Keeping it Simple and Real

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Mundane life makes one present in life.

For the past week I have been busy with the normal rhythms of life, of autumn on the Canadian prairies. With winter threatening as the geese gather to feed before their long pilgrimage to the southern climes of North America, I like many others, have been cleaning the last of our produce from the garden. The garden is now tilled and prepared for a long winter’s sleep.

Because of the need to focus on the prosaic tasks of autumn, gardens, and winterizing our camper, there has been no thoughts given to this blog site. There will more than enough time for that in the months that will follow.

Gathering the last of the garden produce.

Gathering the last of the garden produce.

I have been lucky in that the weather has warmed up just in time for the work to be done. We only had one rain day which was appreciated as it softened the hard clay that passes as our garden soil. For the past two days I have tilled the garden and added more than 200 litres of peat moss before tilling it a second time. I am pleased with the result though I have the beginnings of blisters on my hands in spite of wearing work gloves while manhandling the garden tiller. There is a sense of satisfaction in manual tasks done well.

Now that most of the work has been completed, I am turning once again to writing. The second novel in the pilgrim series is just entering into the first rewrite using the comments I have received from my three critical readers. Constructive criticism is vital for a writer.

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Hiking in Bare-Bear Country

Hiking - Yes, this is bare country and that is bear spray in my holster.

Hiking – Yes, this is bare country and that is bear spray in my holster.

For the past two weeks I have been in Kananaskis country with my wife where we got to hike on trails alongside, and sometimes high up on slopes that had me wondering if I was going to fall hundreds of metres onto rocks and streams below the trail. Hiking in the fall is a bit dangerous if not prepared. We had bells (rarely used) and bear spray (always carried in a holster as in the photo) at hand when we hiked. Grizzly bears are active in the area as it is feeding on mountain berries season while they pack on extra fat for a long winter’s hibernation. Luckily we didn’t need to use the spray though we were in the same vicinity as at least one bear – he left a fresh dump of scat on our trail. Hiking bare in bear country doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared.

At the summit of a ridge where the fire lookout tower overlooks the Kananaskis lakes and valley.

At the summit of a ridge where the fire lookout tower overlooks the Kananaskis lakes and valley.

On our hikes we did get close to a cow moose and many Spruce Grouse. We knew there were coyotes near by and elk as we passed their relatively recent droppings as well. The weather was perfect for hiking in the mountains though the mornings were always hovering just above or just below freezing. The day we climbed the highest, the temperature at the top had made it to 2 C. by lunch time. Thankfully the sun was out and I got to sunbathe before we hiked back down the trail. As you can see, snow on the trees behind and below us tell the story of winter’s approach. I am fortunate that my inner furnace works well.

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Erections and Perceptions

erectionA friend of mine in cyberspace sent me an email commenting and wondering about my photos which generally let the viewer know that I am skyclad, but somehow not showing my penis. Now this practice makes sense if using social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; but it doesn’t make sense on a naturist site where seeing full frontal images with male and female genitalia is the norm. What is not normal in most “real” naturist sites, be they virtual or real-world venues, is the presentation of the male genitals with an erection. The naturist world weighs heavily on the belief that naturist is asexual, non-sexual, and overt sexual displays such as an erection, need to be either hidden by a towel, or better yet, non-existent. There isn’t much threatening about a limp penis.

naked-old-man-erectSo, what drives men to show images of themselves with an erection is complicated with no clear answer that covers all. For some, perhaps the majority, it is simply about insecurity and the need for praise (See! I’m a big boy now). So many men are criticised as being childish by their female partners and/or their mothers. Flaunting an erection is a response to the doubt that many face regarding their status as “real men.” For older men, it is a protest statement that defies ageing, a statement that there is still a vital man hidden behind the wrinkles and grey hair.

Why? Why do men show images of themselves that show an erection? tumblr_naegjzNmur1qfqu7go1_250There is no simple answer. And, the answer changes dependent upon which school of psychological thought a psychotherapist has as a base, which philosophy informs the lens through which the therapist views the world. My view is through a Jungian lens, a depth psychology lens that has more than the brain and the body as determinants. For cognitive (brain-based) and behavioural therapists, showing an image (or the reality) of an erection is dysfunctional and abnormal. The problem can best be “fixed” by reprogramming behaviour and by critical analysis that educates the ego to rethink behaviour.

However, in depth psychology, the lens through which I understand the human psyche, the answer lies in the unconscious, the shadow regions of the self. Contrary to what most believe, we are a mystery to ourselves and the unconscious aspects of ourselves does impact our behaviour. In other words, there is meaning that hasn’t yet connected with the ego, the aware part of ourselves. The behaviour is symbolic of something deep within that needs attention.

Addendum: I have lost my Facebook account due in large measure because of this post. I guess that “education” has different meanings for FB. There is no education if there is a nude image involved.

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Body and Mind – In Harmony or in Conflict

A detail from Michelangelo's statue of David/

A detail from Michelangelo’s statue of David/

It’s not working the way it should! It used to be longer and harder. What the #%&#@ is wrong with me? It’s one thing to be flaccid as the day goes on, but what about when I am trying to make love to a person I love?

There is something about erections that is vital to a man’s psyche. An erection is associated with virility, and virility was what separated men from boys. When the erections disappear, males suffer a loss of identity as a virile man. Either the male needs to redefine what it is that makes him a man, recreate himself, or he may lapse into a depression of sorts if nothing else can become the focus of his manliness. Without erections, he feels neutered, a eunuch.

Sculpture in the Round Erotica Stone House of the Vettii Italy Sculpture of a man with erect phallus Mulas, Eros in Antiquity,

Sculpture in the Round Erotica Stone House of the Vettii Italy Sculpture of a man with erect phallus – Mulas, Eros in Antiquity – Pompeii

With the modern world challenging the whole notion of the masculine, often viewing the masculine in negative and primal terms, men know that they are men in spite of what they hear from the world. The erect penis is the enemy as it is the erect penis that has raped women, has subjugated women. This symbol of power for men is a symbol of domination by men for women. That said . . .

In so many couple relationships in the modern world, the man follows the woman. She leads, and she leads with the knowledge of her power, especially over a man’s sexuality. With a few words or even a “look” she can deflate a man’s ego and his penis.

Perhaps this is why we now have so many men taking photos of their penis, especially an erect penis. Those images are not necessarily shared. Sometimes they are just there, in the background in an archive of photos as proof that in spite of what happens in the moment, they know that deep down they are men.

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A Self-Respecting Naked Buddhist

Buddha on the journey to enlightenment.

Buddha on the journey to enlightenment.

Yes, Buddha, or should I say Siddhartha Gautama, would have looked like this not long after he began his journey to enlightenment. Like all those before him, that journey was marked by being skyclad, by meditation, and by deprivation. Today, Sadhu Nagas still continue this practice. Somewhere between then and now, the Digambara who stress the practice of nudity as an absolute prerequisite to the attainment of salvation.

Somewhere along his journey toward salvation, he decided that the traditional means of attaining salvation were just not enough. He abandoned the classical Hindu and Jainist rituals and carved his own path that he called the middle way. He came to reject nudity as being unseemly with the nude body being ugly and not suitable for polite company. As Buddha, he self-proclaimed as fully aware. Yet, he was still a man of his times, a time when nudity was not considered suitable in polite company. In other words, he didn’t want Buddhists to be in conflict with cultural norms. Another reason for his rejection of nudity was the fact that he was rejecting Hinduism and Jainism and he wanted his followers to be be distinctive in appearance and dress. Both reasons are sensible when the objective is to have Buddhism become mainstream. As far as nudity being objectionable in terms of ultimate moral truth, that would be a different story, one that Buddha never addressed.

Of course, Buddha also said that we each must carve our own path to enlightenment, not simply to adopt his path as our path. My path includes nude meditation and respect for the naked human body.

I want to bring in a different voice here, Radmila Moacanin who wrote in 1986 in a book that looked at Jungian psychology and Buddhism:

“the strength of Buddhism, namely the flexibility of its method s and practice, its emphasis on each individual’ s experience , not intellectual, philosophical knowledge alone , or blind faith. Nothing, no method is excluded that could lead to the ultimate goal of liberation.”

Blind faith, a rigorous following of a document as the “holy words” of a belief system, was not what Buddhism is supposed to be about.

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Book Review of Aglow by Will Forest

Cover of Will Forest's latest book, Aglow.

Cover of Will Forest’s latest book, Aglow.

I’ve just finished reading Will Forest’s second naturist novel, Aglow. Having enjoyed his first naturist novel, Coed Naked Philosophy, I was anxious to begin reading with high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. I was, however, surprised.

As a person who views life through a worldview that includes Jungian psychology, the shift from a theme of college life to a blend of Meso-American mythology and contemporary Mexico and Brazil, was something that added value to a tale of naturist exploration. My readers here know I often write about the masculine and the feminine psyche. Will Forest travels back in time through artefacts that have stories to reveal which speak with both a masculine and a feminine voice. Combined, those voices talk of wholeness and a universal oneness.

Will Forest’s writing, as in his first book, shows care and attention to historical accuracy and does so in a manner that avoids having the novel sound too academic. The story emerges with both playfulness and seriousness being present in both the past and present faces of the novel. And in the end, one is left wanting to hear more of the story that involves the protagonists, Marisol and Ze.

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More Than Just Selling Books

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Sunrise coming in Red Deer

It’s early morning while I am in Red Deer, only two hours before I drive north for another book signing event at the Sherwood Park Chapters store.

Enjoying a cool morning sunrise in Red Deer.

Enjoying a cool morning sunrise in Red Deer.

Yesterday in Edmonton I sold ten books, a significant number for a Friday afternoon much to the surprise of the staff at the Southpoint Chapters store. What surprised me was the number of visitors who wanted to talk. As people told me their stories, whether they bought books or not, I realised that none of that would have happened had I not written and published my books. These people told me of their stories of abuse, some while tears rolled down their cheeks. I could tell that their standing in a store, letting the stories and tears come out was something that made the whole journey worth it for me.

I have just put the coffee on to brew and am waiting for my first cup of the day while enjoying the view of the sky’s light show. In another hour my grandson will be up and wanting to play for a bit before I make the drive. It looks like it will be a good day in another Chapters store, listening to more stories.

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Reminders That There is More

A foggy morning on the prairies before the sun burns off the moisture.

A foggy morning on the prairies before the sun burns off the moisture.

It was foggy when we woke up this morning, a result of too much rain for too many weeks. This is typically dry prairie with about seven inches of rain up to this point in the year. So far we are somewhere around twenty inches of rain with some disastrous results for some crops that require less moisture and more heat.

But this isn’t about the weather, but about how we often find ourselves in our own seasons of fog. It seems that after a period of clarity and awareness, we get visited by ghostly shadows which remind us that we are far from being fully aware of very much at all. All I have to do is judge how I respond to the retreat of sunshine behind clouds and then being embraced by the clammy-feeling fog. There is a sensation that there are things out there that surround me that I have absolutely no knowledge of, dark and damp things, stuff from the personal and collective unconscious.

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Daring Full and Transparent Honesty in Relationship

The years have allowed relationship to be playful.

The years have allowed relationship to be playful.

This couple, Melvin and Sandy, are friends of mine in the cyberworld, friends for several years. I look forward to the day when we get together. Like my wife and I, this couple has a long history together, one that has worked to allow them to discover themselves as individuals within an intimate relationship, and to rediscover the “other” fully. What is learned about the other, because of daring to risk being authentic, includes both darkness and light.

Daring to be playful, trusting that respect for each other is never compromised.

Daring to be playful, trusting that respect for each other is never compromised.

The shadows beneath the surface hide most of who we are, even from ourselves. As we become self-aware, a process that requires others, we are better able to see the others as who they really are. Unfortunately, with the projections withdrawn which allow us to see others as they are, we often find ourselves deciding that this “significant” other doesn’t fit well with our own newly discovered self. The result is typically divorce or keeping the relationship together with repressed anger, psychological barriers, and physical distance (no touching, separate bedrooms, etc.). However, for some like this couple, the exposed warts, scars and bruises both physical and psychological, that predate their union, as well as having grown out of unconscious reactions out of fear and anger, serve to cement the union because of honesty.

Some of us are “lucky” according to the majority who are jealous of what appears to be an evident happy union. Yes, we are lucky that we have dared honesty, dared being totally vulnerable to each other, and dared to hold with awe, the other in our hearts and lives.

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Celebrating Togetherness Authentically

Peeling away the layers to find the authentic self.

Peeling away the layers to find the authentic self.

I spoke the last day about censorship and how we censor ourselves in order to protect ourselves, or at least that is what we believe for the most part regardless of whether the perceived threats are real or a construct arising out of our fear.

Naturists and nudists know only too well the fear that holds one a prisoner to clothing. We each take a long journey of self-discovery in search of “self,” a heroic journey that is described by Joseph Campbell.

Authenticity in relationships. Nothing is hidden from the other.

Authenticity in relationships. Nothing is hidden from the other.

It is only after conquering the initial fear of self-exposure that we begin a different journey that leads us to accept the truths of the body, our individual body. We then take that truth and take another risk, that of presenting our authentic self to others. We risk others seeing our naked body, others who risk us seeing them as well. It is a difficult individual journey that rewards the individual with a sense of relief that comes with letting go of fear.

Many, if not most of us, find ourselves caught into shared journeys – we fall in love with another person. Not fully aware of what has just happened, we simply call it love. We don’t realise that most of what we see in the other person, who for the most part is a stranger in so many ways, especially when it is love at first sight, is based on projections from within the self, projections buried deep beneath the level of consciousness. Over time the projections get withdrawn as we bump into the reality of the other’s differences. They don’t seem to want to stay within the bubble we have constructed, the pedestals we have placed them. It’s a rough awakening that often has us engage in conflict with the other person, blaming them for not being who we fell in love with anymore. And thus begins another journey of shared awakening if we dare to enter that journey.

That shared heroic journey leads us to lay ourselves psychologically and physically bare, everything exposed, totally vulnerable. It is only in this way that we can finally come to see the fullness of the other, the roots behind the initial falling in love. The, we can, like the couple above, joyfully celebrate togetherness with no other agenda than being together.

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