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.

Nudity – A Fundamental Moral Problem

China Daily

I was reading an article from the People’s Daily Online, a Chinese newspaper, called, “Should naked human body be used as art symbol?” After having spent a number of years in China, I remain interested in the people and the country. Over the years, there have been a number of articles that wrestle with the issue of nudity in public. Nudity in private is a different matter in China. But, this isn’t really about nudity or non-nudity in China, it’s about how humans have found themselves in a very tight spot.

Classical nude, Chinese style

All humans are naked beneath their clothing, an evident fact when one is forced to remove a set of clothing for another set (there are people who avoid complete nudity by changing clothes under a loose robe) or when one takes a shower or bath (and yes, some people take showers and baths with some form of clothing to hide their nudity). In spite of the fact that we are naturally naked, being born without clothing, as a modern human species, we have a problem with that body. In simple terms, we find our bodies to be our enemies. And, it isn’t simply a matter of body-image where the right bit of plastic surgery or the right diet and/or exercise program will gift us with perfect bodies and therefore put an end to our obsessive love-hate relationship with our bodies. The problem goes deeper than that, much deeper.

Those who claim to be wise, tell us that it is all about religion, especially Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Religion is the rationale for strictures against nudity in the western world. Legal codes arise from church codes. A good case can be made for this, but it too simple of an explanation as it falls apart when we look both within and outside of the purview of these religions when it comes to accepting the naturalness of a naked human body.

 

God Forbid we see His Penis

Christ crucified by Benvenuto Cellini, 1562

Sometimes images betray unintended information about the human psyche. Benvenuto Cellini had his reasons for creating this image of Jesus Christ crucified almost five hundred years ago. He wasn’t the first of the last to show Christ nude. What is vital today, is that this image has so much to tell us about our human psyche and condition today. That is the power of what I can only say is a numinous image.

A numinous image is one that is more than a recording of a visual fact. If the image takes us deep within ourselves, or out beyond the realm of ordinary life where we can almost touch whatever it is that we call heaven or nirvana, then the image is numinous. Evoking a sense of mystery, holiness, awe, and even the presence of whatever it is that we struggle to name as the creative force of the universe, such images take us out of ourselves and into ourselves. And where it takes us, isn’t always about light. As often as an image takes us to the awe of creation and heaven, an image also makes evident the face of darkness, of fear, of anger, of hell.

As a naturist, a psychological naturist, this image speaks to me on a number of levels: the personal, the spiritual and even the collective level. Cellini has crafted in marble, man’s vulnerability. Even the Son of God is vulnerable. Seeing this vulnerability allows me to accept my own vulnerability with honour instead of shame. The path back home, back to from whence we came, like our entrance into this life, is a journey that can only be done naked and vulnerable. There is a need to give up – give up our beliefs, our religions, our anchors, all that ties us to where we are if we are to enter. No brand name article of clothing or footwear will serve as a passport to heaven. We must submit, naked and vulnerable.

I mentioned a collective level response to this image, to this historically accurate portrayal of crucifixion by Romans two thousand years ago. In our modern world, we have such a dread of being naked and vulnerable and we have adopted a sense of shame for being naked and vulnerable. For Jesus to be Son of God, then we need to cover up his nakedness. For Jesus to be the Son of Man, we need to deny his sexuality. A visible penis is too threatening.

In our modern world, an irrational fear grows more and more powerful. Mothers cover the eyes of their children at the first sign of nudity, especially male nudity. Any male caught exposed is branded a pervert and punished by the collective as a sexual offender.

In our modern world we learn to hide ourselves from others, even from ourselves. We learn that our bodies are not to be trusted. We learn that our bodies are imperfect and need serious modifications through diet, exercise, and surgery. We unconsciously come to believe that God messed up big time and had nothing to be pleased about at the end of the seventh day of creation. So, we cover up our bodies and cover up the body of a crucified Christ.

Free-Hiking as a Spiritual Communion with Self and the Word

July, 2017

I went through my private archives to find something to write about while I am visiting extended family in Alberta. I found this post written four years ago that I thought work revisiting and updating. The topic was hiking while naked. Since the first such attempts of hiking while nude in 2011, I have rarely gone a year without walking new trails and for longer distances. I imagine that I will continue to add to my free-hiking experiences with this coming season of warmth and sunshine. Below is the old post which features the trail pictured above which I have walked while skyclad many times now.

“To I was able to get out for a walk in the warm sunshine without having to wear clothing. I only had to drive about seven kilometres where I parked the car on a rarely used dirt road. From that point on, there were no farm houses or highways to intrude on my privacy. It was an incredible feeling having the sunshine warm me to the very core of my being while I walked another two kilometres on the faint trail. I have claimed this small part of the universe as my retreat centre.”

“Going without clothing is not about exhibitionism, at least when there is no one around and very little likelihood that anyone would appear on this long abandoned trail. Just in case, I did have a pair of pants as a cover-up if I was to see a farmer out seeding his new crop. Being alone on the back-country prairie hills, I have no intention of creating drama within my home area. Going without clothes is, for me, something very spiritual in nature. On the trail there is just mother nature, father sky and myself. This becomes my church, my place to be honest with myself and my creator. No cover-up, no lies.”

There Are Negative Consequences For Naturists

And even this is taking a risk.

So why do I and many others, slip away from the centre, from the normal worldview, and risk family, friends, community, and even freedom? When one slips off the edges of what is commonly held as acceptable, one is at risk. There is little love for those who stray from the centre regardless of what moral truths are to be found outside of that centre. The further from the centre, the greater the risk.

Now before  I get too involved with talking about the outliers of society, the collective, I want to point out that if we look closely at the centre, there is no one standing there. So, why is there a centre if no one can be at the centre? Fear. The primal fear of being different from others has so many willing to adopt one fashion after another in spite of cost. If the shoe is uncomfortable, just wear it with pride knowing that you have the “right” shoes on unlike those who aren’t quite with the program of the centre. But don’t get comfortable for it’s going to change. The end result is a life lived in anxiety. “What if they find out that I’m different?” Media manipulates this anxiety to achieve control and power.

So, why do naturists and nudists shed their clothing when the normal human avoids nudity and actively attempts to prevent others from being clothing free? I wish that I could answer this in simple terms, but I can’t. The reasons are unique to each individual though there as some commonly held reasons. The truth is that we can’t actually explain the real reasons for we don’t consciously know what pushes us from within our personal centres, our unconscious self. Of course we can say things we believe from our consciousness – freedom, feeling, health, wellness, beauty, a sense of wholeness, etc. These are all truths, but it doesn’t really explain why we take risks.

Where there is a boundary, a restriction, there is not freedom. The boundaries are often for protection, but they are still boundaries. The boundaries may be of ideology, but no ideology – religious, political, or whatever – is anything but a response to other ideologies, to fear of other.

So why do I risk my relationship to others by standing out in the open without clothing? Compulsion? Yes. The sense of freedom? Yes. The feeling? Yes. But to be honest, I don’t really know why as it threatens so much. If I am too much out in the open, there will be negative consequences that I will suffer.

Naturists and Nudists as Deviants not Perverts

I have been reading a few sections out of a book called Tolerable Differences: Living With Deviance, by Robert Stebbins (1996). Of special interest in the book is the section on nudism and at the beginning when deviance is defined. Here is an important look at deviance:

Deviance from or non-conformity with the norms of the group with an interest in morality is one of humanity’s oldest concerns. Collective life is possible only when certain crucial rules of behaviour are observed by all or a large majority of the members of the community. These rules are an important part of the complicated, standardized solutions that evolve in response to the problems people encounter while living in proximity to one another.  They are nothing less than strategies for personal and social survival. Such solutions take years to develop and crystallize. They are seen by most community members, especially those who have the greatest power and interest in preserving the status quo, as indispensable to the quality of community life.” [p. 1]

This makes me step back and do some deep questioning about naturism, and about why I have embraced naturism as part of my healing process and perhaps even lifestyle. There is no question that naturism/nudism is about not conforming to the moral belief of the larger society.

Positive face of deviance.

Standing outside the crowd, doing something differently, being different – if I accept this definition of deviancy, then yes, I am a deviant. However, the word rankles. Somehow, the non-judgemental definition, one that is used in mathematics as a statement of separation from the median, the middle, the mean. As humans, we have found a new word to describe those who are furthest outside the mean – outliers. These people are heralded when they serve our needs, and

What does it say about those who engage in nudity, especially social nudity? Is there at its depths, something immoral about human nudity in terms of personal and social survival? Why has humanity moved away from its natural roots where nudity was normal? I don’t know the answers, nor if answers are to be found. And if there are good answers that would unquestionably support the inclusion of naturism within the collective norm, would society then accept those answers? In my opinion, there is too much power, authority and money invested in the status quo. If anything, power is invested in keeping the bulk of human society in a controllable state of unconsciousness. Real awareness, consciousness, would have too many people question the status quo and thus present a real threat to those invested in maintaining the status quo.

Being an authentic person means you stop being one of the crowd. It really doesn’t have anything to do with nudity. It has everything to do about being an individual who risks being herself or himself in the collective. Sadly, most naturists and nudists hide from the collective in secluded and often isolated locations. Only when safely behind their own doors with draperies closed and the doors locked, or in nudist camps do they dare allow themselves to set aside the protective camouflage.