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.

Fundamentalism Denying the Naked Truth

Catching morning rays while sitting in my armchair

I was sitting in the living room this morning with my wife, enjoying a cup of coffee after breakfast. We were looking out the window and talking as we usually do before we get busy with planned projects for the day. At one point, the idea of people trying to build up their own sense of worth by putting down others came up. Both of us found many examples of this basic human tendency from our workplaces where there is a fear of superiors and a disdain for inferiors in the pecking order of the workplace. The idea that we are all simply just humans doing a job the best we can, that we all have lives that are not our jobs, seems like a foreign concept. And, as usual, that got me thinking. I knew that this needed to be taken here, if not for you, my readers, then for myself so that I could spill out what I needed to say and free up energy for the projects of the day that lay ahead.

We are born naked; every last one of us was born without clothes, without much more than an immediate fear of an unknown world, born hungry. Somewhere along the journey babies learn that the world contains others somewhat like him or herself. Typically there is power in those relationships where the baby is powerless and learns that she or he is powerless in the face of the parent. Every baby also learns that she or he has a body and that the clothes on the body is not part of who they are. And when the baby is able to slip out of the clothes and become familiar with the body, there is a real pleasure in the sense of discovery about the self.

Babies soon become toddlers and the lessons begin to teach the child that the self needs to be hidden behind clothing as well as lies. And at this point in time, the need to find a new way to define the self arises. Does the child learn to relate to others and thus re-establish a relationship to self in terms of equality? Or. does the child learn to compete, to dominate, to retaliate with passive resistance? Whatever lesson the child learns, that lesson is carried forward into adulthood following years and years of practice.

Perhaps the child becomes a manager of a facility. As the manager, work relationship patterns emerge that can be traced to lessons learned while growing up. Will the manager dominate the supporting cast of characters in the workplace? Will the manager collaborate and validate the staff to achieve workplace needs? Unknown to the manager is that this is all occurring at the unconscious level.

Beneath the roles and the relationships each of us finds ourselves involved with as adults, we are still naked. Stripped of our roles, our titles, our wealth, our own ignorance, we are all vulnerable and naked. Why do we cower and grovel like some insecure pet before our bosses, our mates to whom we given over our own power of self, our authorities be they presidents or shift bosses? Each of these powerful others are really no different at all. They are all naked beneath their clothing in spite of how much they may have paid for that clothing. They all have to deal with the elimination of body wastes using the same body parts. They all have to deal with body health issues that come with passing viruses and other nasty sources and that come with aging. Beneath the veneer of job or social rank, the same insecurities weigh in to trouble sleep and give rise to troubling dreams or frightening nightmares.

Oppression in the name of God, Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, etc.

What pisses me off are those who adopt a fundamentalist way of being in the world which needs to deny the value and worth of others in order to shore up their own insecurities. False truths and supporting dogma are used as weapons of mass psychological destruction. Young girls and boys, women and men are all enemies until and unless they mindlessly adhere to the dogma and enter the crusade to purify the world of others. Particularly frustrating and devastating is the crusade to deny the body, to wrap the body in darkness and declare it to be the tool of the ultimate enemy of humanity.

What brings on this rant? Well, it has several sources. The first that pops into my mind is how a government such as exists in Canada, has devalued the feminine, defunding groups that have women’s issues at their core, and has no will to deal with the issue of so many aboriginal women going missing in Canada. The message is clear – they are not worth it.

The second issue is that of how a political group in the U.S.A. has shut down government using the issue of entitlement, the right to good medical care by the lower classes within the country, the funding of which would eat into the entitled wealth of those who are working so hard to deny and defund.

And the last issue? Probably it was something I ate last night.

Navigating Gender – Not Just What the Naked Body Tells Us

image found via Google Search

Gender is an aspect of our individuality.”  These words from Thomas Moore got me thinking about gender and my own identity. When a person is nude, gender is an obviously physical thing as this image illustrates. But what gender are we as individuals? The obvious answers are either male or female, but as science and life teaches us, there isn’t always an obvious answer even on the basic physical level. When it comes to the psychological level it gets even more complicated. Identity is forged individual by individual and we still don’t have a full knowledge of how gender and identity are tied in with our physical bodies. The scientific and supposedly objective criteria of defining gender by one’s chromosomal configuration falls flat on its face when confronted by bodies appearing to be male or female, which contradict what the chromosomal structure would have us believe. Hormone therapy, surgery, and other strategies used by a considerable number of people to have their bodies reflect the gender that is buried within their individual psyches.

Gender and identity

Perhaps, Thomas Moore has it right when he says that “Gender is a state of mind, a product of the imagination.” Of course, Moore is talking about how each of us self-identifies based on psychological rather than simply physiological factors. Our physical bodies are containers, not the sum total of who we are as human beings and individuals. We experience our bodies and develop relationships with these bodies we find ourselves in. Most often the inner self (the psychological self) and the outer self (the physiological self) are in accord and we are comfortable in male bodies with a solid masculine sense of identity, or females with a solid feminine sense of identity. But even that simplistic self-identity is charged with unnamed influences both within and without to cause confusion. We are each individuals with individual histories in unique settings and contexts and relationships.

I am a man and feel myself to be fully masculine, but . . . and it seems for each of us there is a niggling but somewhere in the background lurking . . . but what I experience as my masculinity isn’t what any other man experiences and understands. And, as I get older, I find myself, both physically and psychologically, mellowing in my grounded identity as a man and as masculine. The hard edges are being eroded allowing me to become a fuller person, richer.

Is Nudity Psychologically Harmful For Children?

Is it okay to be naked in front of your kids? Daily Mail. UK

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.

Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me, 1633, Cornelis van Haarlem

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

Pool in Calgary Canada that was at the centre of vicious rants about traumatising children by seeing naked adults in swimming pool, scarring them for life – 2018.

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!

Even Christ Can’t Be Nude

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.

Christ covered up so he wont be offensive or traumatise children.

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.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 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.

Engraving a Sense of Other in a Naturist’s Heart

Melvin and Sandy at home in Montana

Brian and Nancy

Every once in a while I find myself falling in love again. Luckily for me, it is always with the same woman, my wife. Somehow we have navigated through forty-seven years [well almost 47 years] since we met and first fell in love. So, when I see images such as the one here with Sandy and Melvin who continue to find a good space beside each other, I find myself thanking the universe for where I find myself in this relationship with my own wife.

This morning, while on our back deck having morning coffee at 5:30 am, we talked about another couple, Brian and Nancy who are our naturist friends living about two hours from our home. Brian passed away a few days ago and we wondered how Nancy was going to navigate the days ahead through the weeks, months, and years that remain. Both my wife and I ache when we are apart, something that is rather frequent as I travel around western Canada doing

the two of us

book-signing events.

I have taken a photo from Book 3 of the Naked Poetry series which was written in Mexico a few years ago that I wanted to bring here to accompany the other couple photos. I guess I am in a tender spot at the present as I will be leaving my wife for another road trip that will take me to Winnipeg in the not-too-distant future. Even though it is a number of days away, we both find ourselves moving just a bit closer to each other as if to engrave the sense of presence for when we are apart. Life is just that way

Meditate on This While Skyclad

Skyclad meditation

Following my morning meditation which I did outdoors when the weather allows such meditation, I returned to the house in order to prepare what I needed for today’s blog post. I knew that I was going to write about meditation as I had just put an Bhudda water fountain into my yard, as is pictured beside me in the photo which I took yesterday evening. No, this wasn’t my meditation, but simply a record of the new garden Bhudda in place. I meditate in a different corner or the yard, someplace that is more private as is fitting.

Well, as I was saying, I went to my home library and found a book by Khenpo Karthar called Dharma Paths which was written in 1992. I opened the book at random and found these words:

“When the leader of a community or a country has a very open, stable, and tranquil mind, there is a greater chance for peace and harmony in the lives of the people of the whole community or country. The past few generations have had the awesome and dreadful experience of two world wars. These two wars did not happen because all the people in the world were angry and disturbed. The wars were provoked by a few disturbed, angry, confused people, perhaps fewer than one hundred. Unfortunately, a few very disturbed people with control over a country can produce tremendous destruction and disaster.” Khenpo Karthar, Dharma Paths, 1992.

I don’t want to expand upon Karthar’s words, but simply let them sit with you. Perhaps you would even meditate with the thought and/or echo of these words forming your meditation focus. After letting the words sit for a while, I would like to hear from you, your thoughts both from the point of dharma and today’s world situation. Now, it’s your turn.

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.

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.