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.