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.

Living an Examined Life as a Naturist

Green Haven

I am at Green Haven, a naturist campground/community that is my home club. I have the opportunity to spend eight days at this site, engaged in a writing retreat, a skyclad writing retreat. I am rewriting the final book of my autobiography. I have pulled the old version off of bookshelves in various stores and have consigned more than a hundred copies of the book to the recycle bin. The old version was more of a soap opera badly written and acted out. My hopes are that the rewrite will be worthy of being read. Speaking of soap operas, I found this quote of interest this afternoon.

“We are, after all, the only constant character in that long-running soap opera we call our life. Therefore, it might well be argued that we are somehow accountable for how it is turning out.” [James Hollis, Living an Examined Life]

Reflecting on my life in the sunshine

I’ve started reading a new book in my collection, Living an Examined Life, by James Hollis, a Jungian analyst I deeply respect. He never talks about naturism, at least not in his published body of work which is considerable. He focuses on the journey that each of us takes through life as individuals. For me, that journey includes naturism. As I wrote many times over the years, naturism has been instrumental in making me a better, saner person. And as such, I do less damage to the world and the people around me.

I opened this new book on my second full day at Green Haven Sun Club in southern Saskatchewan as I took a break from my current writing project, a rewrite of book three in the Broken Road series. In that writing, I can follow the slow evolution from being damaged goods to a man who now respects himself. In that story of evolution, nudity and naturism plays a large role.

“… for each of us to recover for that which abides deeply within … we will not be spared disappointment of suffering, but we will know the depth and dignity of an authentic journey, of being a real player in our brief moment on this turning planet … on the journey of the soul.”

Is naturism a journey, an authentic journey? Or, is it an acting out of a dysfunctional psyche, the mark of someone who is no more than a deviant? Of course, in my opinion – and it is my journey – I am on a personal pilgrimage of sorts, a journey that demands much of me. The only way to find the energy and will to walk this journey is to find places and spaces in time to recharge through being fully vulnerable to the planet and the sky that surrounds the Earth – skyclad.

Free-hiking on a country dirt road

For each of the past two days I have walked ten kilometres without the need for clothing. The sun shone, the traffic on the country grid road was absent, and the longer dirt road showed little evidence of recent use. I owned the road and the dirt trail. I carried a hiking wrap which I could put on if a vehicle began to approach. After all, the hiking wasn’t meant to challenge others with my nudity. Luckily, there was no need to put the wrap on and the two hour hike became just myself, the earth, a few wild deer, the sky, and the glorious sun. I knew that I was engaged in a real “journey of the soul.”

I will try to follow-up with more from Hollis’ new book in future posts. I won’t rush the reading of the book as I have the feeling that what is to be found there will deserve a fuller attention that can only come with being read in bite-sized pieces. For now, I return to living without clothing during my stay at Green Haven.

Skyclad Time Away From Home

Green Haven club house

In the wee hours of Sunday morning I will be leaving my home in a small town on the Canadian prairies to spend a full week at Green Haven Sun Club which is about a four and a half hour drive from here. I will make the journey alone and stay alone for almost the whole time at the naturist campgrounds. Needless to say, the past few days have been busy as I try to finish off as many tasks as I could before I leave.

Deconstructing wooden pallets for wood working projects with my grandchildren.

Today it was a planting morning as my wife and I bought shrubs and grasses in the city yesterday. I dug holes and she planted. We make a good team with these kind of activities. This afternoon while she was at work, I had a different task – to cut up old pallets so that I would have wood for building birdhouses with my grandchildren, as well as for other projects they might think of such as making decorative signs with wood-burning using magnifying glasses.

Once I finished with that task, I rummaged through my book shelves in search of books to use for a planned series of posts during the week to come. I will spend most of my writing time with my book project, but I will also be making time for a return to blending in some Jungian psychology with naturist themes.

Sexuality and Nudity

The yin yang of relationship – naked poetry book 3

I have been spending my time today doing a fair amount of writing and more research for my various projects, one of the benefits of retired life. Strangely, there has been very little time spent with social media where the debates about what is suitable imagery and attitude for those who are naturists or nudists. Specifically, what role does sex play, if any in the world of naturism.

I have my own opinions of sexual imagery and naturist imagery and I don’t mind sharing it. The content of both involves the unclothed human body. Both can show genitals in profile or full on. That being the case, what is the difference? In my opinion, every image communicates a message, both a conscious and/or unconscious message. When the message is simply “see me, I have genitals!”, I have no problem categorizing the image as purely sexual in its intent. When the image crops the face leaving only the genitals as the centre of focus, the image is again sexual, but it is also communicating that the subject (usually the photographer) is conflicted about sexuality and is operating more from his or her unconsciousness than consciousness. When the image which depicts genitals is set into a context of activity, or conscious state of being, then sexuality is set into a quiet place in the background, a natural state.

There needs to be an admission by anyone who wrestles with naturism and nudism – the human being is a sexual being – a psychological and a physiological sexual being. A human is a sexual being regardless of the state of dress or undress. We have responses to clothing and to nudity that are both passive and sexual in orientation. For example, there is no question that clothing can heighten one’s sexual interest. We dress to attract attention, to flirt, to tease, and to hopefully lead to some sexual fulfillment. At other times, we dress for function alone without a thought of using our clothing for sexual attraction. When others see us dressed in clothing that simply does its job, we are seen in a non-sexual manner.

sexual attraction is independent of nudity

Should we walk nude down a busy street, with a bit of a swagger and a certain smile on our face, we tend to evoke a sexual response, responses that are either shocked, or excited. However, should we be at a location with hundreds or thousands of others who are similarly without clothing, for the most part, sexuality recedes.

Sexuality is tied into desire, a deep longing that is beyond our conscious control. This is what Thomas Moore, author of the famous book, Care of the Soul, has to say about desire in a recent book called, Original Self.

“People are often frustrated when they discover that their deepest longing never goes away.” [p. 93]

People who are caught in the belief that desire is simply about the physical, can never understand why they are never satisfied, even when they engage in sexual activity. Nudity can and often does trigger desire, but desire doesn’t require nudity.

“Sex is never a purely physical act. It is always numinous, even when it is not perfect or is full of shadow. In rape, the soul is savaged, not just the body. . . . Sex abuse is a signal that we are trying hard to keep the divine out of our desire. . . . We make love, and in so doing we seek him whom we love but can never find.” [p. 94]

Most married couples know about the numinous aspect of sexual interactions, be they as simple as holding hands, feet touching while at the edges of sleep, the look in the eyes of the other, or the complete surrender when one makes oneself fully vulnerable.

Now, if only naturists would be fully aware that sexuality is not absent nor should it be absent simply because one is naked in the company of others. Desire will or will not make an appearance whether we will it or not, on its own terms in its own time. That said, one can make conscious efforts to keep the shadow side within acceptable boundaries and that can only be done when one admits that everyone has a shadow side.

What About the Children? Gut Responses to Nudity

Family nudity

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.

shock

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 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!

Free-Hiking as Naked Walking Meditation

Free-hiking with White Bear Lake in the background

Today I went on my first extended free-hike into the hills and valley not too far from my home in a little town on the prairies. I drove to a suitable spot which was the beginning of this trail that would take me for a four mile, or six kilometre hike where there was an almost certainty that no one would see me hiking while skyclad as in the photo above. What cultivated fields had to be passed existed were already planted.

road closed

I walked to my usual turn-around point, a sign that said, “Road Closed.” I wanted a photo of the sign as I hope to use it for the third book of my autobiography told as a story. The photo has only the sign, not an image of me without clothing as the market for the book is almost entirely the older textile community.

Then, with the photo taken, I decided to take advantage of a sunny and warm day, and the mosquito spray that had not yet worn off, to go further west towards White Bear Lake.

It didn’t take me long to begin passing the

Pale yellow flowers on the prairies.

south side of the northern end of the lake which had taken a bend heading east. I was walking where there was no trail through the fields. I spotted some pale yellow flowers as I walked along through a grass field that would be baled by the middle of the summer. I think they were buffalo bean flowers.

And then, the mosquitoes decided that I was good enough for a mid-afternoon snack. It was time to head back to my truck parked three kilometres away. Three-quarters of an hour later I got to the truck and put on my shorts and tee-shirt to drive the seven remaining kilometres to my home.

Free-hiking had become a blessed act of walking meditation as my skin breathed in the sunshine without my mind getting in the way. It was an afternoon well spent. I’m looking forward to more such free-hiking adventures between now and the approach of winter.