A Change of Pace – The Naked Author

On the road to Calgary.

I’ll have to admit it, I am an author, and I write poetry, non-fiction, and novels while naked. Of course it isn’t just while writing that I slip out of my clothing. The truth is, I take every opportunity possible to be clothing-free.

For three nights, I am staying in a campground at the west end of the city, staying in my R-Pod trailer. The campgrounds are located on the slopes of hill about an hour from the Rocky Mountains. There are enough locations away from the eyes of the other campers for me to enjoy a few moments while nude.

Here comes the sun – yes, I honour the sun at every opportunity.

Currently, I am on a book-signing tour with three stops in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in progress. Yesterday I was at the Spectrum Chapters store on the east side of the city. This morning I am in the south-west side of the city at the Signal Hill Indigo book store. Tomorrow, Canada Day, I will be signing books in the south-east side of the city at Shepard Centre Indigo. I have to admit that I enjoy signing books and talking to people about the books and listening to them tell me their stories.

Once the last signing has taken place, I will be driving off to pick up my youngest grandson who will spend the next week with my wife and me. We will be taking him to visit his cousins in the U.S.A. It should be all fun and games and leave me totally worn out. I am not sure when I will be posting again. But until then, Happy Canada Day and Happy Independence Day!

Holly – On Being Faithful to One’s Primary Relationship

Holly – I am my own mistress

Holly returns as I return to the second part of this series of posts that focuses on Daryl Sharp’s quote: “the license to be unfaithful”?

When we hear the word “unfaithful” the first assumption is that one partner has engaged in sexual relationships with someone outside of the relationship. Typically the scenario plays out where a man has stepped outside of his marriage to have a mistress. We assume that it is all about sex. He is deemed as unfaithful to his wife.

Now, if the same man has poured his extra-marital energy into his work, the result is still the same. Work becomes the mistress. All sorts of similar scenarios all point to the same result regardless of which partner in a relationship has stepped outside of the marriage to find a sense of fulfilment – finding something that helps to fill in the holes of the psyche. Daryl Sharp was talking about typical marriages between a man and a woman with the unfaithfulness being sexual in nature. Yet, it is obviously more than about sex, and not limited to heterosexual relationships. Any relationship can become threatened by one of the two stepping out of the relationship in search of the missing pieces of “self.

I am a naturist. Holly is a naturist. And, many of my friends are naturists whether they are friends in cyberspace of the face-to-face world. My wife is not a naturist. I drive off every once in a while to go to a naturist venue where I am naked in the company of naked men and women. Imagine the threat that this must feel like for my wife as I hang out with naked people while she is at home. This is something that we don’t share together. I have a different set of friends and I do different activities, something that I never did in the past. We were always joined at the hip, doing everything together sharing the belief that otherwise we would be placing our relationship, our marriage in jeopardy.

With that said, I want to shift to a different scenario which has the same relationship impact. I am a writer. Many of my friends are writers whether they are friends in cyberspace or in the face-to-face world. My wife is not a writer. I drive off every once in a while for a writing retreat or to engage in book-signing events. For example, as I write this post, I am in a city more than 500 kilometres away from home, camping alone between events. This is something we don’t share together. It is as though I have a different life being lived in the shadows. I am doing my thing while she is at home forced to find a way to do her own thing, alone.

Two different realities. Writing is my mistress as is naturism. My relationship with my wife somehow remains strong – in a way, I have the license to be unfaithful, giving time and energy to those two mistresses, time away from my wife. Somehow over the past few years we have both realised that if either of us don’t invest in our primary relationship to “self,” the relationship with each other is put an a greater risk. She tried being a naturist and suffered. I tried not being a naturist and suffered. So, what then?

Our marriage survives because we can honour the differences, allow … give license to … having separate passions that make us better people, perhaps allowing us to be better together as a result.

Holly – Is One Unfaithful When We Need Others as Mirrors

Living my examined life.

Holly has agreed to appear in one of my Naturist Lens blog posts. I have decided to bring my friends from the naturist world into this, my personal naturist space because they have become part of my naturist space in one form or the other. Sometimes it helps to have different images to connect content with a visual.

“No one person can fill all our needs all the time. We can plumb our own depths to some extent, but we still need others to mirror who we are.”

Daryl Sharp sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable, a good thing if one realises that one needs to feel uncomfortable if one is to make the necessary changes to become a better person. In the quote above, Sharp where in Not the Big Sleep, one character states that the prerequisite for a good marriage is the license to be unfaithful. I could hardly believe my eyes in reading this, a statement that seems to condone extra-marital affairs. But when I calmed down, I wondered if that was really what was being said. What did Sharp mean when he said “the license to be unfaithful”?

I know that this unfaithful business is about one’s partner/spouse or some significant other. When one invests in uncovering and discovering who one is beneath the surface of ego, and in the process uncovers and discovers more about the person with whom they have invested, the relationship changes. Does a person feel guilty for seeing themselves in a different light? It may seem that in placing self ahead of other, that is a betrayal. But, I am getting away from the topic.

I am an ordinary person. I see a beautiful-to-my-eyes woman and I respond at some level or other, physically, psychologically, and sometimes emotionally. At that moment, I am being unfaithful in a way. As my wife has often explained, it isn’t necessary to have sex with another person to be unfaithful. Women know this truth. So how then do we stay together? I mean, is there even one amongst us who has never “strayed” in thought, dream, desire, wish, or instinct?

Hmm … I think I know what Sharp is now talking about. We need to give each other the gift of “others” who can mirror more of who we are. We need to trust that what holds “us” together in relationship has a foundation that could survive either being unfaithful.

And it isn’t just about sex, one can be unfaithful in a variety of ways such as “not holding faith” with a particular belief system or life style. When one partner adopts naturism while the other holds to a long-held life style where social nudity is held in very low esteem, the choice presents itself – accept or not accept. If the move to naturism results in a deep negative response, then one exists in a relationship where there is no “license to be unfaithful” to the original container of the relationship. It is as though one has “slept with the enemy.” So many of my friends who are naturists found themselves unable to keep their relationships together. Naturism became the mistress, just like money had become the mistress in other failed relationships where the “significant other” stopped being at the centre of the universe.

A few pages further into the book, another line leapt out at me:

“Partners often stay together long past the time when their relationship has ceased to be mutually satisfying.”

I think I’ll have to come back in another post to wrestle with this quote. I need to look at my own relationship and the relationships of others I know who have been married for quite some time to get some perspective.

To Be Authentic as a Naturist is to Suffer

“an expression of the suffering of soul” – James Hollis

No, I am not suffering as I hang out the wash this morning. But, the image of being hung out to dry, of exposing one’s dirty laundry is part of today’s post which continues looking at Chapter Four in James Hollis’ book, Living an Examined Life.

“If you do what is right for you, it is right for you; if you do what is wrong for you, it is wrong for you. But it is not so simple, is it?”

Now, washing clothing and then hanging it out to dry while nude is something that is very right for me, at least that is what I tell myself. But of course, if I was reported for an offensive display of nudity by one of my neighbours, it probably wouldn’t feel so “right” on second thought. Humour aside, Hollis isn’t talking about something such as the state of dress one chooses while hanging out clothing. There is something else that is being questioned.

“How do we know what is right for us? Well, the body knows, our deepest feelings know, and our psyche knows, and each expresses its opinion, even as we learned early in life to evade the continuous messages from our own depths. So, the recovery effort must typically begin with the experience of inner discord, outer conflict, and sometimes heartache and loss.”

Perhaps I wasn’t too far off the mark with my comments about hanging out the laundry while nude. While I performed this task this morning, my body and my inner feelings seemed to resonate. My ego, however, kept trying to tell me to cover up in case someone should see me. Ego lost out. Will there be a cost to me in the near, or not so near future because of it?

“Living our personal authority will not spare us from conflict, from suffering, from marginalization, or even martyrdom.”

Therein lies the challenge. Do we risk everything in the attempt to recover personal authority? What is my wife should say, “I’ve had it with your public nudity!” and demand an end to our relationship? What if my children-in-law should ask me to stay away from my grandchildren? What if my community should say, “Arrest him, the pervert.”? There is no question that having naturism as part of my “right for me” self will likely marginalise me more as time goes by and more people are confronted by my choices. It is the reality of the modern world. So, it becomes a choice. Do we have the courage to stick to what is authentic about ourselves, or do we abandon the “self” in an attempt to appease the collective shadow?

Recover Personal Authority – Only Embrace Naturism if …

Personal authority, a psychological quest in the second half of life.

So many people are focused on the outer world. And if one hears any of the news that is flooding all of the media, they [we] need to have a strong focus on the outer world lest it careens out of control into all sorts of collective nightmares. Regardless of what is transpiring in the outer world, it doesn’t mean that we need to abandon our private, inner world. If we don’t maintain our own personal authority, we become puppets, just another echoing voice in the crowd yelling across a divide at opponents, a divide that appears to be widening. Rather than dialogue to negotiate, both sides harangue and heckle. The individual is powerless though seemingly engaged. Authority lays within the collective.

Joy Nelson is one person I know who is daring to discover who she really is outside of the journey through the first half of life – and I don’t mean that in linear terms. She found herself at a crossroads between the way life was where authority lay somewhere, likely in many places, and the way life will be. This in-between place is called the Middle Passage, or more commonly, midlife.

Naturism, daring to step outside of the collective, appears to be one portal that may allow an individual to recover personal authority. As in the past number of posts, I am returning to James Hollis’ book, Living an Examined Life. Here are a few words from Chapter 4.

“The second half of live occurs when people, for whatever reason – death of a partner, end of a marriage, illness, retirement, whatever – are obliged to radically consider who they are apart from their history, their roles, and their commitments.  …

 

We have to recover personal authority because the din and demand of the world is too huge to ignore, too intrusive to resist, even if we think we have rebelled and held to our own course.”

I am my body, and I am more than my body. This is me. My rules.

So where can we begin this process of recovering personal authority? In my opinion, one valid place to start is with the body. Our bodies have been controlled by the outer world in various forms and formats including age-old scripts that are handed down through generations. To actually confront our bodies without hiding the parts that we have been taught are not to be seen, is transformational.

It is one thing to finally come to grips with the ownership of one’s body, to recover personal authority of one’s body. Yet it is something else entirely to maintain that authority outside the safe haven of one’s private space. Many find other safe havens, naturist campgrounds or resorts, or nude cruises, or other nakations. The problem then reappears as one finds a level of comfort and once again gives up authority to the naked collective. The challenge is to push the boundaries found both within and without in order to flesh out, to uncover the authentic self and its raison d’être. It’s a long process, and often filled with detours and potholes.

One doesn’t undertake this psychological journey of self-discovery unless one is jarred from one’s old life regardless of how uncomfortable that old life was. Even when the old life comes crashing down for various reasons cited by Hollis above, most will resist the psychological journey and embrace being a victim of fate. Obviously, one can never recover one’s personal authority if one doesn’t do the work.

Joy Nelson is found on Twitter as @getnakedwithjoy and at her website: Get Naked With Joy.

What Does a Naturist Owe to the World?

How does your garden grow?

I am back home until tomorrow morning when I am again off for a few days. Being a father and a grandfather is back on my agenda as I get to play golf on Friday with my son and his son at a fund-raising tournament in Red Deer, Alberta. The relationships I have with these two are different. For whatever reason, my relationships with my grandchildren hold unconditional regard at the centre while allowing each one of these seven people to be different and

have a different relationship with me from their cousins.

There once was a thought that I owed each of them my time and energy simply because they were my grandchildren. However, as they grew older and introduced their friends into my home, I have found myself owing these others as well. I wondered, ‘Where does the owing stop?‘ James Hollis has an answer in his book, On This Journey We Call Life.

“So, what does one owe the world? My own answer is: respect, ethical behavior and the gift of one’s own best self. We serve others by becoming ourselves, what the gods intended.”

Risking being authentically my own best self.

I guess that explains a lot when it comes to young people and the not-so-young people in my life – my best self. In hearing these words from Hollis, I realise that being a naturist is part and parcel of being my own best self.

Hollis goes on to say,

“All our social conditioning tends to foster conformity, for thereby one is most likely to have one’s needs met, find security, even love. But with every adaptation there is a concomitant risk that the soul will be violated”

He goes on to talk about walking our own individual journey, our own call to be authentic, to be our own best self. When the self gives up part of his or her soul through conformity, then what is left isn’t able to then give the world what is owed. Our journey is an individual journey that has others playing their parts. We need to have

“respect for each person’s summons to be unique. We owe ethical behavior so that we may live in a society which supports each person’s possibilities.”

When I conform and set naturism to the side as though it was negative, I am reduced to being a lesser person to myself. I loose energy, I loose my self. When I return to having naturism in my life, I can breathe again, be fully alive. And in the process, I stop forcing others to conform to my worldview. As an example, each of my grandsons is growing up to be unique [as they should] and I would be wrong to try to mould them to be anything or anyone based on my lens. Unconditional respect … we all owe it to the world, to each other.

 

 

Showing Up Even When Bare

The blue man.

Growing up and acting one’s age is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes, and for some of us, we find ourselves living as if we belong to the age of dinosaurs or that we have yet to escape adolescence. In my own case, I’ve been the “old soul” since the age of seven if not younger. Yet since I turned 60, I’ve somehow let go of that need to hide behind that mask of being much older than my years, and let fear go.

“Sooner or later, we are each called to face what we fear, respond to our summons to show up, and overcome the vast lethargic powers within us. This is what is asked of us, to show up as the person we really are, as best we can manage, under circumstances over which we may have no control. This showing up as best we can is growing up. That is all that life really asks of us: to show up as best we can.”

Painted in blue or purple, or simply daring to be naked and vulnerable, I now show up as me.

It’s Time To Grow Up

Skyclad moments in the garden

I am finally getting around to reading and thinking about Chapter Two in James Hollis’ book, Living An Examined Life. I have been spending the past four days with grandson number five and his friend who have come to spend some time in Canada. The boys are keeping me busy, busier that I am used to being in a certain sense. They are both eleven years old, still children, but barely. There are flashes when the adults they might be peek out. My agenda while they are here are to try my best to make sure they don’t get bored and the by the time it’s bed time, they are basically worn out. Of course, that means “Papa” will be worn out as well.

Homemade garden cages

This morning, they slept in. I guess that means that I have been doing my job well. I had a few moments to myself to check out the garden, and read chapter two [well, not all of it, but enough for this post] and to find a few skyclad moments.

“Every morning we rise to find two gremlins at the foot of the bed. The one named Fear says, “The world is too big for you, too much. You are not up to it. Find a way to slip-slide away again today.” And the one named Lethargy says, “Hey, chill out. You’ve had a hard day. Turn on the telly, surf the Internet, have some chocolate. Tomorrow’s another day.” Those perverse twins munch on our souls every day. No matter what we do today, they will turn up again tomorrow. Over time, they usurp more days of our lives than those to which we may lay fair claim. More energy is spent in any given day on managing fear through unreflective compliance, or avoidance, than any other value. While it is natural to expend energy managing our fears, the magnitude of this effort on a daily basis cannot be overemphasized.”

An afternoon at the lake

With me spending my energy on the boys, there has been no time for fear or lethargy to set in. I find myself realising that rather than letting the days slip away, I strive to make all my moments be about having presence in life. Early morning hours embracing the freedom of being nude in my yard, then the shift to the two boys waking and making sure they have a breakfast before having them re-engage with a project begun two days earlier – burning words and images onto wood that has been pieced together in a design of their choosing. I am the grown-up in this situation. I am responsible for their well-being and engaging them in as many dimensions as I can.

“The moment we say, “I am responsible, I am accountable, I have to deal with this,” is the day we grow up, at least until the next time, the next regression, the next evasion.”

Leaning against a tree

But of course, there is a boy in me as well, a youth hidden behind this outer shell of a man who is well into his seventh decade. I defer to others decisions that I should be making, shifting my responsibility onto them. While the boys played in the water at the lake, I found a private space not too far away for letting the boy in me come out as well. I wanted to be as free as them. However, I didn’t want to go into the water as it was freezing cold. So, I made sure that I was hidden from their sight as I stole a few moments for myself before returning to take more “fun” pictures of the boys for their parents. It was time to be a responsible and accountable adult, at least in one sense of those words.

There will be more to come as I will return with more from Chapter Two – It’s Time To Grow Up.

 

 

Naturism as a Conscious Choice for Self-Discovery

Probably the hardest part of coming to grips with oneself at midlife, is the realisation that one is essentially alone. Regardless of how filled one’s life is with people, there is a sense of aloneness. Though others may share the same house, or even the same bed, the space between self and other widens the more one becomes conscious. This is a very difficult time for relationships including marriages. As James Hollis points out what we already know, “Marriages often end at midlife.”  And if the marriage doesn’t end, it becomes more of a shell as both parties invest in diversions that keep the truth at bay.

When my wife and I got married, we both believed that it was forever, that we had found the one person in the world who would complete us and meet every unspoken need, every unconscious need. Since then, we have both felt betrayed by the other for ceasing to be the person we had imagined we had married. The person we had married was a flawed human. We had to learn to take responsibility for our individual selves once we realised, painfully, that the other couldn’t.

Naturism is one of those things that define the self that is evolving within me. I am a naturist, she is not. I have dug through the ruins of my early years in order to make peace with the past. There I found a young man who had discovered a healing space outdoors in nature where he hid without clothing. That young man has aged over many decades and now finds himself again in nature without clothing in order to feel the same sense of sanctuary and well-being that had rescued him as a young man.

Couples can agree to disagree yet still find enough in common to be willing to remain together. Those points in common are vital and need to be given the space needed for a relationship to survive the differences that would otherwise overwhelm the relationship. Yet, those differences need to be honoured as well. We need to learn to take care of our own separate needs rather than expect the other to take care of them for us, and we need to allow space and time for the other to do the same. James Hollis tells us:

“There is no one out there to save us, to take care of us, to heal the hurt. But there is a very important person within, one we barely know, ready and willing to be our constant companion.”

If one thinks about it, the journey at midlife is similar to the transition one has to endure when passing from childhood to adulthood. A child loses the Magical Other of parent and is confronted with his or her smallness in the world. Then, as if a miracle, the young adult who emerges from childhood finds someone who then takes on the mantle of Magical Other.Then in midlife, an older and wiser adult is forced to realise that in spite of a career, family, and societal connections, one is alone, a stranger to themselves and to the Magical Other who has vanished only to be replaced with a complexed stranger. It’s a wonder that any marriage could survive the losses of certainties about other and self.

“What is so difficult is to trust that one’s own psyche will prove sufficient to heal itself.”

The task then at midlife is to give up the idea that someone else will take on the responsibility of healing the broken and bruised parts of who we are. We need to let go of those infantile magical thinking beliefs and find an inner and perhaps an outer place of solitude in order to take responsibility for self. For me, that place of solitude is in naturism. Where is your place of solitude where you can take ownership of your own complexes and become a more conscious person who can have a conscious relationship with other?

Being Naked, Mindful and Dignified – It’s a Matter of Choice

Rainy morning reading.

I am sitting in my tiny camping trailer while a gentle rain falls outside. The temperature has fallen to single digits and the breeze is brisk. It definitely isn’t the most pleasant situation for me to go out for a nude walk. I tried and the walk was shortened as I hurried back to my warm, tiny trailer. There is no Internet here at Green Haven, so I spend most of my time writing, taking occasional breaks to read. Having had the foresight to have loaded this page into my browser when I had Internet access, I can build this post to give to you later. As I mentioned earlier in my previous post, I am reading Living an Examined Life, by James Hollis. Today I returned to that book to begin reading the first chapter – The Choice is Yours. Hollis begins with a tough challenge:

“Whether you show up as you in this brief transit we call life or are defined by history, or context, or shrill partisan urgencies substantially depends on you. No greater difficulty may be found than living this journey as mindfully, as accountably, as we can, but no greater task brings more dignity and purpose to our lives.”

It is all about a choice, making decisions rather than abdicating our authority to others who would rush in to make choices for us, others who avoid finding their own dignity and purpose in life.

The grounds at Green Haven

Naturism is one of those choices for me. Needless to say, almost everyone in my world, my face-to-face world would rather I didn’t make that choice. Making this choice creates tension with all relationships. I could pull back, in effect turning the power of my “choice” over to these others, but I don’t. In spite of going against the collective who resist being authentically individual, I have made the choice to stand naked in front of the world. I know that I am not a “fine specimen” of muscle-crafted, masculine power; and I realise that my body shows the ravages of time. However, it is my body and I have finally let go of the collective-induced shame of having a naked body that the collective tells us to keep hidden at all costs.

The dignity does show up in attitude. An example comes to mind. One bright, warm, late summer day I was trimming the bushes in my back yard. While I was busily engaged with the task, a neighbouring woman entered my yard with the intention of borrowing a tool. She was late in registering my presence, my nude presence. I had noticed her, but kept on with my task. I didn’t try to hide the fact that I was naked, nor did I try to make myself more visible to her. When she finally saw me, she apoligised for interrupting, for invading my privacy. She didn’t protest my nakedness, nor hide from it. She accepted it for what it was. In the process, we both maintained dignity. In case you are wondering, my neighbour isn’t a naturist. I made a choice to continue working naked in my yard, and she made a choice to continue with her task – as Hollis tells us – “the choice is ours.” But he goes on to qualify that statement:

“We survive in this life by adaptation. We learn from our world – families of origin, popular culture, world events, religious training, and many other sources – who we are, what is acceptable, what is not, and how we have to behave, perform, in order to fit in, gain approval from others, and prosper in this world …”

Now obviously, this world really doesn’t want us to be present as naked people. Nudity is not acceptable unless there is an economic benefit to be made which renders the nudity to be objectively defined, rather than a subjective experience. Rather than approving human nudity, society goes to great lengths to censure nudity and those who adopt a lifestyle that includes being clothing free. Hollis goes on to say:

“We become too often a servant of our environment, given our need to fit in, receive the approval of others, stay out of harm’s way.”

On the open road away from Green Haven

Becoming a naturist or a nudist has a person, at least for the moments he or she is clothing free, make a choice to not fit in, to stop being ruled by the fleeting approval of others. And as long as we hide our nudity behind privacy fences, or behind closed doors and draperies in our homes, or behind the gated barriers that separate a group from the outer world, we can stay out of harm’s way. Yet, for a good number of naturists, there is a compulsion to be more authentic with the world.

Another personal example that comes to mind is my tendency to step outside the safe boundaries and risk. For the past few days while it was warm and sunny, I left the naturist grounds carrying a small bag on my back which contained my wrap – a cover in case I would be seen by others. I would then hike down the public gravel road to a junction where I would then follow a dirt road to reach a point about five kilometres away from the naturist site. I would then return following the same route back to reach my trailer. Everything I did not only wouldn’t have met with the approval of the world outside the gates, even those within the naturist community would have disapproved – my actions could have put their comfortable life within the confines of the site, in jeopardy.

I make choices, not always good choices in most other people’s opinions, and sometimes in retrospect, I have to admit that my choices aren’t always about being mindful or dignified in terms of my soul’s needs for authenticity. Regardless of the choices I make – to do or not to do, to be or not to be – I learn to become a better version of who I am, a more conscious person.