Active Imagination and the Human Condition

Active imagination takes us deep into a world that seems to defy reality while also affirming reality in a larger universe.

I am again writing, and it feels good, very good. I have slowed down the pace as I re-read what I have written in the second novel so that I can make the changes that are needed. And, in the process, I am adding more, allowing my imagination freer reign. I have this sense that the story will be much better for the deepening of imagination.

I am learning to trust my “active imagination.” A few days ago, I turned to a book in my library, Jung on Active Imagination, and have been re-reading this old friend, a book I got in 1998. This morning, these words caught my attention:

Every good idea and all creative work are the offspring of the imagination, and have their source in what one is pleased to call infantile fantasy. Not the artist alone, but every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greatest in his life to fantasy … without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable. [Jung, 1921]

These were words I needed to hear, words that confirm my present journey with words, the telling of a story that is quintessentially human. That the characters in the story come to embrace naturism, is fitting as humanity is not defined by clothing. Even the stripping off of clothing doesn’t quite get to the foundation of what it is that is our essence as humans, a shared essence that is contained in everyone from saint to the most evil.

And so, I have become more accepting of myself and others, less judgemental. Notice the use of “less” – I am far from perfect and still respond from the complexities of my own history in ways that are far from an all-loving-kindness. But that, too, is part of what makes us all human. And so, I return to the story with hopes that the tale to be told, though a work of fiction and fantasy, will reflect an honesty about the human condition.

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Re-Emergence on the Prairies

On the edges of spring on the prairies.

It has been quite some time since I last posted here. I have returned to Canada following three months in Mexico along the Mayan Riviera, where I lived in a private studio with a private garden. For three months I lived mostly without the need to wear clothing. It was only when I left the confines of the studio and garden when I had to wear clothing, at least until I was by a small clothing-optional beach not too far from the small town where I lived beside the Caribbean Sea. I returned to my home on the Canadian prairies, in a small prairie town located less than two hours southwest of the city of Saskatoon. I returned home to snow and cold. For three months I was without clothes for the majority of the hours of each day.

However, that time has come to and end, it has retreated into the past as memories, some of which were captured in photos, some in journal entries, and the rest into a quiet, hidden spot deep within me. Like then, I find myself living in the moment, in the present tense. It is easy to get caught up in the past, rehashing the challenges, and reminiscing through rose-tinted lenses the pleasures. It is as equally easy to project into the future facing challenges that exist only in the realm of “maybe.” Oh, I do think about the future and my time and places for clothing free experiences, among many other hopeful expectations, don’t get me wrong. However, I know that the “future” thoughts are just that, projections of “maybe.”

Living in the moment is not all that easy to do. It is actually exceedingly difficult as our minds are prone to “think” outside the experience of the present. We worry, we wonder, we conjecture, we wander. Just the simple and necessary act of planning for an event [I am planning on attending a Jungian lecture and workshop in just over a week from now], has one begin thinking about people who might be met, things that may be discussed, and the list goes on and on. Once the plans are made, worries about weather that may prevent travel along with a host of other imaginary issues that lay waiting in the shadows to sabotage the event, flood the mind. Of course, none of it is real with the exception that a plan has been made. The rest is all about fleeing from the present into some chaotic no-man’s land.

All of above is why I meditate. It teaches me how to stay grounded in the present. I find myself either nude or clothed in various situations of my choosing. And wherever I find myself, I make myself present to the situation and the people. It’s a good place to start.

 

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Aching to be Authentic

A bit of winter relief in sunshine.

I have an online friend whom I met at one of the on-line, naturist social sites called The Nook. L has consented to the use of his images on this blog site, trusting that the content honours both him and the world of naturism.

L is a man a lot like myself. For the most part, a home naturist. But when the time and circumstances permit, there are sorties out to enjoy the larger world as naturists, times when it is not a threat to our personal safety. It’s easier for L than it is for me because he lives in mainland Europe.

Windbreaks, sunshine, and snow. There is magic that stirs the body and soul.

It is sad when you think about it. Here is a man, a good man who wants little in life other than personal freedom, freedom that doesn’t take anything from others. Yet, others would unhesitatingly, rush to take away the simple freedom to be authentically “self.”

What does it cost others when someone such as L, or myself, choose not to wear clothing in our own homes, or on our own property? It doesn’t cost anything. What would it matter if either of us should choose to walk down a woodland trail, across a meadow far from any town or village while clothing free? It wouldn’t cost anything.

On a beach somewhere in Crete.

There are no real threats to others as we lead or ordinary lives without wearing clothing simply because someone might be “offended.” Of course, one is offended, not really by others, but by the fuzzy beliefs that are held. One chooses what is offensive, and often based on the fears and worries of those who came before us. We cite religious reasons which quickly disappear when the foundations of those religions and their holy texts are examined. One cites psychological trauma. Of course, that trauma is not levied by the person who is seen naked, but by the culture who inculcates the notion that one “ought” to be traumatised when seeing nudity.

Finding safety in the privacy of one’s home, hopefully.

Yes, in our modern world there are issues with nudity. However, the issues are not based on rational, psychological, or spiritual foundations. The sight of a naked human in real-life proximity does not result in a threat to be sexually assaulted or raped. Yet we want to criminalise those who aren’t shamed by their own bodies. Somehow, as a society, it is much better to be traumatised by bare skin, to be ashamed of the body we are born with, of not meeting up with the media created notion of what a human body, suitably clothed in designer outfits, should look like. No one questions the absurdity of being held hostage by industry that needs us to be clothed in order to reap profits. Somehow we are being convinced that our bodies are unacceptable. And as a result, we become depressed, angry, sad, and even fearful of a world that really doesn’t like people.

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Environmental Activism and Harm

M. is in the process of curing and tanning a hide.

I spent my first years as an adult beginning a career by working in Canada’s north country. By north, I mean about 16 miles from the North West Territories on the northern shore of Lake Athabasca. While there, in a community of First Nations people who engaged in fishing, trapping, and hunting as a way of life, making a living that allowed children to be fed, homes to be built, and access to education [that was my role], I learned more than I taught.

I had been an environmentalist who cut his teeth on Ducks Unlimited, the Sierra Dunes Society, Ralph Nader, and Rachel Carson to name just a few. I had published editorials in small town newspapers as an environmental activist. I had this monolithic idea of environmental paradise. I was young and stoked with zeal. My first teaching job showed me the other side of the equation in an environment in which the “enemy” seemed to be more in touch with nature than any of those who wrote and gathered for protests to protect the environment.

Since those early years, the fur trade has all but disappeared, and with it the economic livelihood of First Nations peoples in the north. I saw this first hand when I returned to be a principal and director of education near the same place I had begun my career in the far north. Other than mining employment which required people to take scheduled charter flights to remote mines, there was no employment. Now, I am starting to hear that these mining jobs, and oil sands jobs are threatened. If environmental activists have their way, the only route to economic salvation for First Nations would be to abandon their homes and communities to gather in the cities. But of course, they want to stay at home and the white society would much prefer that they stay in the remote north as well.

What have we accomplished? Not nearly as much good as we had thought. The cost in human terms has been horrendous if you are aboriginal in Canada’s north, or on marginal land in oil producing country. We have worsened the lives of First Nations peoples and we don’t want to pay the costs of fixing what “we” have broken.

M, my American friend who earns part of his living in retirement through the curing and tanning of hides for leather, is keeping alive some of the “old west” with his endeavours. It is sad to think that this skill is not practised very much anymore. Even this is under attack by the “vegan” movement who want us to have nothing to do with anything that is associated with wildlife – no leather, no wool, no down feathers – it boggles my mind to think of the rabbit hole our modern society has fallen into.

 

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A Tale of Four Couples

Walking on the clothing-optional beach.

I have written a number of times about life near a clothing-optional beach by the Desires Pearl Resort. As to be expected, when one walks along the beach in front of the resort, one can typically see nude sunbathers, but not as many as one would expect. A surprising number of the resort guests keep their privates, private – well, at least for those who are somewhere between the age of 25 to 50. The older guests have no problem baring it all in the sunshine along the sea shore.

Two hundred metres from the Desires resort (in the background) at my skyclad sacred space.

Between the resort and the public beach at Puerto Morelos, which is south of the resort, there is a stretch of about six hundred metres of beach with no development, perhaps you could call it a buffer zone. To the north of the resort, beach properties are abundant. It is in this buffer zone where I normally get to sunbather with easy access to the sea. I have created a space that is about fifteen metres from the water, but not too obvious for all the passersby who are typically clothed. About half of the time, my wife joins me, otherwise I am on my own.

A skyclad couple passing me on their return walk to the resort.

This spot is not really clothing-optional, but it seems that no one makes an issue of it because of the lack of condos and villas. In the two hundred metres between the resort and what I call my sacred skyclad space, others also take advantage of the ambiguity of border lines, and sunbathe and swim nude. In the photo to the right that I took a few days ago, this couple had walked about 500 metres from the resort while fully nude. Of course, this is a no-no as far as the resort is concerned. I have seen them chase couples down to have them return for clothing before venturing off the property. I have to admit that I have not dared walking more than a few hundred metres from the resort while nude.

Curious about the nude man laying on a blanket in the dunes.

The same day as I saw this couple pass twice while I soaked in the sun’s rays, I saw three other couples pass by my space. Since they are only about 20 feet away from me when they pass, they see me and I see them (unless I am sort of in an almost siesta state). This couple was also from the resort with him daring to bare it all while carrying his shorts just in case of confrontation with anyone who would take offence. She was by the book and very curious about me. He could have cared less.

Man in shorts with woman skyclad.

Then there were two other couples who made the journey passed me on the same afternoon. One couple had a man completely nude and the woman with him wearing just her bikini bottoms. The second couple shown here, had the man in shorts while she was fully naked. Both couples were parked along the shore between myself and the resort.

There were all sorts of combinations such as two single men who were tucked into small alcoves carved out of beach side bushes who were also nude. And while all of this various combinations of dress and undress were laid out in the sand alongside the sea, hundreds of clothed beach passersby either turned away to stare out at the sea while they passed, or found a reason to stop and have a conversation with their partner(s), or take photos of pelicans or of the nude people they spotted. Most simply ignored what has become a commonly accepted part of the environment – nude sunbathers.

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Skyclad Therapy and a Skyclad Healing Retreat

Tiredness isn’t always about something physical.

The blue armoire with my backpack resting above it is a suitable backdrop for the looking at the feeling of being worn out by life. It is as though the baggage we carry with us as we go through life gets lifted off of our shoulders only to be place above our heads where we have little we can do to shift that weight to a more manageable position. The baggage never does go away, All that we can do is come to terms with the baggage and become stronger, strong enough to carry that baggage comfortably so that it doesn’t overwhelm us. That is the goal of most psycho-therapeutic engagements.

I am a psychotherapist as most of my readers already know. I am doing the research into how to use  nudity as part of a healing journey in a therapeutic environment. As I see it the environment would use gentle stretching exercise [yoga], meditation, massage, art therapy, sand tray play, group dream work, and group investigation of fairy tales that expose the archetypal core of the human self-development journey. All these components would be done while nude. Perhaps this would be structured into a four-day weekend or a week-long event [seven to ten days]. The environment would necessarily be in a retreat centre in some sort of rural setting.

I don’t see this as a counselling-therapy model as there are too many factors involved that would make for complications in therapist-client relationship. I do see that it doesn’t prohibit a therapist leading sections of the activities in which the client is part of a larger group. How this would all be able to come about is yet unknown. At this time, I could only see this working as a life-coaching retreat rather than as a licensed-psychotherapy retreat.

With this as an idea, I am interested in what you, my readers have to say.

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Threats to the Status Quo

Facebook friendly nudity – pretend there are no genitals.

Yes, no genitals are in evidence. So what does that say about the image? It’s not like I have placed a censor strip over the genitals to play games with social media which invites one to do all manner of stupidity to beat the system. Was there an operation to indicate a gender shift? No, it’s just a matter of pose. And perhaps it is also a psychological statement by the photographer or the person photographed [in this case, both the same person].

Board shorts – disguising the fact of gender.

It’s not really any different from the wearing of clothing that similarly removes the idea of sexuality and gender such as board shorts. Bikini brief swimwear accentuates the hidden presence of genitals. For women, this is very acceptable and appreciated. After all, society likes nothing more than sexy women. For a man, it’s a different story. Ridicule and disgust are the typical responses in North America. It is much more appropriate to wear swimwear like board shorts, and preferably with another pair of shorts beneath them to reinforce the idea and the fact that the disguise works.

There is no doubt that North Americans are phobic about male genitals. The sight of them incites anger, hatred, fear, loathing, and disgust. Any male that dares to allow a hint of a penis to show in fact or in outline, is automatically viewed as a threat to the moral compass of North Americans.

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Selfies – Nourishment For The Naked Soul

Emma as a selfie

Emma was kind enough to send me a “selfie” she took in the not-too-distant past. Like many naturists or nudists, she takes selfies to record her life unclothed. I am no different. I also record my life sans vêtements. So what is it that has us turn to the mirror to take these selfies, or to use the delayed timer with a phone or tablet propped up to get an image? Is it simply just a record of “self” that fringes on narcissism? Or, is it curiosity? Or, in my case, is it a deliberate attempt to peer at myself in hopes of discovering something more about who I am? For most of us taking these nude images, I imagine that it is a mixture of curiosity and deliberate study.

The shadowy side of self.

We discover more about who we are through examination of the images we see of ourselves through the eyes of others. There is so much about ourselves that is unknown to ourselves. We often fool ourselves thinking we know and we are in control of who we are. But lurking beneath the skin and the ego, is a shadowy self, a stranger that confuses us. We know that the shadow side exists as we hear from others about ourselves, aspects of ourselves to which we are blind. Psychology tells us that what bothers us most about others is more about the shadows within us that are reflected in others, like a selfie in the mirror.

Knowing this, it should be easy to simply say, “Okay, enough is enough with these damned photos!” But, that’s easier said than acted upon. These naked images of ourselves are proofs that we aren’t locked in the prisons of personae that we live in the outer world. As time goes by, we record the changes and use them to reassure ourselves that we are on the right path to self-awareness, self-discovery. Okay, so maybe this is all so much psycho-babble and there is no legitimate reason for so many of us to take and store these images in our archives, sharing them with others we learn to trust, who have learned to trust us. But, I doubt it. This is real, this is deep, and it is a rich source of nourishment for the naked soul.

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The Accidental Alchemyst – Part 1

The archetypes – twelve masculine and twelve feminine presences in each human.

Forward

Jacques banged on the oak table with a repeated hammering as he tried to get the attention of the assembly gathered in the attic. There were at least twenty-four of them in attendance at the meeting – twelve men and twelve women. Trying to get any of them to pay attention was next to impossible. Each one in the group saw themselves as the most important member present and believed that the others should attend to them as though at the foot of a guru.

Jacques stood above the assembly and went silent. As others began to sense Jacques’ presence glowing and radiating to touch all of them, a quietness began to descend. He glared at each of them for the briefest of moments. His piercing eyes told them who the true boss was in the gathering, like a principal staring down a bunch or rebellious high-school students. Then, his face became one that was lined with centuries of age and wisdom, the face of a man who has seen too much and lived too long.

“We need to get started,” he spoke when a rare silence finally filled the small room at the top of the house. “We need to make this happen now or we will lose him. We have lost too many souls to the darkness. The idea has been planted in his head to begin his journey.

Nodding to Sidd, Jacques continued, “Sidd has used his skills to have our subject believe that the idea of a pilgrimage was his own. We have been debating this long enough. It is time to now act. Since we can’t overwhelm the subject with all twenty-four of us, only a small company of us can accompany him on hispilgrimage. Here are the ones who will make the journey with our subject: Sidd, Akka, Mark, Freya, Marinya, and Gabe.”

Taking a deep breath before continuing and looking again at each of the assembled group, Jacques continued, “Of course, I can’t compel anyone here to leave well enough alone with the plan. However, I do hope that if you make an appearance while the pilgrimage is in play that you won’t get in the way of group’s goal, the goal that all twenty-four of us have agreed upon. We must … must not lose his soul.”

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Friendship – An I-Thou Relationship

Simon and Emma.

Sometimes it is so simple. Friends are just that, friends. Emma is my friend and a friend to countless others in face-to-face life and cyber life. The only expectation that one has of friends is that they are “friendly.” They don’t owe us anything nor do we owe them. Until there is an issue of trust being breached, all is good.

It doesn’t matter that one risks being naked with a friend, for friendship isn’t dependent upon what one wears or doesn’t wear. Could you imagine some sort of “rule” that defined friendship as dependent upon wearing a certain brand of clothing? I have friends who are clothed, and others that are naturists. Some of my clothed friends in my day-to-day, face-to-face life, have seen me naked (well more that you would think, especially when I add in the poetry books with nude images). They didn’t stop being friends when they happened to see me in my yard or in my house without clothing being worn. Friendship is tied to something that is intrinsic to one’s inner presence being seen because we dare to be authentic people with others whom we come to accept as authentic.

Martin Buber called it an “I-Thou” relationship.

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