

Navigating Gender – Not Just What the Naked Body Tells Us

image found via Google Search

Gender is an aspect of our individuality.”  These words from Thomas Moore got me thinking about gender and my own identity. When a person is nude, gender is an obviously physical thing as this image illustrates. But what gender are we as individuals? The obvious answers are either male or female, but as science and life teaches us, there isn’t always an obvious answer even on the basic physical level. When it comes to the psychological level it gets even more complicated. Identity is forged individual by individual and we still don’t have a full knowledge of how gender and identity are tied in with our physical bodies. The scientific and supposedly objective criteria of defining gender by one’s chromosomal configuration falls flat on its face when confronted by bodies appearing to be male or female, which contradict what the chromosomal structure would have us believe. Hormone therapy, surgery, and other strategies used by a considerable number of people to have their bodies reflect the gender that is buried within their individual psyches.

Gender and identity

Perhaps, Thomas Moore has it right when he says that “Gender is a state of mind, a product of the imagination.” Of course, Moore is talking about how each of us self-identifies based on psychological rather than simply physiological factors. Our physical bodies are containers, not the sum total of who we are as human beings and individuals. We experience our bodies and develop relationships with these bodies we find ourselves in. Most often the inner self (the psychological self) and the outer self (the physiological self) are in accord and we are comfortable in male bodies with a solid masculine sense of identity, or females with a solid feminine sense of identity. But even that simplistic self-identity is charged with unnamed influences both within and without to cause confusion. We are each individuals with individual histories in unique settings and contexts and relationships.

I am a man and feel myself to be fully masculine, but . . . and it seems for each of us there is a niggling but somewhere in the background lurking . . . but what I experience as my masculinity isn’t what any other man experiences and understands. And, as I get older, I find myself, both physically and psychologically, mellowing in my grounded identity as a man and as masculine. The hard edges are being eroded allowing me to become a fuller person, richer.

Is Nudity Psychologically Harmful For Children?

Is it okay to be naked in front of your kids? Daily Mail. UK

I am asking this question because almost all of the outrage being expressed against nudity, especially nudity in the home and in public, is prefaced with “My God! What if children see nude people? They’ll be scarred forever!” As a naturist and as a therapist, I obviously don’t believe that nudity in itself causes psychological scarring for children or for adults. We are all nude beneath our clothing and are born nude. We are the only species that covers up because of some sense of shame at our nakedness. But at the same time, I don’t want to let my opinions get in the way of truth, so I went out searching for answers.

Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me, 1633, Cornelis van Haarlem

Curiously, I didn’t find any scientific or psychological studies that confirmed that seeing nudity (oneself or others) was psychologically harmful in itself. Where there was harm, other factors were also present. However, I did find serious studies that basically stated that nudity was not the factor in the psychological scarring of children, studies such the one led by Paul Okami (cited below), Higgins and Hawkins (1984), and Dr. Conrad Manning. What was interesting in doing the research was the

Pool in Calgary Canada that was at the centre of vicious rants about traumatising children by seeing naked adults in swimming pool, scarring them for life – 2018.

fact that few children in North America saw any adult nudity while children.

“Given the vehemence with which clinicians and child-rearing specialists often condemn childhood exposure to parental nudity, it is paradoxical that their dire predictions are not supported by the (scant) empirical work that does exist.” [Okami, Olmstead, Abramson, Pendelton, Archives of Sexual Behavior. Volume: 27. Issue: 4, “Early childhood exposure to parental nudity.”

Another study by Lewis and Janda (1988) studied the literature and conducted a study of Seventy-seven males and 133 females to assess the relationship between exposure to nudity and adult well-being.

“The results suggest that childhood exposure to nudity and sleeping in the parental bed are not related to poor sexual adjustment. In fact, for boys, exposure to nudity in early childhood appears to be modestly related to greater

comfort levels with regard to physical contact /affection.” [Lewis and Janda, Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol. 17, No. 4, 1988 “The Relationship Between Adult Sexual Adjustment and Childhood Experiences Regarding Exposure to Nudity]

Studies aside, society judges harshly. And as with all harsh responses, reality is not the issue, only the dark shadow hanging over and within a society and its constituents. Will children be scarred by the sight of nudity? If our collective shadow has its way, we will make sure that they do. Left to nature, never!

Even Christ Can’t Be Nude

Christ crucified by Benvenuto Cellini, 1562

Sometimes images betray unintended information about the human psyche. Benvenuto Cellini had his reasons for creating this image of Jesus Christ crucified almost five hundred years ago. He wasn’t the first of the last to show Christ nude. What is vital today, is that this image has so much to tell us about our human psyche and condition today. That is the power of what I can only say is a numinous image.

A numinous image is one that is more than a recording of a visual fact. If the image takes us deep within ourselves, or out beyond the realm of ordinary life where we can almost touch whatever it is that we call heaven or nirvana, then the image is numinous. Evoking a sense of mystery, holiness, awe, and even the presence of whatever it is that we struggle to name as the creative force of the universe, such images take us out of ourselves and into ourselves. And where it takes us, isn’t always about light. As often as an image takes us to the awe of creation and heaven, an image also makes evident the face of darkness, of fear, of anger, of hell.

As a naturist, a psychological naturist, this image speaks to me on a number of levels: the personal, the spiritual and even the collective level. Cellini has crafted in marble, man’s vulnerability. Even the Son of God is vulnerable. Seeing this vulnerability allows me to accept my own vulnerability with honour instead of shame. The path back home, back to from whence we came, like our entrance into this life, is a journey that can only be done naked and vulnerable. There is a need to give up – give up our beliefs, our religions, our anchors, all that ties us to where we are if we are to enter. No brand name article of clothing or footwear will serve as a passport to heaven. We must submit, naked and vulnerable.

Christ covered up so he wont be offensive or traumatise children.

In our modern world, an irrational fear grows more and more powerful. Mothers cover the eyes of their children at the first sign of nudity, especially male nudity. Any male caught exposed is branded a pervert and punished by the collective as a sexual offender.I mentioned a collective level response to this image, to this historically accurate portrayal of crucifixion by Romans two thousand years ago. In our modern world, we have such a dread of being naked and vulnerable and we have adopted a sense of shame for being naked and vulnerable. For Jesus to be Son of God, then we need to cover up his nakedness. For Jesus to be the Son of Man, we need to deny his sexuality. A visible penis is too threatening.

In our modern world we learn to hide ourselves from others, even from ourselves. We learn that our bodies are not to be trusted. We learn that our bodies are imperfect and need serious modifications through diet, exercise, and surgery. We unconsciously come to believe that God messed up big time and had nothing to be pleased about at the end of the seventh day of creation. So, we cover up our bodies and cover up the body of a crucified Christ.